It would be hard to find a bow hunter as accomplished as Frank Noska.
Just shy of 50, Frank has harvested over 125 Pope and Young animals, about 22 of which also make the Boone and Crockett Awards or All Time Record Books. In 2008, Frank completed the Archery Super Slam of North American Big Game, and also the Archery Grand Slam of Sheep. He’s an official measurer for both The Boone and Crockett Club and The Pope and Young Club, and holds lifetime memberships with the NRA, SCI, Grand Slam Club/Ovis, Wild Sheep Foundation, and the Alaska Bowhunter’s Association.
Born in Garland, Texas Frank learned to bow hunt by chasing deer, turkey, and javelina throughout the Lone Star State. As he grew, Frank started venturing West to hunt elk, antelope, and mule deer, broadening his bow hunting horizons by targeting different species of North American big game every chance he got. When he had the opportunity to move to Alaska about 15 years ago, he never looked back—the move to Alaska only increased Frank’s chances for more adventurous, DIY bow hunting opportunities, and Frank has taken full advantage of each one that has come his way.
Name: Frank Noska
Hometown: Wasilla, Alaska
Animals/Species Hunted: All North American Big Game species. Completed the Archery North American Super Slam* in 2008.
Vias or Verde: Vias mainly, but some Verde too. I like both.
Favorite piece of KUIU Apparel and/or Gear: That is a tough one, since I love ALL of my KUIU gear! I practically live in the ULTRA Merino Zip T tops, and the ULTRA Merino bottoms on all my hunts. And the Chugach NX Rain Jacket and Pants are paramount on all of my bow hunts, except down in Sonora, Mexico where it hardly ever rains. My Super Down jacket is also a great piece of clothing that I love. Then there is the Bino Harness, Ultra Merino crew socks, and on and on…
How did you first get into hunting? What made you a die-hard, exclusive bow hunter?
I was born in Texas and grew up there. I started my outdoor and sportsman’s life by fishing in Texas as a kid. I was always naturally attracted to and interested in archery and bow hunting. I was fortunate in high school to befriend an older, experienced bow hunter, John Cambis, who took me under his wing and taught me the basics of archery and bow hunting.
I shot three Whitetail deer in Texas before I “became” a bow hunter. Once I shot my first deer with a bow, I have never shot another big game animal with a firearm. It just does not appeal to me to do it with a rifle. I know “bow only” is not for everyone. I have left many great animals on the mountain that I couldn’t quite “close the deal on” that I could have easily taken with a rifle, but a rifle is not for me. Personally, I would not feel any gratification or sense of accomplishment if I shot an animal with a rifle. I will not shoot a big game animal with a rifle no matter what, even if it’s a World Record. I will figure out how to get it done with my bow and arrow or nothing. It’s BOW OR NO for me!
You were one of the earliest supporters of KUIU. What’s your philosophy on gear? What made you choose KUIU?
I was very fortunate to get to use some of the earliest KUIU gear and be one of their earliest supporters. My philosophy on gear is simple: use the best gear that is available. I spend an enormous amount of time and energy to be as successful of a bow hunter as I can. I do not take any chances with my gear. Every piece of gear, whether it be my bows and arrows, backpack, camp, clothes, etc., I have FULL trust in. That gives me good peace of mind going into every hunt.
You have hunted quite a bit on your own as well as many guided trips. What varies between the two types of hunts and how you approach them?
There are obviously differences between the two.
I like DIY hunts the best. Part of the fun for me is figuring out all of the logistics to make a hunt successful. With DIY hunts, I am in full control and either I am successful or not. When I am successful, a DIY hunt gives me the greatest reward and satisfaction because I “made it happen” myself. When I am not successful, I learn from my mistakes and try again. This is basically why I moved to Alaska, so I could do all of these extreme adventurous bow hunts on my own, DIY.
Now I like to go on a good guided trip too. Of course all of my Canadian big game hunts, to complete the Super Slam, were guided, as is required by law. I have learned many things on guided hunts, as some of the guides I have had over the years were excellent. It is nice to go on a guided hunt from time to time, because all I have to worry about are my bow and arrows and personal gear. The logistics of travel during the hunt, locations of animals, tents, camps, gear, trophy care, cooking, food, etc. is mostly done for you on a guided bow hunt. I sometimes call these hunts “gentlemen’s trips” because I can relax and not have to do EVERYTHING on my own.
