Interview with an an Alaskan Legend

Bambistew

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I stumbled across this recent interview with Joe Want. I've met and talked to Joe a number of times, and am always fascinated by his personality, his experiences and his outlook on life.

He's lived the experience of about 5 men, was born and raised in AK and is still going strong. He lives in Fairbanks and can be found at just about any wildlife related function. He usually teaches a bear hunting/skinning course and recently has been presenting some field judging courses for sheep.

I believe he's guided more bears on Kodiak than any other guide, and has guided a metric ton of sheep hunts as well. He used to post on a couple forums, but gave it up when people called BS on his stories. I have no doubt they were true, but the internet warriors were not so sure. I still see him post occasionally on Rokslide.

I wish the audio was better, and I hope that he gives some more interviews. There are few guys like him anywhere, let alone in Alaska...

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Kaitum

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I never met Joe in person but exchanged emails several times with him when I asked for advice on judging sheep. Very helpful and friendly guy.
 

Bambistew

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180 miles one way to his sheep camp, and walked in... from the road. Puts that 4 mile hike from the trailhead into perspective.Hahaha.

I was talking to him one time about packing bear hides. He told me that waist belts on backpacks were for sissies... he had a pack purpose built that could haul 150lbs of hide and skull. Straps only...

He's a living legend for sure. I love talking with guys like him. Their lives are fascinating. I had a friend in MD that passed at 92, I loved BSn with him. Got to spend 8 years with him listening to WW2 stories and tales of hunting in the woods of Maine.
 

Mtnhuntr

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Didn’t know anything about Joe until seeing this, but really enjoyed it. He has seen a lot. Thanks for sharing.
 

rmyoung1

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I think one of the things I liked best was his intellectual humility. There’s a tendency with the human race, especially among the self-reliant, to act as if one eventually knows everything. Mr. Want seems very humble and teachable in spite of his vast experiences.

Safe to say that I’d part with my left arm and a good portion of my net worth to go back in time to be one of his sheep clients. And it’s beyond cool that his guiding career got an early start with P&T. That’s a link to history.
 

noharleyyet

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I think one of the things I liked best was his intellectual humility. There’s a tendency with the human race, especially among the self-reliant, to act as if one eventually knows everything. Mr. Want seems very humble and teachable in spite of his vast experiences.
Yes, an unusually even perspective.
 

Bambistew

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Hahaha, if you have ever talked with Joe you would know that his level of humility at times, is not quite what he portrayed in the video. He is pretty staunch until convinced otherwise.

I talked to him a bit about the theory that all legal rams were being killed as soon as they were "legal" to shoot. This theory gained momentum about 5 years ago with added interest due to various groups pointing fingers at each other for lack of rams. (when in effect, the harvest rates have remained the same for decades), but fewer big rams where being killed... so they must be getting killed before they can grow. Fun fact, there was probably more 40"+ rams killed this year than there has been in any of the last 20 years. Also fun fact... aerial spotting of sheep during the season was banned 3 years ago. Correlation? Easy winters? Good hunting weather? Who knows, but the good ol days of sheep hunting seem to be returning.

A study had never been done to determine just how many legal rams were being killed each year out of a population. There was speculation, but no one knew for sure. They really don't even know what the makeup of a herd is in terms of ages of rams with any certainty. The average age of harvest kept getting tossed out as a marker of successful management, and Guides where quick to point out that the harvest by NRs was higher than the residents (IIRC we're talking 8.8 vs 8.6 statewide) NR kill 40+/-% of the sheep each year. If they were really good at killing older sheep those numbers would be quite a ways apart.

Joe took the age of harvest records and determined that about 50% or more of the sheep killed each year were older than 8, meaning that they had survived the previous hunting season, all while being "legal'. That meant that that at least 50% of the legal rams are left on the mountain every year regardless of population, more or less. I suggested that most all hunters do not shoot based on age alone, and many of those "age legal" sheep were likely not legal by curl. How many was the question. What percentage of that 50% were truly legal by FC regulations was a bit harder to tease out with the data. The dataset is suspect anyway due to lack of any repeatable process in terms of degree of curl...

People who shoot 8yo sheep based on age alone are playing with fire...and very few do it, some get flat out lucky, and others not so much. Best estimate is that between wounding loss and sub-legal harvest, there is another 10-15% of rams being killed that aren't reported.

A few others had similar arguments against his theory. Since then they (Joe and ADFG) initiated a study to measure the degree of curl of harvested sheep vs. age at time of harvest. I also believe that part of that study included measuring anuli segments. I haven't seen the final results yet, but it will be interesting.
 

antlerradar

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180 miles one way. So much for filling the freezer. I would have that sheep eaten by the time I got back.
Sounds like a real interesting guy that lived a life that few if any will duplicate.
 
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Randi

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Hahaha, if you have ever talked with Joe you would know that his level of humility at times, is not quite what he portrayed in the video. He is pretty staunch until convinced otherwise.
You are spot on Bambistew, but what a life he has lived.
 
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Thanks for sharing. I would definitely agree that the impression I always got while interacting with Joe is that he is under the impression that he’s right. With his level of experience up against mine, I’m in no place to argue. I have heard him call the way others do things plain stupid during his seminars and I get the feeling that his guided hunts were for the submissive, “show me exactly what to do” type.

Last I heard him talk was last February and I understood it that they estimated 50% of the rams harvested every year were legal for at least one year based off age AND full curl. They explained that full curl is easy to tell because it’s based off a perfect circle, you can simply count the number of rings the tip has grown through. So they can tell if an 11 year old ram was legal at 8 by making that perfect circle and checking the 8 ring (or whatever ring for that matter). I could have completely missed the mark, but it made sense to me at the time.
 

wllm1313

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@Bambistew your comment as well as a few other threads have made me realize how valuable a history of each states game management practices would be; technical date available at the time by year, what the regs where, what variables lead to those regs and then a brief discussion of how those regs were received by the public. We are going to lose and are probably losing a lot of institutional knowledge as these people retire.
 
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