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Float hunting book prompts some buyer undercurrents

Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Larry Bartlett knows there will be people who don't like his book, ''A Complete Guide To Float Hunting Alaska.''

He saw evidence of that during a recent book signing in Anchorage when a man approached him and asked if he had pinpointed specific rivers to float. Bartlett told him he hadn't. The man walked away.

''He didn't buy the book for that reason,'' Bartlett said.

Which begs the question: How do write a book titled the ''Complete Guide To Float Hunting Alaska'' without mention of where to go?

The decision not to name specific rivers and creeks to float was one that Bartlett struggled with while writing his first book.

''I was afraid if I quoted good areas to hunt that it would cause an influx of hunters greater than that area could withstand,'' Bartlett said.

He recalled a story he wrote several years ago for Alaska Fishing and Hunting News about a particular winter moose hunt.

''I wrote a story saying, 'This is one great hunt that is overlooked and this is how you get there and this is where to go,''' said Bartlett. ''It was closed in six hours by emergency order because so many hunters showed up.''

So when Bartlett decided to write a book about float hunting in Alaska, he gave serious consideration to just how much information he was going to include.

''I know the effects of putting something in print about a specific place,'' said Bartlett. ''I have to be selective what I tell people.

''I think serious hunters appreciate not having areas pinpointed.''

Specific hunting spots are about the only things Bartlett didn't pinpoint in his self-published, 205-page paperback that includes a little bit about everything involved in planning a float hunt in Alaska -- or any hunt for that matter.

There are chapters on float hunting techniques, gear preparation and planning. Bartlett offers tips on everything from choosing a raft to stowing meat and antlers to reading rivers to raft repair to choosing campsites.

There is a comprehensive listing of air charter services, river transporters and postal services for game management units in northern, western, southern and Interior Alaska. There also are maps of those game management units, as well as lists of state wildlife biologists and federal land managers to contact.

The book also features a half-dozen personal hunting stories from Bartlett, the sort you exchange while sitting around a campfire with a steaming cup of coffee warming your hands.

''Basically what he's done is compile a bunch of information that was already out there and put it between two covers,'' said fellow hunter and friend Doug Herron. ''It's a real handy hunting tool.''

Bartlett is not your typical Alaska sourdough hunter or author.

He's only 29. He's a licensed nurse in the U.S. Army. Not to mention the fact he's only been in Alaska six years.

But Bartlett, who grew up hunting in Texas, is no cheechako, either. He has bagged a moose every year since 1995. He has come home with a Dall sheep three of the past four years. He has been part of more than a dozen successful caribou hunts.

Bartlett has floated rivers in the Alaska, Brooks and Wrangell mountain ranges, from the Talkeetna to the Nizina to the Kennicott to the Noatak to the Sagavanirktok, and a handful of others that will remain anonymous.

In real life, Bartlett is a licensed nurse at Bassett Army Hospital on Fort Wainwright. He spends most of his time starting IVs, drawing blood and taking vital signs.In his spare time, he is founder, owner and chief guide for Pristine Ventures, the name he uses for his backcountry adventure company that specializes in remote river and wilderness travel.

Bartlett readily admits to being a lucky hunter and thinks most successful hunters tend to have luck on their side. The more research and preparation a person puts into a hunt, then the luckier they are, he said.

''Ninety-nine percent of the time you stumble on animals by chance more than hunting skill,'' Bartlett said. ''All you can do is hope your research brought you into a good area and if you are successful it's because of your intense research to seek that area out.''

Bartlett shot his first moose, a 43-inch bull, almost a mile off the road along the South Fork of the Chena River. Because he wasn't yet a resident of Alaska and didn't want to pay a nonresident license fee, Bartlett was limited to hunting on military land. When he spotted a bull near a beaver pond in a valley floor, Bartlett didn't think twice about packing the moose up the side of a small mountain.

''I was so desperate to take a moose I didn't care,'' he said.

It took him and a hunter partner three days to pack the moose out. ''The trip out was straight up,'' he said.

A week later, Bartlett bought his first inflatable raft, a 14-footer. It's one of three he now owns. Bartlett hasn't been road hunting since.

''There's way too much of Alaska to see to stay on roads.''



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