Alamasu,Inc. (NOW Alaska Interior Game Ranch, Inc.)
Jan/Feb/March 2006 Volume
Editor & Advertising Manager
Bison World Magazine
1400 West 122nd Avenue,Suite 106
"Everyone loves Alaska in the summer. People marvel at seeing bison roaming during the warm months. But what does it take to raise the exotic animal all year round in the interior of Alaska?
Just ask Scott Hollembaek, a native Alaskan. Always ready for an adventure, Hollembaek has been involved in livestock since his parents began operating a dairy farm in the Matanuska Valley (south-central Alaska) in 1954. Born and raised in Alaska, he is accustom to the long winters and short daylight hours. The summers bring warmth and nearly continual daylight but during the winter you can find him bundled up in the arctic winter gear, tending to the 300 head of bison, elk and reindeer that reside on two 1,000 acre ranches.
Hollembaek and his wife, Ruby, ventured to the interior in 1980 when the State opened up an agricultural project in the oil pipeline's 'hay day'. After operating a grass and grain seed business plus overseeing 200 head of registered Angus cattle, he was intrigued with the State's bison herd that roamed the agricultural area. The bison played havoc with the farmer's crops. But something about them just spoke to Hollembaek. Why not raise the bison and other alternative livestock right there where they are comfortable in the cold environment?
So Scott and Ruby did some research. Around 1991 they purchased their first 13 animals from a rancher in Kodiak, Alaska. The remaining animals came from Healy, Alaska and British Columbia, Canada. That brought the herd to about 45 head strong. 'My first animals were plains bison,' Scott said. 'I had purchased some woods bison from the Yukon Territory and had them on the home place for about one and a half years but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife confiscated and fined me for them.' Scott found out that there is a permit available but the only way that the U.S. will make it available is if the bison would be released into the wild. Scott's daring move of getting woodland bison introduced back to Alaska has opened up a new segment of Fish and Game. Currently, there is a heated push to have wood bison reintroduced back into Alaska.
The challenges specific to Alaska aren’t really so different than in other cold regions in North America. 'The bison actually do very well in the cold. The wind does bother them some. That is the only time that you'll find them hunkered down in the trees or in a gully,’ remarked Scott.
When the cold reaches -30 degrees F and below, the feed is increased to compensate. Temperatures normally drop to -60degrees F or lower for a period of time in the winter, before the weather gradually warms. The summers are typically very warm in the interior, reaching 90 degrees F at times. The bison begin losing their hair in the spring and find relief in the shade during the summer months.
Hollembaek operates 2 ranches, each have roughly 1,000 acres. With 2,000 acres of land and the number of wild game acquired, the Hollembaek ranches are glad to have their 2 sons help with the daily needs. The bison are held in two 1,000 acre game fenced parcels of land. The other home place and second ranch are both surrounded with an 8' electrified game fence, not only to keep the wild game in, but more importantly to keep moose, bear, wolf and the State's 'wild herd' of bison out. The two parcels are 6 miles apart from each other, separated by a gravel road that is not maintained by the State. In 2002 the State surfaced 6 miles of the main road which made travel much safer and easier.
The mother herd is fed hay year round but much less during the summer. The land has some native grass (Hollembaek planted the fields with the certified grasses they raised and cleaned on their home place) along with willows which the bison feed on. The bison browse on that plus get plenty of hay delivered by wagon twice a week. The calves are weaned in late October and brought back to the original home place where there is more pasture (bluegrass and brome). Some brush is on this land also as the State had farmers and ranchers leave a windbreak every ¼ mile on the fields. 'We figure the animals need 2 lbs. of hay for every 100 lb. of body weight,' said Scott. Animals are given 2 days worth of hay and then allowed to run out for 1 day when the next load of hay is delivered. The protein on the hay is 8% - 14%.
The Hollembaeks also allow hunts and harvests on their land. Their two sons, Buck and Russ, assist with that portion of the business. The hunts are scheduled during the months of November - January and are available until temperatures reach -50oF. With the daylight hours being limited during these months, the hunts are kept short.
Hollembaek primarily provides bison hunts but the herd animals are mixed with elk (about 21 count) and reindeer (small herd). He breaks the hunts down into 2 categories, meat and trophy animals. Clients come from Alaska, the lower '48 (continental U.S.A.), Australia and they've had inquiries from Europe. Hunters show up at the home place, sight in their rifles and begin their trek.
