Deer Hunting Fall 2021

Oct 28.  Day 1.  Arrived in Craig on a pleasant flight on Ak Seaplanes.  Ellen met me at the airport, and when we arrived at the container, all was good.  Water on.  Electric on. Heat on.  No mice.  I checked the oils in the truck, engaged the battery switch, and the truck started right up.  Halibut burgers for dinner and Ellen and Brian’s.

Day 2.  Hunt day 1.  I awoke early and got my hunting gear together.  I was out of .243 ammo, so hunting  would have to wait til Log Cabin store opened at 9.  I hooked up the boat to the truck, then checked the outboard oil.  At the store,  I bought a box of 20 shells – the limit per customer – and headed to the ramp.

The outboard started right up, as did the heater.  Hopefully I hadn’t forgot anything.  I headed to the 2 deer spot.  It was great to be back on the boat again.  When I arrived at the anchorage, the winds were almost calm, but there was a slight surge onto the beach.  Although I had a punt on the cabin roof, I didn’t think I would need to use it.  I’d just toss my gear on the beach, push the boat back out with two hours left till low tide, yank off the anchor with the shore line, and head out hunting.  Well, that didn’t happen.  By the time I had my gear off the boat and had hopped out to push the boat back off shore, the slight surge had grounded the boat.  I was not moving it now.  So, I threw the anchor out at the water line, and knew I’d have at least 4 hours before the tide had gone out and come back in to the boat.

I swapped out my rubber boots for rubber boots with golf spikes – also called corks.  Then I took my rifle out of the gun case, filled the magazine with shells, and checked the scope for clarity.    I dug out a piece of paper towel from my pack to have in my pocket to clear the scope during the day.  I shouldered my pack and headed up the hill.

It didn’t take long to get to my spot.  I’ve taken several deer from this spot, including two deer about 5 minutes apart last season.  I looked around for awhile and found a tree that I could call next to that would provide a good rest.  I duffed my pack, and calmed my nerves and breathing.  Then I wailed on the deer call and waited.  I counted to 300 while listening.  At 300, I blew the call again, and counted to 200. Blew the call again and counted to 100, then started over counting to 300.  No deer came.

I moved up the hill about 100 yards, and there stood a nice muskeg.  So, this was maybe why the first spot had produced so many deer.  The deer had come down the hill from around the muskeg.    The muskeg was within ear shot of the first spot, but I couldn’t help but blow the call again, just to be sure.  Again, no deer showed.  The first of hundreds of geese passed over me low, and I could hear some of their wing beats amid their squawking.

I saw another muskeg on my map not too far away, and headed that way.  It was a neat muskeg that started with a little low marshy section that led slightly uphill to the muskeg proper, which was sprinkled with jack pine and had big timbered hillsides on either side.  This looked good.  Really good.  But again, no deer came to the call.  By now, it was getting time to work my way back to the beach so I could be at the boat when the tide came back in.

I climbed up the timbered hillside towards the beach, and thought I’d hunt the other side of it back to the beach.  Near the top, I flushed a grouse.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a grouse down here.  It looked like a hooter to me, but Mike said later it was a spruce grouse.  I watched the fat hen in the branch she flushed to, and slowly walked away from her.  On the way down the hill to the beach I finally saw a deer when I spooked a doe.  She would not come back to the call, nor did I see a buck with her.

When I dumped down onto the beach, the tide was just getting to the boat.  I changed boots, sheathed my gun, and put my gear on the boat.  As the tide worked its way up under the boat, I tried to work the stern of the boat out to float it.  The slight swell kept wanting to push the boat sideways, though, and I struggled to get anywhere.  A mink came loping down the beach.  When I whistled, it stopped and looked at me, then turned towards the woods, jumped up on a piece of driftwood, and took in the show.  As the tide came in, I kept trying to move the stern perpendicular to the beach and into deeper water as the mink looked on, but I was getting nowhere.  I tried using the oars to pry the boat free, and broke both oars I had.  For nearly an hour I struggled with the boat, and saw it inching further up the beach.  I tried anchoring the stern so the bow would swing around, but the anchor would drag in the sandy bottom.  I started to worry that the boat would work so high up the beach it would be tided, but when I looked at the time, it was only mid-tide, so I hoped I could figure it out.

I finally realized I’d been working against the tide and the swell, instead of with it.  I went to the bow, and as the tide surged under the boat, I pushed the bow out towards the deep.  Eventually I was able to get the bow facing out into the water, and of course, the tide now worked itself under the boat, and on a good surge, the stern floated off, and I waded out with the boat now floating.  I realized, though, I would not be able to climb up the stern of the boat, but would have to enter over the bow, so I swapped ends of the boat and with the bow now inshore and the stern floating offshore, I backed up and when the bow touched the beach, I climbed aboard, lowered the outboard so the prop was just in the water, started the motor, put it in reverse, and tried to power off the beach.

