Outdoors: Remembering the ghosts of the far north

I fondly remember when I worked on the Alaska pipeline.

This was back when we first experienced the gasoline crunch. I was hired to analyze hydraulic cylinder problems in adverse conditions. During the first week, it took a long time to get used to the cold temps. The pipeline went from Prudhomme Bay in the north to Valdese in the south.

Usually just before dusk, one could hear wolves howling. I was told that this was a way to form a gathering of the pack for hunting purposes. Sometimes we could see them traveling across the tundra in groups of five or six. They moved smoothly across the snowy landscape and made no sound. Mostly they were hunting caribou. Being lighter, they could travel very fast over the deep snow. Their feet were equipped with extended pads, which kept them afloat over most of it.

The larger game, such as caribou, were hampered by deep snow as their legs pierced it and kept them at a slower pace. It also kept them from being a formidable opponent for fighting off the wolves. After killing one, the pack would feed on the carcass for about four days.

At that time, around 1970, there were millions of caribou. Animal rights activists tried to keep us from building the pipeline and said it would disrupt the caribou migration. This was untrue, as today there still are millions of the animals.

Caribou are prey for bears, wolves and also man, as many Alaskan folks live off the caribou herds. I guess that’s the way nature provides. I believe that wolves can be trapped in Alaska, now as they have been taken off the endangered species list. They have very valuable fur. A good wolf pelt can bring several hundred dollars. Fur buyers are required to report on how many they have purchased so biologists can regulate the harvest. They do keep a balance on populations of deer and caribou alike.

We did finish the pipeline, and I fondly remember even today when I run into one of my co-workers and we talk about the job and 800 miles of winter.

Hunting report

I think I read that the squirrel season starts Aug. 1 this year. I am not sure but will report on it later. That would be good, as I don’t have any more squirrels in my freezer at this time. Eating squirrels once a week does take a toll on my supplies.

Right now, squirrels are feeding on green-black walnuts. They don’t waste any time hitting those trees. They will soon be feeing on mulberries and field corn.

Fishing report

Area rivers still are swollen from all the rain we have had. For a while, all of the boat ramps were barricaded on the Fox and Illinois rivers.

Catfish came off of their spawn this week and can be caught in muddy water right above brush piles. Cooling lake action has been limited to very small fish.

• Fred Krause is a Shaw Media correspondent.

Fred Krause

Fred is an avid outdoorsman who has been writing about his passion for decades.