Ever watch the National Geographic show “Life Below Zero”?
Tough as nails modern day frontiersmen and frontierswomen make their living and homes in the wilds of Alaska.
I got to interview one of these tough Alaskans off the camera to see what his thoughts are on some most asked questions about his wilderness lifestyle. Here is what Ricko DeWilde had to say about these very interesting questions.
Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule Mr. DeWilde. Any viewer of “Life Below Zero” can witness just how hectic the Alaskan wilderness lifestyle truly is.
Life among the large predators of Alaska such as brown bears and even the ever changing weather can be quite interesting and harrowing at the same time. Is there an instance that you would like to share where you thought for certain you were in for some serious trouble?
“I would have to say the greatest danger for me in the summer is bears, especially mid may to mid July when they are out of their dens, hungry, and the salmon and berries are not yet available. It’s important during this time to always be aware of where you are, what type of vegetation like grass or willows that they may sneak up to you in and also what way the wind is blowing because that’s where they’ll be smelling your every movement.
Winter danger is moisture, especially traveling long distances by snow machine or walking. Always know to dress warm and adjust your layers when getting too warm or cold to avoid sweating. Falling into open water is a possible death sentence too. Beaver houses and any lake or creek that has active mink and otter tracks are always dangerous signs that there may be open water under the snow cover.”
Best and quickest way to start a fire in an emergency?
“The best way to start a fire is find a big spruce tree and get the dry dead branches that are under the lower canopy. Look for birch trees in the area and use the birch bark as a stimulant to get the branches going. Stomp and kick the snow down and out of the way under the tree to expose some dry ground and light the birch bark up and stack the dry branches on. If any dead alder in the area, use that as the bigger longer burning fuel once the fire is going. Carrying an axe is key, and even better, carry a chainsaw in your snowmachine toboggan.”
I have to ask this question for every fellow hunter out there. What are your top caliber and gauge selections that work best for you?
“Top guns for me is .22 for small game, shotgun for waterfowl, .308 for almost all big game in the open areas and the .375 ruger for the dangerous moose/bear encounters in thick brush where the bullets are susceptible to ricocheting.”
What in your opinion is the best wild meat in Alaska?
“It’s hard for me to say what’s my favorite wild game to eat and would be disrespectful for the animals that provide their lives for us to live. I love moose in the fall, then winter comes and caribou and ptarmigan is always good, spring rolls around and the waterfowl with the lower 48 flavors fly in and is a welcome change of flavor. Summer brings salmon from a far off ocean which has a flavor that’s surreal to the taste buds, then it’s back to fall hunting…… every season brings a new flavor that I’m forever grateful for.”
What is the best part of living in the wilds of Alaska? What about hardships?
“The best part of living in Alaska for me is the hearty foods of the land and also the beauty of the lands. The hardships out here are nothing but a blessing because it gives my life a great feeling of accomplishment every day that I survive and leaves me with a strength I cannot buy.”
Camera crews following you around must put an interesting spin on your daily routines. How has this affected your hunting trips and other normally solitary experiences?
“Having a film crew following me around is very different because I have to watch them close. It’s basically having a group of guys in the woods that have no business being in the woods. I do like the company of them and I learn a lot from them and hear a lot of different stories from people that are not only from different parts of the world but also been all over the world filming other cultures. I also take advantage of the film crews cooks and eat different foods and wake up to gourmet coffee every day, so that alone is a huge blessing in my life.”
If a viewer of the show wanted to head to Alaska for a similar lifestyle what would you tell them?
“If a viewer wants to come to Alaska and experience this lifestyle I’d tell them to be careful and don’t try to go too far out right from the jump. It takes years of trial and error and also passed on knowledge to move around and know the land. Do not think you’re going to come out and do as I do, you’ll quite likely not enjoy it and/or die.”
I understand you also run a side business. What does it offer and how can readers contact you?
“I do have a clothing line called HYDZ, which means animal hides which is the clothing of all human beings ancestors. I started this clothing line after designing some sweaters for my late family members traditional Athabascan memorial potlatch. My website is www.hydzgear.com.”
What else would you like to share with the readers of this interview and viewers of the show off camera?
“Being on life below zero has really helped me be a more patient father. Sometimes in the past I can be very short on patience with teaching my kids and simply have them learn by watching me do things. The film crew wants to see more hands on from the kids and also the questions the kids ask helps me explain to the audience so in the end it has taught me to be even more patient with my kids and also answer more of their questions. I believe I have always been good with teaching the the, but my kids enjoy it more with the patience the show has demanded.”
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NEXT: ALASKA ADVENTURE BOOK REVIEW: ALONE IN THE FORTRESS OF THE BEARS: 70 DAYS SURVIVING WILDERNESS ALASKA