Moving From Colorado, Mat-Su, Kenai or Homer

fish19

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Hey All, just another inquiry about relocation spots. My wife will be starting nursing school, and I am hoping to switch careers and start flight school (All ambitious, I know). It sounds like we can make the Mat-Su, Kenai or Homer area work for both of us, of course with tradeoffs for each location. I would be stoked to hear some of your thoughts, comments, concerns about any or all of these places. Here is a little more about us and what we are looking for. We both love the outdoors for one. I am a major backcountry skier and snowmobiler, and would love to have options in that regard. I am currently lucky enough to ski and sled from my front door, and know that Kenai and especially Homer are pretty far (1.5-4HRS?) from good access to mountains. Is there much snowmachining/good snow in the flatter country around Kenai and Homer? We hunt, and would like good access and potential to fill the freezer (don't need trophies, just meat). Waterfowl/small game hunting would be a bonus. We also are incredibly excited to start filling our freezer with fish. We'd ideally like to be near rivers, or ocean that we could shore fish for salmon/halibut etc. We also really love to clam, and know that's a strong point for kenai/homer. We both would like good access to trails for hiking/biking etc.

The wife would be attending nursing school at a campus at any of the respective locations (possibly Anchorage if living in Mat-Su) if you have thoughts on that. I've researched all the flight schools and talked to most of them in all three areas, but would love some insider information if you have it. Ideally, I'd be somewhere in the bush pilot realm down the road, and not trying to go the airline route. We really like the Mat-Su area, but know it's closer to Anchorage and a bit more crowded. Kenai and Homer, having not visited, appear to be a little more low key and less crowded outside of mid-summer. We are coming from a small town in Colorado, and would enjoy being a little more remote. Dog friendly towns are also a bonus! A community with some live music, and good restaurants and bars would also be a bonus. Being able to have a greenhouse/garden would be sweet too (sounds like Mat-Su is best for this). Housing isn't as huge of a factor as somehow the inflated Colorado market could potentially give us what we need to acquire a modest house in all three locations. However, it would be good to know general cost of living/job salaries otherwise. Also, we are coming out this July to road trip through all three areas and get a better feel for them before moving, but wanted to hear some opinions of people in the know. Thanks in advance!
 

SmokeRoss

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Caribou Hills near Homer is great riding. In the Kenai area, we ride the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Millions of acres with no tracks ahead of us. Live music in the summer every week at Soldotna Creek Park. Homer has a better growing season than the Valley.
 

cdubbin

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You need at least half a mil to get into the housing market in Homer at the moment, and it may get worse...big game hunting on the Kenai Peninsula is also pretty abysmal compared to other areas of the state. Fishing and hiking opportunities are unparalleled, though, and very low crime in most areas...
 

kasilofchrisn

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Yes big game hunting on the Kenai Peninsula is not very good.
Moose densities are nothing like deer in the lower 48 Caribou are drawing only and moose have antler restrictions.
Clamming is closed on the Kenai Peninsula right now for all species of clams.
The Matsu is the best for gardening.
I do well gardening here on the Kenai peninsula but the Matsu is really where it's at for gardening and farming.
To be honest if I was living in the lower 48 and wanted to find a spot that had good hunting and fishing where the cost of living wasn't so crazy high Alaska would not be my first choice nor would it be my second.
Don't get me wrong I love it here and I don't think I will ever leave.
But watching some of these YouTube channels of people who homestead and eat a lot of their homegrown vegetables and animals that they raise/hunt I'm amazed how much better many of these other states are than Alaska.
Watching them grow unlimited amounts of tomatoes, corn, watermelon etc is surprising.
Things that are difficult to grow here without a greenhouse.
Also they get multiple deer every year and they pretty much get them every year with the ability to shoot bucks and does.
Here in Alaska we have antler restrictions which make it difficult for many of our moose hunts.
The cost of living in some of those other states is so much cheaper that alone would be worth it for most people!
So many people think of Alaska as utopia where game is plentiful and you can hunt and fish all you want but, reality wise it can be good but be prepared to do a lot of traveling to get to the different game species.
And almost anywhere you're hunting on the road system there will be other people not far away.
If hunting big game out your back door with high odds of success is what you're after the Kenai Peninsula is not for you.

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cdubbin

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Caribou Hills near Homer is great riding. In the Kenai area, we ride the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Millions of acres with no tracks ahead of us. Live music in the summer every week at Soldotna Creek Park. Homer has a better growing season than the Valley.

