On August 16, 2011 I will celebrate the 40th anniversary of what will probably be my 1 and only Alaska Mt. Goat hunt. This is the story of that hunt but it is also the story of the adventure that put 4 NY adults and their 5 children in the brand new state of Alaska for 70 days.
Now, some will say that nothing has changed since then BUT I know better. For some examples, Gore-tex was not patented until 1976 so, there was no such thing as gore-tex clothing and the Dalton Highway did not exist. In fact, the pipe for the oil pipeline was stored in Valdez - waiting for congressional approval. Also, the Alaskan native claims settlement (or whatever it's correct name is) had not taken place yet.
The 4 adults icluded 3 teachers and 1 school nurse. We (Helen & Phil Stewart) and Don & Gloria Stevenson (Gloria was the school nurse) had camped & become friends in previous years but this was the first time we had been together for an extended time. The 5 children? Lara, Lois, & David Stevenson (now on the Fairbanks Police Force), Craig & Jodie Stewart. Their ages? 8 years through 12 years. Was this a great place to be headed for? You bet. Pull into a campground and turn the kids loose - just make sure they were around for meals which was usually not a problem.
I (Phil) was the only hunter of the group but we did take rifles on everyone's advice. "If you are going to fish for salmon - make sure you carry a loaded rifle. Just in case." So we were armed - Don with a Browning BAR chambered in 300 WM and me with a Browning BAR chambered in the new, 7 mm Remington Mag. As long as we packed rifles, we might as well hunt. What to hunt? Moose were eliminated because success was so assured that there was no challenge and a successful hunt meant way too much meat to handle. Dall sheep were eliminated because there was no convenient place for everyone else while the hunt took place. Brown bears required hiring a guide (even then) so that put a brown bear hunt out of my price range. After a call to Viking Air in Petersburg and a look at maps to make sure elevations were OK for a "flat-lander", Mt. Goats became the target of choice.
I did talk to Bill Stedman just a week or so ago and in 1971 Bill was flying for Alaska Island Air. Viking Air was owned by a local Dr. and wasn't in business for too many years. However, their pilot (Bill thinks his name was Charlie) assured me that 3 days would be plenty long enough for goat hunting. I shot my Mt. Goat on day 5 of that 3-day hunt. Charlie didn't take into account the miserable weather we ran into. We knew some elementary teachers in Petersburg and had planned on staying for a week to visit. I talked to several natives and all told me the same thing. I was crazy to hunt goats in August. All I had to do was wait until October and the snows would push them down to where a successful hunt would be much easier. Funny, the Board of Education thought that in October I should be in my classroom back in Penn Yan, NY.
Bill also pointed out that today there are 2 flights each day with 737 service to Petersburg. No such thing in 1971. The only way in or out was by either a bush plane of ferry.
Viking had 2 planes for us. The 2 ladies & 5 kids stayed at a lower lake, picked blueberries, watched black bears, and generally enjoyed the government cabin while Don & I were flown in a 206 Cessna on floats to a higher elevation lake
not far from Farragut glacier for our hunt. We splurged and spent $25 each for the over-the-counter goat license that was good any place in the entire state. No such thing as "draw" licenses then. No "same day air" laws and, as far as I know, no "wanton waste" laws although that concept had been talked about for some time.
The plane left and it started to rain & blow - hard. Because of weight restraints, there was no tent. We did get a fire going under an overhanging rock and I promptly burned up one of my 2 pairs of socks - trying to get them dry. I finally just decided to be wet (and dirty - eventually). Within an hour of when the plane left, we were hunting. No goats that afternoon. Day 2 turned out to be so foggy that I couldn't have seen a goat if it was standing 10 yards away. Day 3 was more rain and the Cessna to take Don & I back to Petersburg.
Helen (now my ex) knew that I was upset at not having a shot at a goat. Don's ankle was acting up so Helen agreed to go back for another hunt for 3 more days. That time we agreed to live in luxury and we stopped at the local hardware and bought a sheet of plastic and a lenght of rope - so we could fashion some shelter. We also agreed to camp at a higher elevation