On some of the hunts I apply for in the lower 48, if and when I draw, I think a guide is an asset that cannot be ignored. In some states, where I have been applying for hunts for nearly 25 years, I think it would be wise to engage the services of a guide. No matter how much time I could devote to scout and learn a new area in the lower 48, where I have drawn a “once in a lifetime” tag, there is no way I could be as knowledgeable as a good guide that has lived there his entire life. The intimate knowledge a good guide would possess about an area he has lived in his entire life would be impossible for me to duplicate on my own.
The hunting logistics and work involved on a DIY hunt are clearly more extensive and complicated than on a guided hunt. As I said in the beginning, I am mostly a DIY bow hunter. There are times, however when a guide is required by law and there are also times when it is smart to have a guide.
You’ve already killed a Super Slam. What do you follow that up with? What hunts do you have on your “to-do” list?
Yes, that was one of my goals and I completed the Super Slam in 2008. Now I just love to try and get bigger and bigger animals, especially ones I have access to here in Alaska and Mexico. I like to hunt the same NA Big Game species and try and get larger trophies. I especially like arrowing Boone and Crockett class animals, they are in a class of their own.
I was looking at all my trophies and counting them up one day, when I got this wild idea to try and complete the Archery Super Slam twice. That’s another goal I’ve set for myself. Goals are good! I need only 7 more species to complete my second Archery Super Slam. I want to also arrow as many Pope and Young animals as I can. I would like to arrow a World Record animal along the way too, but who wouldn’t right?!?!
Having hunted everything in North America, what is your favorite species to pursue? What do you consider your best trophy and why?
First, I have to say I like bow hunting all species in North America. But I guess my favorite species to hunt in North America are the sheep, goats, and bears. Specifically, I like bow hunting Dall’s sheep, Mountain Goats, Brown and Grizzly Bears the best! Mountain bow hunting is the most difficult. The saying, “the harder the battle, the sweeter the victory” applies here. And the adrenaline rush and excitement of getting close to dangerous bears is second to none.
As far as my best trophy……I’ll have to think about that. There is not just one, I have several that are special to me.
What’s your day job? How do you prioritize hunting with your work obligations?
I let my girlfriend read these questions when I first received them and this is what she said about this question: “You don’t prioritize anything besides hunting, you have no work obligations.” I told her that’s not totally true…
I have been an airline pilot for United Parcel Service for over 20 years. It is true that I have a pretty good schedule and get a lot of time off, but I do work from time to time. There is not a day that goes by however that I do not accomplish something in regards to my bow hunting. I admit that my priorities are probably not totally right, but I am addicted to bow hunting and adventure!
What hunting accomplishment are you most proud of? What animal or hunt do you look back on and wish you could redo?
I am proud of completing the Archery Super Slam. I am proud to have harvested 125 Pope and Young animals so far. I am proud to have arrowed 6 Dall’s Sheep, 8 Mountain Goats, 5 Brown Bears and 5 Grizzly Bears all on my own, DIY.
I had a tag for a Bighorn Sheep in Wyoming a couple of years ago that I was unsuccessful in filling. I still have nightmares about that missed opportunity and would give anything to have a redo on that tag and hunt.
As solo bow hunter and pilot, you’ve undoubtedly been in some difficult and dangerous situations. What’s the worst spot you’ve been in, and how did you get out of it? What safety measures do you take on your big solo expeditions?
Bush flying adds a whole other dimension to my bow hunting. I’ve been in some dangerous flying situations, just as I’ve been in some dangerous bow hunting situations. The weather is the most dangerous thing with the flying. You have to respect the weather. All pilots have been in bad spots. The one that kills most bush pilots is what we call “get home-itis.” It is being anxious to get home and making poor decisions regarding weather. When the weather is bad, it’s best to wait for the weather to improve. All bush pilots have found themselves in bad weather, that they should not have been in, at one time or another. Hopefully, you live and learn from your mistakes, and go on.
