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10/25/12

Random Thoughts: Alaskan Homesteader Shows

I've been enjoying a couple of the Alaska shows on Discovery over the past while - Alaska: The Last Frontier and Yukon Men. While the families featured on these shows obviously have the help of some outside resupply and resources, they are living largely self sufficient homesteader lifestyles. And they've been doing it for a long while, so they've got some expertise in the matter. Enjoyable shows, and certainly a few things to take notice of for us trapped in suburbia types.

All of the men have a rifle slung over their shoulder or within arms reach at all times. Bolt action hunting rifles are most common - .30-06s and .300 Win Mags have been mentioned, but a couple of the guys on Yukon Men have AR-15s, which they use in the dead of Alaskan winter without problem. Shotguns used for hunting birds and nothing else. Handguns are few and far between - an old .22 revolver for dispatching trapped animals is about all I can remember seeing.

Don't remember seeing anything in the way of high-end knives, and certainly nothing bigger than maybe 4 or 5 inches, despite lots of caribou and bear skinning going around.

The Kilcher family on Alaska: The Last Frontier live a more classic homesteading lifestyle, raising lifestock, growing some crops, and using hunting and fishing to supplement their food supplies. The families on Yukon Men are primarily hunters, fishers and trappers - not much in the way of live stock, fields or gardens have been shown. I'm guessing this is largely due to location - the Kilchers live near good pasture land for cattle, and the village in Yukon Men is right on the Yukon River. The Kilcher families seems to be less on the edge of survival and worried about their next meal, but there are certainly other circumstances that probably play into that. But, the farming lifestyle won out over the hunter/gatherer a long while ago, so I suppose that makes plenty of sense, too.

The families on both shows all rely heavily on wood stoves for heating, but also on fuel to power tractors, snow machines, chainsaws and boats. A few of the families on Yukon Men have trained dog teams, who are used with varying degrees of success. Without fuel, they'd all have a pretty rought time getting by.

All have a generally rough time surviving in the wilds, despite having years of experience, really low population density, and the natural resources of Alaska at hand--lots of trees, lots of big fish and lots of big and small game. Despite our obviously milder climate, many areas in the continental U.S. have much less abundant natural resources, and population densities many orders of magnitude gear.

Some helpful perspective at the challenges involved, perhaps. Certainly not something that's easy to do, or that one can just walk into unprepared and hope to fare very well!

2 comments :

  1. when I moved to Alaska many many years ago, the first thing I did was travel north of Fairbanks and out into to bush (that means wilderness up here) I built a small cabin and trapped and stayed out there a year. Yes there is abundant game up here, BUT, your choices are not that great, black and brown bear, caribou, hare, moose, small squirrels and grouse. and in the bush the fishing is not abundant that far from the coast unless your on a major river. the growing season is extremely short and out there only a few hardy vegetables grow well enough the plant. I had fresh meat from my trap line and squirels and birds. but lived mainly on packed in supplies. The extreme cold is the killer here, I have seen 90 below on the Charlet River area, and north of Fairbanks 40 below is common. Life can and often is miserable in the winter. and despite years of living that way (yukon men) they know what works best for them, most of us up here live by KISS, keep it simple stupid. I wrote a published article for fur fish game magazine about my time out there I would love to send to your site if you would like, it is enlightening. anyway thanks for your article on this kind of living.

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  2. I was born and raised in Alaska. I have climbed Denali, walked 100s of miles through mountains, woods, and tundra, and have been to far reaches of the state including Dutch Harbor and Barrow. My father was a hunting guide and a bush pilot. I live in the lower 48 now. I rarely watch TV, but I laugh every time I see one of these stupid shows.

    When people hear I'm from Alaska, they always ask about these stupid reality shows. There are many people in Alaska who are the "real deal" but many who just want the touch Jack London image. The latter is often found on Alaska reality TV. They go buy big guns and ATVs and try to act the part. I would like to see some of these people keep up with me on a walk through the alder and devil clubs.

    As far as guns, all Alaskans worth their salt own at least 3 guns, but anyone who carries an automatic pistol or an AR in the wilderness gets laughed at. Many Alaskans I know don't even bother to carry a gun in the woods because it is rarely nessecary. But it sure makes good reality TV to have a moron waving a gun around all the time.

    Heed the commenter above. Alaska doesn't have enough food (excepting possibly the southeast) for a TEOTWAWKI scenario.

    This rant has been building for years. In conclusion, Alaska reality TV stars = cheechakos. Go experience the real Alaska, not the BS mountain man fantasy these shows portray.

    -SMJ




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