I was reading an old issue of Gray’s Sporting Journal Sunday which got me thinking.
First, I’ll explain “old.” Old not because 2002 is a long time ago, but there have been enough years between then and now for plenty of things to happen. In the case of the article, non-residents could still purchase over the counter tags for Dall sheep. So, while it might not be a bunch of years, it certainly is a long time ago in hunting years which I’m finding are somewhere between dog and human. However, the article was published in 2002, so that doesn’t mean the story happened then.
Anyway, the guide mentioned to the client that it was a good spot, but that public land is public land which means it’s fair game for anyone willing to work for it. The client was terribly unprepared, brutally overworked (because of his unpreparedness) and miserable. His hunting pilgrimage to Alaska for the iconic sheep, a disaster.
When the draw hunts for Alaska are released Friday, people from all over will call guides and outfitters, looking to book. Hunters will have the opportunity to claim their shot at animals made legendary by “the industry.” Hunters will find the permission to buy new gear, and the motivation to start getting into shape for the hunt of a lifetime. Or just hope that if they throw enough money at it, everything will be fine.
Those who don’t draw will try again, or maybe settle for a tag that’s not the top of their list, but still worth posting about.
I figure I am a bad Alaskan because I didn’t put in for the Tok tag, or muskox or have plans to visit Afognak. Lower 48ers must think I’m crazy being a resident and all. Against the recommendation of all the websites that help figure out everything from preference points to logistics for pretty much any hunt anyone could want in the Lower 48 and Alaska, I just put in for a mountain goat tag. Just one. It’s a good spot, but I won’t draw it.
I’m one of those guys who posts about the excitement surrounding the draw even though it won’t really dictate my coming year that much because it seems impossible to separate hunting from the hype. Whether it be in print, on social media or face-to-face, a hunt is never limited to a sequence of events never to be shared. There is no such thing as a simple, emotionless, matter-of-fact, yawn of a hunting story.
I wonder how that client remembers his sheep hunt. Does he tell it like the guide does? Or has he replaced his ineptitude with that valiant honor of an overwhelmed, yet gritty hunter who braved Alaska with a guide who just couldn’t get him on a sheep.
I wonder what things will be like in 20 years, or even 10. What will the market look like? What will the populations look like? What will the draw odds be? Will I still be failing to draw the goat tag I want? That makes me think maybe I should spend more money not drawing premium tags around the state because I won’t be youngish forever and you can’t win if you don’t enter.
Of course, I could just buy a similar tag that’s over the counter.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.