Earlier this month I flew from New York to Anchorage, Alaska, and then on to Kodiak Island, 230 miles south of Anchorage, where I planned to hunt blacktail deer. It's a hunt I had been looking forward to all year - and here's the results of my labors - a 185-pound, 5x5-point blacktail buck. Here's how it went down.
I had a three-hour layover in Anchorage, then it was on to Kodiak, where I met up with the members of my hunting party. That’s me in front of a 1500-pound stuffed brown bear, in the lobby of the Kodiak Best Western. The island is known for its huge bears, which have a population density of almost one per square mile. It’s not uncommon to run into them when you’re hunting. More on that later.
The next morning, we went back to the Kodiak Island airport and loaded up a Servant Air turbo Beaver for the flight down to Larsen Bay, at the southwest end of the island.
The scenery on Kodiak- it’s a 150-mile-long, 50-mile-wide island separated from the Alaska peninsula by Shelikof Strait–is incredible.
Soon we came in for a landing at Larsen Bay.
Our home for the next week – the Sundy, a 56-foot houseboat operated by Ninilchik charters.
After stowing gear, our first stop was the beach, where we sighted in our rifles. I was hunting with a Remington Model 700 .300 Ultra Mag, topped with a Cabela’s 3 – 9x Alaskan Big Game Scope. I sighted in with 150-grain bullets. When hunting, I had 200-grain bullets in my chamber and clip, just in case I had any encounters with a 1000-pound guy in a brown suit.
The first day I hunted with Doug Jeanneret of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, a hunting advocacy group. Here, Doug checks the range on a hillside that overlooks Uyak Bay.
Dinner onboard the first night: burgers & brews.
Jeanneret and I didn’t see any decent bucks that first day out – nor did we see any bears, which was fine with me. We did hear a distant shot in the afternoon; when we got back to the Sundy, one of our group, Luke Hartle, had taken a nice 9-pointer. First Blood!
I hunted the second day with Joe Arterburn of Cabela’s. (For safety, you hunt in pairs on Kodiak.) After scaling a cliff and then hiking inland for almost a mile, we set up on a knoll and glassed a number of game trails that laced the area. Eventually, this guy came in. After tearing up some saplings with his antlers, he strolled into the open at 30 yards. Success! The deal on Kodiak is this: If you get a deer, take your photos, then field dress him and get out of there fast. Contrary to popular belief, the bears don’t come to the sounds of gunshots; what does get their attention is all the magpies and ravens that show up once you’ve gutted out your animal. Here, I pose for a photo, but I’m watching to make sure we don’t get any uninvited visitors.
The skiff comes to get us.
The drag to the coast was gruesome – through mud, over hummocks and logs, through thick grass, then straight down a waterfall. Here, Joe and I finally rest after dragging at full speed while being on bear alert for almost an hour.
Later that day we pulled some crab traps we had set a few days earlier. With a load of Tanner and Dungeness crabs, we had the feast of a lifetime that night.
Skip Knowles displays a Dungeness crab.
I had a second deer tag, and spent two more days trying to fill it. Lunch break on a bluebird day. That’s my bear spray: range – 10 yards, duration of spray – 5 seconds.
The next day it rained and blew, so we took a break and went jump shooting for ducks. The target: harlequin ducks and buffleheads.
Knowles and I hunted the following day, up above snowline. The bucks were actively in the rut, though all we saw was a spike, which we passed on.
Here I glass a game trail running up a ravine. No deer here, though I ran across very fresh sow and cub tracks in the snow 20 yards from where I’m sitting. We went in the other direction.
No deer on the last day, but who’s complaining when you can get halibut to go with the venison and crabs already in your freezer box?
We had a meat grinder and vacuum wrapper on board, and we processed all of the venison on the last day, then put it into freezer boxes for shipment home. Here, Len Nelson of Otis Technology works on some ground venison.
Before I knew it, I was headed back to Larsen Bay, back to Kodiak, back to Anchorage and then on home. A whirlwind tour, but one of the best, most exciting hunts I’ve ever been on. If you’re interested, check out ninilchik.com. Price is $2650 per hunter for a week, a bargain considering what you get. The season runs from early October into early December. The deer rut occurs in mid November, as it does in many areas of the country.
Last month, Field & Stream’s Deputy Editor Jay Cassell went on an adventure for blacktail deer on Kodiak Island, 230 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska. The island is known for it’s big population of huge bears, making hunting, and specifically dragging your prize before the magpies and ravens can alert a grizzly, all the more challenging and rewarding.