A question we here in Chisana at Pioneer Outfitters are asked very often is, “What do you do, the rest of the year?”
What that usually means, as it almost-always comes from a guest or client, is, “What do you do, when you are not doing what you are doing with me?”
I have thought about different ways I could answer that, and how I can explain that when I first arrived in Chisana, more than 20 years ago, “not the busy time” was a time I truly thought existed.
January and February are typically our coldest months with temperatures dropping to -50 to -60 degrees Fahrenheit. At this time, we are trapping, checking on horses, feeding horses, cutting firewood, hauling water and entertaining guests on the more hard-core Winter Excursions.
March and April are spent trapping and out with our Winter Predator Hunt clients as well as keeping a super close eye on the range horses, as the sun begins to warm, the horses sleep in the sunshine instead of grazing. Then there is always wood to be cut, hauled, slip and stalked, livestock to be taken care of and water hauled.
May sees the snow-machines put away and the range horses that Winter on this side of the river are brought in and trimmed. All the trapping equipment is accounted for, supply runs to Anchorage or Fairbanks and the first of our Spring Grizzly & Black Bear Hunters and Horseback Adventure guests arrive. Oh, and we are still taking care of the critters that live with us, cutting firewood and we are still hauling water. Now, we also add the raking and cleaning up the Springtime mess.
June has us finishing up with the Spring Bear Hunts and continuing on with the Summer Horseback Pack Trips. The cross country horseback trips from Chisana into the Yukon begin and the horses are finally shed of their wooly coats and sleek again.
Any building that is going to be done, any new horses that are going to be bought and brought in, any new trails that are going to be tried, the time is now. There is also critters to care for, dog mush to be made, wood to be cut and water to get running, so that we have a few months of running water.
July is all about planting the garden and greenhouse, enjoying our Summer Adventure guests and the wonderful experiences shared with them. The rest of the range horses are wrangled in, trimmed and they all get new shoes. The Fall Hunts are prepped for, more supplies are bought and flown in and hunting gear is checked.
August is busy. Always the busiest month for Pioneer Outfitters, August marks the beginning of Pioneer Outfitters Fall Hunts as we continue with the Horseback Adventures and the Fall Photo Safaris. Dall Sheep opens with Grizzly Bear on August 10th, and our hunting guides are in the field between the 6th and 9th of August.
September is similar to August, except we can expect snow any day and most especially by the end of the month. The Northern Lights will have returned to our sight and the Fall Photo Safaris are always simply wonderful. September has Dall Sheep, Grizzly Bears and Alaska-Yukon Moose are all available to our hunters this month and the massive Alaska-Yukon Moose comes into the rut at the end of the month which brings the old mammoths into clear view for those who can hold off.
October is a sad month for us at Pioneer Outfitters. The last of our Fall Photo Safari guests and the last of our big game hunters leave Chisana and cabins are cleaned. Gear is checked, cleaned and put away. Shoes are pulled and the horses are put to Winter range. Any remaining camps are pulled out of the field and the guides that are heading back to their own homes, depart. Water to be drained from tanks, water to be hauled, wood to be cut.
November, you would think, would be easy. No Pack Trip Adventures, no big game hunters and no horses to check on, for a few weeks anyway. Easy, right? Well…. there are Winter supplies to be gotten from town, birthdays to celebrate, holidays to prepare for. There is winterizing to be done to the cabins and barns, wood to be cut and don’t forget, water to be hauled.
December is our biggest reservations month, so we spend a shameful amount of time on the phone with clients and guests and folks asking questions about their perspective Adventures.
Trapping supplies and gear are checked and readied. Survival gear is gone over, snow-machines are out and running. Christmas trees to be found and the cabins and the Lodge decorated and presents wrapped. And! You know, the wood, the water, the mush, the critters and depending how the snow fall and temperatures have been, the range horses are checked.
Alrighty. Now? Now, we start again!