Alisha “Mutts” Rosenbruch-Decker is an Alaskan-born master guide and devoted conservationist. She operates Glacier Guides Inc. with her husband, Zach.
She Guides is sponsored by Remington Outdoor Company
I grew up doing exactly what I’m doing now.
Since I was born, I’ve lived onboard one of our yachts for 6 to 8 months a year. During the winter, we traveled for trade shows and what time was left consisted of our own hunting trips. I started doing ‘chores’ on the back deck when I was 5. I loved to skin! One of our guides was my buddy and I started to help him out with the skulls and hides. I was homeschooled, so I was able to organize my days to allow for maximum hunting and field time. When I was 8-years old I began hunting everyday with my dad. I was completely immersed in where we hunt, how we hunt and judging bears going into the field every single day with my father from when I was just 8 years old.
My mother and father started Glacier Guides Inc. 47 years ago and were both guides.
My mom was actually the first female master guide in the state of Alaska; I’m the second. It’s a special thing for my mom and me to share. Now, my husband, Zach, and I own and operate the business – so, it is second-generation, Alaskan-family owned and operated. A little fun history on Glacier Guides is that we were one of the 6 original operators on the Tongass National Forest to receive a Special Use Permit from the US Forest Service. We also have historical entry rights into Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, having been operating inside the park since before its National Park Service designation.
I never wanted to do anything different, so I didn’t.
I’ve always guided 4 seasons a year. In the spring and fall, we guide for brown and black bear as well as wolf. In the summertime, we run summer Adventure Cruises including fly fishing, saltwater fishing for 5 species of Pacific salmon and giant halibut, kayaking and intimate bear viewing. Then, in the winter, we guide for Sitka blacktail deer, mountain goat and wolves as the opportunity allows.
When I was 18 I went to taxidermy school in Colorado.
I got sick of my personal trophies coming back not at all like I had described them in detailed drawings. I would get them back and be completely disappointed. Taxidermy school seemed the logical solution to this problem, and initially I simply wanted to do my own mounts. However, the next 21 years was nearly exclusively client work. In those 21 years, I only did 2 pieces for myself! Recently I have finished up all the client work and have gotten back to doing my own pieces, which is really fun and rewarding.
My first big game animal I ever took was in Tanzania, Africa, in 1988.
My parents and I flew out to the western portion of the country and spent 3 weeks living out of the back of a Land Cruiser. It was truly an unforgettable experience!! I was 7- or 8-years old, probably 50 pounds, super scrawny and I shot my Dad’s Remington .300 to harvest a Thompson’s gazelle. Now, Zach and I have 2 boys: 8 and 2 years old. They are being raised just like I was … and they are on the boat full-time with us. We are in the process of planning a similar 21-day safari experience to bring my son, Gunner, to harvest an animal. I want him to have that same introduction to wild Africa that I did as I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.
If I wanted to harvest an animal, I had to pay for it myself.
My dad would always pay to have me go along on his hunts, but the harvest fees were my responsibility. So being a high school and then college student having low income, I usually didn’t harvest anything. Recently, several friends and clients have suggested that I apply for the Safari Club International ‘Diana Award.’ I’m working through the application process for that and it’s kind of funny because it’s like ‘Yep, been there-done that … oh that’s right. … I skinned all of those, I didn’t pull the trigger!’ They should have a category just for skinning because that’s way harder than pulling the trigger. So, now I’m repeating a lot of countries I’ve hunted but not harvested animals in.
I harvested my first black bear when I was 16.
Not that I didn’t hunt or have opportunities before I was 16 years old, but I was waiting for the right boar. For brown bear, shoot, I was 24 before I harvested the right bear! I hunted 11 years for the right one, and I turned down 97 different brown bears before I harvested mine. He was 27 years old and 10 feet, 4 inches. In my opinion, hunting is looked at as far too dependent upon a successful harvest. I tell our clients that I don’t ever want to minimize the importance of their harvest of an animal; we are going to work our hardest to accomplish that. However, if they come with the idea that the success of the hunt will hinge on the harvest of an animal, then they will most likely be disappointed. Harvest of an animal is such a short and fleeting moment, such a small portion of the whole experience.
In 2008 I received the Safari Club International Professional Hunter of the Year Award.
The neat thing about that is my dad (Jimmie C. Rosenbruch) received the award in 2001. We are the first father and daughter team to ever receive the award. I also had the honor of being the first female to ever appear on the cover of Outdoor Life magazine in the March 2008 issue for an article they did on female guides.
There’s a very small part of the population that’s truly anti-hunting.
The vast majority of the population is simply not informed about managed sport hunting. Back in 2001, my family created a 40,000-square-foot wildlife museum in southern Utah called the Rosenbruch World Wildlife Museum. We’ve had around 300,000 school-aged children go through the facility. We get to help teach folks of all ages who would probably never have any exposure to hunting, let alone positive exposure to hunting, to help them understand what it is we do and why we do it. They watch these horrible documentaries about ‘trophy hunting’ and that’s all the exposure they get. Those of us who trophy hunt go to greater lengths to care for and prepare that animal because not only do we use every bit of that meat, but also go to the effort to skin that animal, carefully prepare it and take care of the skull, horns or antlers. Why is that looked upon badly? We had one client on a summer cruise last year who was pretty vocal about how horrible he thought hunting was. Well, he and I chatted well into the night and in the end, he changed his perspective hunting. He literally is planning to come black bear hunting with us in the future!
If we don’t stick together and create and maintain a unified front we will lose.
It is essential that we support conservation in this country, in every way we can. We simply cannot afford to be in our own little world with the attitude of every man for himself … I feel like it’s very important for guides specifically to support those organizations that are preserving our hunting rights and the habitat and wildlife we rely on for our passion. I’m a lifetime member of the NRA as well as a Lifetime member of the Wild Sheep Foundation. I’ve been a member of SCI for over 20 years, I am also a member of Dallas Safari Club.
I grew up on Remington Model 700 actions. I own … well, let’s not talk about how many I own! My very first gun was a Remington 700, .30-06. I have a .300 that I use extensively now. I received a .375 for graduation from my dad, then I switched over to a .416. My Dad has a .458 that I just love. The philosophy that I was taught was: pick an action and get comfortable and consistent with it so that when you go to shoot – in a heated moment – you don’t have to think about it; it’s just automatic habit. We recommend .375 or larger for our bear hunts. I really love the .416; it’s got the knockdown of a .458, but the trajectory of a .375. For our goats, I really love a .300, as it is very flat shooting, and has enough power, as goats are tough. For shooters concerned about felt recoil, find a gun that fits you, and get a thumbhole stock. Reduced felt recoil is substantial and accuracy is greatly increased with the use of a thumbhole stock.
PO Box 66
Gustavus, AK 99826
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Courtney Nicolson is an outdoor writer, hunter, and angler based in Denver, Colo. She is an active member of numerous conservation groups and is passionate about empowering women in the outdoors. Courtney is the senior producer/editor for Outdoor Sportsman Group Networks. View all posts by Courtney Nicolson