Went to Craig to deer hunt in late October. Weather was lots of wind and rain much of the 3 weeks I was there. The rain was a blessing after a dry season that left many of the hydroelectric lakes in the region in a desperate situation.
This was the first time I’d hunted down here out of my boat. It took a few trips to gain some confidence with anchoring the boat and going to shore in a punt. Turns out it’s a lot easier than in Juneau. The tides are smaller here, and lots of coves around the numerous islands to get out of the wind. Since the weather was crappy during the first two weeks, not many friends and family wanted to go out in the boat and I wasn’t confident enough to go myself so I hunted spots from the big road system. Didn’t see much.
The first trip in my boat was with Brian and Howard. It was exciting to be the boat driver for the first time in 20+ years of hunting, and Brian remarked how great it was for him to just get dropped off and picked up, instead of having to be the last in the woods and first out, along with worry about the boat, when he did all the driving.
I dropped the two of them off at one spot, then traveled down the beach about 5 minutes to my spot. I carefully anchored the boat, rowed to shore in the punt, changed out to cork boots, and headed up the hill. At the first spot, I called in more deer than I think I saw driving the roads all week. I think there were 4 deer that all came in from below me. I saw a medium fork stop, and took him. There was at least one doe, and another deer that sure looked like a big buck that came closer, but I never could see the head of the big deer and it walked away up the hill and wouldn’t come back. I dressed the deer, turned it over so it could continue to cool and drain but not be open to scavenging from ravens, and continued hunting up the hill. I didn’t get another deer further up the hill, and so about noon, I returned to my deer. I hung it up in a tree, got the hide off, then cut off both front quarters, the torso at the hips, and kept the hind quarters together. I stuffed the four sections of meat into the big game bag I sewed from a sheet that lined my pack, put the pack up on a stump, sat down under it so it sort of fell onto my back, and headed down the hill.
Then my friend from Kodiak, Charlie, decided to come down. He had only hunted from the roads here, and showed me some new spots. But when the weather broke and we got out in the boat, that sort of changed everything. Now I had a captive audience to go every day. We hunted alot in pouring rain and wind. We ran into a nice 4 point one day – a deer just in the wrong place at the wrong time, as no bucks were coming to our deer call. Charlie got the deer, then made the mistake of thinking it would be a good idea to drag it back to the beach. We were some distance from the beach, with lots of woods and dead falls between here and there. I’d advised him to bring a frame pack when he said he was coming down, but he only had a little day pack on. I’d been in this position before, packing out someone else’s deer in my frame back because they didn’t bring one, and had decided I wasn’t gonna do that again. It was a long, wet, up and down hill drag for Charles. But he made it. The next day was a gale and we weren’t gonna hunt anyway so lucky for him we just slept in.
I wanted to go to a spot we’d gone to 10+ years ago with the brothers Bue, and we tried there next. As great a place as I remember, but we didn’t see much. Then we picked out another spot on a new app my sister in law showed me. It’s called On X. You can download satellite maps to a smartphone or tablet that has GPS capability. Then you can use those maps to show your location via the gps, even if you don’t have cell phone reception. Some simple high tech stuff that sort of changes your whole operation.
Although I can tie up my boat to my inlaws dock, I like to keep my boat on its trailer, especially when the weather is so windy I’d need to move it off the dock anyway. The boat launch is located about 3 miles from our place, and so places I normally hunted with my inlaws dockwould mean considerable back tracking from the launch to get to. I used the On X maps to find some promising deer hunting closer to the boat launch, and we headed there after sleeping in til past 8am. It was a little lumpy in some of the exposed weather, and when we were just about in the lee of an island and calmer water, I realized we’d forgot the guns in the truck, so back through the lump to the truck. By the time we got to the spot I’d picked, it was getting on 10 am. Days like this where things don’t go as planned sometimes produce the best memories.
I dropped Charlie and our packs, survival gear, and guns on the beach, then backed off the beach, anchored the boat, and rowed the punt to the beach. As I swapped my regular extra tuffs for corked extra tuffs – rubber boots with golf spikes – our friend cruised by hunting the beaches.
We saw some deer and got one small fork horn late in the day about a mile from the beach. This time Charlie had a pack I’d loaned him, and it was a lot easier for him getting back to the beach. We cruised the beaches looking for deer on the way home when I spotted a downed evergreen I thought might be a cedar that my brother in law might want. As we idled to the beach, we saw a deer near the tree. And it was a buck. As we touched the beach, the deer walked into the woods. Apparently, when I blew the deer call it stopped him, as he was just inside the beach fringe and we got our second deer. Since we’re not rural residents, we can take 2 bucks each here on federal land (which most of it is in this hunting area) as the deer hunting success for the local hunters has not been good. Normally we could take 4 bucks each. And that’s okay with us. We’ve now got our deer for the season here, and can take a couple more up in Juneau if we want.
By the time we got the deer dressed and into the boat, it’s about dark. I white-knuckle it in the darkness by GPS through the rockpiles back around the island in front of town, and once we see the town lights, I relax as I see the boat launch in the distance.
I got up the next morning at 5 am and had my deer butchered and packaged by 9 am. Then Charlie started in on his and he was done in the early afternoon. We both wished we had more deer to get because we were just getting the hang of it but we’ll be ready to go next year.
Getting home to Juneau is an all day affair. Howard and Michelle pick us up at 630 am for the 40 minute ride to the ferry in Hollis. After a 3 hour ride to Ketchikan, we take a taxi to another ferry that crosses to the airport. Then it’s a 5+ hour wait til our flight to Juneau, which stops in Sitka on the way. We get home on time at 8 pm. After 3 weeks of sleeping on a futon, it’s a simple pleasure to be back in my own bed.