In mountain bow hunting, I’ve been in some precarious spots. I’ve definitely taken risks that are not worth any animal! I hope I am getting wiser the older I get. I have been in cliffs and on sides of rocky, icy mountains that I thought I would never get off of alive. The fifth Dall sheep I shot had the most difficult recovery of all my sheep and goats. The ram died in a super steep, slippery spot. I was barely able to climb up to him to begin with. Then I had to use a long rope to belay myself back down the cliff. I had to go up and down several times, as I had to let the meat and my backpack down one piece at a time with another rope.
On some of my Brown and Grizzly bear hunts I have been in some scary spots too. Situations to where if the bear had decided to charge and attack me I would have been in some serious trouble. Sometimes I have had a firearm with me as a backup, sometimes not. Even if I had had a firearm, the bear would have been on me so fast I wouldn’t have had time to use it. I’ve been lucky for sure! I’ve crawled up on big Brown bears in the grass that detected me, stood up on their hind legs, and peered right down at me. Talk about feeling vulnerable and small! This is that dangerous bear hunting adrenaline rush I was talking about before. Exciting, but definitely not a smart place to be.
I’ve had Black bears climb trees, right up to where I was sitting in the tree stand, as a lot of other tree stand bow hunters have experienced. I’ve hit them with arrows or my foot to get them to back back down the tree.
I was actually attacked by a sow Brown bear that had a cub several years ago in the Talkeetna Mountains in Alaska. I was walking out and down from a glacier after hunting Dall Sheep, and just unluckily stumbled right into this bear. When she saw me at about 40 yards she started charging me instantly. Everything happened FAST. All I had time to do was prepare for the contact. In my mind I was telling myself that I was going to get hurt, but I was not going to let her kill me. My ice axe was in my hand, so I raised it behind my shoulder like a baseball bat, and when the sow lunged at me, I swung and struck her in the head. I know it probably barely fazed her, but what it did do was push me away from her. I fell to the ground and the bear growled and circled me once, before reuniting with her cub and running off. At that point I didn’t even know if she had made contact with me and hurt me or not. I had to do a self pat down and luckily found no harm on my upper body. I only suffered a few scrapes on my hands and elbows from the fall. Even if I would have had a gun with me, I don’t think I would have had time to use it. This is one of the most surreal, frightening experiences I have had.
Not too many years ago, I had another Brown bear, this one on Kodiak Island, “push” me off of a big Sitka Blacktail buck I had killed and was about to start field dressing. “The bear came from a long ways downwind,”my hunting partner Mike Zupancic said, as he watched it all unfold from the other side of the river. I never saw the bear until it was just a little over a hundred yards. It didn’t charge, but slowly closed the distance. It gently, but dominantly pushed me off of my deer.
What is your favorite wild game to eat and how do you prepare it? What’s the craziest thing you’ve eaten in your hunting travels?
Dall’s Sheep meat is delicious! Maybe because it’s so darn hard to get! I like to grill the loins and tenderloins, lightly seasoned, rare to medium rare. I make some ground meat from my sheep and that makes great hamburgers too. Sheep testicles are a delicacy and favorite of mine too, sliced, breaded and lightly fried. Mountain Lion loin was definitely one of the best wild game meats I have ever had. Once again, just lightly seasoned and grilled. Lightly fried it is great too. A couple of years ago, I had a cook down in Sonora Mexico cook a javelina that was out of this world! I don’t know exactly how she cooked it, but it took most of the day. It was incredible.
I’ve eaten all kinds of crazy things on bow hunts, in far, out of the way places; whale, seal meat, seal intestine, bear, etc. In Mexico every year I love and eat Menudo (beef stomach) and head (beef head meat) tacos. I’ve also eaten all kinds of wild waterfowl bird eggs (cooked) when I am way out and hunting with native friends here in Alaska. I’ll pretty much try and eat anything, except the wild bird eggs that are in later stages of development!
What is something in your pack that would surprise people? What piece of gear can you not live without?
