Friends Worth Inviting

I probably don’t need to mention it, but it should be clear that going to Alaska with tags in your pocket is a bit different than loading up the pickup and rolling down to the Back 40. When it comes to planning a trip that requires days of travel rather than hours, being careless with the gear you bring isn’t a luxury you can afford … literally.

First and most obvious, there are very few Alaskan mountain ranges with a sportsman’s store nearby. If you forgot it, you’re going to need to learn to live without it.

On the flip side, getting aggressive with your packing is going to come back to bite your wallet when you charter a plane to your final destination. Ticket prices are generally fixed, but you pay by the pound for everything else you bring—from ammo to alcohol. Here’s to hoping you drink lite beer.

To make sure I had more than enough room to accommodate my excessive wardrobe issues, I had to get selective with my gear, but here’s what I refused to leave at home:

Alaska poses a unique optical “illusion” when it comes to hunting. The glass you carry must be big enough to reach out and spot game from a long way off, but it also must be small enough to pack anywhere, because the road to that critter … well, there ain’t a road for miles and everything is uphill. Strapped eternally to my chest was a 10 X 42mm Nikon Monarch 7 binocular. I was consistently able to spot deer from very low elevations and then take the bino with me through every geographical hurdle between me and that buck.

It’s bold to take a slug gun into rifle country, and I wouldn’t have ever considered it without the confidence that together, the gun and I could consistently lung-pound a deer from 150 yards without hesitation. With my Mossberg 500, I had more confidence than I was willing to carry up the steep and tangled slopes of Kodiak Island.

For starters, carrying a pump-action gun is quite a bit lighter than carrying a semiauto, so I had that going for me. And Mossberg factory ports the business end of their cantilever rifled slug barrels, so recoil reduction and accuracy beyond 100 yards is an expectation, not a surprise. And because I was always shedding and adding layers between sitting and still-hunting, the multi-position stock was a Godsend for adjusting the gun to fit based upon how much bulk I was wearing in my clothing at any given time.

But the coolest part of this Model 500 is that it dons Mossberg’s FLEX designation, which means not only can I quickly swap barrels from cantilever to bird barrel within a few seconds, but I can change the stock and fore-end with the same amount of ease and in just as little time. In less than a minute, I’d converted my blacktail rig into a waterfowl whacker … with no tools.

To jewel the crown, I strapped a Nikon Slughunter scope to the rail on the cantilever barrel. Extended accuracy with a slugger is readily attainable, but it’s still not a rifle—there’s going to be significant drop beyond 100 yards. The BDC reticle in the Slughunter is crafted to take the headache out of holdover. For me, less on-the-spot math equals a much higher percentage of success.

From Midwest whitetails to Alaskan Sitka blacktails, I’m always more than willing to feed any of my guns Winchester DualBond sabots. In order to maintain accuracy beyond 150 yards—and I’m talking a lot tighter than “pie plate accuracy”—everything must work together, from gun to scope to sabot. And once it gets to its final destination, a DualBond does some serious redecorating to the innards of a deer.