Locals bag caribou, grizzly bear in Alaska

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 2, 2002

The deer-hunting opener for firearms is fast approaching. I know there are a lot of anxious deer hunters out there. With the CWD scare some hunters may have been a little hesitant to go out. The DNR has been testing deer around the state and have found no hints of the disease except for that one isolated elk case.

My son Brian and his brother-in-law, Travis Diaz, just returned from a week of hunting in Alaska. They first flew to Anchorage and then on to Nome where they met Brian’s Uncle, Lynn Johnson.

Lynn had everything ready for a good week of hunting. They spent the first night in Nome and then headed for a cabin some 70 miles north of Nome. The cabin was one they could drive to. When they arrived they discovered that the majority of caribou they would be hunting had moved from the area.

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Travis did get a small buck the first day, but overall the hunting was pretty slow.

They spent a day there and then headed back to Nome to prepare for a trip to the Serpentine Hot Springs.

Brian and Travis drove Lynn’s truck to the end of the road, which was about 78 miles, and Lynn flew his plane up to meet them. From there he flew them, one at a time, to Serpentine, which is about 40 miles.

Serpentine is a unique place. It has hot springs and the cabin they would stay in had a hot bath fed by the springs on one side and a cabin with bunks and a radio on the other. Anyone can stay in these cabins that have been built throughout the area.

Once they settled in they started hunting. There were many caribou in the area and Travis shot a nice one. It turned out to be a trophy with a rack measuring 374 2/8 Boone & Crockett. The next day Brian got a nice one. His was also a real trophy, measuring 401 1/8 Boone & Crockett.

When it was time to leave, Lynn had to fly the meat and their supplies out first. He then flew Brian out, but the weather had turned bad so Travis said he would stay behind and Lynn could come back when the weather cleared.

Brian and Lynn stayed in another cabin by the landing area. Once the weather cleared Lynn went back and picked up Travis. Brian and Travis then drove back to Nome as Lynn flew the plane back.

I believe that saying this was the trip of a lifetime for Brian and Travis would be an understatement. I think they would both agree that Brian’s Uncle Lynn was as good as any professional guide they could have hired.

Lynn and Sister (Lynn’s wife) made sure they had plenty to eat and a nice place to stay. They still talk about the delicious Moose ribs that Sister prepared.

This coming weekend I will be going to northern Minnesota to work with Brian and Travis clearing some woodland. This will be my big adventure, but it will be pretty tame for these two after the Alaskan adventure.

When Lynn first moved to Alaska, he met a native Eskimo named Sam. Sam was sort of the elder statesman of the outdoors. He befriended Lynn and taught him many things about the area. He told him of the many things to see, like the Serpentine Hot Springs, the Train to Nowhere and many other unique places. He also told him about the many places to hunt and fish and the many dos and don’ts of Alaska.

All the hunting and fishing Lynn does is not wasted. The game and fish they get goes into the freezer and are eaten. They waste nothing and that is what hunting and fishing for the people living in that great state is all about.

After Brian, Travis and Lynn processed the caribou meat they decided to go out and do one final day of hunting. Driving north of Nome in Lynn’s pickup they began looking for game.

A few miles from town they spotted a grizzly bear about two miles from the road. Lynn had a bear license so they decided to follow it on foot. After tracking it for about an hour and a half, it stood up on its back legs about 70 yards from them. A shot was fired and the bear dropped down and began running.

Lynn told me, &uot;The last thing you want is a wounded grizzly loose in the willows. So we followed it and when it stood up again I shot numerous times and must have hit it with the last shot because it went about 150 yards and dropped. Once we found it I discovered that it had been hit only once.&uot;

This had to be an experience that made the adrenaline flow for these three hunters. I was told that one of them was carrying the video camera but was just a little too excited to shoot any footage.

When Lynn took the bear in to register it he found that it measured 8 feet in length with a width of 7 feet, 9 inches. The skull was 22 14/16 inches. It was the largest female grizzly ever registered in that section of Alaska since records have been kept.

In all my years of reading outdoors magazines and listening to numerous hunting stories, I have heard of someone getting a trophy bear, deer, moose or caribou, but it’s really rare to hear of three hunters getting trophies in the same week.

I also can say that knowing these three individuals there may have been a laugh or two. You can bet that you have to be on your toes around any one of them, but all three together would be trouble. One slip of the lip and you would be toast.

There are many stories I could share about Lynn and the many hunting and fishing experiences he has had in Alaska, and I am sure that I will be sharing more of these stories in the future.