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Thread: Windy Weather Blacktails

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    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    Default Windy Weather Blacktails

    Long Story of a Blacktail Stalk on Kodiak Island, Best Pics at the End, Promise

    Ok, so “I’m trying to go to work, Out West, Way out west, to Sanak Island for the Sablefish,” but it’s Early August, still Summer right, weather delays could happen, probably not tho?

    I throw off the lines in Kodiak, all geared up, for a 44 hour run to Sand Point, I’ve got Flat Calm traveling to start. Also have a good enough forecast for the first twelve hours to make it down one of the most notoriously rough bodies of water in the North Pacific, the Shelikof Strait, and I figure, “No problem if I can’t go further, I’d love to get a chance to scout some more down on the western end of the island for those near mythical Reindeer. Would love to find those guys. Not a bad place to get weathered in, if I have to anyway.

    So sure enough, the weather is going SW25 by the time I am ready to cross over the Shelikof to run down the Mainland side. That’s wind right in the face for me, probably 6-8ft seas for the next 20hrs, doable but not fun, so I pull in to a nice protected bay to wait for morning forecast. After a good nights rest, the 4am weathermen are calling for 30kt winds. Yeah, I’m goin’ huntin’

    Splash the Mad River Canoe, and load my pack for day hunting. Amazing how much stuff gets stuck in there when you are on the very end of the wildlife refuge, not a soul in sight, the Salmon Seine fleet, long gone this late in summer, in fact I didn’t see a soul for the four days I ended up down there. One Major Large Tugboat slowed down at the mouth of the bay to work on his tow rigging for an hour, then continued on. Not a float plane overhead, nothing.

    So handheld VHF, space blanket, firestarter, the list goes on for Solo hunting with only the Coast Guard monitoring the airwaves to keep you company. Fair bit of Security in that, those folks are awesome, but it’s my responsibility to not need them, I go prepared.
    It could be considered lonely out here, but I’m in my element, classic Western Kodiak, Spooky Wild and Windy Quiet, and looks like Reindeer country to me


    So, with the big boat securely anchored, some twenty pounds of survival gear in my hunting pack sitting in the bow of the canoe, Excellent lifejacket on, I launch toward shore in protected waters, the wind whipping pretty good overhead.
    I bring the spotting scope along but it is raining so off and on, so much water in the air I can hardly put it to use at all. On the beach, I notice a pretty nice looking Blacktail Buck with my binoculars, way up high at the top of a draw, obviously thinking “Security is Altitude.” As I have three Deer tags to fill this year, this is interesting enough to take another look at, I’m headed up that way to get a longer range look at Reindeer country anyway. Trying to discipline myself, “Don’t shoot just any Buck, that’ll be too much meat if you find the Reindeer later.” But the more I look He is nice enough to begin a stalk on.

    Feeling really exposed to his eyes as I cross the bottom of the valley, I do it quickly hoping he will forget about me in his false security up there. There’s no other way, and I am going to have to stalk up the west side of the draw into the wind potentially leaving myself in an upwind position. The winds are swirling to some degree and I know they could gust up that draw and blow the stalk at any time but also that a strong 30 knot wind may keep my scent blowing right over this guy if he stays hunkering down in the lee of the ridge I’m hoping to sneak up.

    About halfway across the valley below I take a break to glass again and see a buck in a different location, no others visible, it doesn’t look like the same one, maybe a forkhorn? I thought through the mist covered glass that I had seen a fuller rack on the first Deer I spotted. They’re about 800 feet above me maybe less, but the wind and rain are pounding down now so everything is a bit foggy.

    As I continue on, my movement is spotted, a wise old Doe stands up a long ways away, up wind, across the valley and watches me, not moving, but certainly keeping me in her sight all the way.

    As I get behind the ridge as cover from the draw, I take off hard and fast. Not confident the wind will stay predictable, and concerned that the Buck I saw originally was feeding toward the west and might top out on the ridge I am using as cover as he feeds over into the next drainage. It might be only minutes til he moves that far, “I’ve got to get up above him or very near where he’ll cross over as fast as I can.