It would not move, however, so I went forward and used the pike pole to push off the beach, but I could not free the boat.  So, I jumped out again and waded out into a few feet of water to jump on.  But, with my boots full of water and my 58 year old arms and legs, I couldn’t get myself aboard.  And now, with the engine still idling, the engine alarm was screaming as the motor was still in reverse, and starting to overheat because it wasn’t in the water far enough for the water intake to pick up the seawater to cool the engine.  By now, I could tell I was tiring and was not going to be able to do what I once could with ease in my younger years.  I backed up to the beach, and when I was in about 6 inches of water, I swung my leg up again, and this time, I barely got it above the gunnel.  I pulled my fat self up and over the side, and scrambled with the pole to push myself offshore.  Once the boat was floating, the prop bit and backed us off, and we were free.  Whew.  I put down the outboard to calm the alarm, and relaxed for a bit.  I pulled in the anchor that was still over the side off the stern, and carried anchor and chain into the bow.   By now, the choppy seas were calm as the winds had laid down during the day, and it was an enjoyable ride home, boots full of water and all.   Dinner was pulled bison burgers at Ellen and Brian’s.

Day 3.  I was sore this morning and thankful for the rain to give me an excuse not to go hunting today.  I popped some ibuprofen and drank cup after cup of coffee.  Later I put two loaves of banana bread in the toaster oven and went to the thrift store, and found just what I was looking for – (hopefully) airtight containers for leaving flour.  The flour in the flour bag had molded, while that in the capped containers was good.  The neuroma in my foot was acting up after working my feet hard yesterday, and I picked up some toe separators at the pharmacy to use during the day to help.  I returned the hydraulic oil I borrowed from Mike for my new vac packer, and met a guy who responded to my facebook post for my old vac packer, which I was happy to give away and he was happy to have because, like me, he has this old model that’s no longer made and could use the parts.

I hand washed some clothes that were moldy.  I cranked up the dehumidifier and made a plan to put it on a timer when we’re not in town.  By evening time, I was feeling much better.  I cleaned and oiled my gun and got excited to go hunting again tomorrow.  Elk burgers at Ellen and Brian’s for dinner.

Day 4. Hunt Day 2.   Went to a different spot today.  One that is a neat spot that is a little ridge surrounded by muskegs.   When I got off the boat, I pushed it back out and pulled off the anchor.  But, while putting on my cork boots, I observed the boat might not be out far enough.  So, I pulled it back in, paddled back out, set the anchor, pulled the punt off the roof, and paddled back to shore.  Now, less to worry about the rest of the day.

I hunted all the way around the ridge and back to the beach in a big circle. I started hunting about 10 am and was back to the boat about 3 pm.  I called in a doe and yearling at the second spot I called.  Later, I called in what I think was a doe that came flying through the salal, then went to and fro, then mewed a few times, and then took off.  I saw a glimpse of the body but not the head.

In the last big muskeg I called in a doe, which almost sneaked in and out without me seeing her.  The muskeg had ground cedar cover, and I only saw her neck and head.  When she put her head down, she disappeared.  On the way home, I saw a doe with twins on the beach near where I was anchored.  No rain all day.  A little breezy in some spots but nice and dry.  My pack smells rank for some reason, so I’m gonna swap out packs and try to wash this one.  Deer shanks and deer stew for dinner at Ellen and Brian’s with Hannah and Katrina, who got her first deer with Brian today and really excited about it.

Day 5.  Hunt Day 3.    Brian and I went hunting.  I dropped him to hunt a series of muskegs alone, and I hunted muskegs north of his location.  Had to anchor the boat about 100 yards off the beach as it was a shallow bay, but flat calm so easy to kayak the punt to shore.  Lots of blowdowns to get around on the way up the hill, but then not so bad.  This spot has muskegs up and around a knob, just like the other spot described, and so I hunted in a big circle.  The muskegs at the top had a small hill on one side and I could hear a big creek on the other, so not a lot of holding area for deer, and I didn’t see any deer there.  I did see 5 does in the lower muskegs.  At one point, just as I was thinking I rarely just see deer without calling – there was a deer through the brush about 30 yards away.  And another deer with it.  I thought for sure one of them should be a buck.  But nope- two does.  Another beautiful day, too.  When I got back to the beach, I looked at my route and it said I hiked over 5 miles today.  Couldn’t believe it, as I didn’t feel very tired, but after a 30 minute ride back to town, I was stiff getting out of the captain’s chair.   Brian came out at the spot I dropped him off, and it was too shallow for me to get in to him, and he didn’t have rubber boots on.  After several attempts to push the punt in to him, I finally tied the shore line to a gaff and heaved it to shore.  I tied off one end of the line tied to the punt at the boat, and Brian got in the punt, and then I moved the boat to a little deeper water.  In doing so, I managed to put the shore line in the prop.  I pulled Brian to the boat, then he worked his way around to the stern and unwound the line from the prop.  Then we loaded him, his gear, and the punt into the boat, and started for home.  Brian saw a spike and a doe.  It was not a favorite spot for either of us to return to.

