Alaska Anuktuvik Pass arctic circle Bettles Field Bettles Fielf caribou hunting Chandler lakes Charlie Bright Colville River Dennis Bright Fairbanks Harrison jewell Jim Reigle John Ursich Larry Ruud Moose hunting Ron Costello Umiat
The Colville River was a destination recommended to us by the game warden who had met us at the Stoney River the previous year. We told him we wanted to go to a place where there wouldn’t be any other hunters and where the game was plentiful. This was his top recommendation, so I researched the logistics of it, prepared menus for two weeks, and arranged our bush planes and canoes to take us into the area. We would have no guides but I do believe we had some sort of phone to get in touch with commercial jets that might fly overhead.
So we left at 9:15 in the evening with 28 pieces of luggage for the six of us. I believe this was before they charged extra for luggage. We landed at Fairbanks and spent 2-3 hours tracking down our luggage. We stayed at the Best Western Motel. My impression of Fairbanks was that it was sort of a scruffy sort of town, flat terrain, and rather cold and dirty.
Reading my notes from that time long ago, I said I was traveling with “seasoned outdoorsmen of varying wilderness experience”. And I suppose there is some truth to that. Dennis, my brother, and Harrison Jewell both had two Alaskan trips under their belt with me. Larry Rued, a supply demand analyst for Standard Oil, was a country boy near my Home town of Wenatchee, He being from Cashmere and he spent two summers with me on a hot shot firefighting crew out of Entiat, called the Bushmen, so I knew he was tough enough and resilient enough to take the trip, but he hadn’t done a lot of hunting, in fact he said he probably wouldn’t want to shoot anything, just do some fishing and carry a gun around for protection. Jim Reigel was Harry’s partner in their health club and he was absolutely fearless, and heartless, but not a lot of hunting experience that I was aware of. John Ursich, nicknamed “squats” because he was an Olympic caliber weightlifter and Harry and Jim’s sales manager at the time, had a lot of experience elk hunting, but from what I could tell from Harry’s description of Squats experience, the hunting experience was mostly devoted to sitting in a tent and drinking large quantities of beer and staying in out of the rain. Squats was a very strong guy and very friendly happy go lucky kind of guy, liked by everyone.
So that was our crew, 2 tents, three to a tent, with Dennis, Larry, and I in the unheated tent and the other guys in the one with a heater. We are up in the Arctic Circle but it doesn’t get extremely cold that time of year, so we are told, and with a good tent we felt we would be alright. Unfortunately, we discover that our unheated tent would develop a bad zipper problem and the door wouldn’t shut. We had use the tent for a number of seasons and I had always been yelling at people not to work the zipper too hard, but the tent held up well during those years, UNTIL we got to the Arctic Circle on the banks of the Colville River.
September 3, 1981
Next morning we went to their airport and flew out with Frontier Airline to Bettles Field, a flight of about 1 and one half hours. We went to the local café and bought Breakfast for $7.50, which in those days was a lot of money. We talked with Ron Costello, a very nice man, calm and cool as a cucumber, and our pilot, who plotted out our hunting area on a large map.
We load gear, and then we loaded more gear, including two freighter canoes 20" long that were strapped to the struts going down to the floats, and finally left in a Beaver float plane and a 185 float, and flew for 2 ½ hours. We flew through some quite ruggedly beautiful area, which varied in topography, one area was a wide valley that had several lakes in it (this was called the Chandler lakes area) and we saw small caribou herds trotting along, (probably 200 – 300) even signs of a hunting camp or two, and a few hunters, then a few mountain goats as we flew through Anaktuvik pass, a very jagged bunch of spires and mountain top, then once through that we were out on the arctic plane and it was just rolling hills, small rivers, and streams, ponds, mosquito bogs. It looked like great country for wildlife of all types.
We finally got to the “mile stretch”, flew over one time and spotted 2-3 moose and 5-6 caribou. We wanted to tour around some more to get the general lay of the land, but the pilots didn’t want to waste any gas. They wanted to get back, I guess.
Our landing was smooth and we unloaded in very little time. After unloading we looked for a suitable place for our tents. We found a good sandy area just a foot or two above the water level, but nestled in some alders, out of the wind and with a view of the river. We pitched our tents about 25 feet apart and around 7; Jim decided to hunt behind camp. Since this was the same day we had flown in, we tried to talk him out of it as it was not a “fair Chase” method of hunting and most all of us were sportsmen. But Jim wasn’t really, so off he went on a power walk, after the moose he had spotted behind camp. Jim got within about 150 -200 years of the moose, he lifted his head and Jim killed him with a 375 caliber colt Sauer 300 grain bullet. We helped him gut it out but it was getting late, so we decide to pack it out the next day, if the grizzlies didn’t get it first.
We were all real disappointed in Jim, but didn’t make a big deal of it. We discussed it in our tent that night, and had to think that probably the one who would be most disgusted with himself, over time, would be Jim. After all, he had two whole weeks ahead of him and he had already shot his moose, caribous being the only other option left him. It’s not like he could go to the local pool hall and while way his time playing snooker or something. Squats wanted nothing to do with it, and had stayed in camp to hold down the fort and probably hit the bottle.