    It’s classic Kodiak, looked pretty tame from the anchorage, but is now rolling ground, soaking wet, interspersed chest high grass with serious tanglefoot Alders and whatever else that stuff is. Works you over hard though, takes my “get up there quick” plan and stuffs it back down my heaving lungs. So I get a little wiser, “remember he needs time to forget you,” if he did in fact spot me crossing the lower valley. If he crosses over the ridge and spots me, “I’m Reindeer scouting anyway, right, Slow down and arrive with wind in your lungs and able to take a good shot if you get to.”

    Of course I’ve got the spirit of the stalk going pretty good by now, but it does work to some extent slowing down I mean, and I take a few breaks to catch my breath again. About two thirds of the way up I have a planned spot to approach the draw behind a rock outcropping, take a look. Half expecting the buck to be gone, I creep up and peek over the rocks into the draw, “There he is, 150 yds away, but it’s a younger Deer, barely forked. “this can’t be the Buck I saw from below, I’m not taking him, have plenty of time to take my Deer this year. Not hunting for just any Deer right now, be picky, that is hard to do though.

    I pull back behind after watching him for a while, he’s not winding me at all, he’s positioned a little above me in the draw but as I ascend the wind is barely taking my scent away anymore but really close to sweeping it down into the draw. I do notice one thing, so far I’ve only seen one Deer at a time but this one had to be a different one than my first spotting, and he seemed to be looking up the draw, out of my view, almost like he was watching another deer feeding, keeping an eye on him/her for security. This younger Buck was not looking around for himself like he should have been. Maybe there is another Bigger Buck up there, he’s trusting to show him how it’s done?

    I head up scouting another rocky area that I can approach the top of the draw from and head there, almost fever pitch “On the Hunt” now. Having a really tough time keeping an eye on both, the undergrowth still trying to whip me on the serious steeps now, as well as watching for this larger Buck to cross over the ridge above me at any moment. If he does I’ll have to see him first, could be in position for a shot now, I’m almost there, but he probably won’t cross that ridge top foolishly.
    If I’m moving when he does I’ll never see any of them again. Never even know what happened, the draw will be empty.

    After fighting my way up further, I’m in the area I want to look back into the draw, very near the top with great cover for my approach, I am half expecting this Deer has either winded me or seen me, they’ll be gone for sure, still I’ve got a good stalk going here, gotta finish it out with care.

    I take a breather behind the rocks I’m going to use as cover. Having totally jammed up here it takes a few minutes to slow my heart rate, I decide to shed my pack, just me and my rifle, Binos, and Rangefinder, safety on, scope covers still on, it’s too wet out here for that. The only piece of Camo gear I have is my tan hat, the rest is Full Offshore Working Raingear taking on Kodiak doing it’s best, but the hat is all I need. I slowly ease on my belly the remaining 10ft to just top out over the rock, only my rock colored, weathered hat appearing before my eyes, and look down into the draw,

    "He’s right there," along with three other Bucks, a quick scan determines there is a much older one, He’s the one with his head up, the other three are either bedded or grazing on grass, trusting the older guy, yet his head is up and he’s facing me directly. Looking uphill, a little to my right, strangely enough, danger from above? He’s clearly considering it, I don’t think he’s winded me but looks like he knows he’s being watched. You know that feeling, we once had developed like his maybe? He’s on some level of alert, the others don’t notice, Stage one, “somethings up” maybe.

    I pull back down and quickly grab the range finder, back up slowly, 122yards, that’s a kill range for sure, even with this wind, his rack looks nice three points, fully velveted, looks wide, Heck his body looks like a small cow. That’s a harvest animal, there. I slide back down, slip the scope cover off, using my hat as a rest on the rock I slowly slide my Island Rifle, a Stainless Synthetic Sako 85 .270wsm up over the rock and slide up to peer through the Zeiss Conquest 2.5-8x scope. Beautiful view, he fills the scope, as once he is centered, I crank the power to max. It’s stopped raining now, still blowing pretty good, I’m sure he is almost down wind of me now and am waiting for the fateful swirl of wind taking my sweaty fragrance across his fine tune senses.

