Last week my daughter and I traveled to Coffman Cove onPrince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska to hunt blacktail deer with blackbear as a secondary target. Kaitlyn is 12 and is the youngest of my threechildren. Every season I try and takeone of my three kids on an out of town trip of some sort. By taking just one ofthe kids at a time I maximum the enjoyment of both the child and myself
While at Coffman Cove we met another great member of theforum who was staying in the other cabin. I’ll let him join in this thread ifhe wants to, but I will respect his privacy since I didn’t tell him I would bewriting this hunt report. I will saythis, he is a super gentleman that was gracious and polite through our entire stayat Coffman. We drove together back tothe ferry at 5:30 AM on Saturday and my daughter had a car sickness issue. Hedealt with it great and treated Kaitlyn with understanding. I’ve been manyplaces where guys without kids can be pretty harsh to children and he treatedher like she was family.
This trip’s destination was Coffman Cove Adventures owned by Mike and Sarah Warner. Mike is “Gooch”on this forum. We didn’t get to meetSarah as she was working in Anchorage at the time of our stay. Staying at his outfit was going to be a totalchange of pace for me. Almost all myhunts in the past have been based out of tents and this was the first timestaying in any sort of “lodge” environment. Gooch has two cabins and a combination kitchen/dining room/living room. In the kitchen/living room there are two largetables to eat at, a washer/dryer, a couple couches and satellite T.V. in theliving room. Each of the cabins has tworooms, a bathroom (with shower), a fairly small table/eating area, and a TVwith satellite. The rooms are prettybasic with decent beds and good heating systems.
Gooch includes a vehicle per cabin with his huntingpackages. Both vehicles were pretty decent (really decent for P.O.W.) ChevySuburbans. The island puts a real beating on vehicles, particularly tires. WhileI didn’t have a tire issue, the other cabin occupant did. You are expected todeal with flat tires yourself. The rigsare supplied with jacks, tire wrench and a spare tire. However, be sure toinspect the tires, lug nuts, tools, and jacks before venturing out. You will have to provide your own fuel andthere are several places on the island to fuel up.
Gooch’s cooking is top notch. You are provided breakfast anddinner for every day. He has a good selection of goodies for you to pack forlunches that you make yourself. We hadgreat meals every day. You will dine like a king on meals like rib eye steaks,fresh oysters, and prime rib. (All depends on the menu for that week).Breakfasts were hardy favorites like pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and ham andeggs. You will not go hungry at hisplace.
Our adventure started by flying from Anchorage to Ketchikan.Foul weather left us wondering if we were even going to get to K-Town since theprevious flight had been diverted to Seattle. Luckily we made it and settledinto our hotel room. The next day’s weather was so foul that the ferry fromP.O.W. couldn’t dock in Ketchikan. Itcame within 50’, but couldn’t maneuver into position to dock. It eventually hadto return to Hollis on P.O.W. We watchedthe whole thing from our hotel room. Afew frantic calls confirmed that there was going to be no ferry that day. Wespent a second day in our hotel room and caught the ferry to Hollis the nextday.
We were picked up in Hollis by Gooch. The drive to his placeis about 1 ½ hours along a newly paved highway to Coffman Cove. It was well into dark when we drove by Muskeg’splace and continued north to Coffman Cove. We spotted many does, but no bucks,in the headlights and we were excited about the coming day’s hunts. We arrived at Gooch’s place to meet hisfriends Marty and Squirrel and beagle Tank. We knew we were going to have a good time. After all, how could you nothave a good time with guys named Gooch, Squirrel, Marty and a dog named Tank?
Monday was recon day. Kait and I decided to get a good feelfor the area by putting on the miles in the Suburban and covering somecountry. After a couple long logging roads we stumbledacross a boardwalk trail into the woods. Kait wanted to walk it and who was Ito say no. We gathered the rifles, deer call, and shooting sticks and walked ina few hundred yards. I was pointing outthe deer sign along the trail and Kait wanted to blow on the call. The results were two does coming in within 10yards. They’d leave and Kait would call them back. I circled around to see if I could spot anybucks, but there were none to be found. We packed things up and headed back to the truck for lunch.
We headed north on the island to El Capitan Cave. A 12 yr old zeros right in on things likecaves on a map and once again I couldn’t say no. The deer hunting was forgotten and caveexploring leapt to the front of the line. Unknown to us, the climb to the ElCapitan cave was the longest staircase I had ever seen outside of a building.370 steps and a couple ramps later we were at the cave. We weren’t equipped forproper exploration, so we opted to just venture in a few yards. Pretty coolplace.
