SE Sitka Blacktail hunt story
Maybe I can weave a tale here entertaining enough to enjoy reading without pictures I took this trip into the Tongass Forest in search of a trophy Sitka Blacktail last week, Sept. 2009.
I've had a successful season thusfar and my freezer is stocked. So I decided to head solo on a two day mountain assault into a mid elevation bench about five miles into the island for deer. This area last year was productive and yet not. In Oct. I shot a nice big buck laying in his bed. In Nov. I crested the climb onto a bench to find a trophy size buck staring me down at a great distance. I laid down and sent a few down range with a friend spotting for me. Of course the soft Muskeg doesn't reveal shot location when your off target at all. So we watched said buck wander into the higher deep timber never to be seen again. We of course followed protocol and inspected the snow and Muskeg extensivly and didn't find any reason to believe that buck was hit. I was a man determined to find that buck and it's haunted me since. Determined to reconnect on that buck I wandered into that country again this year. This time I really dialed in my 25-06 with a blazing hot and accurate 120g Nosler Partion dialed in for 200 yrds.
So last week I motored with my skiff into a local bay, anchored and kayaked with my pack to shore. Since there are lots of bears on the beach currently I tied up the kayak to prevent curious and toothy bears from playing with my boat. The rains were moderate so I wore some raingear with a light undergarment. I have a live Brown bear tag too so the going was very interesting on this hunt. I actually traveled very quiet not fearing an encounter and almost inviting it. When I don't have that tag I hate the prospect of encountering a bear and having it charge leaving me in a DLP situation. So I moved peacefully into the backcountry with strong legs after an active fall of goat and sheep hunting. The low bush blueberries and bog cranberries made for great snacks. The recent rains had filled every wrinkle of land. On my approach I encountered a doe with fawn resting in a grassy section and took that opportunity to rest and watch in hopes of finding more deer lingering there. It wasn't to happen. I got cold and disturbed them to keep moving forward. When I got to about the 1,000 ft. level the clouds were clinging to the mountain in a willy nilly fashion being pushed about by the prevailing SE wind. Occasionaly the rains would thicken. Sometimes the clouds would clear revealing hillside and rainbow. It was very animated weather. At one point the clouds burst heavy and I hunkered down underneath one of the great Sitka Spruce of the Tongass. When I got back to town people were talking about that cloud burst saying it looked like it was snowing the rain was so heavy. The rains subsided and I was close to the area I knew held good deer numbers. It seems like deer will hold in an area just above a rough and steep obstical. My mantra when deer hunting is "Go where nobody in there right mind would". So up the cliffy, slick mountainside I climbed. I've found Sitka bucks in stuff you'd find mt. goats in. Well true to this area I crested this steep section and was on the bench looking over some great habitat. I was standing exactly in the spot where I missed that buck last year. Upon a moment of reflection and observation, BAM, there in the spot, the very exact spot was a buck. Redemption, almost. I put up my binos to reveal a forked horn. He was obviously mature and very healty but typically small horned but not "The Buck". With the situation at hand and a chance at righting my error of the previous fall I set about putting the hammer down. This time I didn't rush things and used my head. I guessed a good 20mph left to right blow with an estimated distance of 300 yrds. I suspected my bullet to drop about 12" and wind drift about 6". I was prone with a solid rest on a tussock like rise in the terrain. I put my crosshair just forward of the sholder area and level with his neck and sent the heat. It humped him and he ran downhill quick and out of sight. Like a bow hunter I gave him a long rest just incase I wounded him and he wanted to bed. I dug into my pack for a snack, enjoyed the view, and sat stupified at the repeat coincidence. I wandered up the hill and started the process of tracking. I wandered about in a zig zag pattern for sometime around the trees I had marked as the shot location. It was raining and the tracking wasn't going so well. I stayed very determined to find even just a hair and utilize tracks only if need be. After canvasing the hillside for about 15 minutes I found him laying dead not 20 yrds from point of impact. I backtracked from the animal just to see what his blood trail looked like after 30 minutes of light rain. It was obvious still. I had just overlooked it.
The buck wasn't a huge racked animal. He wasn't even an old buck. He was most healthy and beautiful. His body was thick with fat and his winter coat was starting to shine. The Sitka Blacktail is the perfect backpackers deer.
The shot was true.....right through the heart and lungs just back of the legs. Redemption and trophy enough for that day.
Just as I finished the field chores the rains really started steady and heavy. I made for an elevated rise so to be ensured good drainage and laid out my trusty Mt. Hardwear tent. The buck was quartered and sealed tight in a dry bag. I put it in a cold bath for the night and hit the sack. The rains pummelled the tent so heavy I wanted ear plugs. The next morning they let up and I travelled around that deer bench for three hours just analyzing the habitat and making future plans for access and hunting. So I came away with a great fat buck and some good recon.
The hike out was uneventful and typically strenous. I always keep a thermos of hot coffee and clean clothes on the boat, got changed and motored home.
Last night my girls enjoyed a fat rack of deer ribs slowly cooked and Hickory smoked with a side of tenderloins. We are very thankful to be Alaskans and enjoying what the wilderness has to offer. Maybe next time I'll get that big Orange rack. I hope you enjoyed my hunt story, sorry no photos.
It was all easy enough to see. Always nice to have a half dozen or so types of meat to keep meals intresting.Congrats
Great story as usual .... Bighorse
Ok since you've been nice.....I'll add some photos.
These benches at the 1,500' level can be deer heaven.
I have been blessed in my travels of our state to hunt in southeast some. I appreciate the story and wish I had been there. Ever try above the falls at blue lake? I got a good story about a trip there one year maybe I should write it down and share. Thanks again for the sharing
I got my bucks last weekend in the same weather system. It was brutal on Saturday around here...every depression in the side of the mountain turned into a mini creek. Nice buck and nice shot too!
