Review: Chasing Solitude—Passions Of A Solo Moose Hunter

One man. Three spectacular Alaskan mountain ranges. Multiple encounters with majestic trophy moose.

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

One man. Three spectacular Alaskan mountain ranges. Multiple encounters with majestic trophy moose.

MittenDVD LEAD 900Earlier this week we published a short interview with longtime traditional bowhunter Mike Mitten of Illinois, an expert in solo backcountry hunting. What wasn’t discussed in that interview—which centered on the extreme challenge of Mitten’s solo hunts in Alaska for moose—is that Mitten, 60, is also fanatical about chronicling his adventurous solo hunts on DVD. His latest self-filmed production, Chasing Solitude, is simply a must-see for anyone interested in hunting The Great Land, even if your ultimate goal is a species other than a majestic moose or caribou. And it’s also well worth the meager price of admission for anyone who’s ever dreamed of or appreciates far-off hunting adventures, self-reliance in the field, and lessons that can only be learned in the remote backcountry.

But I’m already getting ahead of myself. Let’s start by detailing what this production is not, chief among them a slickly produced “hunting show” you might expect on network TV. A good part of what makes the 107 minutes of Chasing Solitude special is knowing that Mitten is hunting solo in Alaska for moose and caribou, and is, in the process, somehow self-filming this entire ambitious endeavor. Not impressed? Try that sometime. Hopefully you bring your “A” game, because you’ll need it. You’ll be hindered by extreme Alaska weather (mostly and/or constantly wet, and throw in high winds, snow and sleet), and then there’s the part about lugging camera gear, tripod and hunting gear through miles of soggy boot-sucking tundra, up and down steep hills and mountains, and through dense, gear-grabbing tag alder and willow brush thickets. And did I mention that few if any viewers would care if the end result didn’t feature a fallen game animal or two on the ground? (No pressure, but, spoiler alert: They’re in there).

Extreme Alaska Bowhunting: Going Solo For Monster Moose

Chasing Solitude is also not a “hunting tactics” video, although after you watch it in its entirety you will have a pretty good idea of what the moose-hunting game is all about, and you’ll have some aces up your sleeve that will increase your chances for success. There are numerous examples of Mitten calling—voicing effective bull grunts, cow-in-heat moans, and tree and brush-scraping—and in some cases you get to see a bull’s real-time reactions, which is some neat and revealing stuff. Some bulls end up just a few feet from Mitten’s camera lens before finally exiting the scene. More valuable tips come as Mitten recommends bringing along, and describes several examples of, white “flagging” that can effectively mimic a rival bull’s antlers. Mitten has found the flagging can be a critical, make-or-break visual cue to luring a mature bull those final few extra yards into point-blank bow range. As someone who has done some moose hunting I’d never heard that one, but hope to utilize it someday soon. Mitten DVD 900What really makes this DVD stand-out special is the number and quality of its moose encounters, and especially, the mature, trophy bull encounters. It’s a testament to Mitten’s skill when researching and choosing hunting areas, his hunting and self-filming skills, and the fact that the DVD includes footage from three separate moose hunts, a serious bonus. Two of the hunts culminate with the taking of tremendous trophy bulls measuring 60 and 69 inches wide, and at least a couple of the bulls Mitten calls in (but live to see another day) are every bit as impressively large. Regardless of your thoughts on trophy hunting, older, mature animals of any species are almost a breed apart, and to see multiple examples of these typically shy, reclusive giants in the spectacular Alaskan backcountry, is a treat to be savored.

So what of Mitten’s almost fanatical dedication to hunting solo? As someone who has done quite a bit of solo backcountry hunting, I was eager to get at the core of Mitten’s motivations, and during our recent talk heard some familiar themes. After a childhood spent exploring, fishing and vacationing in the bigwoods of northern Wisconsin with friends and siblings, and hunting, fishing and trapping the ponds, rivers, fields and forests near his boyhood home, like many of us Mitten became addicted to deciphering the haunts and habits of local wildlife. He furthered his camping and woodsmanship skills with a stint in the Boy Scouts where he attained the rank of Eagle Scout, and later began his backcountry solo hunting trips more or less by necessity. At the last minute, a friend had cancelled on a planned western backcountry bowhunt for elk. Of course, Mitten pressed on alone, and his obsession had begun. And it’s a passion that continues to this day. Each fall, Mitten craves to have his mind, body and skills tested, and in that respect Chasing Solitude is a celebration of all that solo hunting can deliver.MittenDVD2 900“To me, hunting with somebody versus hunting alone, you’ve lost that spiritualness, finding all of what that experience can give you,” Mitten says. “Once you’re out there for a while, maybe for a week without hearing another human voice, a hunt can take on new meaning.”

If you’ve got a hankering to hunt Alaska, or chase moose, this DVD will absolutely fan those flames and get your pulse pounding. And if you’re intrigued about the solo experience, Mitten’s journey just might help instill the confidence to nudge you on your way. As stated in my earlier Mitten interview, hunting solo is not for everyone, nor should it be. But if you long to hit the backcountry on your own, whether the goal is western elk, mule deer, black bears or even Alaskan moose, you can learn much from the travels and experiences of Mike Mitten, and Chasing Solitude is a great place to start.

Chasing Solitude: Passions Of A Solo Moose Hunter ($19.95) is available on DVD and Blu-Ray by clicking here; those intrigued by solo hunting will also want to check out Mitten’s book, One With The Wilderness.



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