A Kodiak hunt is never complete with out these sweet words uttered out of your pilot: “Nope, can get some of your stuff but you’ll need to fill your packs and hike out to the ocean.” If you’ve never heard those words, you’ve never truly experience what Kodiak has to offer. This past week a buddy John and I heard those words. And our pilot…heard some choice words back.
The hunt was a simple plan, as most hunts are. Fly into a high altitude lake. Find goats. Shoot goats. Fly out of the lake. Siiiimple….
We drew 476, putting us in the Kiluda bay area. Apparently the majority of goats are located in “Salt water landing” areas. I’m not interested in real work, and after previous success from the high altitude lake placement we went that route. Our transporter was Sea Hawk Air. Great company, great people…except for the whole “now walk your asses out” part. Rolan, our pilot, is one of the best pilots down there so we flew out and he had a few ideas of some decent lakes in goat country. After finding a lake that he said was “workable” but he has never put in anyone there….we opted for that. As all of the others looked like landscape located on Mars.
We settled in and were told to hunker down really good as a big storm was headed our way. So we did…. IN fact we pretty much made a beaver lodge. No better wind break then branches though, and as it turns out we didn’t get the big storm that Kodiak got, or at least we didn’t feel it. But we were prepared.
The “beaver lodge”:
We headed off and found out our “country” was not the best. Well, that is to say for our movement. We were in cliffs and boulders and all together not great country for easy movement. Buuuuut, as it figured we found goats, but each and every stalk would take a good majority of each day and probably kick our butts. And they all did.
After getting our arses handed to us for a few days (we did get on a herd…but we choose to just scare them away), and the continued “wet air” (it doesn’t rain…it is just ALWAYS wet), we put ourselves in a position to harvest Hup’s first goat.
Side hilled this sucker…only to find a cliff that was almost impassable. I say almost because we made it…we found that “coming back” was a little trickier. Thank god for the Black Diamond Whippet trekking pole, with ice axe.
After laying on a boulder with my rain coat turned inside out (inside was gray and looked like the boulders), and quickly loosing body heat REAL fast to the rain and cold rock, I turned to John to tell him that I couldn’t “ethically shoot” as I was pretty sure I was hypothermic. It would be up to him to harvest his goat as it fed towards us. Fortunately for John, he had left his range finder at camp (seriously who does that….oh, and the Wyoming saw too…to top it off). So, with my skills in range finding I was able to determine that the animal was under 1000 yds, but not quite at 20’. That helped him determine where he should hold off the animal.
John agreed that we should shoot, with a “I’m going to shoot. Hopefully I miss and we can just go back to camp. I’m F—ing freezing.” One shot, and one crumpled ram. Crap. We were…on top of a mountain…
At some point during this trip we struck out for deer. The goats that we could access were a bunch of Nannies with kids. A few of the Billys knew that I couldn’t shoot, accurately, over 100 yds, so they stayed at the 400 yds range. And as soon as you broke that magic barrier they’d just walk off into the abyss of the mountains. Anyways, those magically deer…seriously, were ninjas. We’d be walking, and see nothing and out of no where one would just materialize in front of you. Literally, 30’ in front of you…a brown animal would show up and be a deer. Then 2. Then three… Was amazing. We put ourselves on one spike (chose not to shoot, but to get closer…and that was a stupid move). That one scampered away. Then a fork appeared, however this one came with full mountain climbing gear and spidermaned his way up the cliff. However, during this escape John was able to fling "one final" shot and drop it. So…now we have to go up said cliff. Crap… Serious crap. Super serious crap. So after a good effort of climbing boulders and scaling stuff we had no business being in I look up (while perilously perched on a huge arse rock and off balanced) and see a forked horn buck. Hup and I both pull up guns to end this pursuit: click. Click. We had emptied our chambers for the climb. At that…the buck walks off (slowly) and out of sight. So we continue to climb. At this point I need to remind everyone I HATE heights. And this territory was an overload of my brain power to not think about where we were. However, I pressed on as we found a little bit of blood and didn’t want to loose Hup’s first deer. As we crest to top of this crap we are climbing…we enter the Land of the Lost. I wish I would have taken a picture, but let me just say it was only missing pterodactyls flying around. Some of the most desolate terrain I’ve ever seen, with a dried out lake bed… Seriously, we had entered the first circle of Dante’s Inferno. And Dante had taken our buck as he was no where to be found. We searched all over and couldn’t find blood or the deer.
So we go back down out of this crap hole…back through the crap we climbed up. Let me tell everyone now: if you don’t use a trekking pole, you MUST. It’s like having a hand rail for the walk down and is great for the climb up. PRICELESS.
Anyways, it was raining and we were wet and tired, and our nerves fried from the terrain we “played” in…we headed back down.
