Oct 31 we hunted my favorite bay. I had required John to take Hunter Education in PA before I would take him hunting here, even though it’s not a requirement in Alaska. PA does not include shooting with it’s hunter ed, so the first thing we did when we were dropped off and hiked up to the logging road was to have John shoot the .243. I shot first and showed him how the gun worked. Then he shot. He hit the paper from 50 yds and said he was good to go.
Hunted all day in the pouring rain and saw nothing. This spot can either be on fire or dead. Seems the deer come in here in November during the rut and they just weren’t in yet. On our way back down we almost tripped on a buck with tiny fork antlers. The deer just looked up at us, then continued to feed. I asked John if he wanted the deer and he was trying to get off his scope covers and load a bullet. I got nervous and asked John if he wanted me to take the deer and he said sure, and one shot to the neck and that was it. I wondered if I should have waited for John to take the deer, but hoped we’d find him a bigger one. This gave me the chance to show him how to field dress a deer, as well as good shot placement for a quick kill. John was not real impressed with removing the innards from the deer. Neither the blood, organs, or smell. I don’t think being an emergency trauma doctor is in his future. I moved some of my gear from my pack to John’s pack and tied the deer to my pack to carry it out. Again, it sucks to be 50. Sister Julie had gone to hunt with Ellen and they got trapped in the same bowl surrounded by cliffs I did last year and didn’t see any deer. We set dungy crab pots on the way home. Later that evening, Brian’s brother and nephew stopped by and picked us up to fish cohos in the river. I’ve never seen so many coho spawning and jumping. They caught fish till dark.
Nov. 1 we were all bushed. I was sore all over. But mid-morning we got around to hunting and I felt better after a couple ibuprofen and moving around. John and I went to a small island you could walk around in a couple hours. I was calling in a muskeg for about 20 minutes when a big buck came in. I think I immediately thought I was happy I’d taken the small buck the day earlier as this was a big deer. I saw him coming and tried to get John in position. I was between John and the woods where the buck was coming. John had a hard time seeing the deer through the scope from the sunny muskeg into the dark woods. John said when he did find the deer in the scope and was ready to shoot the deer moved and he could not pick it up again in the scope. Had the same problem shooting at a buck on Douglas a couple years ago with Matt. That time it was just plain dark in the woods with the 4 power scope and when the deer finally moved from behind the tree I couldn’t find him and he walked off. I got the big 3 point that same day, though. Anyway, I was on my back and didn’t have my gun and never saw the deer again. It was a great time for both of us to see that big deer. Later in the day we were in some thick woods and I called in a doe exploded from the spruce trees and just about bowled over John.
Nov. 2 we hunted in a logged off area and walked a road in from the beach. We called in 2 doe on a bench but saw no bucks. I cut up the first deer that night and we got it vac packed and into the freezer.
Nov. 3 we hunted an island across from the house. On our way to our spot, we saw a buck on the beach. John and Spencer rowed the punt to the beach to take it. By the time they got to the beach, the buck had walked up into the woods. John and Spencer walked up into the woods where they rowed in to see if they could see the buck. Not long later we heard a single shot. Then a phone call. John had his first deer. After a while, we saw them emerge from the woods with Spencer dragging the deer. They got into the punt to row back, and John almost rolled out out the beach but kept his balance. I’m sure Brian was thinking of my rolling the same punt 2 years ago when I went to shore after a buck. John had made a perfect shot in the neck. Again, he’d seen me take the one 2 days earlier so that may have helped.
We continued to our drop off spot. We only had one tag for John, so now was doing the calling for Uncle Mark. The first place he called, in came a doe. I said to watch the direction from where she came as a buck might be trailing her. I looked up and there was a buck. I waited for it to walk towards John and into a small opening so I could take it. It stopped when it saw John, who did not have his gun as he’d got his deer and had no more tags. John said later he could see the whole deer and could have easily taken it. I got one more look at it and when I raised my gun to fire it hopped away. We could see parts of it later but not for a shot. We saw another doe or two but no more bucks that day.
