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Thread: Running a trapline

  1. #1

    Default Running a trapline

    I have a dream of moving to alaska and running a trapline with sled dogs. I am coming up in June. I plan to achieve this in stages. I have done a lot of research on this.

    I know of a handfull of people who live in the Bush and trap with sled dogs that I have read about in various books and magazines.

    1. Miki and Julie Collins
    2. Wayne Hall and family
    3. and most recently, here on this forum I was pleased to discover Mark Richards. Beautiful photos and stories Bushrat!

    I was hoping to start a discussion on this about what all is needed to really make this happen.

    From what I have read in "Trapline Twins" "Coming into the country" "The Final Frontiersman" "A land Gone Lonesome"

    People that live this kind of lifestyle, subsistence hunt and gather in fall for food, trap in the winter, hunt goose and ducks in spring, move to a fish camp in summer and catch salmon and whitefish smoke it to feed the dogs.

    The cycle of the seasons that go together really fascinates me. Trapping with the dogs to sell fur, fishing to feed the dogs...round and round again.

    One thing that these books don't go into much detail about are all the regulations involved in this. But from what I understand its somewhat prohibitive. What all is involved?

    could a PFD check for on person cover all the licensing fees? I am single.

    I know this seems like a longshot, but its somthing I really want to do. Thanks fr any input. This is a great forum

    Ted

  2. #2
    Member 1stimestar's Avatar
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    Default

    I don't know anything about but I'm sure somone will jump in with advice. Just wanted to say I know Wayne and Scarlett. Are they neat people? Good luck.
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  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1stimestar View Post
    I don't know anything about but I'm sure somone will jump in with advice. Just wanted to say I know Wayne and Scarlett. Are they neat people? Good luck.
    I talked to Wayne online before. It would be cool to meet him in person. I should cheer him on in the Quest next year!

  4. #4
    Member bushrat's Avatar
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    Default Hi Ted

    Ted, not to burst your bubble, but finding a trapline and a place to subsistence fish where the salmon runs are good won't be something you can do very quickly. It will take a year of living up here before you can get a resident hunting/trapping/fishing license. The state requires a subsistence fishing permit in order to catch salmon and other species with net or fishwheel. There is no cost to that other than your resident fishing license, but there are regs you must abide by, open and closed periods, sending in form etc.

    Your best bet would be to perhaps find someone who needs help on a trapline or as a dog handler, become familiar with Alaska for a year or so, and find out where you might be able to trap etc. You can get some dogs for free, but most sled dogs with good lines will cost you as pups, and ever more as adults already trained. Mushing isn't something that one just does overnight really, unless he has a lot of money to buy a team, a sled, the gear required, and it is not always a sure thing that you can feed a team from the rivers. Dog food is expensive. Even moreso to get it to remote locations. Wild game is often scarce. Some people are good "dog" people, some aren't. Without knowing your background, not sure if you would be or not. Many people get involved in mushing then find out a snowmachine better suits what they want to do, especially for trapping. You can cover a lot of country faster with a good machine, and you can shut it off and put it away and walk away from it when you want to head to town. Having dogs is like having farm animals...you can't walk away; they totally tie you down. But there are pros to having dogs too of course.

    Best of luck,

  5. #5

    Default Really Great to talk to you

    Bushrat,

    You aren't bursting my bubble. I have been doing more research:

    This one was informative:

    http://uaf-db.uaf.edu/Jukebox/DENALI/html/wifo.htm

    I heard that about the salmon runs going down.

    I have about a year and a half experience mushing dogs. I had my own team for a year in Minnesota, that I put together from various racing kennels in the upper midwest and one in Montana. Unfortunately, after the break up of my marriage, I had to sell my land and find homes for all the dogs. I spent about a month, in Alaska as dog handler for an iditarod team. It didn't work out, really, but I did learn a lot. I am going back up to alaska 30 lbs. lighter and with a better idea of what I am getting into.

    But I do know I love sled dogs. One thing I learned about living remote for most alaskans is all the feul and various generators and combustion engines involved. Sno-mobile and vehicle repair, etc.

    But I have just concluded that the happiest time of my life was when i was out with my sled dogs in Norhern Minnesota, also canoeing, for a week here and there up in the UP an WI. All the other days seem to run together, and all the time I spend in the woods is clear and stands out in my mind.

    My plan is to start slow. Get a job and a piece of land on the road system and build from there. But the eventual goal, is to do somthing very similar to what you do. Its somthing I am very passionate about and serious about and I know ost don't succeed at it.