    Doesn’t happen, as he is facing me head on, I don’t feel I can wait for him to turn broadside, I center at the base of his throat, it looks big from here, That is one beautiful animal, standing sniffing the wind, still looking uphill of my position by twenty yards or so, “he ain’t no Fool, but he’s been fooled this once.” I never notice the squeeze, this is a deliberate move not a surprise. “Take Him, in front, right where you want it, dead center on his chest, right now.”

    The rifle releases it’s power and through the recoil I see his head go down as the crack/boom fills the draw. We all look up, peripherally I notice all the other Bucks heads go up, my targets head is down a little, but there’s no jump, no flinch, I absolutely know that bullet flew right where I wanted it but can’t tell by his reaction, except for that head drop.

    I’m caught hesitating a bit to reload, overconfident(?) or maybe not, maybe just knowing it’s over. I begin to think, I’m going to need to hit him again as he begins to turn to the right slowly taking two steps as I hurriedly work the bolt and begin to bring him back into the crosshairs, then he just goes over into the brush, completely.

    "Blacktail Buck on the Grass", courtesy of Sako, and Nosler, 150gr Ballistic Silvertip, flying on 60grains of H4831sc powder, and I guess I’ll take a little………well,
    better just “Thank God” for all those other factors without which, I’d be running down there with a club.


    The other Bucks are so surprised by the lack of alarm, they just stand there, “What just happened, Hey where’s Joe!?!” Seriously, he went down that cleanly. I could clearly have taken a nice forkhorn as well. I stand up after finding my brass in the alpine tundra, memorizing the spot he went down, as he is totally out of view in the low Alder now.

    And begin walking down into the draw in full view, stalk mode is over, soaring on the efficiency of that kill, and already thinking, “Get To Work Now,” this country has some of the highest density of Coastal Brown Bears on all of Kodiak Island. The sound of that shot traveled a long ways, the race may be on, no time for messing around.

    Approaching the Deer, the others bounding up over into the next valley, wishing them a “Learn Boys Learn, and grow old, make lots of babies!” on their way. I quickly find this guy and he immediately looks Huge. I think they always look that way at that point right?


    Pull out my camera, “Here I am messing around,” for twenty some years I never even brought a camera hunting, never even thought about it. Now I always feel like an idiot taking time to photograph an animal when that meat needs to get cooling right now, and Bear country to boot. But I also realize how much I’ve missed without photos to tell stories of past hunts, “It’s worth it, but get it done, quick now.”

    I take two photos of this fine Buck laying on the hillside by himself, then setup the little tripod and look down to see, “Replace battery pack” on the screen. “Awwww Man, I can’t believe that… Well, It’s raining again anyway, get to work.”

    Just before heading out on the Drag mode, I figure it’s all downhill and don’t feel especially confident on the Bear Factor to start boning out meat right now. I check the camera again after being turned off for a while as I dressed him out, Hey, it fires right up!! The old battery rest trick. I quickly fire off as many as I can before I start to feel foolish again.


    The harvest is over but as you all know the fun is beginning, hang with me, lots more pics coming...
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

  2. #2
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    Default More Excitement on the Anchor


    As I Field Dress the animal, doing a quick postmortem I can barely find the entrance hole, no major damage, no blood to be seen, clearly no exit wound.

    Wow, I think what killed this deer? Parting hair directly where I had aimed I find a .277” dia hole. Nice Hit, and then investigating inside find the heart muscle totally shredded by fragments of the Ballistic SilverTip Bullet, not sure what to think of that, (still looking for comments on the thread started for opinions on that issue “Ballistic Silvertip Shreds Heart Muscle” (any bullet choice opinions out there?)


    I do a total jam down the draw and across the flats to the beach. Stumbling, getting overrun by the Deer on the steeps, literally rolling together with this Deer through Alder thickets, but I get it done quickly.

    And here at the easy part, in the wide open again I feel I can relax. Yahoo, another fine animal in my new Mad River 14 shore recon rig.


    And approaching the boat, such a nice place to hunt from, especially in Bear Country,

    I’ll have fresh espresso ground up in a few minutes, Cold cream on top, and completely fresh, dry clothes on to do the skinning/quartering, have him hanging at 38F over ice in the hold in an hour, and sleeping soundly with the stove silently drying out the rest of my soaked gear.

    Good day on Kodiak, but It continued to blow for four days !!


