I learned many years ago that there were a few places that you
just dont go.
Most of my youth was spent running after a pack of hounds. My
hunting trips took me into dense river bottoms, broken rocky
canyons, and steep timbered mountains. Too many times I came
home in the wee hours of the morning bleeding from scrapes,
scratches and bruises. Just about all of the time I was covered
in mud and soaked to the bone. It was a time when I had the
most fun in my life.
I had an old friend that lived down near the river. He never
seemed to have many friends, but I spent a lot of time talking
with him as a kid. He also had a taste for roast coon. I never
could figure out if he was trying to keep me out of his coon
trapping grounds, or he was concerned for my safety. He would
lie in his bed at night and listen to my hounds run the river
bottoms. Every time I would see him, he would look at me with
those cold dark eyes and ask, Been running those bogs
again? He knew very well it was me and some of my friends
I would tell him that I had been running a few coons down in
there. He always had the same thing to say. You boys are
going to go down in them bogs one of these times, and never
come back out. He would go on to say that there had been
a lot of hunters who had gone down there and never were seen
I knew there were sink holes and quicksand, and I was careful
to stay out of them. The worse things were the underground streams.
It was possible to be walking along and fall through. Sometimes
it was only a foot or so, and sometimes it was over your head.
I suppose that I was lucky because I managed to get through
those years with only a few stitches and a broken bone or two.
I never forgot what he would say, and it has caused me to probably
be a little more careful than I would have normally been.
I found when I moved to Alaska, that things were a lot different.
Everywhere I had hunted had been pretty much the same. It was
always possible to walk about anywhere I wanted. Alaska taught
me a whole new set of rules.
Alaska has bogs. Unless you are walking on ridge tops or climbing
mountains, sooner or later you will have to deal with the worse
bogs on earth. Just about every valley has a river, creek, or
lake. It would be nice to be able to just walk down to the creek
and wade across. The problem is the bogs that you have to get
through before you even get to the creek, and then the neck-deep
mud in the creek. It just isnt a safe place to be, especially
if you have short legs or a bit vertically impaired as I am.
I also learned about the sage-head tussocks in the
bogs. They are round mounds of grass-like things that grow in
the bogs. It is not possible to step on them because they bend
and send you upside down in the muck. Being short legged; I
cant straddle them so I must walk around them in the water
and mud. That is a perfect recipe for tripping and falling face
down. I suppose that wouldnt be such a bad thing, except
the 150 lb. hind quarter of moose on your back pack is now holding
your head under water.
Last year my brother, Gib, and our wives were hiking back to
moose camp. It had been a long morning and we were all tired
and wet. The last little draw we had to cross didnt look
to be very wet. I picked my way down the steep hillside and
was doing pretty well crossing the wet tundra in the bottom,
when, without warning, I dropped straight down. That little
stream was obscured by the grass and was only a foot wide. It
was about six feet deep, however. Since I am quite a bit less
than six feet tall, guess where that left me?
I was lucky to have wedged in with my head still above ground.
They all had a nice long laugh at my expense. They said something
to the effect that it looked funny to see a head protruding
up out of the mud. I had to have help getting out of that mess.
If I had been alone, I may have been in trouble.
Some hunters are actually dumb enough to shoot moose in the
bogs. They usually only do it once. I never, ever shoot moose
in the water. I am also careful not to let a moose run into
the water once it has been shot. They will do it every time.
They are used to running into the water to escape from wolves,
so thats where they go. You have not known pain, until
you have had to dress out a moose in neck deep water.
Recently a friend of mine called me up and invited me on a bear
hunt. He asked if I would bring my Hydro-Traxx amphibious ATV.
It was good in swamps and it would float if needed. I asked
him if there was going to be any bogs to deal with. His answer
was no, just a few mud holes.
Somewhere down inside that little voice was warning me about
the bogs. I could hear the words of the old wise man. You
boys are going to go into those bogs, one of these days, and
never come back.
I hadnt been hunting since moose season last fall, so
I ignored that small voice. I had never been in that area, so
it would be a new adventure. Its strange how dumb we can
be at times.
The first five miles were on the beach of Cook Inlet, and then
up the bank we went. We were greeted at the top with some of
the finest mud bogs I had ever seen. I thought that as soon
as we got inland a ways, it would be just a little mud and a
nice trail. That was just the second miscalculation.
The old pipeline right-of-way would surely be easy going, or
so I thought. We turned north and headed down the pipeline.
Every mud hole was either two feet deep, or had no bottom at
all. It was like running in a peat bog, because
that is just what it was. I had to cross a log bridge that was
made for four-wheelers. My tracks hung over on both sides. I
thought that would surely be the worse thing I would have to
do, and then I came to a river. The little bridge was too small
to cross, so I decided to try to float across. I learned that
tracks dont propel very well in the swift water. My partners
tied a rope on my machine and pulled me across.
The rest of the day was winching myself for what seemed like
miles of mud. I found myself stuck on underwater logs and stumps.
I found myself in mud that was almost running over the sides.
I dont understand how that happened with a machine that
floats fairly high in the water.
There were times that I did wonder if we were ever going to
get out of that mess. One of my partners had just gone through
triple by-pass two years ago, and it would have been impossible
for him to walk out. I dont know if I could have done
The return trip brought us back to the river crossing. This
time I was going to enter the river, and float down stream to
cross. I hadnt noticed that my partners had tied the rope
on my roll cage instead of the winch hook on front. When they
tried to pull me across it tipped me enough to take on water
when I tried to climb up the bank. I immediately backed out
into the current and jumped to the other side to bring the machine
back up to level. I was able to float down stream to a place
where I could climb the bank. I was glad that my bilge pump
I dont know how we did it, but we did make it back out
of the bogs. Once again I had to learn things the hard way.
It will be a lesson that wont soon be forgotten. I guess
we need to be reminded once in a while.
Those who come to Alaska to hunt will find some of the best
hunting on earth. They will also find some the finest bogs known
to man. By the way, I know a place where the moose are plentiful,
and t he bears are thick. Its only about twenty miles
back in there, and there arent any bogs, only a few mud
I will say this about that, however, should you encounter a
bog, be careful. I hear that hunters have gone into those bogs
and never have been heard of again!
George Bubba Hunt, the last of the Bog-Masters.