Most recently, Scott and his wife, Ruby have begun a mosaic glass tiled bison mount business. The mounts have been featured in various restaurants and lodges around Alaska. A gallery in Fairbanks also sells the mounts. They also have their hides tanned in State but will be sent 'outside' as the volume increase is becoming more than the local tannery can handle.
Making use of their resources and their talents, the Hollembaeks have created a viable bison business in Alaska."
"Scott Hollembek's Alaska Interior Game Ranch offers bison and elk hunts on two fenced 1,000 acre ranches. The Delta Junction area is prime hunting territory, although it is sometimes restricted because of military testing". by Kevin Coughlin, freelance writer based in Fairbanks.
Alaska Magazine May 2009
Photo by Andrew Johnson, www.alaskaphotographics.com
Archaelogogists Find Prehistoric Bison Jawbone on Ranch
Archaeologist, Randolph Tedor, and team conducted archaeological testing on our property this summer . They found an archaeological site on top of the southern hill on the "frog farm". It was unofficially named the "Hollembaek Hill Site". Their excavation consisted of an approximately 3' X 1 1/2 ' X 6 ' deep pit on the southeastern slope of the hill overlooking the clear-cuts to the east. It looked like there were several occupations at the site that probably represent roughly the last 12,000 years or so of human activity in the area. They found archaeological material throughout the excavation, but the small hole did not produce any diagnostic artifacts that told them about what particular tool making activities that may have been conducted at the site. They found a few stone flakes which let them know that making stone tools of some type were there. They also found an impressive amount of animal remains from both large and small mammals, birds, and even a couple fish vertebrae. The most exciting discovery was a large piece of an upper jaw fragment with teeth from a prehistoric bison. They are planning on dating this in order to see how old that particular level is.
These archaeologists will be presenting their findings from the site on March 9th - 12th at the Alaska Anthropological Association in Fairbanks.
Daughter, Tracy Hollembaek, and mosaic glass tiled bison mount
Daughter, Tracy Hollembaek, holds one of the bison mounts that are created off the ranch. This mount was not grouted yet. Mounts are sold to lodges, individuals and galleries around the state.
Scott, owner of game ranch, power washes bison jaws to ready for selling
Skulls & jaws dry for 3 days after bleaching in order to be thoroughly dry. The horns are oiled with linseed oil to keep them rich looking and moist.
Born in Seward, raised in Palmer and now in Delta. From a coal miner’s daughter, of mixed descent..English/Scot-Irish/French/Inupiat Eskimo growing up from the 1950's to seeing the 50th Anniversary of Statehood.
In the North I was born
On the cold south shores
Of Alaska’s springtime thaw.
In those cold blustery swells
The fisherman did haul
And it was boats is all I saw.
Then came a time
when the miners’ hauls
Was the black cold coal of night.
So to the valley we moved
Where the gardens did grow
And the crops put on their show.
I spent my days
In barefoot ways
Running through fertile soil.
I learned from there
The hardships fought
From sweat-breaking toil.
That it’s the cows you milk
And the crops you plant
That gives you winter’s plenty.
I went from hunting,
To a different sort of ranting.
Of thinking about
Where a place to grow
A claim of earth is to find.
As the crowds rushed in
The cars screamed by
And the tractors were put in a bind.
We moved further north
To a place seldom thought
Of farming once again and fought.
To a place where the sun
Keeps you up 6 months
And the winter months take you down.
To a place where we pushed
Mother earth to expose
A new found place of ground.
A new sort of ground
A new type of seed
To gather, plant and sow.
Grasses, Grains, Food
Hogs, Cattle and Birds
All we tried in this with vain.
Till we end of now
On this earth we’ve plowed
Raising bison and elk who tells us how.
It’s the harvest that speaks
And tells us what to do.
It’s not the farmer
It’s not the rancher
Who demands respect and show.
It’s the earth that tells us
What it will offer
What it has for us to grow.
So for a girl from the shore,
From the depths of coal
A farmer/rancher is all I’m told.
Plants her feet in the ground
Smells the rain hit the earth
And feels the sun warm earth’s soul.
Life nearly complete
Will end someday
With grandchildren enjoying
their great farming and ranching day.