When I found out that I drew Kodiak bear tag. Alaska_Lanche was very excited to help me fill it. I picked Luke up at the airport and we did some last-minute shopping before dropping our bags off at Andrews air. Andrews air was awesome in helping us get fuel and last-minute items including our necessary tags. We loaded up in Andrews 206 and headed to our area. We were happy to see no other camps in the Bay in which we intended to hunt. We select our campsite and had a bumpy landing into a stiff wind. We quickly unloaded the plane and set up camp. We set up the Pipeline in an existing homemade shelter and set up the Sawtooth in a more exposed location.
As darkness fell we enjoyed the warmth of the stove and a hot meal. Our gear was prepared for the following morning and we headed off to bed in the Pipeline. We used a small catalytic heater to warm the Pipeline and was toasty in no time. We awoke well before daylight eager to start the hunt. We again enjoyed the stove in the Sawtooth and warmed some water for coffee and oatmeal. It was almost 9 AM before it was light enough to see. We packed for a trip to a near by high spot to glass.
Once we gained some elevation we spotted some game in the distance. We started to move for closer look and Luke spotted the bear about 300 yards away. We tried using a black tail distress call to lure him closer, and at 1st he started to come in, then lost interest. We moved to try to get an advantage point in which to take a shot. As we climbed a small knob, we spotted him in the creek below. I judged the bear to be about 8 1/2 feet with a magnificent hide and decided to take him if I had the opportunity.
He spotted us and rose onto his back legs and looked our way. I chose not to take a chest shot, and waited for him to turn broadside. My 1st shot was behind the shoulders, through ribs, my next shot hit him in the back, the 3rd also was in the back. My 4th shot hit him in the neck. He dropped in the creek and let out a tremendous roar.
He struggled to get out of the creek so I reloaded my 375 H&H Kodiak Sako and waited to see if he could get out of the water, I was hoping he would. As we approached he was still struggling so I fired my last 300 grain Barnes TSX into his neck. As we examined the bear I was extremely happy with his amazing hide, he was just under 8 feet. It was with great satisfaction that I notched my, possibly once in a life time Kodiak bear tag and locked the steel tag into place.
Within minutes of shooting the bear, Roland from Seahawk landed and taxied over. We greeted them and they ask us how long we would be there, we said we had just arrived the day before, but they were welcome to share the area and camp anywhere they like. Roland dropped them off in a protected spot. We finished skinning the bear and returned to camp.
Back at camp we celebrated with a drink. We walked down to meet the other hunters and chat. Capt Mike and Kodiak Dave, are awesome guys and shared much about the area in which they had been hunting since the 80s. They shared with us that they had seen a goat. We also discussed each other's hunting plans for the following day. We returned to camp as the wind started to really increase. By bedtime the wind was approaching 50 miles an hour. The high winds made for a noisy night but all of our gear weathered the night.
The next morning we explored our area, finding evidence of Kodiak's harshness. We spotted a lone Goat in an area that was totally unreachable. We returned to camp tired without catching anything. The following day Luke was not feeling well and stayed in camp while I went hunting, feeling better Luke and I met up and hunted our way back to camp hoping to catch some meat for camp. As we approach camp we spotted a Doe and we attempt a stalk. At about 80 yards I spotted her and attempted a head shot. The Doe ran off and we could find no sigh of a hit. I assumed I missed and we returned dejected to camp.
It was Halloween and we trick or treated Mike and Dave, they shared some delicious cookies and a cold beer. We admired the fine bucks they had taken and shared stories, they were kind enough to point us to an area to hunt the following day. As dawn broke on 1 November my 48th birthday, we hunted our way into strong winds and dropping temperatures, the cold wind bit at our faces as we walked along the flat exposed tundra. As we approached the area we spotted some dear and moved to a protected spot to look for a big buck. After about an hour the largest we had spotted was a forkie. The closest we could get was about 270 yards. Using my trekking pole as a support I lined up for the shot into a stiff wind. I took aim for his neck and squeezed the trigger. I could hear the sound of the big bullet hitting him just behind the jaw. The buck dropped and rolled down the hill.
While I was tending to my deer, Luke headed off in search of one for him. Before long I heard the sound of his rifle signaling his success. I arrived to find he had taken a fine Buck himself. We made it back to camp just a dark. Exhausted we hung the meat and went to bed, happy to have scored a double on my Birthday.
Early the next day we walked down to our friends camp to inquire about their plans and to share our success. Mr. Mike told me he had found a dead Doe and the scavengers were working on her. I immediately knew that I must have somehow wounded this deer. We returned to camp to the best day we had weather-wise the entire trip. I tended to the bear hide as Luke glassed the hills. We spotted several deer.
I could not stop thinking about the dead Doe. I told Luke I had to go try to find her and salvage whatever I could and to notch my tag. Luke decided to go after the deer we had spotted. It was with extreme shame that I donned my gear and headed off in search of her. I gained the high ground and spotted the birds and followed them to her. I looked at the Doe ashamed of myself for her suffering death at my hand. I could name a thousand excuses, the fact was I fired my weapon and failed to realize that I had drew brood. They had eaten the back legs, loins and half the backstraps. I validated my tag and was able to salvage the front legs, some rib meat, the neck and half the backstraps. It was a very unpleasant task and just punishment for my poor decision making. I returned to camp determined to put it behind me and to prepare dinner for Luke and I.