I know multiple people in Homer who grow fruit trees in high tunnels...peach, pear, cherry, etc...you can grow apples outside here...
 

fish19

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Thank you all for the responses so far, and please keep them coming! This is all great information. As far as the tough hunting, I was a little worried about that. I've researched all three areas to see whats general, draw, and tier II. With the antler restrictions for general moose, and what sounds a little crazy for the Nelchina caribou subsistence hunt, it does seem like it might be tough to consistently fill the freezer with other tags so hard to draw. Down here we're pretty lucky to get elk and deer tags for both sexes most years, but then again, takes forever to draw a moose tag! My ultimate hope in becoming a pilot is to be able to access a lot of those tougher to get to areas for all kinds of stuff, including hunting. Could be a pipe dream, but a dream never the less! Would you all say the Matsu is better for hunting then in general? Overall it seems like the fishing is still hard to beat in the Kenai. I was bummed to see the clam season shut down as well, but sounds like maybe at least the razors are trending back up. All the growing info you guys have provided is great. The wife will be excited to read more into that. I also appreciate the honesty about the Alaskan myth/utopia a lot of people seem to have. I certainly have a good dose of it. However, we are also ready to leave an increasingly crowded, expensive, hot and on-fire Colorado. I know Alaska is not immune to all of that either, but seems in a lot better shape. Again, if anyone has more thoughts or experiences, we would love to hear them. Thanks
 

upstreamV

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Pick a good flight school with high volume of students as your first aviation job will likely be working for the school that taught you. Keep that in mind, be positive, make them think you are too valuable not to hire. Since there’s no way to fake that it helps to excel in flight and in human relationships. The purpose of all instruction is to help the person being taught. Keep that in mind if you begin to burn out.
 

SmokeRoss

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Thank you all for the responses so far, and please keep them coming! This is all great information. As far as the tough hunting, I was a little worried about that. I've researched all three areas to see whats general, draw, and tier II. With the antler restrictions for general moose, and what sounds a little crazy for the Nelchina caribou subsistence hunt, it does seem like it might be tough to consistently fill the freezer with other tags so hard to draw. Down here we're pretty lucky to get elk and deer tags for both sexes most years, but then again, takes forever to draw a moose tag! My ultimate hope in becoming a pilot is to be able to access a lot of those tougher to get to areas for all kinds of stuff, including hunting. Could be a pipe dream, but a dream never the less! Would you all say the Matsu is better for hunting then in general? Overall it seems like the fishing is still hard to beat in the Kenai. I was bummed to see the clam season shut down as well, but sounds like maybe at least the razors are trending back up. All the growing info you guys have provided is great. The wife will be excited to read more into that. I also appreciate the honesty about the Alaskan myth/utopia a lot of people seem to have. I certainly have a good dose of it. However, we are also ready to leave an increasingly crowded, expensive, hot and on-fire Colorado. I know Alaska is not immune to all of that either, but seems in a lot better shape. Again, if anyone has more thoughts or experiences, we would love to hear them. Thanks

Some folks aren't very good hunters. I have been here since 1980 and have only gone without killing a moose 2 of those years. One year was due to working out of town. Even with antler restrictions we still manage. I have taken 22 moose with my bow although not all of them were on the Kenai Peninsula. Nearly the same number by firearm. You have to put in the effort. Do the scouting. Get up at 4 am. Hunt till dark. That's not how most people do it.
 

kwackkillncrew

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mat su area is great. its centrally located. 3 hours south your on the kenai 3 hours north your in better hunting habitat. lots of fishing around the matsu area, rainbows, salmon grayling. Closest ocean fishing would be out of whittier but we do our ocean fishing out of homer. If you put in a little effort and miles on the truck you can kill big game every year. If you do move it will take time to acquire all the toys/things you would need to get into better hunting/fishing.
 

4merguide

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Some folks aren't very good hunters.

Especially when you consider how many of them are out of shape and just refuse to pack anything from any considerable distance. That right there will make people think the "hunting isn't very good" when they can't kill something a hundred yards from the truck.
 

