I came to Alaska to be here and am a northerner at heart. In Some of the places I have hunted in Alaska It is still possible to hunt the very best Waterfowl marshes anywhere and still have them to yourself.
(body and head completely hollow)
BURY ME IN MY WADERS
by DON WEBSTER
60 years of waterfowling
The who, what, where and why of
why we do it. The religion, the passion, the tradition. It's all here.
Available on Amazon
I advocate and believe in making the "heart of the flats" a waterfowl hunting reserve dedicated to preserving, protecting and defending Alaska's most famous wildfowl marsh. It would be called the RUSSEL ANNABELLE WILDFOWL HUNTING RESERVE to honor that famous Alaska and International outdoor writer who wrote some of the best passages ever written about North American waterfowl hunting 75 years ago.
I grew up in Maryland on the most famed icon of all waterfowl grounds, the Chesapeake bay. I come from a family of market hunters and decoy makers. In the old market hunting days I had relatives on both sides of the most famous ducking grounds of the early 20th century, The Susquehanna Flats. In those days the Canvasback was king and highly sought after to supply East coast markets from New York to Washington DC with this succulent bird that brought prices for only one duck that a man might work for a month to make as a wage earner. The skills and market hunting devices used during this period will never be equaled for the efficient taking of wildfowl, nor should they, as they helped deplete the once vast flights of Canvasbacks. Many of these cans flew cross continent from Alaska's Fort Yukon flats to Chesapeake bay. If one can imagine opening day at the small town of Havre de grace at the head of the Chesapeake in the 1920's it would now be hard to believe. Imagine 50 duck coffin sink box blinds built to be below the waterline so that the gunner was completely hidden. Each sinkbox ( and some were double coffins that held two hunters) was supported by a raft of lumber 18 feet wide by 20 feet long. Each sink box was tended by a boat that set off in the distance to tend to the box and collect fallen ducks. Each sinkbox had both on the raft and in the water 200 to 700 wood decoys. It is estimated that in good years up to 1500 Cans were taken on opening day alone. No wonder today the limit is one bird. One market gunner it is said wore out a half dozen browning A-5 shotguns in his lifetime.
On the Chesapeake the tradition of waterfowling is very rich and very much a part of the culture and in fact has it's own culture, language and a form of religion. But, by the time I was young, the vast flights of wildfowl were very limited compared to the old days. There were more geese than in the past, in fact in the 1960's Maryland was the goose capital of the world, but not ducks. I spent long days in the goose fields with my uncle and learned their calls. Today, more than ever, conservation is the key to wildfowls future and our privilege to hunt them. I was always interested and in awe of where these wild and free birds came from. I knew they mostly come from Interior Canada and Alaska and made myself a promise to be "up north" some day and experience the glory of the wild flights that still come down to the tamed and populated mainland United States. Just in very reduced numbers.
I have hunted wildfowl in Alaska for 38 years now and have lived and hunted in some of the very best are areas of the state. I have also been a professional long line wilderness trapper, guide, professional woodsman, dog team racer, commercial fisherman, North America and Pacific rim adventure sport photographer and all around Alaska "bush rat". I believe in hunting the traditional ways of the old timers and usually end up making much of my own equipment including the Alaska school of wood decoys that I developed and my Alaska Guide "Call of the Wild" duck calls.
I do limited guided hunts on the Matanuska Hay Flats shooting over traditional "shootin' stool" Alaska wood decoys.
I started guiding for duck and goose hunts in Alaska in the 1970's. I lived a subsistence Bush lifestyle where I hunted and lived on the vast Tanana Flats and also lived on the Lower Yukon river Delta, home of the largest and most wild waterfowl marshland in North America.
I have also hunted most of the road system in Alaska, including the Kenai, Tok, Glenallen, Valdez, Fairbanks and other areas.
The wildfowl I hunt now, I actually hunted former generations of the same lineage of birds, but at the opposite end of this flyway. This is unique as origins of this flyways are hundreds of miles further north and west, but still in Alaska.
Alaska is unique in that there are no private duck clubs like in the better waterfowl areas of the lower 48 states. Federal and State lands are open to everyone. Public refuges are open to all hunters although there are a few who think that the refuges are their private duck clubs. There are some iconic waterfowl states where entry into a wealthy duck club would set one back more than the value of their house. Lets hope that never happens in the Great Land.
Wildfowl guiding took place on the Palmer Alaska Hay Flats almost 100 years ago. Pioneer farmers in the 1930's used waterfowl to supplement their meager early years diet also. Russell Annebells book SKYFULL of BRIGHT WINGS describes fabulous guided waterfowl hunts during the World War II era, long before modern motorized sportsman ever heard of the flats.
Fowling is still a grand game of democracy in the north, it should be kept that way.
By Mike Robinson firstname.lastname@example.org