Marty & Dominique Meierotto and their daughter Noah from “Mountain Men”
TV’s History Channel Reality Show Mountain Men includes Marty Meierotto in its cast as a Survivalist and Alaska’s toughest trapper. Born in Wisconsin, Marty began his trapping career at age 8. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Two Rivers, Alaska. Marty is an expert at building with logs, so of course, up in the wilderness he has a log cabin and at home, he and his family live in a nice log home – both built with his own hands.
Along with his role on Mountain Men, Marty works as a smoke jumper for the Alaska Fire Service in the summer and in the winter he traps in some of the most remote areas in the state. Marty claims to have never seen another human being there who was not accompanied in by him. He is an expert trapper who can successfully harvest any furbearer his state has to offer. He spends extended periods of time out on his trapline in the frozen Alaskan mountains at least 200 miles from the nearest civilization, thus the need to be a survivalist! Marty does run his line with a snowmobile but even that can be risky in Alaska’s unforgiving environment. Being prepared is his motto and he is meticulous with all of his equipment and plans, as failures or mistakes could be deadly.
Marty drove with his brother to Alaska in 1985 with the plan being “to live in the woods” and he continues to do just that. He is a tough, strong man who looks the part of an Alaskan Trapper not only on the show but in real life as well. Along with his TV fame, he was featured on the cover and in a 12 page article in a recent Field and Stream magazine. Marty’s friend, Al Dubord, (also an Alaskan trapper) was born and raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and also moved to Alaska years ago. Al’s take on Marty? – “Marty is the real deal”! Marty is an upbeat individual with a quick wit. He is also a “down to earth” man who doesn’t like to brag or call a lot of attention to himself.
Heimo & Edna Korth and their daughter Krin from the “Last Alaskans”
While growing up in Wisconsin, Heimo had an exuberant interest in wilderness and adventure, stoked by stories of hunting big game in the pages of Outdoor Life and Field and Stream magazines. The biography of frontiersman Daniel Boone was also very inspirational to him.
As a young man of twenty, Heimo discarded a factory job which he found to be dull and uninteresting. It was August of 1975. Heimo flew to Alaska to take a job as a packer for big game hunting guide Keith Koontz in the Brooks Range. They became friends and Keith helped Heimo get set up with a cabin for a winter of fur trapping.
The cabin was in remote wilderness 70 miles south of Fort Yukon on Beaver Creek. Heimo was alone with meager provisions and no experience with trapping or wilderness living.
For the first month Heimo lived mainly off what grouse and ducks he could shoot. There was no stove in the cabin. Someone was supposed to come downriver with a stove but didn’t show up because of the early freeze-up.
By early October there was a foot of snow on the ground and temperatures dropping below zero. Heimo had to sleep outside and build bonfires to keep warm. He was in real trouble.
Needing food, Heimo set out to find a moose and in the woods out back of the cabin miraculously came upon a collapsed cache with a wood stove and stove pipe among the debris. Heimo got it set up in the cabin and finally had heat.
By mid-November, desperately low on food, Heimo attempted to hike to another known cabin with the hope of finding food there. On the way, he fell through the ice and had to make a run back to his still smoldering wood stove to survive.
More desperate than ever, Heimo hoped to signal a plane. Chances of a plane flying by were very slim. A friend of Heimo’s asked a bush pilot to do a flyover and check to see how Heimo was doing. Again, seemingly another miracle, Heimo was able to signal that he was in trouble and got flown back to civilization.
The few furs Heimo had managed to catch during his time on Beaver Creek brought less than $100. Not wanting to give up on Alaska, Heimo went back to work for Keith Koontz, this time on St. Lawrence Island off the west coast of the Alaska mainland.
In the ensuing years, Heimo would continue to trap and built his first cabin on the upper Coleen River in June, 1978. Here he would trap for over 40 years and raised a family along the way.
Among the furs Heimo harvests in this northern boreal forest include wolf, fox, marten, wolverine, lynx and beaver. Heimo runs his traplines by snowmachine. He has had several seasons of over 100 marten harvested.
