BALSAM LAKE – Billy Molls, a farm boy from Turtle Lake, distinctly remembers the moment he realized he wanted to live like a mountain man.
“I was 8 years old. It was a sunny October Saturday morning, and we had just finished milking the cows. My dad and I loaded an old rowboat in the back of our farm truck. In it was a tangled mound of rusty No. 1-1/2 Victor long-spring traps and a bundle of 8-foot-long alder poles to use as trap stakes,” recalls Molls, now 39. “We drove two miles to Lightning Creek. The oars squeaked as my father rowed against the sluggish current. As soon as we lost sight of the road all evidence of man disappeared; something sparked inside me. Right there, my passion for adventure in the wilderness was born.”
More than three decades later, Molls is one of the most recognized big game hunting guides in Alaska. He is also an author, freelance outdoor writer, renowned storyteller, and outdoor video producer. With 14 DVDs in his “Modern Day Mountain Man” video series, Molls focuses his productions on the viewer/reader. “My goal is to show those who have never experienced Alaska’s pristine wilderness what it is truly like, and also bring people back to their own personal experiences in nature.”
Event this Saturday
Molls will be sharing some “campfire stories” at Balsam Lake this Saturday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m., at Faith Lutheran Church, 305 First Ave. East. There will be a freewill-offering chili feed at 5:30 p.m., with good conversation and raffle prizes.
Hunters and nonhunters of all ages are sure to enjoy Molls’ pictures, videos and tales of charging grizzlies and airplane crashes, as well as his personal journey in the land that every outdoorsman dreams of experiencing.
For more information about the event and to reserve $15 tickets call Tim at 715-554-2174. Tickets are also available at the door.
Living out of a tent
For the past 20 years this “Modern Day Mountain Man” has spent at least 100 days of each year living out of a tent in various regions of the “last frontier,” guiding hunters from all corners of the globe in pursuit of brown bear, grizzly bear, Dall sheep, moose, caribou and wolf. The father of three daughters credits the eight years of his life spent living in a tent in the wilderness for making him a better husband and father.
“Before I was married, I lived as many as 200 days of the year in the bush. Solitude, sacrifice, successes and failures that come inherently in wild places have taught me what is most important in my life. When you spend so much time immersed in nature with just the bare essentials of existence you tend to better understand and appreciate the most basic blessings in all aspects of life.”
One of Molls’ most recent expeditions was plagued with adversity. “From start to finish it was cold and wet,” Molls recalls. “Putting on the same wet socks is normal, but when your boots are frozen solid every morning for a couple straight weeks, it starts to wear on a guy.”
Not only does wet weather and cold temperatures make life uncomfortable in the wilderness, but it makes a guide’s job much more difficult: small streams turn into raging, uncrossable torrents, fog can last for days at a time, which makes it difficult to find game and impossible for bush pilots to fly. “After hiking nearly 90 miles, my first Dall sheep hunter and I never did see a mature ram. It took another 80 miles with my next client to harvest a trophy ram. After working that hard, and eating almost nothing but freeze-dried food, I had lost about 15 pounds. I couldn’t wait to cook some sheep meat over a fire. We didn’t get back to camp till dark, so we planned to have a feast the next morning. When I woke, slid my bare feet into my frozen boots, and climbed out of my tent, a grizzly bear zipped past me, no more than 30 yards away, with a meat-filled game bag bouncing from his mouth! We tracked him like starved hound dogs until he dropped the bag, but not before he ate the tenderloins and most of one hindquarter.”
The seasoned guide went on to say that the bear came back and circled his camp relentlessly. “It was cold and there was a couple inches of snow on the ground. Winter was coming, and that bear knew it. Once he got a taste of that meat he wasn’t going to leave us alone. You couldn’t blame him, but it wasn’t a good situation for any of us. Luckily it was flyable. I called the pilots on my satellite phone and they were able to come pick us up. Even as we loaded the planes the bear just stood there and watched us.”
Having countless other tales to tell, for more information about Billy Molls, his adventures, videos and books, go to billymollasdventures.com.