    I figured this might be entertaining, “what does a Solo Black Cod Longliner do for kicks when there’s, “nobody to talk to about nothing,” but start thinking,

    maybe too much…. “Hmmm, there’s that little bit of vibration back around the prop, had that “mistake day” learning how to Subsistence Gillnet this summer, maybe there’s some web still in the prop? This minus tide and flat sand bottom in here is pretty tempting…...

    I know, “I’ll let her go dry,” it should lay over pretty nice, and I can check it all out in the morning.”


    So yeah, it does lay over onto the hard chine pretty well, and I did find a little scrap of Gillnet web in the wheel, and “Wha La, no more vibration when running,” but…….that was not a relaxing morning.

    It all floated back up just fine, but I’m not very at ease looking at that for FIVE HOURS, can’t stand to sit on board with that list (tho I did get a coffee made somehow, once) I had to sit on the beach in the pouring rain with the canoe, imagining,

    what if the sand keeps giving way and if that baby just rolls on over, and doesn’t come back up but fills with the incoming tide, how I would explain that to the Coast Guard as I either mayday them with my handheld VHF(might work?) or try canoeing all the way to Karluk, like a LONG ways away,


    It all worked amazingly as planned, I even scrubbed the waterline of the hull while waiting, but as for the “Poor Boy” shipyards idea, I won’t be doing that again, TOO STRESSFUL
    Ok, back to the Outdoor Forums Addicts interested in Blacktail Deer, Check this out.
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

  3. #3
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    Default Bucks Lookin' Healthy on the South End of Kodiak

    Still weathered in the next day, one day in the middle it blew and rained so hard all my windows were fogged, read books, watched a DVD, waited.


    Had an interesting thing happen the morning after the hunt, as I spotted a Brown Bear making time across the valley, out for a stroll and headed right for the trail of my Deer dragging of the day before.
    I can clearly watch it all through my binocs from the wheelhouse as he approaches the Drag trail, stops about ten ft away, then heads right up the trail. Not down toward the beach, didn’t even seem to consider it, that Bear went up, and then up some more, figured it would be fun to see what he did with the gut pile so I stayed on it.


    Kodiak Bears are Very Cool to watch undisturbed, (mild understatement there !)

    Then strangely enough about 600ft of determined climbing later, he just turned to the west and left the trail to walk out of view. Several hundred ft away, just lost interest? Full of Salmon these days and didn’t need to work that hard? Doubt it was work for him but I’m pretty sure he left not to return. Hmmm ???


    Then day four, I work my way to shore in a good chop for the canoe, and up the hillside having seen more Deer, maybe another big Buck, from the boat, still trying to glass Reindeer with no success, but more stalking for fun, and “Only if it’s just a wall hanger…” disciplined thinking, right?


    I have seen two Deer that look nice from a ways out, So tear off up that first several hundred feet of pure misery thick brush, and up into the thinner rocky stuff.

    Long story short, half a day of climbing and slitherin’ I am right underneath another rocky outcropping on top of a wind blasted ridge, that I think may have deer standing behind it, maybe they’re Gone with My Wind?


    I slowly peek over the top leaving my rifle on the ground with my pack, just the Binos to get a view and “Whoa, we all are thinking, apparently in unison, right there, less than five yards in front, and almost all boys of various ages.


    I slowly pulled out my camera and started shooting, some of them look a bit out of focus, not sure as I couldn’t do any adjusting of exposure, had to just shoot what I could as I expected them to bolt at any moment. I think it may be the level of moisture, whether Clouds we were enveloped in or Misty Rain sweeping through that makes them a bit fuzzy, thought you’d enjoy the shots anyway,


    At one point I’m remembering the quote from the ‘We were Soldiers Once and Young,’ movie, “Gentlemen, prepare to defend yourselves!” might be a fitting warning from this guy concerning his little brother and whoever I thought I was.



    I pulled off the discipline, left them alone to grow older as I really like to stretch my tags into the fall for other exciting days sitting on the anchor.




    These boys needed some education so,
    I pulled out my “fawn in distress” call, and man, things got weird for a while!