Heimo received the Alaska Trapper Association’s Fabian Carey Trapper of the Year award in 2003, in recognition of his commitment and dedication to trapping. Heimo’s sense of humor and engaging personality have won him friends near and far.
An excellent book, The Final Frontiersman: Heimo Korth and His Family, Alone in Alaska’s Arctic Wilderness by James Campbell came out in 2004. Much of the information for this short biography came from that book, with Mr. Campbell’s permission, and most of the photos came from his website (Also with permission)
More recently, Heimo has been featured as one of the cast of the very popular reality TV show “Last Alaskans”. The show has helped to portray fur trapping positively to audiences worldwide.
Ray & Cindy Lewis and their children Molly, Emma, & Sarah from the “Last Alaskans”
Like most trappers Ray Lewis has been interested in the outdoors since he was old enough to remember. He had no mentors in his family, so it was “learn as you go”. Harding books and Fur-Fish-Game were his only instructions. He set his first trap at 12 or 13 years old and caught a possum under an old oak tree – in a snowstorm! First set; first catch. He was hooked! Living in rural Michigan near many lakes and rivers gave him plenty of opportunities for trapping. With lots of water, mink and coon were his favorite targets. He enjoyed trapping but his lifelong goal was to be “an old-time woodsman” and live in the wilderness – and the place he had in mind even as a small child was Alaska! And at the age of 21 he succumbed to his lifelong passion!
And he had a willing partner to share this passion with! Ray and Cindy met at work and dated for a couple of years. Cindy always loved the outdoors and especially mountains, but the thought of living in Alaska had not yet entered her mind! When they decided to move to Alaska, they thought it best we marry first. They got married Feb. 14th, 1983 and moved in with her parents so they could save money for their “big” adventure. On June 1st, 1983, they left Michigan and headed for Anchorage, arriving two weeks later. They both found jobs right away but as time passed, they found Anchorage to be “too much like Chicago” and not what they came to Alaska for! They both gave their employers two weeks’ notice and in April they headed north to Fairbanks.
This was their home while they waited for homestead land to become available. In 1987 Ray made a trip out to the Nowitna River. The years that followed they put in the acquired time needed to make the land theirs. Ray worked seasonal and Cindy had a year-round job until they started spending their falls, winters and some springs in the woods.
Molly their first daughter came along in September of 1993. Then Emma in December of 1995, so they wanted to find some place closer to Fairbanks. Our homestead was quite far and expensive to get to with our family growing! A friend found an already established trap line on The Little Black River. With this place they could drive their outfit to the Yukon River and shuttle it to the cabin. Sarah our youngest daughter was born in January of 1998 and pretty much grew up on the Little Black River, along with her other sisters, when we were not in town for the summer. The girls never slowed them down. Ray always made their lives in the woods very easy with his exceptional woods’ skills.
The whole family did several summer trips either by boat or canoe to explore and look for interesting things. The girls loved it. They learned respect for the land and animals and to this day still love getting out in the woods, when they can steal away from the duties of being responsible adults! They like to put their woods skills to use by hunting, trapping or just floating down an Alaskan river and enjoying what it does for the soul and spirit.
With their move to Alaska the opportunities to trap increased dramatically, but trapping always remained secondary to just living in, and enjoying the wilderness! Ray never pursued trapping in a professional manner, but it still held a strong attraction for him – and in some years trapping has been their sole source of income. He says, “Big money/big numbers/expensive equipment is for others as I prefer to trap on foot; keeping things simple.” Ray has always worked in the summers and lived in the woods in the winter, so trapping was always right out his door! “In good country it’s not hard to catch 80-100 marten or 40-50 lynx; plus assorted beaver, mink and occasional wolverine. As I recall, my best year was about 40 cats, 30 marten, 12-15 mink, 12-13 beaver, 2 wolverines and maybe a fox or two. Generally, he doesn’t trap wolves, as packing a frozen wolf on snowshoes 5 miles is too much like work! With fur prices so low lately, he hasn’t been trapping much, except for beaver to eat! Instead, he is exploring new country and looking for those new challenges that keep he and his family going – while looking forward to many more successful seasons of trapping and wilderness adventure.
