Alaska: the Last Elk Frontier
Alaska: the Last Elk FrontierBy Remi Warren ©Elk Hunter Magazine
Chasing Roosevelt Elk in BIG bear country
My brother laughed with jubilation and relief as he popped the top off an Alaskan Amber. This was no ordinary beer; it was his celebration beer. "Want one?" he asked.
I didn’t. My whole body ached, but when would we ever have this chance again? I looked past the fire we built and past our bear fence, into the dark, and took a sip. It was good. We sat in silence, enjoying that moment as the fire burned down to coals, planning to cook one of the largest tenderloins I’d ever seen.
When I think of Alaska, elk hunting has never been the first thing to pop into my head. Moose sure, caribou definitely, Dall sheep of course…but elk? Hell, I’d never even heard of anyone hunting elk there. Yet here I was, staring into the dark, sipping a beer in the middle of nowhere, and taking in the feeling of accomplishment on the greatest elk hunt I’ve ever experienced.
This hunt started more as a random action than a planned excursion. While applying for other Alaska tags, I saw elk in the choices. I thought it would be cool to take a Roosevelt elk, so I picked a couple of hunts with dates I could make work and applied. I had no knowledge of what to expect, the type of hunt, or knowledge of the areas.
Ten months later, we found ourselves sitting on a floatplane touching down on a lake near Kodiak with a strong tent, a bear fence, a dry bag full of Mountain House, and a few celebration beers that my brother Jason hoped survived the journey. The flight in was rough but well worth it.
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We already had a bead on a huge group of elk, not to mention some giant Kodiak brown bears. The only downside was that the elk were a ways from where we could land the plane. Some serious packing would be required, and by serious, I mean lots of weight. In fact, before arriving, Alaska Fish and Game sent us a letter warning us that these elk were the size of moose and could weigh 1300 lbs.
"Ha, 1300 lb. elk. Yeah right," I thought. Well in a matter of 24 hours I was about to be slapped upside the head with some truth.
Looking over a map, we planned our approach. The mountains went straight up from the lake on our side and straight up from the ocean on the other. We found a pass that would get us there - 2500 vertical feet up, 2500 feet down, and repeat to get back to camp. Needless to say, I’d soon become very intimate with this pass.
Elk in Alaska originated from a group of eight Roosevelt elk calves captured on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington and transplanted to Afognak Island in 1929. Today, elk are found on Afognak Island, Raspberry Island, Etolin Island, and Zarembo Island.
Although not native to the islands, the herds are free ranging and managed by a special permit issued by the ADFG. Therefore, they’re eligible for Boone and Crockett, but so far, no elk from Alaska has met the 290 minimum.
Roosevelt elk are larger bodied and typically smaller antlered than their Rocky Mountain counterpart. Couple that with Bergmann’s Rule of Mammals (that generally mammals in colder, more northern climates have more body mass) and you get one beast of an elk in Alaska. Although shorter tined, these racks also tend to be heavy for their size.
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