Looks like he fit on your pack just right
No....I've never hunted the back of Blue Lake. I have kayaked up the lake and hunted the first drainage to the left durring the winter.
I'm heading up today for three days with a friend and we'll try and get him a goat and I'll be after that big buck again. I've cached my tent, stove, optics, and headlamp on the hill and well travel light and fast today for the alpine. Hopefully it will clear a little tommorrow.
Man it's gonna be WET!
I sprained my ankle real bad in july and dont know if ill ever get it strong enuff agian to make trips like that. Its like a rubics cube held together by rubber bands now. Really sucks I know im missing out. Its a lot more fun and gratifying to hunt like your doing than to beach hunt after the snow. Even if you dont get an animal. Its kind of like soul searching/hunting. And the meat always tastes better the harder you work for it.
I just got back from a three day alpine excursion. My friend was after a goat and I a nice buck. Rather than start a new thread, I'll just post it here. It was a rainy and windy mountain excursion with little glimpses of visablitity. We managed to climb right on top of a goat, like within 20 yrds. When it stood up I was fairly sure it was a Billy but my partner wasn't steady yet and wasn't sure. So it walked away from us in the clouds. It was a very fun way to hunt goat. Disappointing.....but fun.
So with some visablity I started hunting deer on a rock outcropping that has historically held bucks. True to form there were three in there. To hunt it you approach from above on a step cliff type structure and are shooting at a very severe downhill angle. I laid out the 300 H&H for this one shooting 200g Noslers and bang-flop he was down. The other buck didn't know what to do and just sat there not know where I was or what was up with his partner. My friend came down the hill with just enough time to watch the other buck leave and tried to steady himself for a good shot but didn't have enough time. So down the cliff we progressed. It was hair raising. At one point I shed my pack to scout the cliff for an acceptable acess route and my pack rolled off the cliff and had a good second or more of free fall. My spotter took a good ding from that fall. Well we managed to get down there after a few toe nail and finger tip moments. He is a good example of what a fully matured Baranof island buck should look like. The one last week was young still and not nearly as stout as this bad boy. His antler configuration was a 2x3, at least that what we call it because we don't count eye gaurds. His body structure was full and massive by Sitka Blacktail standards. So we field dressed him very completly and left an offering to the circling Ravens. The hump back to camp was interesting with a storm rolling in and darkness quickly approaching we rolled into our high camp and dunked the meat dry bag in an alpine creek and laid into the chow. The next morning we slept in a bit and waited out the rain. Our packs were water logged and heavy with a big buck and camp. The hike to the beach took us six hours with many frequent and enjoyable breaks. Just being out in the wilderness with a friend is cool. Having some steaks for home is icing on the cake.
Sounds like you've had a great season so far Bighorse, congrats to you my friend!!
I hear a certain someone is coming down there for a try at one of those island goats, hope you get into them heavy.
Nice Buck. I generally found them (mature Bucks) on the benches just above rim rock when I was living in southeast. I think they use it as a vantage point for their own protection and seemed I usually had to be above them to see them. Funny to be out hunting goat and see the nicest deer in the same areas. It is kind of a bonus but they make you appreciate them by giving a memorable work out as part of the package. Sure miss livng and hunting down that way, you lucky dog.
Thanks for posting
I enjoyed the story, thanks for sharing!
25-06 and bears?
Not sure I'd want to meet one of those bruins with a 25-06! I've had encounters with them down there when the 300 winny I was packing felt small!
Thanks for the great hunting post this fall I have immensely enjoyed reading them. Didn't realize blacktails grew bodies that large, that last one looks huge compared to most.
Great story...makes me miss living on Admiralty Island and hunting those big blacktails up in the mountains.
Ya....the 25-06 is small and I'd never pull it out for a Brown Bear hunt. Although I've had it out for black bear.
I can shoot it and I don't believe there is a Brown Bear behind every tree down where I'm hunting in the alpine. Now when I had to run up the river bottoms to access a hill I carried my 300 H&H. If I had the money I'd step up to the 375 for those trips honestly. I'm putting that on the back burner for a bit and helping my wife through nursing school.
Sometimes a guy just has to make due with what he's got. I do handload and use premium bullets and load em hot.
I guess if that "have to" moment occurs my experience and skill set hopefully are enough to perform. Pray that day never arrives. A DLP situation is one of those things I'd like to avoid.
This thread is about alpine hunting Blacktail. I've carried that 25-06 dozens of times in the hills for goats and deer. I've never been threatened by a bear with it in my hands. My wife took a 9.5 yr old billie this year with a single shot from it. Those blazing fast little rounds are destructive.
I know I won't always be able to high ridge the mountains. For all you not running the ridges.....I think of ya and appreciate where I'm at. I also think about the up and comming younger generations and hope that the game will be there for them. For me, now, It's time to grease up my boots. In another decade I'll post threads about fly-in float hunts.
Thanks for all the positive comments. I've enjoyed a great season and It's been a pleasure sharing some of it with you.
I'm local here to Sitka and have been reading your stories. Have you ever been back to Indigo lake behind medevejie lake?
No but have heard of some good adventures back in that area. This island has alot of special places. You'll find, with time, that we hold our favorite hunting locations a secret. Mostly because it takes so much extra time to really learn the particulars these heavily forested hils, valleys, and ridges.
If it strikes your fancy....go on in there. Worst case sinario you'll enjoy walking in one of the most scenic valleys on the island. The rock structure in there is really special. There are goats to be had in there too. Mt Bassie has a good population....So does Bear Mt.
Nice work! I am on the opposite side of the island, at Hidden Falls. I got a buck a couple of weeks back, shot it at 2500 feet. It was pretty cool being way up there and seeing them roam around.