One Last Cast
From Alaska Outdoors Radio Magazine
By Evan Swensen
Charlie’s Four Day Moose
Charlie’s pilot guided the 1947 Stinson from frozen lake to frozen lake at about 800-foot altitude. It was late November, weather was clear—crystal clear—but it was cold—almost bitter cold. The plane’s tiny cockpit was heated, but not enough to be entirely comfortable without those inside wearing coats, gloves, hats, and warm boots. Besides Charlie’s pilot, there were two other occupants, each with a hunting rifle.
Neither of Charlie’s passengers would be considered a sportsman, at least not by today’s standards. However, this flight took place back in a time when Alaska was for Alaskans, when the moose population across cook inlet was used as many Anchorage area residents’ winter meat supply. That’s why Charlie was flying on this cold, clear November morning; to provide transportation to the outdoor grocery store and back to Anchorage.
N 857 Charlie, model 108-3 Stinson was wearing skis so she could set down on any lake or smooth swamp convenient to where a likely moose could be seen browsing willows. Charlie’s pilot would land the airplane as close to the moose as possible; the meat gatherers would exit with their rifles and slay the moose, one per passenger.
And so it was. Two moose were spotted walking across one of the area’s largest lakes. Their direction of travel was noted in relation to the prevailing blowing breeze, and Charlie’s pilot lined up her landing accordingly. Charlie slipped to a quiet landing some 100 yards slightly behind the moose. Neither moose showed any sign of running off as the freezer fillers removed themselves from Charlie. Instead, they both turned broadside presenting the perfect shot opportunity as if they had been appointed for this very purpose.
Two shots echoed across the frozen lake, and two moose began the final filling of their creation. Charlie’s pilot left the subsistence gatherers to their task with a promise to return later in the day. Thirty-five minutes later, found Charlie parked at her Lake Hood berth loading up with two new passengers, a young man, and his dad, also on a meat-gathering excursion.
Again Charlie circled from frozen lake to frozen lake until two more moose were located near the end of an open, flat, but small, snow-covered swamp. These two moose acted as their peers had done earlier for Charlie’s other two passengers. They stood and allowed the boy and his dad to complete their search for winter’s meat.
Charlie’s pilot left the two to dress out their meat with instructions to pack the moose to a large lake off the end of the swamp. Unfortunately, long enough for a smooth and safe landing, the swamp would not allow for takeoff with a load of meat.
For the next several hours, Charlie made numerous trips from the two lakes where the four subsistence hunters had prepared their game for transport to Anchorage. Darkness had set in before the final load of meat and hunter was transferred to Lake Hood, but it had been a successful day of gathering provisions. Charlie had earned her keep. Four moose in one day.