Tyler & Ashley Selden and their children Sydney & Blaze from the “Last Alaskans”
Tyler Seldon was born and raised in central Nebraska; in the tiny community of Camp Nysted. Oak Creek – a small, muddy tributary of the Loup River – near town – was the closest thing to the kind of wilderness that was already tugging at Tyler’s heart strings. He knew every nook and cranny for miles up and downriver and that’s where he developed his close connection with nature. Everything else within walking distance was in production. He’s not sure what he would have done without those little remnants of wild land!
When the boys got BB guns and were allowed to shoot the invasive starlings and sparrows, hunting got into his blood and sharpened his shooting skills. Soon he was hunting bigger game and some of his most cherished memories are of hunting and fishing with his father. Trapping was his next great adventure. An old friend of his dad’s, Gary Stefenhagen, got him into trapping and became his mentor. Gary was a REAL woodsman and trapping was his passion in life. He had a deep knowledge of the animals and close ties to the land. What more could Tyler ask for in a mentor? Gary showed him the ropes and he was hooked. Tyler thoroughly enjoyed the solitude that came with running a trapline, being alone in the woods and fields, reading sign, investigating, picking set locations; all this appealed to him in a very personal way. Trapping added more intensity to his dreams of a distant wilderness. Maybe Alaska?
Tyler met Ashley in Duluth, Minnesota where they were both attending college. After working in Alaska one summer, he found himself quickly falling in love with both Alaska and Ashley! After returning to Duluth, he almost immediately announced to Ashley that he was moving to Alaska when he finished school. Having a tough, adventurous spirit, Ashley decided to drop out of college and join him!
And to Alaska, they went, together. At times they were in ecstasy, at times in despair; trying to figure it out. Many of the old Alaskan salts were skeptical, they thought they were a joke – saw them as just another couple of dumb “cheechakos” (greenhorns), that would never make the cut.
After moving to Fairbanks, they finally met some people who took them seriously and were willing to help them make their dream a reality. Tyler finally got a job with an Alaskan log builder named Bill Kisken, who was also a long-time bush trapper. Thanks to Bill they eventually ended up buying Ron Bennet’s wilderness trapline on the Dogfish River in Northeast Alaska. According to Tyler, getting that line was one of the greatest things that has ever happened to them!
Within two weeks they found their trapline, got married, and loaded into bush planes (along with a pack of brutish huskies and a crude winter’s outfit) and headed over the Arctic Circle to a 30-year-old, 12 x 12-foot log cabin they’d never seen before, to begin their “honeymoon.”
Normally, each year Tyler runs up to the cabin in the boat around September 20, with dogs and supplies. The family will get flown up a few days later. Ashley stays with the kids and dogs, and he gets flown back as soon as possible, after running the boat back to town. Once they’re back together again in camp, that’s it. They’re alone as a family for the rest of the winter. They won’t typically see another person, (except of course when they were filming for The Last Alaskans) until they get picked up again in March, at the end of the trapping season.
The trapping season is really what it’s all about, it’s what all the effort is for. Trapping provides the Seldon’s with meat, a large part of their income, and the solitude and closeness to nature that they enjoy. Tyler dove headfirst into Alaska trapping without any instruction, started making mistakes and learning as he went. He now easily takes all the species available on his line including beaver, fox, lynx, marten, wolf, wolverine, ermine, and mink. Every year he tries to catch every animal that comes along, and more are still there for the next season. He feels the emphasis on protecting animals from human consumptive use is misguided. He believes if people really care about saving animals their efforts should be focused entirely on preserving and protecting the habitat that remains, not on limiting people’s already-limited rights to hunt and trap.
Hands down, dogs are his favorite way of getting around the trapline, but he’s also very practical-minded and sometimes it just makes more sense to jump on a snowmachine and go. But he still prefers dogs because, he says “running dogs is so enjoyable.” Dogs keep him company during long days on the trail or when he’s out for extended periods. He can use the meat from the animals he catches to fuel his mode of transportation! And he says dogs will always get you home, if you can hang on to the sled!