Day 6. Another beautiful day.  Had to take the day off.  My left pectoral muscle, I think, is tweaked and it’s sore to move in about any direction.  So, I went to town to the free wifi at the library and filled out a marine insurance form.  Stopped at the hardware store to get a timer and hose for the dehumidifier, and was surprised the store is closed now on Mondays due to a labor shortage.  Went to Ellen and Brian’s to dinner, as did Katriina.  We had the heart and some meat from her deer for dinner, with salad and potatoes.  Then we all went out to the shop and cut up Katrina’s deer to show her how.

Day 7.  Blowing and rain today. Tore into the kitchenaid mixer, and sure enough, I stripped the worm gear.  The breakdown wasn’t as bad or messy as I thought.  I ordered a worm gear, and an extra, and hopefully the unit and parts can stay where they are in the shed without getting misplaced or tipped over till the parts get here.  Went with Brian to see if he could get some steel off a trailer for the school shop kids to practice on.  That took us to the dump, where I think I found a serviceable hose for the humidifier.  Came home and made nachos, with canned smoked king salmon and kelp salsa I made last spring, cheese and sour creme, for lunch, and installed the hose to try it out.  I plan to put dehumidifier on a daily timer over the kitchen sink when I’m gone to keep moisture down in the place.

Chet said he can do the 100 hour on my outboard day after tomorrow.  Couldn’t believe I could get in that fast.  Looks like a break in the weather to hunt tomorrow, then more wind and rain on Thurs, so it should work out great.  So nice to have him do it, rather than me.  Spent some time looking over maps for a few hunting location alternatives so if the wind is bad for getting to one spot, I’ll have an option for another.  Pizza and salad for dinner at Ellen’s

Day 8.  Hunt Day 4.   Was raining right up to about sunrise, so I wasn’t real enthused to go hunting. But then it quit and the winds were light.   I texted Brian to ask what he had planned.  I told him where I thought about going – muskegs that start near the beach.  He said he was thinking about hiking up to some higher elevation muskegs from the road.  We chose Brian’s thought.  Big mistake.

The muskegs are nearly three and a half miles up hill from the road.  Thank goodness I didn’t know that beforehand.  Ellen just said it was a hump to get up there when she sent us off, after giving Brian directions on how to get into the muskegs once we got up there.

We started up the hill about 930 am.  The first three quarters of a mile or so is pretty steep climbing, and then the climb is less steep.  It was all on a logging road till we got to the muskeg, so easy walking as far as that goes.  After the steep section, we had walked maybe a quarter mile, and I see an animal coming down the road towards us.   It took a second to register, then I called up to Brian.  Bear.  The bear was kind of skinny and scrawny.  We kept walking towards it, and it finally turned and loped up the road in the direction it came from.  Then we caught up to it, and it ran up ahead of us again.  It did this one more time.  Then we sort of lost sight of it as we came up to the landside creek.  Then here comes the bear back up towards us, and he was not happy.  He didn’t want to go down the steep bank to the creek.  He had his mouth open and kind of looked agitated.  I wasn’t sure if he was gonna charge us or turn back or what.  It finally turned back, and we could hear the rocks flying as it skidded down towards the washed out creek bottom.

This creek valley – the creek itself is just a few feet wide – had let loose a year ago during heavy rains, and the landslide went all the way down to and over the road – mud, trees, rocks, and all – closing the road until people could get their excavators and backhoes and other heavy equipment mobilized to clear it out.  This washout was the reason we decided to try the muskegs, as prior to this, people could get up there on 4 wheelers, but could not now due to the washout.

We climbed up another 2 miles or so, and got to the muskegs about 1130 am.  We’d seen buck rubs along the road near the top, but I had not seen any scat.  Any.  And that was weird.

We inched our way down into the first muskeg, and blew the call there for half an hour or so.  Nothing.  We moved on to the second muskeg, and the same story.  Nothing.  Very little scat, and nothing fresh.   I had some canned smoked king salmon I caught and jarred this spring with a piece of bread for lunch.

