What makes an adventure? A remote destination, challenging travel, capricious weather, unusual or difficult terrain, an interesting species that is not readily available just anywhere, and of course, colorful people and interesting cultures. Add super trophy quality and you’ve got the hunt on offer by APICDA (Aleutian Pribilof Islands Community Development Association) in partnership with Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures (888-826-1011; www. jimshockey.com). The hunt takes place on Umnak and Atka islands and is for free-range reindeer. These animals were introduced from Siberia early in the 20th century as a food source for the local population of Aleut natives. With fewer and fewer Aleutians choosing to live on these islands, however, the hunting pressure is very low and the trophy quality excellent. Another plus is that these animals are owned by the native corporations on these islands, so hunting seasons and permits are controlled by them. The biggest challenge here is actually getting to and from Umnak and Atka islands. I’ll explain that in a minute.
Over the past few months I had the opportunity to visit both islands and experience the hunting on them. I arranged both trips through Dan Goodenow of Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures. The idea behind their partnership with APICDA is to help the local Aleuts build a hunting program that will provide work, income and meat to those natives still living on the islands, and create awareness of the Aleutian people and their fascinating history. Most people are unaware that the village of Nikolski on Umnak Island, for example, is one of the few settlements on Earth that has been in continuous habitation for more than 8,000 years.
Even veteran Alaska hunters are probably unfamiliar with the Aleutian Islands. This chain of islands stretches off the Alaska Peninsula way out into the Bering Sea. It is 1,100 miles as the crow flies from Anchorage to Atka; a little less to Umnak. Both islands are further out than Dutch Harbor, made famous by the cable television show Deadliest Catch. The weather in the Aleutians can change from one hour to the next, with strong winds, fog, rain, hail, snow, and bluebird skies, or any combination thereof possible at any time. This kind of weather is what makes travel to this part of the world an iffy situation.
My first trip to the Aleutians took place this past August, when I traveled to Atka. I was slated to hunt with Eva Shockey, Jim Shockey’s daughter, who was filming an episode of Shockey’s new show The Professionals (playing on the Outdoor Channel.) That hunt ended prematurely when we suffered an accident in our hunting vehicle, leaving our Registered Alaskan Guide, Kevin Adkins, with some broken ribs and me with a sprained neck. You can read all about the accident in the Email Extra Bulletin I sent out just after it occurred. It is posted to The Hunting Report website (http://www.huntingreport.com/) in the left-hand column under Email Extra Bulletins. Fortunately, I saw just enough of the hunting on Atka to get an idea of what hunters should expect there as opposed to the hunting on Umnak.
Atka, like Umnak, is prone to foul weather. We stopped tracking our quarry several times one morning on Atka due to thick fog, and we also stopped and camped out under a canopy for a while during a persistent shower. On Umnak (where I hunted in early October), we stopped during a storm of pellet-size hail, followed by snow flurries. This is the same kind of weather that will delay flights in and out of both islands.....