AKBEE

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You might have your wife check on the wait and tuition for the nursing programs available here. Many students have gone out of state for RN programs due to the wait here in Anchorage. UAA will offer Associate Degree programs outside of Anchorage at the outlying campuses. APU offers nursing programs, as well as private ‘technical schools’ which are quite pricey. Openings in hospitals for new graduate’s can be difficult to find and the most hospitals are not hiring ADN’s. Just food for thought in case she can get her RN and some experience prior to moving.
 

kasilofchrisn

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Some folks aren't very good hunters. I have been here since 1980 and have only gone without killing a moose 2 of those years. One year was due to working out of town. Even with antler restrictions we still manage. I have taken 22 moose with my bow although not all of them were on the Kenai Peninsula. Nearly the same number by firearm. You have to put in the effort. Do the scouting. Get up at 4 am. Hunt till dark. That's not how most people do it.
How many days did you spend scouting last year?
Guessing it was more than most people.
And you do have the advantage of being retired.
I'm guessing you're rate of success is the exception and not the norm and very few people can claim that many Peninsula moose.
Working on the slope cuts the amount of time I have for scouting and hunting in half.
Some years I'm working the first half of moose season.
Some years I make it two or three days in the beginning and two or three days in the end.
Last year I drew the Caribou tag my dad had drawn the year previous.
He had 5 months to hunt his tag and he scored a Caribou after about two and a half weeks of hunting.
He could have harvested a beautiful bull earlier in the season but it was just out of range on the other side of a lake so he opted to wait for a better opportunity.
When I went to hunt my tag the season ended up closing early after only being open for 10 days.
Several of the days I was on the slope working.
So I had a very limited time to hunt.
Of course 12 hours or so after my tag had expired we ranged four nice bull caribou at just over 200 yards from where I was sitting watching for moose.
I just needed one more day but it was not in the cards for me I guess. Sometimes that's just how it goes in Alaska.
I can imagine someone going to school full time studying and probably working to pay their way it's going to have a very limited amount of time for scouting and Hunt prep.
Especially when they are new to the area and moose hunting in general.
It's not like the lower 48 deer hunts where people routinely bag five dear a year.
While there are plenty of moose on the Kenai Peninsula finding a legal one is the difficult part and judging antler spread is a whole different subject.

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SmokeRoss

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I am semi retired now this year, but certainly wasn't retired the past 40 years of hunting. We scout a lot, when we can. Before work, after work, and keep our eyes peeled anytime we are where moose can be spotted. Much of my hunting was done early in the morning before work, or after work. A lot of my hunting is done in old burns that are mostly birch, so the moose numbers are higher. I'm looking forward to when the new browse is tall enough to support moose year round in the Swan Lake burn.
 

cdubbin

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Statistically, on the Kenai Peninsula, 8 out of 10 moose hunters eat tag soup, year after year after year....and 20-some percent of the bulls that are killed don't meet the antler restrictions. The Mat-Su Valley, on the other hand, probably produces more moose harvest than any other region in the state, something like 2,000 animals a year, every year...subunits 16B has especially favorable success rates on moose...
 

Bryan27

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I've done quite a bit of research about moving to Alaska over the years and it is very appealing to me. But being realistic about it, I've come to the conclusion that unless some unicorn of a job falls into my lap it's probably not going to happen. I'm assuming you are a bit younger than I am (42) since you are talking about both you and your wife beginning your careers, that imo is the time to make the big move and I hope it works out for you. I live in TN which is a very low cost of living state when compared to CO or AK, but wages in the industry I work are as high in TN as they are anywhere else in the lower 48 but higher than they are in AK. Housing in AK is double to triple the cost, food, energy, healthcare and just cost of living in general is going to cost more in Alaska if for no other reason than the logistics of getting things there. I'm no expert on the AK economy, but my take away is that it gets hit harder than the lower 48 and is slower to come back mainly due to the fact that for the most part the economy isn't very diverse.

The idea of being a bush pilot sounds like it would be great, I'd bet that the reality is it's a lot of hard work and because so many people romanticize the profession the wages aren't likely that great. I'm sure there are exceptions, but if being a bush pilot is the dream I'd suggest not making it your job. I have several friends and family that are pilots who can all afford to be weekend warrior bush pilots if they want to because they have regular jobs as pilots at Fedex and UPS making a lot of money. The ones with good seniority not only make a lot of money, they bid schedules that allow them to take their time off in big chunks each month so they have time to do the things they want to do. Anchorage is one of they major pilot hubs for Fedex. Just something to consider.
 

Patsfan54

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You'd be better off getting your licenses where you are now than coming to Alaska and trying to get licensed, it will be cheaper and you will have more schooling opportunities. Once you are both licensed then you can think about moving here, but there is much more to Alaska than Southcentral Alaska and as a newly minted pilot and nurse your best opportunities will likely be outside of these areas.
 
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