Action! Footage of '30s hunting trip shown in Kasilof

Posted: Sunday, March 13, 2005

The Kasilof Regional Historical Association treated more than 60 community members to a blast from the past Thursday evening by showing the film "Hunting on the Kenai" at the New Life Christian Fellowship Church in Kasilof.

The 50-minute long silent film originally was produced in 1936 but was only recently rediscovered among the vast archives housed in the library at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

"The film is great," said KRHA member Dave Letzring.

The film documents a hunt starting at Kenai Lake in late August and features some rare footage. The hunters were a curator from the American Museum of Natural History, a surgeon and his wife and two bankers — all from new York City.

The city slickers were guided through the rugged interior of the Kenai Peninsula by Hank Lewis.

The film starts out with the party crossing Kenai Lake by boat, floating through Cooper Landing and then on down the Kenai River.

"The fish and game is so abundant in the film it's just unbelievable," Letzring said.

One scene from the Russian River shows spawning sockeye salmon so thick the water is boiling with activity.

After a stopover at Hjalmar Anderson's homestead on Caribou Island on Skilak Lake, the hunters switched from boats to horseback for the 40-mile trek into the high country in search of Dall sheep.

Along the way the hunters managed to kick up flocks of ptarmigan, some 20 to 30 birds thick.

"You don't see flocks like that now," Letzring said.

After bagging a few sheep with full curls, the hunters continued on, moving into moose country along Funny River.

They caught several huge bulls on film and were selective in the few they finally chose. One big boy had a 67-inch spread with palms big enough to rent advertising space on.

The hunters returned to Skilak Lake on the Moosehorn Trail, stopping for a brief swim in the Killey River along the way, before ultimately floating down the lower Kenai River to Kenai.

"They go past Soldotna 10 years before there even was a Soldotna," Letzring said.

One lucky hunter even managed to pick off a black bear from the boat and then went ashore to claim his trophy.

Many of those in attendance for the film were hunters or guides themselves. Longtime Kasilof hunter and meat packer George Calvin said he remembers when game was as abundant as the film documented.

"I remember seeing moose that big or bigger. Some of them even had double palms. There was big bulls all over up in the timberline," he said.

George Pollard, a Kasilof homesteader and hunting guide for more than 35 years, said he also enjoyed the film.

"It was pretty good. That time was probably at the height of trophy moose hunting on the Kenai. You can still get moose that big now, but its occasional. They're not as frequent now as they were back then," he said.

The film took him back to a simpler time before four-wheelers, scent-masking products and all the other bells and whistles modern hunters use to succeed on a hunt.

"That was the main difference between then and now. People didn't use camouflage or think they needed all different kinds of crap from Cabela's," Pollard said, referring to the dungarees, flannels or plain clothes most of the hunters in the film wore.

Letzring said his only complaint about the film was the filmmaker made the classic mistake people still do today.

"They took lots of scenic shots of the landscape, but the scenery is the one thing that never changes. I wanted to see more of the people and what they were doing and what they were using," he said.

For anyone who missed the film, KRHA plans to show it again soon. The group holds monthly meetings the second Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. at the McLane Center in Kasilof. For more information about the film, upcoming meetings or to visit the KRHA museum, call 262-2999.

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