We headed back down the mountain at about 2 pm, putting one foot in front of the other.  We passed one hiker on his way in, and he caught up to us and passed us on his way out.  We took about 90 minutes to get back to the truck.  Both of us agreed we’d likely never go there again.

I dropped Brian off and headed home to hook up the boat to take it to Chet’s for 100 hour maintenance before my knees and back stiffened up.  I must have been in a hurry, because while I hooked up the safety chains and the lights, I forgot to clamp the hitch down on the ball, and at the highway turn to town, the boat jumped off the hitch.  Luckily it tracked behind me from the safety chains, and didn’t take long to hook it back up.  School kids were walking home, and took in the show.   King salmon for dinner at Brian and Ellen’s.

Day 9. Repaired the sliding door on the shed, grabbed a piece of scrap plastic culvert to make a compost pile, greased the boat trailer bearings, picked up the boat at Chet’s and the sat phone from Ak Seaplanes that Bob sent down, and bought some Walker Game ears ear muffs from Log Cabin store for hunting.  After spending time with people a little older than me, I thought it was a good investment to try to protect my hearing.  I’ve not been much for technology as far as hunting goes, but have adopted the GPS and now the game ear muffs as must haves.  Chicken soup for dinner at Brian and Ellen’s.

People are starting to get some bucks so hopefully my time is coming.  Called Pat back in Bolivar and he said he’s getting lots of stands and blinds in on his property for friends to hunt, as he’s not in great shape to hunt himself right now.  He also said he didn’t get any fisher this year during the one week trapping season for them, but two others did.

I attended the Alaska Mariculture Association’s first meeting by zoom, where officer elections and other association formation formalities occurred.  New kelp farms are starting up to add to the shelffish farms already operating, and there’s a sense of excitement in the industry.

Day 10, Nov 6.  Hunt Day 5.  Went hunting alone to the 2 deer spot for my 5th day deer hunting.  I was a beautiful day after lots of rain. I hunted my way up the hill to a little lake.  Lots of recent deer scat and really nice places to call, but did not see a single deer.  Rumor mill has it that many deer have been taken illegally from this island at night by spot light.  It’s been such a good spot for me, though, I had to try again.

I worked my way down from the lake in a big circle and planned to end the day in a muskeg I’d first hunted about a week ago.  I got to the muskeg about 2 pm, and figured I could call here for half an hour and then head to the boat.  I called 2 or 3 series of calls and then there he was.  A medium-sized fork horned buck.  I think he may have circled the muskeg and come across it behind me to get downwind, but not sure.

I had some new walker game ear muffs on my chest to put on when I shoot, but I forgot about them once the time came.  At first the buck passed behind me at about 20 yards and I thought it might be leaving out the back door, but then I saw him turn.  He was coming.  I blew a few more soft bleats on the call, and then he was in a spot I could shoot.  I flinched on the first shot and missed him clean.  The buck never moved.  For the next shot I calmed myself, held steady, and it was over.

With the buck down, I kept calling for 5 or 10 minutes to see if any more bucks might be around.  No more came.   After I punched my tag, I got out the new little pulley system I put together to hoist the deer for butchering.  It took some trial and error, but I finally got it threaded right.  And it worked great.  I could pull the nice buck up by the head with ease.

I got the hide and head off the deer, and put a big home made deer bag made from a sheet around the deer and tried to put it in my pack in one piece.  Too big.  So, I cut off the quarters, and then was able to put the torso in the pack first, and then pile the quarters in on top of it.  Crap, the pack was heavy.  I would have liked to butcher the deer further so I could leave the backbone and rib bones, but I didn’t think there was not time this late in the day.

I shouldered the pack, and took a look at my map.  I saw I should be able to bee line it to the trail where I come in from the boat.  I fell often.  Then my gps would not “see” me, and I started to get uncertain that I was taking the right direction to get to the beach, as I had made the mistake of not taking a compass reading when I went into the wood.  I thought I was going in the right direction, as I knew I should head west in the direction of the setting sun, but without the GPS reassurance, I ended up stopping often to try to get a reading.    Finally, I got a reading.  I was on my way to the beach like I thought I was, but I’d burned alot of time trying to get technology to tell me so.

I dumped out onto the beach, and thought I needed to go left to the boat. After a long walk, I realized I’d gone the wrong direction.  I was losing light fast now, so I stashed the deer pack in the beach fringe, put a piece of surveyors tape to mark the location, and started humping it towards the boat. I had my headlamp on now, and was glad I wore the Oakley army boots rather than the spiked rubber boots today.

As I approached a point on the beach I had to round, there stood a deer.  The deer had it’s front hooves on a log, and was locked onto me as I approached.  I swerved to put a tree root on the beach between me and the deer as I approached, and when I looked over, I could not make out any antlers above the ears.  I was not getting a bonus deer on the long walk back today.  As I swung back out onto the beach from behind the roots, the doe bounded into the woods.