    Though, I didn’t get romped on, a Doe jumped up from the other side of a five ft dia. rock I was behind, totally freaking, this was her baby and she got into being a Mama real quick. Felt like apologizing to her actually, for the harsh awakening.

    The rest of them moved off and I just stayed up there on top of Kodiak for a while, in Buck Country, I kept my chamber shell in my pocket.


    Saw a total of 22 Deer within range that day. They got a little smarter, I had a great time. And hearing a “Variable 10 knot winds,” forecast a day later, cruised into Chignik, then Sand Point on Glassy Calm seas.


    Of course, now, it has been four days here, In Sand Point, I’m sitting on an upside down deck bucket in the Fishermans shower room surrounded by cigarette butts on the floor, “this is the best wireless connection in town.”

    AOD Forum Hooked, and when I ponied up some money, for all this fun, they called me premium(?) if whoever did that, could see me now……
    Riding it out, Blowin SW40 today. Awwww, I Love Alaska
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

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    Amazing story and great photos, Thank you!

  5. #5
    Member kodiakrain's Avatar
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    Default Couple more pics

    Couple more Pics for fun... since I got 'em, eh?






    Oh, by the way, Blacktail Venison in August.......???

    I've never tasted any wild game like it, ever. amazing,

    also that guy had more fat on him than I've ever seen on a Kodiak Deer, good news for the future of Kodiak Deer Hunting.

    For those curious, I left the entrails in the field, but weighed the rest on the boat. Figuring the stomach probably weighed twenty five lbs, full of grass, entrails could have been thirty total? As for the rest of the animal, the entire weight less entrails was 192lbs.
    Didn't get the boned out weight, had to get into those backstraps before long, probably around 60-65lbs?

    Ok, hope that was fun to read, tried to space it out some for the long haul.
    Ten Hours in that little raft off the AK peninsula, blowin' NW 60, in November.... "the Power of Life and Death is in the Tongue," and Yes, God is Good !

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    Member rimfirematt's Avatar
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    Default

    I really liked the write up and pictures. Thanks for taking the time.

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    Member CGSwimmer25's Avatar
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    Man, great story, pictures and hunt. That August buck meat is the best meat I have ever tasted, they just sit up on top getting fat off that sweet green grass. Good luck on getting into a group of reindeer down there, I hear they are pretty elusive, post some pictures if you get one!!

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    Member Mountain Man Jack's Avatar
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    Looks like a great time KR! Thanks for the post, I found your writing very enjoyable. Definitely got the juices flowin. I'm headed down to K-town here in a few weeks for some action.

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    Member Alaskan22's Avatar
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    Best meat I've ever had was from a Kodiak black tail in august. YUMMY. Better than the goat we harvested too!

    Great write up, great adventure! Congrats!!
    Know guns. Know peace. Know safety.

    No guns: no peace. No safety!

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    Member ALPATFLTMECH's Avatar
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    Great story and pics. It looks like your deer had a few growths on his velvet like mine did. Mine was covered up with them. Nice buck, congrats.

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    Member sheep man's Avatar
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    Give up the long linning for cod and write hunting storys,great story and pictures...thank you
    I ♥ Big Sheep

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    Nice write up. Really enjoyed the pics of the deer in the canoe. Classic!

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    Very enjoyable read. Thanks for sharing.

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    Member Bighorse's Avatar
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    Once again...nice buck. He was definatly mature and ripe for harvest. A good stout buck like that makes for some fine meals.

    Well written account of your outing too. It's good to hear about all the considerations of a remote alaskan travel adventure. Strong adventurous souls really make AK great.

    I've got three days in the backcountry planned for this weekend myself. I'd be very pleased to take home a buck like yours.

  15. #15

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    Great read. Thanks for bringing us along with ya'.

    Fair winds and following seas.

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    Thanks for the great story and pics.

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    192 pounds....nice fat buck. great story and pics. thanks

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    Member dkwarthog's Avatar
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    Great post kodiak. Thanks for the great pics and story. That is some beautiful country. I'm not much of a boatman, but no way i'd let my boat ground like that!!! (If I had one ) I can see how you were a little puckered til the tide came back in!!

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    Very good write up and great pics.

  20. #20

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    Nice buck, but I'm more interested in seeing the setup for running longline gear solo...

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