    Thanks

    Ted

  6. #6

    Default

    Here are a few things, I learned:

    First of all, it sems to me that the closer, people living off the grid, want to approximate all the comforts of modern life, the more work it is and the more cash they need to buy fossil feuls. Because of this it can be very noisy and smelly with deisel fumes. Generators, sno mobiles, chainsaws running all the time. Barrels of feul being trucked in regularly.

    Another thing is I think the diet many alaskans eat is actually less healthy in many cases than diets of people in the lower 48, because Alaskans from what I have seen tend to eat a lot of refined starches and canned and processed food, despite that its supplemented with moose meat and fish and stuff occasionally. Plus this food is more expensive and fresher stuff really expensive.

    I mean, some people probably rely on subsistence hunting and food they canned themselves, But I think its also a lot of instant stuff.

    I learned I don't want 50 dogs and that I don't want to race. To me needing snomobiles and extra big trucks kind of cancels out why I like dogs.

    The people I was with had a little guest cabin on a lake and there was a hole dog in the ice for water. That appeals to me more than having a big really nice house with showers and running water and a complex electrical system with batteries and generators.

    I learned the cold doesn't bother me. As far as the handling job itself, The people were good people, but being a handler puts you in a wierd position of having to rely on people you don't know very well for all your survival needs. Its similar to being in boot camp, which I made it through fine, but being no longer 18 its hard to have to ask people in authority over me for permision to do things, like use the bathroom, etc. "please can I eat." "please can I use the phone" etc.

    I feel like I learned a lot more on my own teaching myself, with my little eight dog team.

    But I am serious about this whole return on investmwent thing in terms of how complicated and advanced people want to live in the bush. I mean, you could go a way of becoming a bush pilot and a skilled sno-mobiler driver /repairer, electrical genius, carpenter etc. I mean this guy was an amazing person. He could do everything.

    So, in terms of hard work, I think it can be hard in different ways. It will be hard no matter what and filled with various hardships, I think making things simpler will make it better for what I want to do. That's what appeals to me. There is a point of diminishing returns in terms of recources used.

    just some thoughts.

    Ted

  7. #7

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TedH View Post
    I learned the cold doesn't bother me. As far as the handling job itself, The people were good people, but being a handler puts you in a wierd position of having to rely on people you don't know very well for all your survival needs. Its similar to being in boot camp, which I made it through fine, but being no longer 18 its hard to have to ask people in authority over me for permision to do things, like use the bathroom, etc. "please can I eat." "please can I use the phone" etc.


    Ted

    Hey,
    I worked as a dog handler once and I felt exactly the same way. The people I worked for couldn't really pay that much, not enough to cover my food and expenses. I was working my arse off for someone elses dream. It would have been different if it was my dogs, cabin, dream etc....

    It was kinda a weird place to be in for sure. They folks that I worked for are amazing people and I call them friends to this day but expectations didn't equal reality. I learned a bunch but unfourtunately I had bills to pay.

    I think that if you could find a trapper to handle dogs for it would work better if you were getting something out of the deal besides experience. Like you get to keep the pelts on X spur or you get some of the fur profits etc. Every situation is diffrent and you would probably have a hard time setting something like that up.

    I hear you on your dream though, I have similar thoughts. I am slowing it way down though. To live out there you gotta have stuff and burn fuel and buy land. That costs money. I am trying to build up my collection and learn as much as I can in the interm, while I pay offf my debts. It is a lot esier to live when you don't have bills.


    I think that you are on track though, starting out slow and working your way in.

    Good Luck

  8. #8

    Default

    Thanks, Jim.

    That's it exactly about other peoples dreams. I think dog handling works great for some people. That's how a lot of iditarod racers get off to a great start. But you know, I know for a fact that a lot of really great mushers, were never anyone's full time "room and board" type handler and are self taught.

    That is what I was in Minnesota. Nearly all my first runs were disasters. I can really relate to Gary Paulsen in "winter dance." That's what my runs were like! I never really got up to anything impressive. Mostly I did eight mile runs on the same loop, with 2 alternate routes. I had eight dogs from all different teams, and two retired leaders that wouldn't lead for me. One would turn aroun and do a 180 out on the trail, whip the whole team around and head back to her house. By the end of the winter, I had two leaders I trained myself. I trained them to Gee and Haw and hold the line out. I used a book on training lead dogs I ordered on the internet.

    Looking back, I think I only needed six dogs, maybe even four. I would have learned just as much.

    I am thinking, my first year up in Alaska I will just get one bigger sized skijoring dog to start with or maybe have him pull my gear on a sled with me snowshoing along.