I knew my inlaws would be scrambling to come look for me in the darkness, so I was anxious to get back to the boat to contact them one way or the other.  My phone battery was now dead.  And I’d left the spare battery in the pack in the woods!  Hopefully, the phone would work off the 12 volt charger on the boat.  When I got back to the boat, it was floating fine.  The high tide was extra high, and so my rubber boots that I left there were had water in them.  I poured it out, and put them on.  It was now too dark to go back for the pack. I’d get it tomorrow.

I got the boat off the beach with ease, and started to get up on step and immediately hit a floating log.  It felt like I was on a rock, but I had put a track down on the boat GPS coming to this spot today, and saw I was in plenty of water.  So, it would be an idle home, as I didn’t want to lose a lower unit or prop.  My phone had no service to call my inlaws, and at an idle, it might be awhile before I got in range, so I thought I’d try the VHF and see if someone would respond who knew them and could call them and tell them I was on my way.  When I called, the Canadian Coast Guard responded.  I asked them to call Ellen, and they said they’d do it.  They called the US Coast Guard in Juneau, and then the Juneau office called Ellen.  Brian and his friend Mike were just leaving the harbor to come look for me, so I was glad I caught them and they turned back.

It took about 2 hours to idle home.  After awhile, I was in cell range, so could give my inlaws location updates.  I ran over several logs, and luckily there was no damage.  When I got to the ramp, the tide was so low I couldn’t put the boat on the trailer, so I left the boat tied up to the dock there and would get it in the morning when I run back to get the deer pack.  I contacted the Coast Guard in Juneau to let them know I was safely home.

Ellen kept dinner on for me, and I retold the story to the both of them.  Worst of all, the sat phone was right where I left it.  In our cabin, on the table.  When I got home from dinner, I put it in the truck so it will go in the boat tomorrow.  Had I had that, all would have been alot easier.

So, good to get the first deer in for the season, and hope it’s all well when we get back there tomorrow.  It’s supposed to dip below freezing tonight, so the meat will stay good and cool.

Day 11.  Hunt Day 6.  Ellen went with me to get my deer pack.  We found it unmolested.  We cruised the beaches and saw 2 doe/yearling sets.  The wind picked up, and we got back to town by noon.

Day 12.  Nov 8.  Hunt Day 7.   With daylight savings time, I got up early to get going an hour earlier than last week.  It was blowing at the house a bit, but not bad at the boat launch.  I headed to a spot I missed a buck last year, and where there would be safe anchorage should the wind come up as forecast.

After negotiating about a half hour of lumpy seas, the rest of the run was in the lee and easy.  I arrived at the anchorage, put the anchor with shore line attached on the bow, and shoved the boat off the beach.  I yanked the anchor off, and noted that the boat was blowing back towards the beach and that I should probably get back by 2 pm high tide in case the anchor drug.

I’d hunted this same spot twice last year, but anchored on the other side of the peninsula.  This spot was actually safer and still an easy walk to the muskeg.  I got to the muskeg and the conditions were nice.  Wind in my face and sunny.  So sunny, in fact, I moved a bit so I could get some shade and not have to look into the sun if a deer came that way.  I blew the call for about half an hour, and nothing came.

So, I moved up hill to the other end of the muskeg.  The muskeg tees at the top, and there’s a little mound in the middle of the tee that is a perfect perch.  I got up on the perch, put my new ear muffs next to me, and blew the call.  I can’t recall how many series I blew, but maybe 2 or 3.  And then here comes a deer walking quickly along the far side of the muskeg about 40 yards away – just like the first buck did a few days ago.  And, it’s a nice medium fork horn buck.  Again, just like the other day.

Interesting that does will come right to you when you call, but when bucks come in by themselves and not trailing a doe, they seem to be like – nothing to see here.  Buck coming through.  Go back to what you were doing.  I’m guessing they are trying to wind what is making the call.

I slid on the ear muffs and whistled.  The buck stopped.  I sighted through the scope, pulled the trigger, and “click”. Uh oh. I jacked another shell in.  The buck had not moved.  I calmed down, sighted on the neck, and pulled the trigger.  The gun kicked.  The deer went down.  But I didn’t hear a thing.   I  could get use to this.

I continued calling, keeping an eye on the deer as it expired.  No other deer showed up in the next 5 minutes.  I found the first shell and saw the firing pin dimpled the primer, but it didn’t fire. I compared it to the casing from the one that did.  Looks like the firing pin didn’t hit all the way.  I gathered up my pack, put the ear muffs in my pocket, and walked down to the deer.

