It’s fall, and for a lot of Can-Am® ATV riders, that means it’s hunting season. For many of us, hunting and ATV riding go hand in hand. That’s especially true for hunters like Ken Huckeba, a Navy veteran and current resident of Alaska. Without his Can-Am Ken couldn’t reach his favorite hunting spots or bring home his prize game. So how exactly does his Can-Am help him hunt in the Last Frontier? Read on and find out.
Can-Am: Before we talk hunting, tell us about yourself.
Ken: I’m from Atlanta, Georgia originally. If it had motors or bullets I loved it. My first memory of off-roading was on my dad’s Harley Davidson/Aermacchi motorcycle. The Navy brought me to Southern California in the early eighties. A new wife and a career in power plant operations and maintenance kept me there. The Mojave Desert and the magnificent desolation were a fantastic place to run out tank after tank of gasoline. I never got tired of loading up the truck, riding my legs and arms off, and cleaning grit out of my teeth and chain just to do it again the next time. I moved to the Southern Sierras in the nineties. After a long motorless spell, call it “mountain bike-itis,” I got my first ATV, a 2006 Can-Am Outlander™ MAX 800. Perhaps I waited all of those years to get the best. My new wife (we’re both widowed) and job (I’m a pipeline project planner/scheduler now) brought me up to Alaska where I just can’t get enough of everything. The freedom to roam up here is beyond belief. The wildlife is spectacular. The country is huge, magnificent, and defies photography and written expression.
Can-Am: How did you get into hunting?
Ken: I got into hunting because of my father and grandfather. My buddies were into it as well when I was a young adult. Reading all the magazines, seeing the pictures; I just had to try it. My wife’s friends and family are also amazing outdoors people.
Can-Am: Where is your favorite place to hunt and what do you like to hunt?
Ken: My favorite place to hunt is anywhere in Alaska.
Ken: It takes every kind of machine to hunt in Alaska: boats, airboats, airplanes, track rigs, snow machines. My choice is my Can-Am. Like I said, I had an ’06 Outlander MAX when I moved up here, and I quickly found some riding buddies. One thing I quickly gravitated towards were other Can-Am ATV riders. It sounds corny, but you just have to flock together. Covering major ground of any and all types is just easier on a Can-Am. I like my MAX for obvious reasons. I like the longer wheelbase to carry more loads with the CRS storage box. It climbs and descends easily as well. Taking another hunter out to the hunting area is comfortable and easy also. These benefits of the MAX are clear in regards to being the best hunting rig available! The NEXT Vista G1camo pattern pushes that fact over the top, just for the cool factor!
Ken: For sure! The days spent trekking back and forth to hunting spots are a genuine hoot. It’s awesome to have the big beast to sit on while glassing the bush for game. I do have to admit, my winch does get a workout pulling others through the bogs and swamps!
Can-Am: What is the hunting/ATV community like in Alaska? Do a lot of your friends and family ride and hunt with you?
Ken: The hunting and ATV community in Alaska is a hardy group. You’ll never want for help. Folks will spend their whole day helping others if need be. It is so remote here. If you get hurt or stranded, it’s hours and hours for help to arrive. When you see someone in need, you feel very indebted to help. Folks up here are giving and gracious. Hunting is a way of life. It’s the best of years when your freezer’s full and the smoker and canner well used. The winter is long and the need for the fish and game is great. Hunters greatly respect their rights here and guard them ferociously. Everyone’s friends and families ride and hunt up here! My family most of all! I can’t imagine it any other way.
Ken: I do have stories from the hunt. Some moments are just special. I feel like a kid scrunching my eyes tight trying to bring them perfectly back. Some of the moments are surreal. Just seeing your first bull appear as if by magic. They are magnificent. Their antlers and huge muscled bodies making their way through the brush, getting closer, disappearing in the brush, reappearing. Your heart jackhammering against your sternum as the moment gets nearer. The muzzle flash in the shadowy morning. Not remembering the report or recoil of your rifle. Searching for your bull then spotting the antlers sticking up in the brush. I’ve seen grown men squeal and cry after their first kill. I deny any such loss of composure on my part, ever!
I did have a moment out in the bush where I felt more than afraid. I stepped over a fallen tree and looked down. There was a moose’s thigh bone on the ground. It was sticky and wet. It was the first time that I felt real gut-wrenching, hair-standing fear. There was a grizzly bear in the area and I was near his kill and I was alone. I never did see the bear, but I did know he was near. They are so silent. It’s amazing to see them move through the brush. That moment stands clear as a time when I didn’t want to be where I was in space and time!
The northern lights can also be mesmerizing. On my last trip, the sky was perfectly clear. The bands of the radiation belts could be made out all the way around from horizon to horizon. Words defy the view. We felt small indeed. I felt like God was playing with our spaceship!
I did have last year’s moose scare me out of my boots. I’d ridden my Outlander to the top of a hill by a lake. It was the last day of the season. I was cold, really cold, and really tired and sore. I took my camp chair with me to sit by the lake and watch for moose. I got settled in down by the lake where I could see the shore on both ends. Thirty to forty feet behind me, a bull moose tore into a spruce tree! I almost ran into the lake! The tree looked like it was in a blender. We can only figure that the branches sliding and clicking on the camp chair made him think I was another bull. I froze! He looked my direction for a bit, then walked off. I guess I disappointed him! I got up and followed him through the trees. When he got out into the open, then I took him. He was a huge monster-bodied bull with huge notched ears from fighting. Wow, what a hunt. Those antlers are on the picture of my 2011 Outlander.
****Since so many of us Can-Am riders hunt, we also wanted to offer some tips on how you can stay safe while hunting with your Can-Am. You can get all the hunting advice you need right here: http://blog.canamoffroad.com/2011/10/can-am-off-road-hunting-advice/