About a year ago a friend of mine dropped the idea in my mind of doing a deer hunt out of Kodiak. It didn't work out that we could go last year due to a new little one in the house, but as we thought through the options it became more and more apparent that a deer hunt would be an ideal early season option this year for my wife and I. We're both teachers and go back to work on August 10th this year, so anything more than a long weekend would have to happen before that date and before much else opens up. Our plans on where to hunt changed a few times over the past few months, but with about 8 days left before our departure we settled on a plan and got serious about preparing. We flew out of Kodiak the afternoon of July 31st with Kingfisher Aviation. They're a small family-run outfit that flies two Bushhawks. I've never been in one of these aircraft before, so just flying out was a lot of fun. As we neared our drop point we saw deer on every hillside and on every mountaintop. To say that we were excited by the sightings would be an understatement. We figured that if the weather held that this would be a very successful hunt given all of the animals we saw within a day's hike of our camp. Alas...things didn't turn out quite as we had envisioned...
Here is our mode of travel, and as it turned out, the last time we had decent visibility and calm winds for the next few days:
We spent the first afternoon setting up camp, exploring just a little bit, and relaxing as we settled the spotter on numerous deer on a mountainside a few miles from camp. We turned in early in order to rest up for the next day's hunt, but really I think we were just enjoying the peace and quiet that is often absent in our home with two young boys. When we awoke the morning of the 1st we were greeted with light rain, a moderate breeze, and a view that stopped about 300' up the mountainside we were intending to climb. It wasn't exactly what we had hoped for, but we were excited to go explore anyhow, so we packed up and headed up the mountain. Within about an hour we had jumped a doe and a fawn, then as we entered the clouds we soon made out the color of two more deer just above our position. We hadn't gotten a good look at them before dropping behind cover, so we approached them slowly and quietly in hopes that one would have antlers. It wasn't to be, but just to be stalking an animal again after too long of an absence from hunting felt great to both of us. One of the deer hung around for a while and as we moved up the mountain further she stood her ground and watched us go by.
At this point I was hoping that the clouds would lift, but I do not exaggerate at all when I say that this was the best visibility that we would have for the next three days at any elevation over a few hundred feet. I thought it was thick at the time I took this picture, but it got significantly thicker from that point forward. At many points over the next few days I couldn't see more than 20-30 yards. We did see a little button buck later that afternoon at about 40 yards, but he disappeared into the fog before we could get a clean look at his vitals and that was the last we saw of him. We checked through that area pretty thoroughly the next two times we passed by, but we never saw him again. We also saw a fork-antlered buck later that evening, but he was far enough across a ravine that we were unable to pursue him that evening, and the clouds never lifted above that point again during the duration of our hunt. Ultimately, much of the first two days was spent like this, peering over hillsides and into draws hoping to bump into a buck.