Cole fell under the spell of Alaska’s rugged landscape as a boy and has built a life around guiding others across Kodiak’s dynamic terrain, which can shift from serene to stormy in seconds.
He grew up in a small town in the middle of Kansas. Cole saw Alaska for the first time the summer he was eleven years old and spent two weeks fishing salmon and halibut, though fish weren’t all that got caught during that trip. “I was hooked,” Cole recalls, “for life.”
Several years later his high school classmates voted him most likely to disappear, and one week after graduation, he did; he drove up to Alaska and got hired as an apprentice/packer for Kodiak Outdoor Adventures. During his apprenticeship, Cole was also able to work for several of the other top outfitters in the state, gaining comprehensive experience. Upon receiving his Registered Guide license Cole started his own guiding operation, Kramer’s Kodiak Guide Service, though he still guides for other outfitters in Alaska and internationally to ensure he has a year-round schedule of guiding.
Guiding in Alaska presents the challenging conditions in which Cole thrives. Hunting mountain goats in September, he and his client pack a week’s worth of food, carry their mobile campsite on their backs, and exhibit extreme focus and patience as they watch the goats for two days, observing their patterns and waiting for the right moment. Kodiak’s capricious weather means conditions can turn on a dime. In a split second, a great day turns into a snowy, survival situation. Cole is prepared, his client hits his mark, and—perhaps most gratifying of all—the person who started out as a stranger at the beginning of the hunt is now a lifelong friend. “It’s a great feeling when it all comes together in the end,” he reflects, “and you help show someone what they are capable of doing.”
Though good preparation counts for a lot, hunting is more than the right gear. “You have to have the right mental attitude,” Cole says, “and the drive to want to be successful. This is also true for a guide.” Cole’s environment plays a huge role in stoking the flames beneath his own mindset and drive, which is partly why he can’t imagine himself in any other spot. “Once you live in a place like Kodiak, it’s really hard to go somewhere else. It’s no mystery once you come here why it’s a great place to live.” For Cole, place and vocation are totally intertwined, each lending inspiration and meaning to the other. “This is where I plan to stay,” he says, with all the commitment and confidence of a devoted hunter and seasoned guide. “It’s my life.”
Follow Cole Kramer: