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Thread: Kodiak Family Deer Hunt - No Deer

  1. #1
    Member Birdstrike's Avatar
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    Default Kodiak Family Deer Hunt - No Deer

    After another successful caribou float hunt last year with my family I started thinking about hunt plans for this year. My goal was to plan a hunt that was different, but also give my youngest son a high chance of success harvesting his first big game animal. Deer hunting in AK seemed to be a perfect choice. I just needed to choose between SE, PWS, or Kodiak. We try to use our trips to explore a “new to us” part of Alaska so Kodiak it was. The only stipulation was when my wife told me “There is no freakin’ way I’m sleeping in a tent on Kodiak”. Lol That made planning easier…a cabin it was to be. There was no way I would win that argument.

    Plans started to form in the spring. I knew the winterkill would have a negative effect, but the initial 30% numbers I was hearing did not seem too bad since we were only after 2 deer. I juggled school schedules, vacation, a time period that would hopefully have less than horrible weather, cabin availability, and all of the other logistics that make a trip like this challenging. I booked one of the NWR public use cabins on the south end of the island, settled on using Alaska Air miles for 4 tickets after pricing out the ferry, and booked a Beaver through Andrews Airways. My wife loves history so we made sure we had extra time in Kodiak to check out the Baranov and the Alutiiq Museums along with the NWR Visitor Center. Plus, we just wanted to wander around and see the town. The Best Western provided a perfect location for exploring on foot.




    We gathered gear, purchased a couple of Pelican cases for the rifles and set about packing…… taking into consideration items that could not fly on Alaska Airlines and would need to be purchased in Kodiak (matches, white gas stove fuel, kerosene for the cabin heater, etc.). We also had to plan around the weight limit of the Beaver for 4 of us & gear and enough weight allowance on the way back to add a deer or two. I wished we’d had enough room to take a Zodiac and outboard with us, but there just wasn’t enough weight left without booking another expensive air taxi ride. We had to hunt on foot for this trip.



    Thanks to all that responded to an earlier post of mine with tips regarding things to do in town. We had a great time exploring and ended the night with a yummy dinner at the Old Powerhouse restaurant. Andrews picked us up the next afternoon, stopped for us to make last minute purchases and delivered us dockside. They provided the first class service they are known for. The guns were transferred to soft sided cases, last minute packing completed, gear & people weighed and we were off on a beautiful, though breezy day. The heavy takeoff from the limited shelter of Trident Basin into the wind and chop of the main harbor left all with a good dose of adrenalin but quickly gave way to a smooth and crystal clear flight direct to Deadman Bay. Forty-five minutes later we were on the beach, unloading gear, my wife looking for bears, and we settled in for 6 days of adventure.





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    My wife quickly decided that the last few groups in the cabin didn’t know how to operate a broom so she set out to quickly cleanup. The quick cleanup quickly evolved into more as she had us rolling up the carpet, moving couches, and searching under the cushions. We found all kinds of treasures left by previous groups. Lol She soon deemed the cabin safe to live in so we packed for a quick recon of the local area. The GMU regs for Kodiak allow for same day airborne deer hunting so the boys were ready. My youngest was carrying my Dad’s 1954 Winchester model 94 30-30 in hopes of carrying on the gun’s use for a third generation. My wife was carrying her 7mm-08 in case the boys needed to take a longer shot, my older son carried my 300 Win Mag and I carried a 12 ga with Breneke slugs in the unlikely event we ran into a bear with a bad attitude. We were a pretty well armed family unit! The temps at night had been dropping into the 20’s which was perfect for freezing any marshy ground and then the temps warmed into the 40’s during the day for comfortable hunting. The weather stayed that way the entire time we were there with little to no wind. We returned that evening without seeing any deer or much sign close to the cabin. Rick Metzger of Alpine Cove cabins stopped by in his boat and chatted with us. He’s a fantastic guy and if I go back to that area again I will definitely look into using his cabins and transporter services. He warned us about a sow & cub that would likely be south of the cabin.




    We set off the next day with a plan to hunt south of the cabin towards an area that promised on the topo map to provide good glassing opportunities. I had Rick’s warning about the sow in the back of my mind as we were hiking/hunting that way. Sure enough, about an hour later I heard my wife say “BEAR!” and then “Oh great! It’s a sow with a cub!” She was about 400 yds. away and moving towards us down an open, narrow valley with a series of frozen ponds in the middle. We yelled at her and tried to convince her that we’d appreciate it if she and her cub went down the other side of our now shared valley. She stopped, looked at us, and maybe not trusting her eyes started to rapidly close the gap in an attempt to figure out what we were. The wind was thankfully blowing toward the bears. Once the sow caught our scent trail she made a 180 with the cub and high tailed it back the way she came. We all came to a quick consensus that our hunt plan for the day had just changed and we weren’t going to continue in the original direction toward where the bears just ran. My youngest mentioned that he had homework back at the cabin he needed to do. Haha

    Having a resident sow and cub effectively blocking that trail proved unfortunate for the rest of the trip because I really wanted to hunt that area. However, without a much longer hike on the beach if the tides allowed, or a boat to reach that area, I wasn’t going to risk my family and a close encounter with an unhappy sow. We hunted and explored the rest of the day.




