2008 Fabian Carey Trapper of the Year
[This interview represents the first in our oral history series. It was recorded with a live audience. ATA Patriarch Dean Wilson served as moderator.]
Paul Kirsteatter grew up in New Mexico. He learned to trap coyotes from a government trapper. Paul came to Alaska with the military in 1943 and has lived in-State since 1946.
Kirsteatter married an Indian woman from the village of Healy Lake. Paul credits his wife for much of his hunting and trapping success. The family's annual cycle of activities was dedicated to trapping. They fished for salmon and prepared "tons" of dried fish for themselves and their dogs. They built cabins, cut firewood, built dog sleds, made snares and built fish wheels.
Paul speaks fondly of the dog team he used on the trapline. He credits the dogs with keen senses and a tireless work ethic. He also shares humorous stories of the dogs' reactions when he began using a snow machine on the trapline.
Wolves were the focus of Kirsteatter's trapping. He trapped them in the winter. He took pups out of dens in the summer. The pups were sometimes sold to zoos for display and universities for study. Some were held in captivity to breed with sled dogs and to determine their reaction to various baits and lures.
Paul is a firm believer in the need for predator control when circumstances dictate. However, he is adamantly opposed to the use of poison. He personally witnessed the negative effects of federal poison programs prior to statehood.
Kirsteatter expresses the highest respect for the Indian elders who he met and lived with during his first years in Alaska. He applauds their integrity, ingenuity and knowledge of wildlife. Paul describes the extensive network of 'drift fences' that Indians in the eastern Interior used to catch caribou.
This recording is filled with wonderful stories of personal experiences, as well as keen insight based on years of observation.