By Jason Mogen
I can remember growing up on a farm in southwest Minnesota standing on a hay wagon pulling and tugging at 70 pound hay bales and loading them one by one onto a conveyor with temperatures in the 90′s and humidity levels nearly the same and thinking to myself “what is this going to teach me about life?”.
Little did I know at the time that having a good work ethic would become a valuable asset to have in life. It was this asset that all outfitters in Alaska look for when hiring on new guides. It is the most important factor that determines whether your client has a successful hunt or not. Let’s face it there are many variables that can affect the odds of getting a trophy animal in Alaska. However if at the end of the hunt things didn’t work out the way you thought they were going to but your guide worked his tail off and gave you a 100% effort then you have had a successful hunt and you will probably re-book a future hunt with the same guide to try it again and that is what separates great guides from average guides.
My first experience with guiding in Alaska came from Ray McNutt. At that time Ray was conducting moose & sheep hunts out of the Wrangle Mountains southeast of Tok using horses. Any guide that has ever done this can testify that moving a 10 day camp over 20 miles of mountainous terrain with 6 or 7 crazy horses is no small task and you better be able to know how to work because that is the one constant that doesn’t change over those 10 days. I learned everything from Ray on how to efficiently move “weight” from point A to point B.
Now I use jet boats that travel the same distance and carry more weight in a fraction of the time. My guides and young help sometimes complain about loading & unloading the boats and wonder how long it’s going to be before we get to where I hunt. I think back about the days with Ray and all the time I spent riding on the back of a slow moving horse completely exposed to the elements, then tell them to simply…”shut up!”.
My second experience working as a guide was with Larry Rivers. Larry ran a sheep camp in the northern side of the Brooks Range and also a Brown Bear camp out of Sand Point down on the Alaska Peninsula. Larry without a doubt is one of the best “bush” pilots ever to climb behind the controls of a Super Cub. I learned a lot from Larry about how to carry yourself as a guide and also the business end of the Outfitting industry. I remember telling Larry that I was going to go on to be an Outfitter after I had learned more about the business. He said “great but know that you won’t get rich doing this.” ……He was right.
I went on to guide for David Haag in the Revelation Mountains for moose and brown bear and dabbled with canoe trips down on the Kenia Peninsula. Now I own and operate Alaska Premier Outfitters. This is a tough and often times dangerous way to make a living, however it is one of the most rewarding occupations I personally have ever been involved with.
I reside in a small native village called Ekwok on the bank of the Nushagak River in the heart of Unit 17 that I guide in. I’m thankful that I took the time and met all the right outfitters along the way to know how to run a successful guiding business.
Good luck to all of you who are looking for a chance to come to Alaska and experience what so many of us already know. Perhaps some time down the road you will book a hunting or fishing trip with APO.