I carry a little rubberized foam stadium seat pad that I bought years ago on mountain bow hunts. Of course it’s nice to sit on when sitting on rough, sharp rocks glassing for long periods of time. But it also works as a tiny little table when I need a flat spot in the vestibule to set my backpack stove on to heat water and cook. DEFINITELY not approved or advised, but I have also used the pad to make a flat spot IN my KUIU tent to CAREFULLY set my backpack stove on and heat water (yes, inside the tent!). I have done this more that once, when the wind was so strong that it was impossible to heat water in the vestibule of the tent.
I carry a super small tripod that I can attach my camera to for self-timer field photos. I then prop my KUIU backpack up with a walking stick or an ice axe and put the camera/tripod on top of the backpack for self timer pictures. The majority of all my field photos are self taken, since I do most of the extreme, adventurous bow hunts solo.
On sheep and goat hunts in Alaska, an ice axe is a MUST. It helps in the climb just like a walking stick, but I think works better. If you slip or start falling on a steep hill, you can also dig the sharp end of the ice axe into the ground and hopefully arrest and stop a fall.
Also on sheep and goat hunts in Alaska, crampons are a must too. If you do not have crampons, you are not crossing a glacier. Even on steep, wet, snowy, grassy hills, without crampons and an ice axe, the climb would be impossible.
Those that know me very well know that Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning is never very far away. While I don’t take a big container of it in my backpack hunts, I’ll have a very small amount of it for cooking a piece of meat on the hunt. I have container’s of Tony’s everywhere; several at home, remote cabins, Supercub, Sonora, SE Alaska, etc.
What is a bigger factor to success in the field: physical or mental?
Mental for sure! Some physical fitness is important too, but having mental toughness and mental confidence is the biggest factor to being successful in the field I think, ESPECIALLY as a hard-headed bow hunter! You have to have a “never give up” positive attitude. You have to be able to adapt to all kinds of changes and challenges that occur during a hunt. You have to believe in yourself and your abilities. Especially as a bow hunter, a person needs patience to consistently be successful. This all comes with experience. On my difficult bow hunts, I always keep telling myself that there is a way to get it done. It might take a little more time and patience on some hunts, but anything is possible if you DO NOT give up.
Also, if you REALLY want to harvest an animal with a bow and arrow on a hunt, DO NOT take a rifle on the hunt–take mental toughness.
What is your food regimen on backpack hunts?
Nothing super special. Mountain House freeze dried meals as the staple. Maybe one instant Idahoan potato pack. Instant oatmeal and instant grits for breakfast, along with a few of the Mountain House breakfasts, especially Mountain House Granola with milk and blueberries.
Dried meat jerky from one of my previous harvests. Smoked Salmon from one of my previous catches. Piece of dried salami. Small block of sharp cheddar cheese. Tortillas, peanut butter, trail mix, granola bars, chocolate bars, etc. Instant coffee and some kind of drink mix to mix with water. A small thing of salt, pepper, and Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning, to season the tenderloins for a KUIU tent cookout after a successful day in the field!
You spend a ton of time alone in remote areas. What is the key to enjoying and getting comfortable on a solo hunt?
I am really in my element on solo bow hunts I love them. I do also like hunting with good friends on some types of hunts too. Some hunts are good with a friend or two, like Kodiak Blacktail deer hunts, Black bear hunts, Coues deer hunts, caribou hunts, moose hunts, etc. But the hardcore bow hunts I live for, like Dall’s sheep, Mt. Goat, Brown bear, and Grizzly bear, I much prefer going it alone. I think my chances of success are greater when I am alone. I can set my own pace, make my own decisions, and totally focus on the single goal of getting an arrow into the trophy I am after. I guess to really answer the question, I began solo backpacking and bow hunting elk, Mule deer, etc in the western US when I was younger. This is where I learned how to bow hunt alone. This is where I fell in love with this type of hunting. I learned to be safe, effective, comfortable for long periods of time in the mountains by myself, and really enjoy this solitary style of bow hunting. I took all of these things I learned in those early years and applied them to hunts here in Alaska when I moved here. Yes, I definitely had to modify and adjust some, as everything is much more extreme up here in Alaska. Heck, everything up here, the WIND, COLD, EARTHQUAKES, BEARS, TIDES, PLANES, RIVERS, GLACIERS, etc. is trying to kill you!
What is your go-to system in the Alaska conditions you hunt the most? What KUIU apparel/accessories/packs do you most frequently use?
