New Stuyahok's John Hanson Jr. competes in Russian Mission sled dog sprint race

Mar 16, 2017

Bristol Bay musher, John Hanson Jr. from New Stuyahok has been in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta since January to compete in sled dog sprint races.

John Hanson Jr. in his dog yard in New Stuyahok
Credit Avery Lill/ KDLG

New Stuyahok’s John Hanson Jr. is in Russian Mission for a sled dog sprint race that began today.  The race consists of three heats, one today, one Thursday and the final one Saturday.

The Bristol Bay musher has been in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta since January. While the Bristol Bay region has seen a decline in races and mushers in recent years, Hanson says that the Y-K Delta has plenty of both. He’s competed in the Akiak Dash, the Kwethluk Sprint Race, in which he took third, a Napaskiak sprint race, and another sprint race in Akiak, where he placed second.

His dogs have been sick the past few weeks, but he said before the race that they are getting back in shape and look good for today’s run.

“I’m feeling alright. I picked number one, so I’m taking off first, and it’s an 18-mile course. I’ll use all my dogs, and hopefully I’ll have a good clean run and be up there.”

Hanson says that he is the only Bristol Bay musher competing in the Y-K Delta this year, which he estimates is home to more than 20 mushers. He says that it’s good to see young people there showing interest in the sport.

“There’s a lot of young mushers my age and younger than I am, a lot of high schoolers and junior high boys. They’re nice to see, a younger generation keeping their tradition going,” says Hanson, adding, “Kinda hard for me because I’m the only one in my family that’s out at dog yards every day at home. There are times when I feel like I don’t have dogs any more, but that’s only because I’m working by myself.”

Still, Hanson says he will keep racing as long as he can. He is hoping to interest his two young children in the sport.

After the race in Russian Mission concludes on Saturday, he’ll travel to Bethel to compete in at least one more race this season. 

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.