George Hunt, known to his friends as "Bubba," knows moose. In fact, he knows moose so well that his talent for moose calls landed him in front of Jay Leno with a tin milk bucket and a squeeze bottle full of water. His object? To impress Ed Asner.
"They asked me (to do) a lovesick cow moose (call)," he said. "(They) moan and moan and pee. I did a couple of long, drawn-out, groaning cow moose calls to impress Ed and I guess I did. They paid me good for it."
Hunt, who was elected to the Soldotna-Kenai Fish and Game Advisory Committee as its newest member at large Thursday, came back to his home off of Funny River Road with $500 and a free trip to Tinseltown under his belt. He said "The Tonight Show" provided him with airfare and a room at the Sheraton Universal Hotel and carted him around in a 14-yard-long limo.
"I look inside and say, 'Well, I can get four,'" Hunt said. "(The driver) told me it'll hold about 15 (people). I told him, 'I'm talking about moose.' 'Why would you want to put a moose in there?' I said, 'You ever try to pack one of them things on your back?' He didn't say too much after that."
In addition to his short stint as a celebrity, Hunt was vice president of the North American Moose Foundation out of Mackay, Idaho, about two years ago and a member of the Tok Fish and Game Advisory Committee during the 1980s. Not only does he bring years of experience with him, Hunt said he came to the committee with a few issues he'd like to address.
Before he moved to Alaska in 1969, he said he grew up on the trap line with his father, who was a government trapper managing the mountain lion, coyote, wolf and bear populations in the Western United States during the late 1920s and early 1930s. The area where his father trapped had bear issues, similar to the kinds of problems Hunt says the Kenai Peninsula faces. With so many brown bears being shot in defense of life and property and no harvests this year, he says, the number of bear encounters with people in the area has grown.
"We have an overabundance of brown bears in Kenai, Soldotna, Cooper Landing, Homer and Ninilchik," Hunt said. "We have the Kenai River, which is getting more populated from one end to the other. Now we have more bears in city limits."
Bears from all parts of the peninsula congregate along the Russian River and the northern end of the Kenai River adjacent to Cooper Landing to take advantage of the red salmon run. Fishermen head down in droves during that time as well. Sometimes there are anglers standing along the riverbank elbow-to-elbow with a bear across the water that is just as eager to get the same fish, Hunt said.
"The Fish and Wildlife, and the animal-rights activists, if they want to do something productive, I'd like to see them close the upper Kenai for the red fishing and send Anchorage someplace else to fish," Hunt said. "We have people hurt and bears killed. We have too many bears."
Hunt also said he would like to see the Department of Transportation trim the brush along the highways during fall freeze-up, as well as in the spring, to reduce the number of moose-caused collisions on the highways. He said the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife cut a firebreak along the south side of Funny River Road in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, which reduced the number of collisions near his home. He'd like to see the same done along the Sterling and Kenai Spur highways.
"If we could do that away from the road system we could do it along the highway," he said.
Other new advisory committee members include Nate Corr, who holds the guide seat left vacant by Joe Connors, and alternates Dave Horton and James Gores. Gary Dawkins, advisory committee chair, said commercial setnet fisherman Paul Shadura, member at large Bill Tappan and alternate Roland Maw retained their seats.
Dawkins said he's excited to see what insight the new members can bring to the advisory committee and hopes the public will take a more active interest in meetings.
"We have an open-arm policy," he said. "(We welcome) anybody from the public. If they would just talk it would save a lot of heartache."
Hunt said so many user groups, each with axes to grind, is a detriment to the game populations. When he gave his address before the advisory committee elections, he said he thinks he brings common sense to the board, and the board could use a little common sense.
"We could use common sense on the board and start filtering some of these proposals. We could still manage the fish and game populations," he said. "I'm just a crusty, old-time Alaskan and I want to see the people and the game survive."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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