I was born in the Territory of Alaska at Anchorage in 1948 and raised on a homestead above the Eagle River. My parents were not hunters and had their own reasons for moving far north of their respective east coast and west coast roots following World War II. Music was big in our house as it was my parent's first love; they being founding members of the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra where Dad played the cello for more than 60 years and Mom the Viola for over fifty years.
As for me, what I wanted to do is hike, camp, and hunt big game in the wildest country around, and I've been at this now for five decades all the while feeding the family joke that my parents had somehow picked up the wrong baby bassinet on their way out of Providence Hospital in 48. Well, I did get my love for music from them, even if my musical tastes fall quite a ways to the right of Beethoven and Mozart.
Even now, as I write these words in 2010 at age 62, I still love living close to the land in a minimal camp – sleeping on the ground – hearing my heart beat in the dark. It all started with childhood dreams of hunting the sharp mountains and narrow, alder jumbled valley's stretching from our homestead easterly into the glacier capped Chugach Mountains. There, grizzlies, black bears, wolves, big rock, and fast water ruled; so many ways to live – so many ways to die. Just the thought of it all would drive my parents - especially mom - crazy with worry. It was a world just outside their door, but far beyond their experience.
Then, after all the dreams, and my relentless pursuit of a freedom that afforded my parents no peace, came the reality when I killed my first big game, three caribou, in 1961 near Eureka Summit on the eastern edge of the Talkeetna Mountains. The following year at age 14 my friend Sam Wintersteen and I hunted Dahl's sheep off and on for five weeks without success, and when sheep season closed we switched over to mountain goats which had a two animal bag limit and a season running through December. Because of school all we had were our weekends, and on our first big push in late September we killed three goats on our own in what to this day are the physically toughest two days of my life. This short, brutal hunt was the watershed moment of my young life, and I learned things about myself that I hadn't previously known.
I first experienced the professional hunter's life in 1966 after graduation from high school when I went to work as a packer and wood chopper for Nick Botner out of Stephan Lake in the Talkeetnas packing out moose and caribou meat that the clients and guides were leaving in their wake.
After working as an assistant guide off and on for a few years I passed for my registered guide's license in 1973 and began running my own hunts. The next year I brought my childhood friend Harold “Zeke” Schetzle on board as an equal partner and we called our business “Kichatna Guide Service”. We worked together for about four years before deciding to go different directions.
While hunting the Kichatna River country I sometimes crossed “Nin Ridge” which runs between the Kichatna River and the Nakochna River east of Rainy Pass in the Alaska Range. In the local Tanaina language “Nin” means “high ground between two streams” and since a hunter is frequently on the high ground separating rivers and creeks it seemed an appropriate name for my new business.
If you choose to hunt with Nin Ridge Guides you can expect a maximum hunting effort under true “Fair Chase” conditions with a crew experienced by trial, tempered with fire, and with enough intelligent consideration to keep your concerns in perspective while we are hunting North America's greatest game.
The three legs supporting my business are respect for the client, the land, and the animals. You will not be treated like “just another warm body” with a “heavy wallet” to be jammed through the system. Our operation is small which allows for a much more relaxed and personalized service since we are not constantly putting out fires and dealing with the headaches of a larger operation where it seems like some issue or another constantly divides your attention. In order for this to work the owner has to be one of the main guides, and most of the time I'm guiding about 75% of the clientele.
Alaska has arguably the biggest and best public lands in the nation. We should never take this for granted as a quick look around the world reveals just how rare and valuable this heritage is. Wild country as an anecdote for our cities and suburbs and our hectic lives is something you can't really measure except with your heart, as a home for some of our most spectacular wildlife it is invaluable, and for the person dreaming of hunting dahl's sheep, barren ground caribou, Alaska/Yukon moose or giant coastal grizzlies, well, these lands make those dreams even possible, so their value goes off the charts for the hunter. We practice “leave no trace” principles on all our expeditions; there are no caches, no garbage burials and we burn our toilet paper.
The third leg is respect for the game. Some people will treat animals like inanimate objects and hardly be moved at a lost or wounded creature. The latest fad of extreme long range shooting is an example of poor planning and risk taking at it's worst. The bottom line is, at 500 yards and animal can take a step or two before your bullet reaches him resulting in a wounded animal that you have almost no chance to finish off due to the great distance. It can be hard to find a shot animal at 200 to 300 yards due to the distortion of distance and the presence of timber and, or, brush (where was he standing exactly?) (I thought he was angled to but this bullet hole indicates he must have been angled away) (man it sure looks different once you get over here) etc. In order to find blood you must be sure you are in the right place. Great distances makes this much much harder, and I won't even go into the effects of wind at 400 to 1000 yards. If you aspire to be a real hunter you'll learn how to stalk game to within a reasonable distance before trying a shot – 300 yards is a long poke in the field.
How we handle ourselves in the field informs the rest of society as to our character and whether we are worthy of respect or some form of ugly ridicule. We all pay the price – good or bad – when society's light shines on the hunter; everything from “hunters for the hungry” programs to the moose shot for bait to attract grizzlies by a guide who the rest of the year is whining about how the wolves and bears are killing all the moose.
We are in the field during the spring, April to June, and in the fall August to November. If you wish to contact us, the phone works best, or drop us a note.
Nin Ridge Guides
P.O. Box 1148
Chickaloon, Alaska 99674
All photos are taken and copy written by Nin Ridge Guides. They are for personal use, not for sale or transfer without permission . Thank you