The buck was in a small puddle, and I pulled it up to the muskeg.  I looked around for a place to hang it, and thought a nearby tree would do.  I took a quick picture of the deer, punched my tag, and got to work.  I got out the regular knife and skinning knife.  I used the buttout tool to dislodge the anus, then removed the innards, and sorted out the heart for burger and the liver for Izzy, a Persian mechanic I’ve known for 25 years and somehow found out he likes deer liver.  Even more than friendship, I’m happy to do something for an immigrant who works hard and is a nice guy.

I then hooked up my new double pulley contraption.  It all worked well now after I already set it up once.  One twist this time is I used my water bottle for the weight to throw the top line up and over a limb.  Got it on the first try.  Always something to learn.

I hung the buck by his antlers, pulled him up till we were about eye level with each other, and started skinning.  It was about 10 minutes after 11 am, so I had plenty of time.  Today I’d leave a lot more here than I did for the first buck, and not have to carry it back.  After cutting off the hocks, I got the hide off.  Then I cut off each quarter and put it in a pillow case.  Next I cut out the tenderloins, the brisket, the back straps, and the neck meat.  Finally, I cut out the meat between the ribs.  About an hour and a half had passed.   I blew the call intermittently, hoping another buck might be around, but nothing showed.  I loaded the meat sack in my pack, then coiled the hoist and put it in the pack, along with the knives and everything else.  I was able to shoulder the pack without propping it up on a hump or laying down, and so the time spent leaving more in the field was well worth it.

I started back for the boat about 10 minutes before 1 pm.  It took me about 10 minutes to get back to where I first called for 30 minutes this morning.  And there stood in a doe in my tracks.  Right where I had been calling.  I wonder if she had been there all morning after I left.  She bounded down the trail, and I immediately called to see if she had a buck with her.  As I walked along the same trail she took, I saw her again and called again, and she’d stop out a ways.  Then I started walking again and saw her bound to the left the last time.  No buck with her, but very interesting she was right where I had stood calling.

I picked my way down to the beach, and was there in another 10 minutes.  I came out right near the boat.  The wind had picked up and the stern of the boat was only about 10 or 20 feet off the beach.  I was lucky I didn’t get tided, with another hour left before high tide.

I pulled the anchor in with the shore line, and then pulled the bow of the boat into the brush I was standing in, as there was no beach now with the high tide.  I loaded my gear and pack into the boat, and was soon on my way.

I knew it might be lumpy on the way home, and it was for a stretch, but there’s not many drives as satisfying as boating home after harvesting a deer.  I saw several whales on the way back, and one humpback surfaced close by.  I hollered to it to have a good time in Hawaii, as that’s where I assume it was headed.

I made it home in good time.  As I approached the boat launch, I saw a trooper truck there.  I ran through my mind what I would need – tag punched – check.  Evidence of deer gender naturally attached to the meat- check.  Then I saw a good friend, Doug, at the boat dock, so I went over and chatted with him for awhile.  Then motored to the boat launch.

I tied up and headed up to get the truck.  The trooper looked like he was on the phone.   I backed down the trailer, pulled the boat out, then put on the safety hold down straps and pulled the drain plug.  Must be the trooper is waiting for someone specific, I guess, as he was looking at his computer as I drove by.  Whew.  Even though I know I’d done everything right and legal, I was still nervous.  Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be.

This day would not be perfect, however.  I managed to back the boat into our shed, knocking it off it’s blocks.  I didn’t even know I did it till I backed past it with the boat, after several forward and back adjustments.  Brian brought over his skid steer an hour or so later and helped put it back where it was supposed to be.  I now have 4 bags of deer meat hanging in the shed, with perfect hanging temps each day from about 30 to 45 degrees.

Day 13.  Nov 9.  Got up to rain, so started butchering the deer for freezing.  I have a small swing out table in the container cabin, and after a few cups of coffee, I brought in the first deer piece by piece, cut it to size, and vacuum packed the pieces.  At mid day, I went to the post office to pick up the needed worm gear to the kitchenaid mixer.  I also picked up my new trailer tire, and an aluminum box outside the metal dump gate.  I put the new tire on the spare rack on the trailer when I got back, and used the gear locker in the back of my truck and the aluminum box to make stairs for the shed, as the step I had been using got trashed when the shed slid over it yesterday.  I put the gear in the kitchenaid and got it back together without much trouble, but then it would not power on, so have to figure that out.

I went to the library parking lot to use the wifi to look up the power issue with the kitchenaid, and also to watch my nephew in Pittsburgh play his playoff soccer game.  I watched the game for less than a minute before it locked up.  The internet is not strong enough for the live stream, I guess.  His team won that game and the next 2 games to win the Pennsylvania state championship for his 2a school.

