New Year’s Eve on the Beach

I went over to Admiralty to set some traps for marten and maybe deer hunt the last day of deer season. I stopped in the cove where we’d got the deer two days before, and the boat that we saw there a few days ago was back. I anchored the boat off shore and quick-stepped it to check my set and make a couple others along a cliff where I’d seen marten tracks.

I was not gone long, but when I got back to the beach, my skiff was dry. And since it was only 2 hours after low tide, I knew I was in for an 8 hour or so wait. The 3 hunters returned to their boat at the same time. They had anchored out their boat with a raft, and taken the raft to the beach. When they loaded up to go, they put two fair-sized deer in the boat, so they had a good day.

I spent the first hour getting my skiff together for the long wait. I had a small cook stove and plenty of fuel for it, so that took care of heating my little canvas cabin. I also have an am/fm radio that will run by hand crank if the batteries die, and so tuned that to the college bowl football games. And I had a thermos of coffee, plenty of water, and Farm Show and Fur-Fish-Game magazines to read, so basically it was like being at our cabin but with less head room.

I hoped a deer might come out on the beach at low tide. After awhile, I loaded my rifle and took a walk to at least try to hunt the last day of the season, and set a trap further down the beach. I also went in to check out a cabin nearby in case I needed to hole up for the night. The cabin was padlocked, and I couldn’t find any hidden key. I’d not break in unless my situation turned into an emergency.

I walked down to a point and made a marten set. Then I went up the hill a ways and hunted my way back to the skiff. I called several times, but no deer. I did see some marten tracks, so was hopeful for some success there.

Back to the skiff, and I listened to the game and read my magazines. The tide was a long time in coming. It was not till 9 pm or so that it finally floated the boat. I idled out of the cove. Towards town there were the town lights that showed, but where I was going – to our cabin – it was near pitch black with wind and driving rain and snow. As I left the cove, I thought I should go back where I was as that was the safe thing to do, but kept going.

I had to drive standing up so I could try to see, behind the little canvas cabin, where I can barely reach the steering wheel. Since I’d been traversing this channel for over a decade, I knew where the reefs were. All I could do was try to stay in the middle, but it was hard to steer in the wind at just above idle speed, see with the driving rain and snow, and make out just where I was in the channel. I thought many times this was a dumb thing to do, but once I got started I just kept going.

I finally made it to the anchorage without incident. I put the boat on the easy-out anchor line, and hustled to the cabin. Got the gas lights lit, the propane oven going and a pizza with shrimp from Craig in, and then the wood stove going. Finally, a stiff drink and life was good again.

I got up today and cleaned up the cabin, which needed some tidying as we’d unexpectedly left two days earlier. I was not going to chance checking the traps I’d set the day before and getting tided again. I headed up to the traps I’d set a few days earlier, instead. The first I could see from the boat, and it looked undisturbed. The other set was in the woods where we’d left 3 gut piles on the beach from the deer we’d taken there a few days earlier. That trap had the first marten of the year hanging from the 120 conibear from the newspaper tube set. There still looked like lots of other marten tracks on the beach and it looked like another marten came in and got the bait the trapped marten was after, so I reset the successful trap and set another.

The trip to town was enjoyable, with light rain and a southerly chop for some of the crossing. I spent the evening butchering 2 of the 4 deer hanging in the garage, and now to get ready for Sara’s 50th birthday party tomorrow.

Mark Stopha
Alaska Wild Salmon Company
4455 N. Douglas Hwy
Juneau, AK 99801

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