When I first got to Kodiak and saw bison roaming amongst the beautiful Kodiak landscape I was amazed at how magnificent an animal they were. I started looking into possibly hunting them here and in my beginning research I only came up with the Burton Ranch herd down at Pasagshak. After contacting Mr. Burton I came to the conclusion I would not be hunting them here due to the large amount of money he charged and the fact that he charged more for a "trophy" animal(anything other than a cow or young bull). I also did not feel too comfortable with the road running through his property giving access to many people viewing the Bison each day.
Fast foward a year or so and akflyfishers Bison raffle got me thinking about about them again. I scoured the internet and found an article written several years ago about two ranchers that brought Bison here back in the 50's (one being Bill Burton). I did a search on the second rancher and came up with absolutely nothing about him except a phone number from the phone book. I figured I would give it a shot and call the number to see what I could find out. The gentleman told me that he did have a herd here on Kodiak that roamed Ugak Bay, off the road system, he charged less than half of what Burton charged, and I was going to be able to hunt any animal from a cow to the largest herd bull with no difference in the cost. I got off the phone completely thrilled and set out to find a few guys who wanted to split the cost & meat with me.
Friday, November 26th rolled around and I found myself and 10 of my buddies and co-workers fueling two jeeps and 6 ATV's at 6:30 am getting ready to head out to Saltery Cove. After 16 miles down the trail and three hours later we were at the cove overlooking a large flat grassy area where the Bison usually graze, only to find no Bison!! We parked the Jeeps and sent out the ATV's in different directions on scouting trips to hopefully locate the herd. After 45 minutes one guy raced back to report he found a herd of about 100 grazing on the edge of the wood line about 2 miles away. We cruised down to the edge of the cove and parked the ATV's with the Bison in sight about 500 yards away. The 11 of us walked in a low depression out of the animals sight until we were 100 yards away. I broke out my spotting scope and began looking at different animals while everyone else called out which ones looked big to them. I found picking out one particular animal to be extremely difficult. They all looked big to me, and the one's that appeared to be bulls all looked similar in size, but not quite mature like we were looking for. About the time we were thinking about just picking one and making a plan for the stalk, a bull stepped out that definitely stood out from the others. He was larger, darker, and had a much bigger beard than any of the others. I watched him for about 15 minutes as he pushed around smaller bulls and displayed his dominance. Our group collectively decided this was the one to go after, and a plan was made for me to get within bow range of this 2000 pound animal and send an arrow flying!
With a backup gunner and a guy videotaping in tow, I backtracked a few hundred yards to a river bed that ran through the woods behind the Bison. When we thought we had gone far enough we cut through the woods and slowly worked our way though the crispy leaves until we could see the herd though the trees. By this time the animals had moved around a bit and with our limited view though the woods we could not make out which Bison we were going after. I made my way to the edge and at one point had drawn my bow on the wrong Bison before I saw the dark one with the large beard step out from behind a small group of lesser bulls. After the shot the Bison ran 40 yards and collapsed with the entire herd grouping around their fallen leader. The remainder of our group who were watching the action from their spotting knob had retreived their ATV's and raced in to scare the herd back into the woods. We took our photos and made short work of quartering the animal and headed back to camp.
I have been fortunate enough to have hunted 7 out of the 10 big game species in Alaska so far. Each one has had it's own challenges and excitements and although this one was a quick hunt, I would certainly do it again in a heartbeat if given the chance. In the grand scheme this was not the most challenging of the hunts I have been on, but being 40 yards from a incredible animal that large with a stick and string made my heart beat just as hard if not more than any other hunt I have been on. With a few guys the cost of this trip is a great deal, great meat, and a great adventure! Here are a few pictures...