    It was really easy for me to get a hold of 8 dogs really quick. Fortunately, when I got divorced, since I only had them a year, all the mushers took them back, excpet for one man that had passed away over the winter, but I found a pet home for that one, a pure bred sibe.

  9. #9

    Default "Coming into the Counry"

    As far as the "coming into the Country" type lifestyle, I am aware that its practically impossible now.I know there is no homesteading program, any more.

    I looked into that. There is OTC land sales and also a "Remote recreational Cabin" program that is supposed to be similar, but doesn't seem like it to me. You stake an area up to 20 acres, build a cabin, lease it from the government for a few years, pay for them to survey it and then buy it for market value. Anyway, you can't live in it full time untill its all paid for.

    Plus, I realize that the Parks Grandfathered in the last remaining homesteader type "river people" and made it so no one can really follow them.

    But I hope to get as close to that type of lifestyle asI can. I want to do it gradually, working a job and living on the road system, while I learn stuff.

    maybe in the futurething might change.

    I had 40 acres in Minnesota, actually the bank owned it, really. But still i didn't feel like I "owned it" I was just using it.

    One thing I admire about these people I have read about in John McPhee's book and also this recent book "A Land Gone Lonesome" is that they had a philosophy of not wanting to own the land.

    I know I can't become a master deisel mechanic, carpenter, electrician airplane pilot and build a huge house on a fly in lake all by myself with complex wiring, that looks good enough to be featured in a magazine and have a high paying outside job that brings in lots of cash.

    That's not me. But reading about Dick Cook and people lik that, their foibles I think come through in these books, they don't seem that sugar coated. But also the amazing things they did come through. I can see myself doing stuff like that eventually.

    I read it took Dick 6 years to get out into the Bush. He was about my age when he did it and did it the rest of his life.

    I am willing to try.

  10. #10

    Default Yes You Can...

    People tend to discourage a lot people because they get tired of rescuing greenhorns. I had to be rescued once myself because of poor planning on my part, so I am a little easier on others. My problem was that I was using a snowmachine rather than dogs...I likely wouldn't have had to be rescued with dogs.

    But if you want to do it, start small and slowly work into it. You will need very low expenses and have very low expectations. I knew a guy that ran a one hundred mile long trapline on snowshoes with one big malemute to pull a sled behind him. For all I know he is still doing it. He did not want to upgrade to a dog team or a snowmachine. He had his system down and it worked great for him. He didn't need a lot of dog food, he didn't need a lot of equipment, he didn't need big cabins. But he did great on catching fur.
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  11. #11

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by martyv View Post
    People tend to discourage a lot people because they get tired of rescuing greenhorns. I had to be rescued once myself because of poor planning on my part, so I am a little easier on others. My problem was that I was using a snowmachine rather than dogs...I likely wouldn't have had to be rescued with dogs.

    But if you want to do it, start small and slowly work into it. You will need very low expenses and have very low expectations. I knew a guy that ran a one hundred mile long trapline on snowshoes with one big malemute to pull a sled behind him. For all I know he is still doing it. He did not want to upgrade to a dog team or a snowmachine. He had his system down and it worked great for him. He didn't need a lot of dog food, he didn't need a lot of equipment, he didn't need big cabins. But he did great on catching fur.
    That's awesome! I was talking on another forum that that us what I want to do my first year. Have one big dog puling my gear while I ski or snowshow along. I realy like the minimalist approach!

    I was thinking even if I had three dogs, it shouldn't be too hard to board them over the summer to work a summer job.

    Cool. So do you trap?

  12. #12
    Member martentrapper's Avatar
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    Snogo's don't need boarding over the summer while you work for the cash you will badly need to live the lifestyle your talking about.
    I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
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  13. #13
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    I agree, it's going to take a lot of cash each year to live the dream. Aiming for a good cash paying job in summer and living whatever alaska dream you have in winter is something a lot of alaskans do.

  14. #14
    Member 1stimestar's Avatar
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    Default

    Just do it. Yea, we hear a lot of people who WANT to do it. There are only occasionally a few people who actually DO do it. It's the same with a lot of things related to Alaska. I'm the moderator for a very large Alaskan email list. Almost every day we get a new member who emails "I want to move to Alaska, tell me all about it." Heh, yea ok. Plan your work then work your plan. But make sure you have a feasable plan B and a plan C and be flexible. Come up and learn. Keep your goal in site. Do something every week to move towards that goal. As I said to myself on my way up here, "I've done my homework now it's time to actually do it." So do your homework as you are doing. Then jump.
    Alaska, the Madness; Bloggity Stories of the North
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