Oral History Interview:

Tom Coyle

Tom Coyle grew up in New York State. He loved to hunt, fish and trap from an early age. After college, Tom worked in construction and mining for a few years. However, there was an unspoken and unmet need gnawing inside him. One night in an Idaho tavern, he heard a man talk about the hunting and fishing in Alaska. Coyle quit his job, moved North and has never looked back.

Tom taught school in rural villages on the Kuskokwim River for several years. Then, he discovered his true calling by striking out into the private sector. Coyle ran a small rural store, operated a Bush flying service and owned a sawmill for many years. He explains the challenges and rewards of this independent lifestyle.

Tom describes the joys of big game hunting in Alaska. He has taken moose, caribou, sheep, bear and one muskox. This latter species entailed Coyle's most harrowing survival experience in the Alaska wilderness. He recounts the tale in great detail, which keeps the listener hanging on every twist and turn of the story.

Coyle is well known on the Kuskokwim for his trapping expertise. His large marten catches are legendary in the region. He also includes incidents involving wolves, wolverine, lynx, otter, fox and beaver. Tom shares info about trapline tents, snow-machines and other gear.

Flying is another important part of Coyle's life in Bush Alaska. Tom relates his motivation for entering the world of personal aviation. He also describes his first plane and the modifications he made which enabled him to fly the plane to Alaska. Although Tom considers flying to be primarily a tool which allows him greater access to the Bush, the listener will realize that flying has a deeper significance to him, as well. It augments his freedom.

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Mail: P. O. Box 82177
Fairbanks, Alaska 99708
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