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Inside the Mind of Lance

I have had the pleasure to get to know some great people in the hunting industry.  There are none better than Lance Kronberger.  Lance offers a commitment to his family, friends and his profession as a guide that is second to none.

Lance spends most of his year in remote mountains guiding clients to world-class animals from Alaska to Mexico.  He is incredibly detailed in his approach to his trade and I have had the opportunity to work closely with Lance to solve problems with gear that only 200+ days a year in the mountains will create.

I have found it really interesting to dig into the mind of a guy who spends so much time in some of the most demanding places on earth.  This is the first in a series of interviews to get you inside Lance’s mind.

Lance & Ram

Where are you from

I grew up in western Oregon on a dairy farm until I was 12, and then, with my younger brother and sister, we moved to central Oregon where both my parents went back to teaching.   From then on sports consumed my life up through four years of college.

 

Searching For a Chugach Ram

How did you get into guiding?

Growing up on a dairy farm wasn’t a whole lot of fun.  I remember early in life deciding that I wanted to get up every morning excited about the day, and milking cows was not very exciting.

Once we moved off the dairy farm my dad went back to coaching (his passion). My dad made a deal with us kids that we could either work hard to try and get a sports scholarship or we could get jobs during the summer and after school.  It was an easy decision for me.  I was hooked on sports.  I love to compete in everything!  I used to hate when people would always say, “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, as long as you tried your best.”  That’s crap!  It does matter whether you win or lose.   So once my college basketball days were over I turned to hunting to fill that competitive void.

My best friend from high school got me into archery elk hunting.  While sitting in Fluid Dynamics class, bored out of my skull,  I was reading my bugle magazine instead of paying attention in class.  I noticed an ad for a guide and packer school in Salmon, Idaho.  I’d never been on a horse or gutted an elk, but I figured it had to be better than becoming a civil engineer.  Before I knew it I was working for an outfitter in Idaho, in the middle of the Frank Church Wilderness area for $30 a day.

Lance & Big Bear

How long have you been guiding?

I started guiding Deer and Elk hunters in Idaho in 1994.  Once I got a little taste of guiding I would go and work wherever I could.  1998 was the first time I came to work in Alaska. I had to beg the outfitter to let me come up and work for free.  Hunters always ask how many years experience I have, but I don’t think it is about years. It’s about hunts, and more important, successful hunts.  The more kills you get under your belt, the more you expect to be successful each and every hunt.  With over 70 Sheep and Goat, and 55 Brown Bear/Grizzly Bear guided kill I’m starting to get a little experience.

Very happy clients

Why guide such demanding hunts?

Every hunter I came into contact with would have stories of hunts they had done all over the world.  I would pick their brains trying to figure out which hunts were the most challenging, the most rewarding, and gave them the most satisfaction.  Sheep, Big Bears and Goats always seemed to be at the top of the list. I figured if I was going to try and be the best at guiding hunters, I had to go where the biggest challenges were.

Tell us about Freelance Outdoors

Freelance Outdoor Adventures was founded in 2003. After 10 years of guiding hunters in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Oregon, Mexico, and Tyjikistan, it was time to go out on my own.  Alaska was the perfect fit with the rugged terrain, remote country, and endless mountain ranges.  Not to mention being able to guide multiple dall sheep and big bear hunts each year.

WWW.FREELANCEOUTDOORADVENTURES.COM

Coming Off the Mountain

We have been asked many times if the Sitka ad “A Year in the Life of Lance” was true?  Give us a brief outline of a typical Lance year:

Right after that ad started to run (February) we got a phone call from one of the advertizing ladies at Sitka that had received an email from a part time guide, stating that there was no way that ad was true.  When she called and ask to speak with me, my wife let her know that I would respond to the email once I returned from hunting sheep in Mexico.  She said that would be “Perfect”.

This is a general breakdown of my year!!!

The years starts off with Jan. – Feb. spending at least 10 days hunting desert sheep in Mexico between attending some of the sport shows!!!