Nov 4 was a homework day in the morning. I got up at 4 am and butchered John’s deer. John worked on his homework. In the afternoon, Ellen took Later in the day, Ellen took John and I to the range to practice shooting. He shot a .22 rifle at several different positions that Ellen coached him through. Then a few shots with the pistol. Finally, we moved to the long range and .243. John was a crack shot at targets at 100 yards. He now had alot more confidence and it paid off the next day. In the evening, I took him to catch some coho in the river. We got some rods from Brian and stopped at Black Bear store to buy some vibrax lures. I bought 2, and John quickly lost those, so we drove back to the store to get some more. He hooked several and landed a few. Fish were jumping everywhere in the river. Never seen coho like this before in Nov when they are ready to spawn. We also bought John another deer tag.
Next day was Nov 5, and we went back to the same island John got his first deer. Spencer and Ellen got dropped off at other spots and John and I at about the same place we missed getting the buck 2 days earlier. We got to the first good spot to call, and John, with a fresh tag, still did the calling. He called once, then said he had a doe to his left. Next thing I see he’s raising his rifle to look, brought it down, brought it up again and fired. I heard a deer running through the salal but never saw the deer nor heard it pile up, and we were only 10 yards apart when he shot. He said the deer was not a doe but a buck. He said he was going to shoot it in the neck, and when he went to fire it moved so he shot it in the body. We went over to where it had been standing and started putting up flagging. We followed the trail out where John thought it went, and saw no blood or hair at the impact site or the trail. When I got down the trail about 20 yards, there were some deadfalls and I thought maybe John had shot it further away than he thought, so I started back to the impact area a little further away. I saw a log with just some faint blood on it, and a salal leaf with a single drop of blood. Bingo. We had a trail of sorts. I then thought I heard some thrashing – but just barely over the sound of a nearby creek. Had it not been a sunny dry day, the creek may have been running harder and I wouldn’t have heard the thrashing. i called to John that I had found blood, then headed on the trail, which showed the deer actually went downhill from the shot, then had backtracked uphill. I found the deer about 20 or 30 yards up the trail. When I saw it, it was with it’s back to me, and was my first sighting of the deer. It had a wide rack and a wide shoulders. A big deer. It was not dead so I shot it in the neck where it lay. John came along and when the neck shot did not suffice, I shot again at the base of the ear and that put the deer out for good. It was a nice wide fork horn buck with eye guards. Turns out John had shot it in the back ham. It hit no bone but perhaps the femoral artery since it went down so quickly. I told John later when we talk about hip shooting, it’s shooting the gun from the hip, not shooting the deer in the hip. He didn’t think it was all that funny of a comment. Brian and Ellen did. I told John I have a million of these jokes.
John had watched me gut his first deer and this time he had to do it himself. I tried to get him started and going, and he kept implying he couldn’t do it and that I should show him how to do it again. I said I had all day and night if necessary and he would be doing it or it wouldn’t get done. It took awhile but he finally got the deer gutted. I explained numerous times about reaching up through the severed diaphram to feel for the heart and lungs, then cut above them. When he finally reached up far enough and felt the organs his eyes lit up as the light bulb went on. I dragged it down to the beach and marked the spot with flagging so we could find it later, and put a waypoint on the GPS. We didn’t see another deer all day. Ellen and Spencer also got a deer that day.
On the way back we checked the crab pots, and they were full. We got home and I skinned John’s second deer.
Nov 6 was another homework day. I butchered deer during the day. At mid day, we went to check the shrimp pots, which had lots of shrimp. We’d hoped to go to the range another day but it didn’t happen.
I can’t remember what we did Nov. 7. Nov 8, John and I took the ferry to Ketchikan in the morning to meet his dad, who is a commercial pilot. He came up on Alaska Air from Seattle and met us in Ketchikan. I walked them back to the airport ferry, then went to the sporting goods store to kill some time before catching the returning ferry in the evening with some more friends of Brian and Ellen who they went bison hunting with last winter.
