Ed Stratton and his partner, Charlene
An interview with the big game guide himself, Ed Stratton:
Question: So you are from Maine originally. Is that where you learned to love the outdoors?
Answer: Yes, I’m from Maine originally, around the middle of the state near the New Hampshire border. I grew up in Sweden, which is a really small town in a very rural area. I grew up in the woods because my whole family was involved in the logging industry.
Question: How old were you when you learned to hunt?
Answer: I started hunting when I was 11 with a family friend, and I’ve been passionate about it ever since. My father wasn’t a hunter. Later, I became a registered guide in Maine, and specialized in black bear and moose.
I think the outdoors and exploring has always been in my blood. When I was just five I went off exploring in the woods, and my parents found me a mile away at a neighbors’ house.
Question: When and why did you move to Alaska?
Answer: I moved out here in 1998, for the hunting and fishing and some variety in my life. Moving to Alaska had always been a lifelong dream of mine, ever since I was a child.
Question: How’d you end up living on the backside of Denali? Did you move right there from Maine?
Answer: No, when I first got to Alaska I was in Palmer, which with a population of around 6,000 is a city, particularly compared to Sweden, Maine. I started out in the logging business again, but also started working right away as an assistant guide. I’d had that job set up when I arrived. A little later I moved to Rainy Pass and started guiding full time. (Editor’s note: Rainy Pass is the site of the oldest hunting lodge in Alaska). Over the next six years I worked for two outfitters as an assistant guide, until I passed the test to be a registered guide.
Question: So how did you end up at Denali?
Answer: Now that I was a registered guide, I did a lot of research to determine where to set up shop. I was looking for someplace really remote and off road, and that was Denali. Between both places, I’ve now been guiding in Alaska for 16 years.
Question: And how did you talk Charlene into moving up there with you?
Answer: That’s a good story. We were early high school sweethearts back in Maine, in Sweden, but we eventually drifted apart. As an adult, out here in Alaska, I connected again with her on Facebook, along with other friends from back there, but then when I was back east to visit the family, we met up and rekindled the relationship, and now we’re living together up here, hosting people who come visit us and living off the grid. It’s an incredible experience.
Question: Do you ever get away from the backwoods and visit civilization?
Answer: Yes. I’m actually in Palmer right now. We just got back from a wedding (Editor’s note: we were talking on the phone). It’s great living off the grid. We get a moose and stock the freezer, give guided hunts, and I always enjoy looking for moose sheds. In a way we’re not so isolated because in winter the frozen river is like a smooth highway. You can hop on your snowmobile and after a long drive get into town.
Question: You’ve been a registered guide a long time. What do you like best about it?
Answer: I’m satisfied with how the animals are harvested. We do it right. And I like seeing the excitement on the clients’ faces who are really into it—they’re fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Question: Why would a client choose you over a bigger guiding company, leaving aside cost savings?
Answer: Because I live in the hunting grounds full time, and have a passion for moose. I’m really into it. When I was younger, when most of my friends were hanging out at bars and chasing girls, I was in the woods calling moose. I use authentic birch bark calls I make myself. Those are way better than the fiberglass calls most other guides use. I learned about them and how to make them up in Quebec from a Canadian Native American guide.
I’m constantly calling moose and learning about them. How they go up to the mountains to mate and then come down, what paths they take.
I’ve also keep in contact with Dr. Vince Crichton, who is an expert on moose up in Canada. His passion is sustaining the moose population, which in some areas is in decline, mainly due to wolves.
Another big reason to choose us is that you’ll experience tremendous hospitality. We really take care of you. We live with you, one on one (editor’s note: you have your own cabin), and you’ll experience the great outdoors while having everything you need. We have a generator, a propane stove, great food. DVDs if you want to watch movies, cozy cabins and a lazy dog. And when you hunt with us, you’ll go where the moose go. I know their migration patterns, where they go in the highlands for mating, where they are when they return to the low lands. Basically, it’s an opportunity to get a moose, experience living off the grid, and make friends.