Lessons in feathers and freedom Picture it: You’re in the mountains of Alaska, out where the trail ends and the air tastes unused. You’ve forgotten what a crummy week you just had. You’ve even forgotten the cramping protests in your right thigh and the 10 miles you’ll have to hike back to the truck. Here in the mountains, you’re just an animal; a pair of lungs and a circuit of senses, raw and unfettered, living second to second. Same as the ptarmigan you so desperately chase. This was me last September. I was halfway up a scree slope on the Kenai Peninsula, and my heart was thumping like a phonebook in a dryer. I’d just flushed a handful of willow ptarmigan that cackled and flew way off into the next valley. Even though this ptarmigan flush was what I hoped to find when I set off from the trailhead with…

Appreciating ptarmigan, from the field to the plate.

[By E. Donnall Thomas Jr]

Several years ago, friends and I took a week-long float trip into the wilderness, targeting caribou with our bows. After several days without releasing any arrows, we were getting hungry.