Nov. 9 I went back to the same spot John got his buck. I hiked in the same way, but moved up the hill to the right instead of the left. I did not call any deer. It got to be about noon and thought I’d better start back. I came down out of the woods and came into a clear cut. I thought I’d eat lunch here in the sun and try calling. It was a spot that deer could probably only come in below me due to the slash arrangement in the clear cut.
I called in a doe from my right. I could see her coming up the hill by the trees wiggling like a downhill skier going through slalom gates. She finally came into view 15 yards away. She stopped. looked up, kind of hopped across to my left, and I never saw her again. I thought like the buck we’d seen when John called and I missed that a buck might come up behind her on her trail. I kept calling and in maybe 5 or 10 minutes, I see the trees wiggling again. A small buck came and stopped in the same spot the doe had, and I dropped it. It was not an easy drag back. When I got to the spot the deer lay, I couldn’t even tell how either of them made it around all the slash to get to the spot. The drag out was over and under logs of felled logs and deadfalls. I took my time since I had it, and called a few more places but saw no more deer.
Nov. 10 I was dropped off at a new place. It was an area of logged off land and I was to climb up to a road, then walk the road and look for deer. It was pretty tough walking. Not far from the beach, the dead falls and slash from logging started and I had to climb over and under the trees. When I broke into the clear, I saw a big buck lumbering up a creek wash. I was on felled trees at the time, and tried to find a rest as the deer was 200 yards away. I called and stopped it on the road but was trying to balance on the trees and find a rest for a long shot and the deer didn’t wait long enough and walked out of sight. There was a patch of woods to my right going up to the road, and I continued to call hoping the buck might come down. I did call in a few does but not the buck. I worked my up the wood patch and called again and probably spent 1.5 hours getting up the short distance to the road hoping to see a buck.
When I got to the road, I walked as directed and soon came to logs in the road, and it was hard to tell if I was even on the road anymore. I saw some unlogged woods to my right as I rounded a point, and made my way down the road until I could find a trail through the clear cut up to the woods. In reality, I had just rounded a point on the road and by going up to top of hill where the woods were I was headed back over the top to the spot where I reached the road. I got up into the woods, which bordered a clearcut that was uphill from where I’d come out of the woods onto the road when I first came in. It was a great place to call and see and I settled in on a sunny day in the dark woods. I called a few times, and saw a doe come up from the edge of the clear cut, but she did not come all the way over to me. Not sure if she winded me or what but I never saw her. I kept calling and same as the day before, 5 or 10 minutes later here comes a buck, but this time, a big buck. I got ready to shoot and it stopped behind some trees along the trail about 20 yards away. I waited and then gave a soft mew on the call. The buck couldn’t take it and took a couple steps forward, and I dropped it with a neck shot. A nice big fork horn.
I found a place to hang the deer because although it wasn’t all that far to the beach, I already knew it was a crap fest for walking. It was a little after noon and I had plenty of time. I skinned the deer and butchered the deer. Cut off the quarters, back strap, and tenderloin. Then filleted off the neck meat, and filleted the rib meat. Probably took 1.5 hours and I took my time. I put the meat in my pack, checked where I was on my GPS, then headed for the beach. I came to a very nice muskeg that I was on the edge of in the woods but I didn’t know it at the time. I blew for awhile in the muskeg thinking if I got another buck, I could field dress it and hang it and come back the next day to retrieve it. But I didn’t see another deer.
When I came down from the muskeg I was much closer than I thought to the road, and I hit the road near where I’d come up to it. That’s when I realized the buck on my back may well have been the buck that I saw coming in. I butchered the Nov 9 buck that night, and hung the bags of deer parts from today.
Nov 11 was deer butchering day. I butchered the deer, vac packed all of it, put it in the freezer. Heading home tomorrow. What a great time here. One of the best weeks ever with John. Hope the nuns like his story back at Catholic middle school in Pittsburgh and keep his detention light from all the new words he learned in Alaska.
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