Tyler and his family enjoy the excitement of knowing they’re the only ones living at the center of millions of acres of intact, uninhabited, wild land. It’s like a religious faith; going into the woods is more important than anything else, except your partner and your children. Though definitely not for everyone, the Seldon’s would not discourage anyone who FULLY knows what they are getting into from taking the plunge. Tyler says, “If you are ready to let the wilderness take you, let the woods direct your life, you won’t regret it. It’s a grand adventure. It was for me and Ashley. If it’s something you really want, you’ll find a way.”
*Pictures courtesy of Trappers Post magazine and biography excerpted with permission from a two-part interview with Tyler, in the Trappers Post*
Nancy Becker — Bob Harte’s wife from the “Last Alaskans”
Life and Love with ‘Last Alaskan’ Bob Harte
By Nancy Becker
Bob and I met in Ft. Yukon, Alaska. He was a trapper going to town for winter supplies. I was a newly hired “bush” teacher going to town to retrieve my belongings and return to Stevens Village, Alaska to live and teach.
At 30 below, I couldn’t tell what Bob looked like underneath all his clothing, but what attracted me was Bob’s REALNESS, his simpleness. As we chatted, Bob’s fondness for nature and love of his lifestyle drew me in. We were both ADVENTURERS!
After that flight to Fairbanks, we didn’t see each other for another year but Bob gave me some advice I still adhere to: “If you start to feel like you are going crazy, just take a long walk outside the village, in nature.”
When Bob and I re-united in Fairbanks (during ATA’S Trapper Fling) the following spring, we hung out with his dogs and began making plans for a future together. After hitch-hiking back east to see family and collect my son, we returned and began looking for land as we camped out near Fox, Alaska. As fall quickly arrived, we departed for the trapline, and the beginning of many adventures together in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. There were many skills I needed to learn as Bob prepared for the trapping season. Plus, we had my son and 2 dog teams to care for. I truly devoured this lifestyle of survival and relying on each other as we prepared for winter. We all learned a lot that first year. I wrote many letters (which often didn’t get mailed for months) as I was used to communicating with more than just 2 people.
The next 10 years, our family grew and changed. Our daughter, Talicia arrived, as well as a foster son for a while. We had 2 cats and a variety of dogs, plus several cabins we “mushed” to for different areas of Bob’s trapline. When my son, Traver left us to be with his dad January through June, Bob and I lived in a 10-man army tent before Talicia was born. What an amazing experience that was! Trapping never made us rich, so we both had summer jobs while in Fairbanks. Summer was also a time of getting together with family, friends, and other trappers. Twelve years went by quickly with many ups and downs, as life is.
I never really had an interest in trapping like Bob did, but I supported his love of trapping. He started trapping in New Jersey when he was about 10 years old. On one of his many jaunts into the woods, he met a trapper and was hooked immediately. Learning what he could from outdoor magazines and books, Bob searched for answers and when he couldn’t find them, he learned by trial and error and experimentation. Bob always spoke very fondly of each animal species and kept very good records of the animals he trapped. He caught more marten than anything else. Close to 200 one year. Other than marten, Bob brought home quite a few lynx, wolf, fox and wolverine. In his earlier days, there were beaver but not by the time I was there. He left the snaring of snowshoe hares up to me, which I claimed over 200 one year as we needed meat, and rabbits were plentiful.
Bob was a member of Alaska Trappers Association and contributed several articles and stories over the years. One great story and unique experience he had was as an “exchange trapper” to Russia which he described as “a blast!” During that trip, Bob lived with a trapper’s family, trapping in the Russian back country, sharing tips, and observing how trappers in another country did what he did…but so differently! In our early years together, before kids, I would join him on the trapline, mostly observing, and learning. I would describe Bob as a very ethical trapper as he truly loved and respected the animals he shared his livelihood with.
Bob and I parted ways eventually, but we both agree those were the best years of our adult lives. We remained a close family, although different from the “normal” family. And we managed to keep a good relationship with each other, though not married.
All of us were very saddened when Bob passed into “ever-ever” land in July of 2017. Bob remains in my heart as the most unique human being I know. And he is fondly remembered by many fans of the documentary series, The Last Alaskans.