Charlie left a message he’s coming day after tomorrow, so I thought I better get the second deer butchered today, too, and started on that.  I finished about 8 pm.  Sort of a life lesson that the entirety of a deer’s meat, once trimmed and vac packed, just about all fits in a 5 gallon bucket.

Day 14.  Nov 10.  I put the deer scraps out on the driveway at first light and watched pecking order in action.  The gulls are the boldest birds, coming in with me in sight through the window.  Next are the crows.  The ravens and eagles will not come in, but stay in the nearby trees.  They are practically drooling.  If one of the smaller birds comes in, and is startled by my moving inside the container, they fly off, and then all the larger birds chase them and try to steal their take.  The gulls are amazing at how much they can eat and swallow in one bite, and how they can continue doing this till you’d think they would be too heavy to fly.

After the shed incident, I thought I’d see if I could just drive head first down my driveway and make the corner up and back to the highway again on my neighbor’s side.  I did it late in the morning with plenty of daylight to see in case 1I had to back up the way I came or got stuck and had to have Brian come pull me out.  Again.  Others speculated it was too tight a turn, but turns out it’s not.  Easy in and easy out now.

Put a sling on my rifle.  I was using John’s youth rifle, and lost the clip to the gun.  I didn’t notice there was no sling on my gun until I got out hunting but it wasn’t a big deal without one that day.  No big hills to climb and didn’t need to drag my deer back.

Organized the shed to get ready for deer hanging and processing.  Resewed the zipper to the boat canvas, zip tied the canvas to anchor it in place, and mended some cracks in the canvas windows with flex tape.   Satisfying chores.  Need to replace the canvas with aluminum, but keeping the canvas going till I do.

Day 15.  Nov 11.  Charlie in today.  Figured out I didn’t have the brushes in properly on the kitchenaid as I got it turning.  But then during a readjustment, I had one in wrong and ruined the brush so have to order more.  Gale winds and rain.

Day 16.  Nov. 12.  Pouring rain and wind again. Brian took Erik and friends out, but too crappy for us to want to go.  Erick and Co only have 3 days.  They got one deer, I think.

Day 17.  Nov 13.  Hunt Day 8.   Winds laid down to about 15. We got going a little after sunrise, heading to a place we got a deer 2 years ago, and where we saw several more.  It rained on and off, and a little windy, but it was not unbearable nor chilling.  After calling in the first muskeg with no takers, we headed to the next place to call.  This was my second trip to this spot this year, and the spot we were headed to I’d seen a doe.

Charlie and I separated, with me calling on the edge of the muskeg, and Charlie positioned to intercept deer coming to me from his direction.  I had a hill to my other side.  I blew the call, and heard some sort of racket in the bushes.  Charlie would say later he heard it, too.  A few moments later I saw a deer and knew it was a buck right away.

I stepped up from the log I was sitting on to a nearby tree for cover and a rest. I could now see the buck was good sized, with a high rack.   It was coming in mostly in the open, and I was hoping Charlie was gonna see it.  I slipped on the ear muffs, and the buck stopped and looked my way.  Then put his nose down and kept coming.  And coming.  I got a rest on a staub sticking out of the 6 inch diameter spindly muskeg spruce I was behind, and started to track the buck in my scope.  I just let him keep coming.  As he got closer, he was now in line somewhat with where Charlie was, so I would not be able to shoot.  He’d either have to keep walking past, or turn back towards me.  He turned back.  And kept coming.  At about 20 yards he gave me a head on shot, and down he went.   Then silence.  I planned to wait a few minutes and try calling again to see if another buck was around.  Then I saw Charlie working his way to me to see what had happened.  I signaled for him to stop and that I was gonna call some more.  No more deer came.

Charlie came over to see the deer.  It was a big bodied deer.  I told Charlie to continue hunting, going over with him where to go and how, and off he went.

I punched the tag, and then set up the pully hoist.  I cut off the rear scent glands on the buck, removed the innards, and pulled out the liver and heart to cool.  I then dragged the deer to the hoist set up, yarded the buck up by the antlers, and started to skin.  It took me a couple hours to skin and portion up the deer.  Rain squalls came and went, and I put my raincoat on over my rain pants.  As I was finishing up, I blew the call again, and a few minutes later, I heard Charlie shoot.

