At age 17, Steve Perrins paid $1 to watch a home movie that rearranged his brain. It was March 1974. The 16mm reel, screened at a New Hampshire high school, was filmed by Buckey Winkley, an Alaska hunting-and-fishing guide, who was there fresh from the backcountry. Sitting in the audience, Perrins was transfixed by the images of bears, Dall sheep, trout, and salmon. Afterward, thirsty for adventure, he approached Winkley. “I’m going to Alaska,” he said, definitively, and he asked the guide for help.
“WE’VE BEEN FORTUNATE TO LIVE
A LIFE OF ADVENTURE,
DOING EXACTLY WHAT WE LIKE TO DO.”
Forty-six years later, Perrins still has his ticket from that March evening and has spent little time away from Alaska. In 2003, after nearly three decades of big-game guiding, Perrins and his wife, Denise, bought Rainy Pass Lodge, 125 air miles northwest of Anchorage. Founded in 1937 and officially recognized as the state’s oldest hunting lodge, the eleven-cabin compound sits along Puntilla Lake, in the Alaskan Range. Perrins, a registered Master Guide, was an ideal buyer. Rainy Pass was where Buckey Winkley worked back in the ’70s and where Perrins landed a job shortly after high school. As a young guide, he learned from the lodge’s founder, Bud Branham, how to ride horses up mountains, how to spot bear tracks, and, above all, how to put clients first. “You can’t guarantee weather or a shot at game,” says Perrins, now 64, “but you can guarantee service.”
Driven by this ethos, Perrins’s Rainy Pass Lodge offers grizzly, black bear, caribou, Dall sheep, and moose hunts, along with trout and salmon fishing, kayak trips, and helicopter glacier tours. The ten-plus-person staff, all Filson outfitted, includes his old friend Buckey Winkley. At 78, he still guides for sheep.
Perrins expects to turn over the lodge to his oldest son, Steve II, one day. “But it’s difficult to pass something along,” he admits. “You want things particular.” After all, “everything here is special.” He knew that from the moment he saw Winkley’s home movie, back in 1974, and Alaska’s effect on him has yet to wane. In the evenings, he’ll sit on the porch, drinking wine, still transfixed by the wilderness. “We’ve been fortunate to live a life of adventure,” he says, “doing exactly what we like to do.”