March is my month at home taking care of paper work and getting organized for the upcoming season.

April starts with me heading to Kodiak (April 15-May 15) for spring Brown Bear. On even years (2010, 2012, and so on) I go straight from Kodiak to the Alaska Peninsula for a 10 day Spring Brown Bear hunt.  On odd years (2009, 2011, and so on) I just go straight up to my Grizzly area in northwest Alaska were we hunt Griz until June 15th.  Either way I am hunting bears in the spring from April 15- June 15.

From June 20-30 we start our scouting for sheep in the Chugach Mountains were we do most of our sheep hunts.

July 2- Aug 5 we do six day float fishing trips.  In between trips we are in the Chugach to continue with our sheep scouting.

Huge Chugach Ram

Sheep season opens Aug 10th but we head into camp on the 8th to make sure we are ready for opening morning.  We hunt sheep till Sept 3rd, and then head back up north to do our Fall Griz hunts which take place Sept 4-16th.  Sept 17- Oct. 10th we are doing our late season and archery Chugach sheep hunts. During this time we really start putting the gear to a test as winter is fast approaching the mountains. On odd years I head to the peninsula to guide a brown bear hunter from the 10-20 and on even years, when brown bear season is closed, I will participate in a goat hunt.

Lance & Joe on with a Trophy Brown Bear

Oct 25th is the opener for the Kodiak Brown Bear season but we head into the field on the 23rd to make sure we have everything ready for the weather that Kodiak can dish out.  I stay on Kodiak until Nov. 20-25, depending on Thanksgiving doing Goat and Deer hunts once the bear hunters have filled their tags.

After a short break over Thanksgiving I either go to Arizona for a 10 day desert sheep hunt or head back down to Mexico to do some sheep hunting. There is always the chance of a March Musk Ox or Bison hunt.

Not every year is exactly the same but this is a pretty good outline of “A Year in the life of Lance”.

A quick Breakdown of days in the field…….
Jan-Feb……………..10
March………………..0
April………………….15
May…………………..30
June………………….25
July…………………..28
Aug………………….28
Sept…………………28
Oct………………….28
Nov…………………20-25
Dec…………………10

Total……..222 possible days in the field.  And this does not include any off the wall hunts that I may do for myself.  It has never been 222 days because some hunts get done early and there may be a change or delay of a day or two, but this gives you a good and realistic idea of how 211 days is actually possible if living and working in the wilderness is your life.

Camp 4

Working with you to design and refine gear, I have noticed your strong opinions of what works. I assume this comes from spending most of the year in tough country with terrible weather.  How do you evaluate gear and why you choose one brand of gear over another.

As a guide I have to take a little different approach to each hunt.  The gear that I have and the gear that I recommend to the client cannot fail, but also cannot be too heavy, or take up the entire pack.  We hear about all these hard core hunters living in the same clothes, eating top ramen & oatmeal, and sleeping in a bivy for a 10 day hunt.  That’s great but the average hunter cannot mentally and physically survive 10 days like that.   As a guide, finding the right animal to kill is not the most difficult part of the hunt!!!  Motivating the hunter to hunt hard, be tough, not get discouraged, stay focused, and get to the animal, is the toughest part of guiding.  I must find the right animal but also motivate the hunter to stay in the game rain or shine.  That’s why the right gear comes so much into play with the hunter.  Once the hunt becomes too miserable and they become mentally defeated, it’s over!

I must keep my hunters warm, dry, and fed, so they can stay focused on the reason we are really living in the rain, fog, and wind for days.  Once it is no longer fun they just want to go home.  I have a detailed gear list but some hunters do not follow it and show up with the wrong stuff.  I just used to let them go into the field knowing that they were going to be wet and miserable because they did not listen, but I found that it really hurt the enjoyment they had on the hunt and on a couple of occasions affected the success of the hunt.  That’s why I have such strong options about what works and what doesn’t.  When a hunter shows up with the wrong gear it also affects me!  It does not matter how tough I am, I can’t go and shoot the animal for them!

2009 Bull

I evaluate gear in many different ways, the biggest thing is lightweight vs. toughness.  If you get to lightweight you lose durability, and each item has a different amount of durability that is required.  I also look at how quickly my gear dries out.  We can go 10 days without being able to dry out our raingear so I really pay attention to how certain materials soak up or bead up water.  Some of the items that I need as a guide are overkill for the hunter.  I also do not expect the gear to last forever.  There are some items that I just plan on replacing every year.  ie. (Boots & Sleeping Bag)

What is your current gear list?

Here is the Sheep Hunt gear list that I sent to all my 2010 sheep hunters.

SHEEP HUNT GEAR LIST

Recommended

  • Rifle……………………………………………………….270 wsm, 300 Win Mag
  • Shells (2 Boxes)……………………………………….130-150 gr. Triple Shock
  • Leather Hiking Boots w/Extra Insoles……….Lowa Sheep Hunter
  • Frame Pack……………………………………………..Barney’s Bob Pack
  • Lightweight Sleeping Bag…………………………..Mt. Hardware Ultra Lamina 15
  • Lightweight Sleeping Pad…………………………..Big Agnes
  • Binoculars (10×40)……………………………………Zeiss, Leica, Swarovski
  • Rain Gear (Good Lightweight Set)……………….Sitka Stormfront Raingear
  • Wool Socks (3 Pair)……………………………………Smartwool or Bridgedale
  • Sock Liners (3 Pair)…………………………………..Smartwool or Bridgedale
  • Underwear (3 Pair)……………………………………Smartwool Boxer
  • Lightweight  Gloves…………………………………….OR PS 150 Powerstretch
  • Waterproof Outer shell Glove………………………Mtn. Hardware
  • Lightweight Long John Top…………………………Smartwool
  • Lightweight Long John Bottom……………………Smartwool
  • Mid-Weight Long John Bottom……………………Smartwool
  • Lightweight Long Sleeve Shirts (2)……………….Sitka Core Jip-T
  • Mid-Weight Long Sleeve Shirt………………………Sitka Traverse Shirt
  • Lightweight Insulating Jacket………………………Mtn. Hardware Compressor w/Hood
  • Lightweight Pant…………………………………………Sitka Ascent Pant
  • Lightweight Windstopper Jacket………………….Sitka Celsius Jacket
  • Balaclava…………………………………………………….Smartwool
  • Stocking Cap………………………………………………..Sitka Beanie
  • Baseball Cap
  • Sun Glasses
  • Head Lamp & Extra Batteries………………………..Mamut Lucido TX1
  • Toothbrush & Paste
  • Gaiters…………………………………………………………OR Crocodile
  • (2) Quart Water Bottles
  • Camera & Film
  • Pocket Knife…………………………………………………Havels Piranha
  • Walking Stick……………………………………………….Leki
  • Blister Kit & Band-Aids…………………………………Spenco Blister Kit

If you have any questions, please contact me.

Lance Kronberger (907) 864-0630 FreelanceOA@mac .com

Lance & Wife Nikki on her first bear hunt

I have thought a lot about your 200+ days in the mountains; how do you mentally stay focused guiding?  These are not days spent putting clients up in a tree stand. Everyday is spent hunting big bears, mountain goats and sheep.  Really, how do you stay in the game mentally and physically?

