Be prepared

Sunday, Nov 12

I got up before first light, and it looked dry but with a breeze out there. I put coffee on, and decided to spray foam around the windows. I could feel the wind coming through during the storms, and now that the humidity had lowered outside, I thought it was a good time to do it.

Headed to the spot I have taken the most deer about 9 am. It was a dry morning for a change, with a little wind from the southeast.

I arrived at the anchorage about 10 am. I saw another boat across the bay I thought might be anchored and hunting the area, but as I approached, the boat took off. I think they were beach hunting. Then I saw a deer!  On the beach, right where I was heading. From the way it was nosing the ground and size, I thought surely it’s a buck. When I got the binoculars on it, I could see no horns. Not sure I could have got to the beach to take a shot if it was, anyway, but already – I’d seen a deer.

This was the spot I’d tided the boat with Marc, so wanted to be sure to be well offshore on a solid anchorage. I put the boat in the kelp, put the anchor over into the kelp, backed down on the anchor, and called it good. I was much too far to run my anchor line to the beach, so I just had to cross my fingers the boat would stay where it was.

I launched the punt. Then put my hunting pack, ditch bag, gun in waterproof case, milk crate seat, boat cushion to go on the milk crate, and kayak paddle into the punt. I put my phone in my front pocket of my overalls in the zipper pocket, then put on my life jacket.   It was maybe 50 yards to the beach. Kind of far, but the water was calm and I felt okay paddling that far.

Just before I got to the beach, I saw there was a swell pushing up the beach. I took a left stroke on the paddle, which moved the bow to the right. And then the swell hit the bow, turned me sideways, and the next swell tipped me and everything in the boat into the drink.

I was only in a couple feet of water, but the swell grabbed the gear and instead of floating it further up the beach as you might expect, it instead grabbed it and took it off the beach. I focused on keeping the overturned boat in hand so as not to lose that. I was able to grab my gun floating in it’s case, and the dry bag. I put the gun and bag above the beach, and tied off the punt. I looked for my pack, and saw it floating offshore about 10 yards….next to the paddle!  I had to have the paddle, I thought. Later I realized I could have used the gun in the case for a paddle maybe, if I had to.

I was already soaked head to toe, and waded out with my life jacket still on. I was able to grab the pack, but the paddle was a bit further off the beach. I went to zero gravity mode, in deeper water with my head above water and my toes touching the bottom only every so often. I got the paddle and headed back to the pack, then back to the beach. Whew!  The milk crate was further off shore. I let that go.

I actually wasn’t that cold. The sun was shining and it was probably 40 degrees or so. I kicked off my boots, and turned them over to drain against the log I was sitting on. Then I stripped down and put my wet clothes over branches on a spruce tree overhanging the beach. Then I opened the dry ditch bag. I had just packed it the day before, and purposefully packed the clothes in the order I would put them on. Underwear on top. Then long sleeve poly pro shirt. Then wool overalls. Then socks and hat.

I decided to put my wet fleece socks back on, since my boots were already wet. I wrung the socks, and put them back on. I put my damp boots on and now felt good. I thought at that moment about how much working with the scout troop and as a hunter ed instructor had helped me be prepared by practicing what we taught. I had worn my life jacket. I had a ditch bag with dry clothes. I was okay.

When I first overturned, all I could think about was getting back to the boat and going home. Now I thought- It’s a great day. I’ve already seen a deer on the beach. I’ll go up and hunt at least the first calling spot, about a 10 minute climb across a creek and up the hill. Before I left, I took out my compass and got my return bearing – west by north west.

I saw a small deer near the creek on the way up the hill. It took off and I wouldn’t have harvested it if it hadn’t. When I got up to the little draw, I ever so slowly worked my way through the salal, a few steps at a time, down to a spot to call. That’s when I saw it – I locked eyes with a deer across the little valley. Like the deer on the beach, it looked big and maybe a buck. But it was a doe. Eventually, she put her head down and walked away. She didn’t seem concerned.

I got settled in. I called for about an hour. The doe didn’t come back, nor did any other deer. When I looked at my phone, it was off. Likely dead. I thought – well, at least I have the sat phone. It was dead, too. I’d taken it out of the water proof case Bob keeps it in and put it in a zip lock bag to save on space and weight. Now I wish I hadn’t. I think only one of the zip lock bags in my hunting pack had not let water in. Most of them looked like the zipper wasn’t pulled all the way across. Another lesson to pass on.

But again, my training of others paid off. I’d taken my compass bearing at the beach. I pulled out the compass, got my bearing, and headed for the beach. I went straighter to the beach than I do when I use the gps on my phone. However, what I didn’t like was the fact that I didn’t want to hunt further up the hill without my phone gps. I have become dependent on the gps, whether I want to admit it or not. I also didn’t know what time it was, since I use the clock on my phone, too.

When I got back to the punt, the boat was riding high in the kelp patch. The tide had started to go out and the swell wasn’t as bad on the beach as when I arrived.   I pushed the boat out into the swell and got in. When the swell went out, I was on the bottom. When it came in under me again, I pushed out a bit, then on the bottom again. Next swell, I broke free and paddled out to the boat.

There were some small waves out by the boat that caused me a little trouble getting out of the punt and into the boat, but I just took my time. I transferred all the gear from the punt to the boat. Turned over onto my knees in the punt, then stood up holding onto the boat, with the bow line of the punt in my hand, and got one leg over the boat gunwale, and then the other. I was in.

The ride home was into the wind and a little lumpy, but the air seats on the boat make the ride a lot more comfortable. Near town I saw a couple in a lund that looked like they were paddling and their outboard was out, but when I got near them then said they were all fine.

When I got to the launch. the wind was ripping across the dock. It took me a couple tries to motor the boat up to the dock, put the engine in neutral, get out of the boat cabin, and get a line around a cleat before I got blown off the dock again.

I got the boat loaded, and headed for Klawock for fuel. The boat took a little over $300 and the truck a little over $100. Plus I’m out a cell phone and sat phone. As Bob Bue used to say, hunting is all about the free meat.

When I got home, I parked the boat like I wouldn’t be going out again. I thought maybe I’ve had enough deer hunting for awhile.   I put the saltwater soaked clothes and pack in the washing machine. I got out my saltwater rust stained gun, put some oil on it, and scrubbed off the rust with some steel wool, then coated it with oil again inside and out.

The container seems warmer already with the windows sealed.

Alls well that ends well.

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