It took me about 30 minutes to make my way back to the beach.  At least 3 boats cruised by, hunting the beaches.   I changed from my hunting boots back to my Xtratuffs, then moved all the gear down to the waters edge, pulled the anchor and shore line, and loaded the gear into the boat.  I figured Charlie would be another hour getting his deer to the beach, so I moved back off the beach, threw the anchor back over, put on the boat heater, and had a big cup of coffee from the thermos.   I started puttering around the cab, trying to fix the sliding window on the passenger side, and keeping an eye out for Charlie.   I finally saw him, after he said he’d yelled a few times, and I motored over.  He hefted his pack of deer into the boat, then his gun, pulled himself in,  and we were on our way back to town at about 2 pm.   He got a smaller fork horn deer, and had seen several other deer – does, a yearling, and a spike buck.

What a day.  The seas had laid down from the morning and we had a more comfortable ride back to the dock, as Charlie sipped a canned beverage, and I drank more coffee.   We loaded the boat with all our gear onto the trailer, put on the safety straps, and headed for the house.

At the container, I climbed aboard the boat and lowered all our gear down to Charlie.  I pulled out my pillow cases of deer meat and hung them in the shop, then got out of my wet clothes.  I changed the prop awhile later to see how another performs tomorrow, as I think I might have dinged the prop on there now with the logs I ran over the evening of the first deer.

Day 18.  Nov 14.  Hunt day 9.  Went to the spot we got the two deer yesterday.  Charlie had seen several does and I thought if there’s does in there, there should be bucks, and anticipated getting in further than we did yesterday to find them.  The wind had laid down, but it rained all day.   We only saw one lonely yearling that came into the call almost at the end of where we were climbing.   We saw a few does and yearlings on the beaches on the way home.  Brian said he didn’t see anything, but Erik got a 3 point.   When we got to the landing, a lone hunter had a big bodied fork horn with one of the thickest racks I remember seeing on a fork horn deer.   Time to go somewhere else tomorrow.

Day 19.  Nov 15.  Hunt day 10.  Hunted north of town.  Charlie and I split up to cover more ground.  I saw one doe, and Charlie saw two.  We saw one doe on the beach on the way home.  Beautiful dry day with a north wind and dusting of snow last night.

Day 20.  Nov 16.  Took off today due to forecast and glad we did.  By 11:30 am, it was pouring rain and blowing hard from the southeast and rained the rest of the day.  We butchered our deer and were now all caught up.  I tried to fix the sliding window out of the track on the boat, but could not.

Day 21.  Nov 17.  Hunt day 11.  Dropped Charlie at a favorite spot, then I was going to go to another island, but it was too rough of seas with what fuel I had left, so I turned back and ran the beaches.  Saw 2 does.  When I got back to wait for Charlie, I anchored and went to work on fixing the sliding window on the passenger side, which I did.  I also put the punt back on the roof as we shouldn’t need to use it again as the high tide is later in the day.   Charlie returned and hadn’t seen much.

Day 22.  Nov 18.  Hunt day 12.  Ran beaches we hadn’t run before at low tide.  Nice beaches with sand.  And not a single deer.  Charlie and I hunted the spot I tried to get to the day before, and saw nothing.  Got a text from Brian that someone had seen 2 bucks on beaches at a spot we could pass on the way home,  so we went over and sure enough, the first deer we saw on the beach was a buck.  Wind was blowing right on the beach, though, and so had to drop Charlie down a ways, and even then, I almost beached the boat on the rocks. While he walked back up to the deer in the woods, I ran the beaches further, and a couple hundred yards further on, there was a bigger buck.  If Charlie had been with me, it would have been easier to drop him within shooting range.  I couldn’t see how I could get off and shoot myself with the onshore wind, and by the time I got ready to try, the deer had wandered up into the woods.  Charlie’s deer had wandered back into the woods, too, by the time he got to the beach.  Then, it was difficult getting a spot Charlie could get on the boat without me beaching it.  I tried to send in the punt and pull him out, but never could get the punt to the beach.  Finally found a rock he could hop in from, and we were ok.  Both of us were soaked to the skin from hunting in the hard rain and sleet.

This was my last day of hunting.  Crappy weather prevented Charlie leaving the next day by small plane, and the following day he tried to fly out via Ketchikan on the jet.  He got to Ketchikan alright, but then the jet to Juneau got cancelled so he had to overnight there and get out the next day.

I drove to Coffman the following day, with all my venison and gear.  I met the charter boat that was bringing folks over from Wrangell, and he took me and all my gear on the hour and a half or so ride to Banana Point, where Paul and Steve were waiting with the truck to drive us to Petersburg.  The charter captain continued with the other two kids he’d picked up in Coffman and their dad back to Wrangell.  Paul had arranged with good friend Dick to hold my venison in his freezer till I went on to Juneau after Thanksgiving, so we dropped my venison there, and then went on to Paul’s and loaded his deer in his freezer.

deer with gun - hunting
deer with gun - hunting
deer with gun - hunting

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