Once back in the truck Kait realized she had misplaced a setof Primos shooting sticks. After a fairly heated (my fault, I was tired)discussion she decided that they were most likely by a tree where she calledthe does earlier in the day. We backtracked twenty miles and hiked in. Therethey were, right where she left them. Karma decided to bite me in the butt(well, the foot) for yelling at my daughter. When I stepped down to pick themup something stabbed through the bottom of my boot, glancing off the ball of myfoot, and passing right between my big toe and second toe. I rolled my foot tosave it and promptly got stabbed through the ankle of the boot. A littlecussing and swearing later I dislodged myself. I sat down and took off my boot to inspect the damage. Nothing major, soI looked over to see what stabbed me. Down under the spruce needles was a nice4 point antler shed. We had a goodlaugh and returned to the cabin.
Tuesday dawned really dark and stormy. We hunted all day out of the Suburbancruising logging roads. A few breaks allowed us to hunt some muskeg, but it wasreally blowing. We decided to pack it in and head down to Craig and Klawock tobuy a couple personal items we’d forgotten. They have nice facilities in both towns. They have pretty much everything you need.
Wednesday was our lucky day. We picked a good road and gotsome good advice from some other hunters to look for likely bedding spots andcall to see if anything picks its head up. The first likely spot we pulled overand unloaded our gear. We walked over to the edge of an old yarder landing andlooked down below. I didn’t even have toblow the call as one was standing broadside about 60 yards out. Kait settled in kneeling over the sticks, butcouldn’t clear the brush. I stood her up and she just didn’t feel comfortableshooting down a steep hill. We switchedplaces and she spotted another deer at about 100 yards behind a tree. I ended up with a clean miss on that deerwith my daughter’s rifle. The first deer was still standing in the open so Ishot him instead. He was a little spike,but my daughter was elated. I respectedhere decision to pass on the shot and told her that I was proud of her. After alittle fist bump we packed up the gear and tried to figure a way down to himover all the logs and slash. It wasraining sideways a blowing big time. Acouple attempts at climbing over the logs resulted in a couple falls that hadme worried. We backed up and ended upgoing around almost ¼ mile to get tothat little deer 60 yards away. We guttedthe deer and decided that we probably could climb up the logs better than down.We made it about ½ way and it was miserable. Kait finally climbed up and threw down my 100’ rope I had in the pack.She hit me on her first try. After securing the deer she looped the rope aroundher waist and pulled. I heaved the deer over the logs as she towed away. In afew short minutes it was up and over the top. Not a single whimper out ofher. We headed back and hung the deer onGooch’s deer pole and called it a day. Too wet, too windy.
Thursday cleared and it got cold. On our drive up to our spot we spotted twobucks, a forky and a 3x3. I got out ofthe truck and pursued. With Kait blowingthe fawn bleat we got them to stop and turn. Unfortunately I had left the rifle in the truck the night before withthe scope caps closed on wet lenses. The result was total frost on the scopeand no way to shoot. I wasn’t willing totake a “down the barrel” shot even though they were only at 15 yards.Argghhh!!! Rookie mistake. The day was beautiful, though, so we spentthe time between glassing clear cuts taking photos. This is definitely God’s country. Attempts at hiking the muskegs werefruitless. With all the frozen water inthe moss it sounded like we were walking on popcorn. We drove a bunch that day and saw somebeautiful sights including all these swans in Eagle Creek off of Luck Lake.
Friday it snowed and it was miserable. In the morning the deer weren’t moving andKait, being only 12 wasn’t having much fun anymore. I dropped her off at Gooch’s at noon and shesettled into our cabin. I spent the rest of the afternoon searching for deer tono avail.
On Saturday we got up early and headed to the ferry. We sawtons of deer along the road, but still no bucks. We boarded the ferry for theride back to Ketchikan. I spoke with a dozen or so other hunters and none ofthem had shot a single deer. I felt pretty lucky to get my little spike. It andthe fork Gooch shot that week were the only two dead deer I saw on the trip.
Long discussions with Gooch and his friends made it prettyclear that we were a week early for the rut. No bucks came to the call, and wesaw zero bucks running with does. In fact, the four bucks we saw were in groupsof two. I think this week is going to behot for the folks down there. In all I know I saw at least 100 does on the trip and the four bucks. We saw no black bears at all. They are most likely denned up now.
I’m stillon the fence about whether or not I really like all the road hunting I had todo. It’s clearly the favorite method of the locals and most of the hunters Isaw. I chalked this trip up to a goodrecon trip with my child. I learned a ton about the island in my short time andlocated some really good areas to get into the alpine in the future when Kaitis older. I just wasn’t willing to attempt it on this trip due to the weatherand her inexperience. Those alpine areassure look good and I hope it will be the catalyst to encourage me to loseweight and get in shape to hunt them.
Our family doesn’t measure success of hunts based on theamount of meat in the freezer. We base it on the adventures we have, thefriends we make, and the fun we have. This was a really successful hunt. Thanks to Gooch, Marty, Squirrel and Bob. We had a great time and we’llbe back.