I prepared a rack of ribs from my Buck and the Doe backstraps, I fried the meat in melted fat adding fresh garden potatoes Mr. Dave shared with me. I used a pan and wire rack I found at the camp site to cook on, as we had brought only freeze dried food. I heard Luke fire and not long after he called on the radio and said he had a nice one and would be back at camp and a couple hours.
Mr. Dave and Mr. Mike stopped by our camp on their way back from catching a nice deer. I apologize to both men and shared my shame over the death of the Doe and assured them that I had recovered all I could.
Luke returned with his largest buck ever and we shared the 1st real meal in several days. That night the wind shifted and started blowing from the Southeast. We awoke in the morning to several inches of snow. We spent the entire day feeding the stove in the Sawtooth nice and warm and enjoyed another meal of deer and potatoes.
Our last day to hunt was extremely windy and had the deer hiding in the Alders. We were determined to find a nice one or not take one. The wind would sound at times like a jet aircraft, and was strong enough to almost knock you down. We stayed at it and soon Luke spotted a nice deer and we started watching him. We knew right away he was a great buck. We got as close as we could 350 yards, and I prepared to take him. The wind was blowing making a steady shot difficult. I fired and missed the buck, unaffected he moved closer and 2 does emerged. Luke was great in keeping me on target. I waited for the does to clear and for the buck to turn broadside. Luke ranged him at 300 yards I aimed and squeeze the trigger. The bullet hit the buck in the shoulder and he tumbled down the hill.
I was overwhelmed as I approached him. I very much wanted to take a nice Blacktail to mount and felt this was a magnificent specimen. We took some photos and set about field dressing him.
Luke looked up and spotted a deer, I saw the large size and suggested he have a look with binoculars. During our hunt we had spotted several of the deer referred to as Stags, Bucklights, ect.. They are bucks with no visible testicles, and have odd antlers that retained the velvet. Luke mentioned he would like to take one, when he said the deer above with a BuckLight, I told him to take him. Bang, flop and he was soon in the same spot my deer was.
Mr Vince loaned me his Ice Axe and it worked great in keeping the deer from rolling down the hill. Dark was nearing and freezing rain driven by strong winds pounded us on our return to camp. The load proved to be more than I could handle and we had to cache Luke's deer. Luke packed mine back to camp arriving Just at dark totally exhausted.
Larry Bartlett loaned us a Big Rig raft, it is a light weight 17lb raft with inflatable floor and seats above the water, We were able to take advantage of a break in the winds and use the raft to recover Luke's deer. The Big Rig was awesome and handled the load and waves great and tracked very well. Made a long pack a quick "pack and paddle". Thanks Larry.
Safe back at camp a quick call to Andrews confirmed that we were on weather hold. Tagged out we worked on meat and hides in the comfort of the heated Sawtooth enduring strong wind and heavy rain.
Sunday morning we were excited to see Roland from Seahawk air land and pick up Mr Mike and Mr Dave. We helped them load up and thanked them for their kindness. Mr Dean from Andrews flew over and we spoke to him on the hand held VHF. He said that the weather looked like we might get out and he would send back a plane for us. We packed up everything but the Sawtooth in hopes of making it back to town. Before long we heard the deep roar of the Beavers engine and saw the plane on approach. We packed up the Sawtooth before the plane set down and was ready to load as Mr Steve reached shore. He said we had better hurry and we lost no time loading the plane struggling to hold the plane as the winds increased.
Andrews Air again went above and beyond in helping us get our gear, meat and hide sealed and to the hotel. We enjoyed a hot shower and delicious meal safe from the howling wind outside, glad to be back in town.
Our last day on Kodiak started early and we stuffed the van with gear and our harvest and made our way to the Airport. I had a 5 hour layover in Anchorage and used the opportunity to drop off my hides at Alpha Fur dressers and to share our story, photos and a meal with Mrs. Alaska_Lanche who was nice enough to pick us up and run me around town.
As I waited to get on my plane to Fairbanks I reflected on our hunt and noticed that my boots were almost dry for the first time since I stepped off the float plane almost 2 weeks ago. It was an incredible hunt that will forever be etched in my mind and relived over and over. I canít wait to have my deer mounted and have my bear done in a life sized mount.
Luke is an amazing young man and without him this hunt would not have been possible for me. A simple thank you is just not enough and I consider him a true friend and enjoyed every minute we spent together. He is a joy to hunt with and is a packing machine.
I returned home with a load of meat to care for and bags of wet dirty gear to tend to. Was sure nice to escape the snow and cold temps of Fairbanks for a while, but have 6 inches of snow in my driveway that needs plowing.
Was an experience that I will never forget and the events opened my eyes that even very experienced hunters can make mistakes and that you can never let anything distract you from being safe. I shared the story of the Doe both because it has really weighed heavy on my heart, but also as a reminder to others to always make sure of not only your target, but what is beyond.
My Kuiu gear has proven itself to me this season. I wore the rain gear everyday as an outer layer and it kept me dry and held up to everything I put it through. The Kifaru Sawtooth took a beating and for me, proved itself to be tough enough to serve as a primary shelter in harsh conditions. If it had been our only tent I would have pitched it in a more sheltered location. I wanted to see if it could take the winds that we often get on remote hunts. It was so nice to have a warm place to take refuse from the harsh Kodiak weather.