Sheep Conditioning 101

The Butte near Palmer is ready for climbing. It is one of the first hills here in the Matanuska Valley that is free of ice and snow early each spring. I just climbed it this morning, along with about 47 other people and dogs enjoying the sun. 50+ degrees feels great in April.

Climbing Buddies

It’s already April, so only four short months before hunting in Alaska is in full swing, and Sheep Hunting in Alaska starts. And often, June and July are so busy with other summer activities, conditioning takes a back seat. So I rely heavily on April and May for the bulk of my conditioning exercise. Then I often coast through to August, with only scattered conditioning jaunts to put the finishing touches on “sheep shape” for me. And, getting into great shape by the end of May helps me enjoy the Alaska outdoors to the fullest, since our fishing, camping, and hiking often demand more than couch potatoes can handle. See you on the hills.;


The Wonders of Nature

The Alaska outdoors is full of sights and sounds this time of year. Birds are returning and nesting here in the Matanuska Valley – some right in our back yards. On one of daily walks my Lab jumped a female grouse that led him on a fluttering chase. I immediately thought ‘broken wing act to lead him from her nest.’ Sure enough, I found her ground nest tucked up against a small spruce tree, complete with 11 tan-with-brown-speckles eggs.

Spruce Hen on Nest

I quickly called my dog and led him at heel away from the sight. The bird returned quite quickly with no apparent distress. Now we walk a different route and I’m watching for any other ground nesting birds to keep my dogs away. I keep tabs on her from a distance to make sure she has a successful nesting season, and so I can take the neighbor’s kids to see once her chicks hatch and they all desert the nest. They will love to inspect the nest and the remnants of the eggs.

Eleven grouse eggs

Valley Lakes are Opening

As I write this, I should be in the Alaska outdoors – casting into the recently opened edges of our Matanuska Valley lakes. Virtually all of them have at least 20-30 feet of open water along the edges, some much more. The first ones to go like Finger, Kepler/Bradley, and Lucille would even have enough water for a small cataraft or canoe (I have both).  Each year I plan to spend more time fishing in Alaska right now, so tomorrow afternoon I’m going.

Spinners work, of course, but nymphs are great terminal tackle for both fly rods and spinning rods. Bead head nymph patterns like a gold ribbed hare’s ear or prince nymphs are two of the best around here. Trolling or retrieving them behind a split shot with a spinning rod or fly casting and just letting them settle naturally can be deadly on trout or landlocked salmon in our 80+ stocked lakes in the Valley. See you there tomorrow.

rainbow from a cataraft
Early season rainbow fishing