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    The next day we decided to climb part way up the mountain ridge behind the cabin to try to gain high ground. I had been tempted to pick up a RG480 goat tag, but decided as a family we weren’t equipped or prepared for a late season goat hunt. I remembered stid2677’s hunt report that detailed a broken leg and a heli rescue after a fall. I planned conservatively and decided if there were goats we’d just take pics. As we climbed the ridge I spotted three hunters farther up. They raced along just below the high ridgeline and soon shots were fired. They turned out to be assistant guides from the bear camp across the bay and were enjoying some personal hunting before the clients arrived. We enjoyed lunch and then decided to bushwhack straight down to the beach. I’d read reports of Kodiak’s nasty plantlife, but until you experience it just doesn’t sink in. The grass, alders, and whatever that awful, thorny plant is made for an epic trip downhill. Most of the grass was equal or over my wife and kids’ heads. I knew this would be an issue prior to the snow laying the grass down but it made hunting tough. Deer could be 20 feet away in that stuff and you’d never see them.






    We all toughed it out with barely a complaint, recovered on the beach, picked grass, branches, and leaves from each other and examined our wounds bragging about who had lost more blood to the thorns. Lol The master guide from across the bay was out scouting from his boat while waiting to pick up his guys who’d been chasing goats and motored over to us. We chatted with him about the deer hunting and he was beginning to think it was similar to the die-off in 1999. We still had a few days left and were still hopeful, but we’d not been seeing much sign….let alone deer. We had a seal follow along for a mile as we walked the beach back to the cabin which provided for some entertainment.



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    We continued to have a great trip hunting each morning and evening in different directions from the cabin. In 6 days we never saw a single deer. We saw humpback whales in the bay every day, a few bears, goats up high, eagles, one quick glance at a fox, and enjoyed fantastic weather even by Kodiak standards. While napping on the couch one afternoon the State Troopers knocked on the door. After my initial shock of having someone knock on the door we had a good chat. They were on a 2 week patrol around Kodiak and the neighboring islands and checking on whomever they ran into. They told us of a boat in another bay that had limited out on deer for their load of non-resident hunters.





    From the reports I have heard and hunters I have talked to it really depends on where you are as to whether you’ll find deer. Having a boat would have added more mobility and probably would have increased our odds of hunting success. However, being out of space in the plane would have forced us to pay for another flight which just wasn’t in the budget for this trip.




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    Next time I go back I’ll definitely look at some the other lodging options that also provide transporter services. The NWR cabin was great and the logbook provided entertaining reading. The location was super but I think the deer got hit hard this last winter and spring. While talking to Andrews’ shuttle driver on the way back to the hotel he told us of a trip that a buddy and he made to a local roadside bay earlier in the spring. He’d been shocked at the deer dead on the beach or washing out to sea. Hopefully the population rebounds quickly. I’ll be back to Kodiak again sometime. The Rock is an incredible place!

    The kids decided that if they couldn't shoot a deer that they'd just build one from parts they found.



    Even as remote as we were they couldn't escape homework.



    The bears had decided to modify the ventilation on the meat chache.


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    Lessons learned:

    Some type of boat will increase the odds of hunting success and add options for fishing away from the bears.

    Bring a tide table. Fortunately, the previous group left a printed copy of the month’s tides on the cabin door so we could plan walking the beach to/from the day’s hunting area and avoid struggling through head high grass and brush.

    Go prepared for goats physically, mentally, and with the proper equipment to do it safely.

    Bring as much stove oil as you can carry, afford ($73per 5 gal. can), and more than the NWR website recommends. Count on the fuel barrel at the cabin being empty and burning 2-3 gals a day at a large cabin like Deadman’s. More if it’s cold or you are holed up in the cabin due to weather. We had 10 gals and left maybe 2-3 in the barrel.

  7. #7
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    Great pics......sorry for the shutout. I sure hope to get down there someday.....
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Birdstrike. Great story. Sorry you didn't have any luck. Deer populations on Kodiak are certainly out of anyone's control. Good on you though for bringing the family along with you. You are raising up the next generation of hunters. I am hoping to get my boys out there very soon.

  9. #9
    Member Roland on the River's Avatar
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    I have to say you will still have great family memories. The pictures taken are simply awesome. I remember the crash of '99 so I know what's being refered to. At least you got out of town and showed the family another part of Alaska.

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    Sounds to me like you had great luck....A chance to spend some quality time with your family in one of the most beautiful places in Alaska....the rest...thats just secondary and adds to the first....

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    Great time in the outdoors with the family = a successful trip in my mind.
    An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.
    - Jef Mallett

  12. #12
    Member Roland on the River's Avatar
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    I just returned from spending a nice evening watching a slide presentation of Antartica. the fellow worked there for 6 months. I got to chat with an old friend who just returned from UGAK bay, Kodiak. He accompanied a friend who had a Bear permit. Sad news, no Deer and very little sign. Most folks are saying loss is more like 75% plus. We didn't talk much about the Bears but he didn't get one.

  13. #13

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    Looks like a great trip indeed with the family. And you had some good weather at times in a gorgeous setting. Hard to go wrong there no matter how many animals you guys brought home. Thanks for sharing the pics.

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    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear you guys didn't have any luck with the deer but it sure looks like the weather held out for you all and you still managed to have a great family trip!

  15. #15
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    The Kodiak NWR Visitor Center is a must visit if your're there.



    Andrews loads your gear into a box, weighs it, and then transports it planeside.



    Frontdoor service


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    Member AK Troutbum's Avatar
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    I think the winter kill on Kodiak was very area specific. We hunted two different places on the island this year and found no deer and very little sign in one area, then saw a fair number of deer in another. I found a herd of 25+ deer in one area, and smaller pockets of deer in the surrounding areas. I think these pictures show 6 deer or so in the frame. I do have may other pictures that have no deer in them, but I think everyone knows what that looks like.

    P1010213.jpgP1010212.jpg

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    Great family time. Thanks for the photos and report.

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