October Deer

Bob and I went deer hunting and gave the boat a test run after the swamping incident a few weekends before. We left a tad before sunrise and glad we did as boats were coming by as we anchored at our spot, likely wishing they’d left 15 minutes earlier to beat us there. I had wrapped a spool with fresh ground line, so this time we had a line from shore to the anchor as I’ve almost always done for insurance against the boat dragging away. We headed up the hill, and went a bit north of where we had gone in the past. We were soon in very thick crap that took us awhile to get out of. When we finally did, we were on the edge of the huge rolling muskegs on top. I sent Bob down about 50 yards and said I’d wait to see where he was, then I’d find a spot and he’d know where I was when I started on the deer call. Bob had found his spot and before I could get to mine “BLAM”. Bob shot. And missed. There was a deer in the muskeg that was not sticking around and Bob could not hit it.  It’s October and bone dry here. A rarity. October is usually two things – rain and wind. We moved from muskeg to muskeg and spent a long time in each one, mainly just soaking up the warmth of the sun and the the scenery of the Chilkat Range with a dusting of new snow. But no deer or even seemed like a hint of a deer. Fresh tracks here and there, but no deer.

We worked our way around the top of this area we were hunting. I was thinking of working our way back and Bob suggested we keep going out a little further to see what was below and work our way back that way. We ate lunch and called on the edge of a stand of trees. We moved on further to a spot that was brush down the slope below us, and then a little muskeg up the other side of the gully at the bottom.  When I blew the call, I immediately saw movement above the muskeg, and here comes a nice deer. It kept coming and coming. Bob couldn’t see it and I looked over and saw he was looking right. I said look left. Got it, he says. He tried getting a good bead on the deer but it was about 200 yards away, and kept stopping and moving. Eventually it got to the brush below us, and I thought it would come right up to us. I sloughed my pack and chambered a round in case Bob couldn’t get a shot. I kept calling and the deer kept snorting. Seemingly closer, but not close enough to see.

After awhile, the deer quit snorting. I kept calling and wondered if we’d never see it again or it would go back up the muskeg where it came from. About 20 minutes later, Bob was the first to see it this time. He said it’s headed back up the hill. I couldn’t see it at first, then locked on it. I could see Bob didn’t intend to shoot, so I quickly laid down on the mound we were sitting on and into the prone shooting position. The deer was walking straight away so no good shot. I called and she quartered back. I fired. Too high and I knew I flinched. The deer started walking again straight away. I get more settled, whistled, and it quartered back to look. I fired again.  It bounded to the left. I saw it go into the brush, saw it’s head rise up, and then it was out of sight. I didn’t see it come into view again, which it would have had to since the brush was surrounded by open areas of muskeg. I didn’t know if I hit it, nor did Bob. We both saw the same spot where it was last seen, so I had Bob stay put and I got a land mark near the last sighting spot and headed down there. Bob was giving hand directions. Left. Right. Come this way. You are on the spot. And there it lay. Two thumbs up to Bob that I’d found it. The shot when through the wheel house and the lung.

Although there was no blood, on the side of the animal I could see, flies were already on it. It was close to 50 degrees and we are in October. I dressed the deer, as Bob made his way down to me. We decided it would be best to get the hide off the deer since it was so warm out. I showed Bob how to make a hoist as Steve Merritt once showed me hunting in Craig. We hoisted the deer up, and I showed Bob how to start skinning on his side and me on mine. I saw hair flying, and showed Bob you have to cut from under the skin. If you cut from the top down, it cuts the hair and you’ll have hair all over the meat.  We quickly skinned the deer, and put it in a big game bag I made for moose and elk quarters. I tied it on my pack, and Bob took all of my pack contents and put it in his pack and we started back.

It was going to be a long walk as the tundra is murder to walk long distances on. Bob took us on a good route back. We were able to skirt most of the brush we’d encountered as I lead the charge up the hill. We got to some bigger timber on a steep slope and could see the water. Almost home. Then Bob discovers he lost something off his belt. So, he tries to retrace our steps while I sit and rest a spell. After about 15 minutes, I realize I have no communication, flashlight, or survival gear. Just a deer on my back and rifle on my shoulder. Bob has everything else. So I thought I’d better get down to the beach. I start down and about 5 minutes later, Bob catches up with me. He didn’t find his lost item. We take our time down the steep slope, me with my stiff knees.  When we get to the edge of the beach, we’re up a cliff from the beach. No way to get down here. We can’t see the boat in either direction, and agree we think it’s north, so we walk the beach a quarter mile or so until we find a path down to the beach. And find we went the wrong way. So we trudge quarter plus mile back to the boat on the beach. It’s a good walking beach.  It’s one foot in front of the other as I’m extremely thirsty and know there is a beer of Bob’s waiting for me at the boat.  When we reach the boat, Bob gets the beverages from his pack at the forest edge and I untie the deer and plunge it into the ocean to clean it out and cool it down further. We sit in the rare October sun enjoying an Alaskan Ale knowing we had a good day.