One of the good things about guiding “once-in-a-lifetime” hunts is that it’s a lot easier to get your game face on for each hunt.  It is like getting ready for the big game, and to most of our hunters their Sheep, Goat, or Bear hunt is near the top of their hunt list.  I look at each hunt as either you win or lose.  I know people always say they are going for the experience, but that experience is a lot better if the hunt ends in success.  Having to look a hunter in the eyes and send him home without the animal he came to hunt, is a feeling I try to avoid. I hate losing!!! I look at each hunt as my hunt.  I have had hunters that wanted to quit and go home.  It would have been real easy to just say “OK” and at the end of the season preface my success with saying that hunters gave up.  Sometimes that is true and you can do nothing about it, but other times I just have to tell them they can’t go home.  I must motivate them in different ways to make sure that WE are successful.  Some guys need cheerleading and some guys need to just be told to quit being a Girlyman and get their butt up the hill.  I must lead by example as far as being mentally and physically tough, and that makes the hunters understand that you really do want them to be successful and that makes them hunt hard not just for themselves, but for us together.  Some of the best and most rewarding hunts were hunts that we had to go through the most adversity, both physically and mentally.

This article has 12 comment(s)

  1. Tom Foss

    Lance is an animal. He blew up three rafts for us and we floated for 80 miles down a wild river. His positive attitude makes his adventures in the wild so much easier for him.

    Great insight, good luck this fall Lance.

  2. Adam Kronberger

    As Lance’s Lil’ Bro, I have to confess that this article is a little inaccurate…it doesn’t quite go far enough to describe Lance’s attitude, joy, and competence when it comes to killing animals (no article could!). I don’t even attempt to live my life vicariously through him. Too tough. He’s the real deal. A trip with him gets you a once in a lifetime trophy, and a lifelong friend.

  3. george hunt

    great article !

    thank you for doing it . . .

  4. Scott Noble

    This article makes me smile. Sometimes you meet somebody and you are drawn to them. Lance is one of those very special people. I met him teaching snowboarding at Sun Valley, Idaho. He helped my wife and I catch our first Idaho Steelhead. I proposed to my wife in his float boat. Meeting him and learning from him has been unforgetable. Great and true article!

  5. Kurt Fetzer

    I have the privilege and honor to not only have had the experience of having Lance be my guide on serveral trips but for the last approximately 15 years he has become a close friend of myself and my family. In addition to being an incredibly skilled and competent guide/outfitter, he is one of the finest human beings with whom I have ever come in contact.

  6. Ron Spomer

    I’ve hunted with dozens of outfitters over the years and Lance ranks in the top three all-time. He has the perfect combination of grit, toughness, organization, hunting skills, determination, enthusiasm and attitude to make even us wimps successful.

  7. Bill Snow

    I’ve known competitive men and I know some really, really tough men. Lance is in a league of his own. He’s not going to tell you how tough he is, he just does what it takes to make memories you can take to the grave. In the end, he helps you find strength from within most of us never knew we had.
    I look to the hills from wence cometh my strength. My strength cometh from the Lord.
    That’s Lance, God bless him.

  8. Larry Ray Causey II

    thanks so much for sharing this rad article about lance. He is truly a great guide and someone who represents hunting well. Thanks Lance!

  9. Warren DeNardo

    I had the pleasure of successfully
    hunting with Lance on Kodiak Island several years ago, for Brown bear.
    Lance is a very knowledgeable and professional guide. He is one of those rare individuals who seems to be as excited to be out in the Creation, as the client he is guiding. He is intense in purpose but friendly and personable, which is important when the next set of ears is fifty miles away by plane….His 200+ days in the field are the equivalent of an Pro running back lasting 10-15 years in the NFL. I am sure he takes a physical beating, but his love of the game seems to have him suiting up for yet another season, with as much enthusiasm as his very first.

  10. Roger Robinson

    I have hunted with Lance three different times and can say that everything said is true in every way. I have never hunted with anyone that cared for and did any better job of taking care of the hunter and everything concerning the hunt than Lance. I want to go on a sheep hunt with him asap. One awesome all around guy.

  11. Bill Snow

    I’ve known some really, really tough men, but Lance is is a league of his own. He helps you find strength you may not known you had, and in the end, you savor God’s gifts for what they are, gifts.
    I lift up mine eyes unto to hills from wence cometh my strength. My strength cometh from the Lord. That’s Lance and so much more.
    Bill Snow

  12. michel letourneau

    Lance does not quit and does not back down