Gear in the tent trying to “get less wet”:
One thing I had, that I found priceless was the “Luxury lite” cot. 2.5 lbs. Gets you off the ground, and makes sleeping on uneven ground a pleasure:
All that hiking, and even though my boots felt great…had taken it’s toll on my feet.
At this point we are informed that we’ll have a window of a couple of days to get out and then the wind will change to a new direction (West) and won’t allow us to fly out of our lake. So we make the arrangements to get picked up. We wait, all the while noticing the goats have moved to just up behind camp. Our pilot comes in on the first day and picks up most of our gear, leaving us with our tent and day’s worth of food. He said he’d try to get back to us that night, when the wind “works” on that lake, or if it’s calm, but we need to stay in contact with him. So we decide to stick around camp and not go after the goats. A beautiful day ensues and we call him to let him know there isn’t a whisper in the air. He then informs us, that he has a “meeting” to go to and won’t be able to get us. And that we are to call the first thing the next day, as he has “a busy day scheduled” and he’ll pick us up.
The following morning the plane arrives but there is a wee bit of wind and he informs us that we “need to fill our packs and hike out” and he’ll take what is left of most of our gear. Our lake is at 1700 and the lake runs out to a HUGE waterfall. However he saw, from the air, a spine we should be able to get to and walk out. I interject at this moment to point out, there is no “spine” and our pilot is full of crap.
After side hilling and picking our way through the worst terrain with cliffs, devil’s club and alders….oh, and head high THICK grass, that trips you at every step, we realize we are no where close to being out. And to top it off, I found a little talked about plant on Kodiak: the Kodiak banana peel. It is the rotten stalk of…what looks like devil’s club, but has a big bud of flowers at the end (when not dead). It is my kryptonite. Every time I was near it, I’d step on an old stock and eat crap. Right to the ground. Slipperyest thing ever!! It would bring me down any time I came into contact with it.
Half way down the mountain, after making as much noise as possible as we are now in “bear country”, I spot a doe…and then a buck right behind her. I turn to John and ask “should I take him” to which he responds “helll yeah, blast him. We’re here to hunt.” So…I do. Upon seeing him go down, I turn to him and drop an “F bomb” to which he concurs to. Maaaaaaybe not a good thing since our packs weren’t light before…and now just got a whole heck of a lot heavier.
What should have been another 30 minutes of navigation through the crap of Kodiak mountains, turns into 3 hours and a mental and physical struggle that would break most people, and almost did us.
However, we didn’t break and we made it to the ocean. Now soaking wet with sweat, we wait…and wait we did. For about 4 hours. Its probably best, as I’m fairly certain I’d have shot our pilot upon our pick up. I didn’t count the MFs that were spoken, but I’m fairly certain we MF’d our pilot the whole way down the hill. He moved up REAL high on my “People to kill” list.
The next day we had to change our tickets and couldn't get out till Sunday so we got ahold of a trapping buddy and he took us out on his boat to complete the Kodiak "cast and blast". First cast down he hooks into this halibut, but like a saavy veteran lets my dumb self real it in. Guesstimated weight was 70lbs. (looking for the pics...think they are on my phone).
** I need to note that the pilot is one of the smartest and best on Kodiak...but that didn't mean we liked hiking down anymore. While we cursed him, he did make the correct decision on what he felt was possible**
A few things on gear to note:
*Rain gear worn inside out, that is "breathable" means you're only going to get REAL wet. And solid color gear should NEVER be an option.
*Trekking poles are mandatory. How people EVER went up or down steep terrain before hand is beyond me. The Black Diamond Whippet was priceless!!
*My Mystery Ranch Crew Cab pack was AWESOME!!! Our packs out were just shy of 80lbs, and while not comfortable, much better than my old pack frame. However, that is what makes it so great. It is that it can be folded into a day pack, and instantly unfolded to haul out your success. A great pack!!
*And the Kifaru gun sling is a sn***y way to carry a gun, and works great for hiking. Did have a hiccup on the way down where the brush pulling and catching on the rifle caused the upper portion to pull out. But I fixed it, temporarily, with some duct tape.
*The luxury lite cot is a MUST. Seriously!! It is steep in price, and worth EVERY penny.
*Sitka Gear camo pattern is AWESOME in rocks. I don't recommend their gear (cost and some serious bad reviews), but their camo pattern is worth it!
*My Meindl Alaskan Hunters performed great. My feet never hurt until the last 5 steps to the tent. Next day they were ready to go. Even with them being wet the whole time. Really exceeded my expectations. However, one good point to make: Lube up/weather protect your boots! made a big difference on how long it took for them to soak up.
*Homemade gaiters. Someone on here showed the pattern a while back. Had my mom (yup, still use her services after my 33 years here) sew me up a pair. LOVED them. Used them before, but in this country, and this hunt they showed their worth.
*zeiss Binos - can't say enough about good optics.