I do not go on ANY hunt ANYWHERE in Alaska without my Ultra Merino wool base layer, my Guide DCS jacket and Guide pant, Chugach NX rain jacket and pant, Superdown hooded jacket and pant, and a short sleeve crew T shirt, PERIOD! I can be very comfortable in a WIDE range of conditions and elements with this combination. Then on all my backpack hunts I’m now using my ICON PRO 7200, KUIU sleeping bag and tent. Now I also love the KUIU crew socks and use the bino harness. I just got some of the new briefs and a balaclava that I am certain are going to be great additions too!
What do you do to stay in shape? What is your archery shooting routine to stay sharp?
Most people would not believe it, but I never go to the gym. Sometimes on UPS layovers in foreign cities, when it’s close to sheep season, I will go to the gym. But, here in Alaska, I do not “work out” per se. My general lifestyle here in Alaska keeps me in shape. I am very active outdoors. Whether it be a long hike to a good fishing hole through the mud flats in a pair of waders, hiking in Black bear bait to a remote bait station, or packing building supplies from the plane up to the cabin, I physically exert myself all the time just living the way I live. This is what keeps me in shape.
I do not shoot my bow everyday when there is not a hunt in the near future. I should every few days. As it gets closer to the main hunting season, I do shoot everyday, maybe even two or three times a day. I never should a lot of arrows. Maybe I’ll shoot a dozen or so shots early in the morning, then at mid day, then again at night. Instead of quantity of arrows shot, I focus on quality of arrows shot. I focus and concentrate and really try and make every practice arrow count.
What makes a good field photo?
Field photos have always been super important to me. I strive to take the best field photos I can and I think that shows. People are always complementing me on my photos. What begins to make a good field photo is to TAKE YOUR TIME. I spend the time to clean the animal up and to get it placed in the best position possible for wherever I happened to be. Every place I harvest an animal is different. Sometimes I’m high up in the mountains where you can see the skyline and sometimes I’m deep in the forest in a mess of tangled alders and Devils Club (a plant with stickers all over it that is not pleasant). I spend so much time, energy, and effort bow hunting and striving to be successful, that I want to capture that moment and that animal in the best field photo possible. The majority of my field photos are self taken with a self timer on my camera. Believe it or not, I usually get better field photos by myself than with someone else taking the pictures! One again, it is because most people get in a hurry and do not have the patience. Many hunters get in too much of a hurry after they harvest an animal. They are thinking of all the work ahead of them, the field dressing, caping, transporting, etc. An extra 30 or 45 minutes spent to set up and get a really good field photo is not going to matter in the big scheme of things. You only get ONE chance to get THE field photo. Once you start field dressing the animal and taking care of the meat, that chance is over.
- First, SLOW DOWN and take your time. Enjoy the moment…soak it in…
- Clear out the area around the trophy, branches, grass, logs, rocks, etc., for the best photo.
- Study the area and arrange the animal in the best body position for the photo. I usually put deer, sheep, goats, etc in a natural position for the best looking and respectful display of the animal. Larger animals are more difficult to move so you have to improvise and do the best you can.
- Clean the blood off of the animal. Branches and rocks make great “brushes” to brush the blood, leaves, and dirt off of the animal’s hair.
- Clean the blood off of the animal’s mouth and move or cut the tongue off so it doesn’t hang out in the photo.
- Close the animals mouth. Sometimes I use light fishing mono to tie the animals mouth closed. Rigor mortis will set in fairly quick and naturally keep the animal’s mouth closed sometimes too.
- If hunting solo, take one of those tiny little camera tripods on the hunt to hold your camera for a self timer photo. I’ve also tied my camera into branches, balanced it on my backpack, or put in on a stack of rocks, etc., to get good photos.
- Make sure the area behind the animal is clear of things that you do not want in the photo. For example, your pile of hunting gear, an ATV, a truck, power lines, etc.
- Take photos WITH and WITHOUT the flash.
Take LOTS of photos from different angles, distances, and directions. Make sure you have extra batteries for the camera.
The North American Super Slam is accomplished by harvesting all 29 species of North American Big Game Animals. More information on the Super Slam can be found at www.SuperSlam.org.