John in alaska - deer hunting

Deer camp with John

Nephew John and I are in Craig for John’s third season deer hunting. Not bad for a 14 year old. His flight was delayed out of Chicago to Seattle so by the time he got to town on Friday we had to spend the night. We went out for pizza and stayed at a hotel. We were on the first flight to Craig in the morning on a beautiful day. When we got to town, my inlaws had left my truck at the airport as they’d gone hunting for the day. John and I got to our inlaws, put out hunting gear together, and got John’s license. This is the last year of the pricing for his license ($80) and deer tag ($150). Next year the deer tag goes to $300 and license to $150.

We drove out towards the middle of the island, and stopped at a muskeg along the highway about 11 am. We had about 4 to 5 hours of daylight to hunt. John had the call he’s built with my brother-in-law last year, and was doing a good job calling. He called in a deer that seemed like a buck, but I never saw it’s head and John never saw it at all. Later, John called in a doe. So, 2 deer on the first day. Not bad. The next day we went to our favorite island. In the first or second muskeg we got to, John called in a doe and a yearling. A couple muskegs later, he called in a doe that came from the bottom, and another apparent doe from the top. He kept calling and that doe turned out to be a spike. I told John it was a buck and he said to take it, so I did. We dressed and skinned the deer there, cut off the front quarters, ribs and backbone at the hind quarters, and dropped it into my homemade game bag in my pack. Then we loaded the remaining hind quarters. John took the hunting gear from my pack and put it in his, and we hunted our way back to the boat and saw no more deer. The others with us hunting elsewhere saw few or no deer.

On day 3, we went to one of my favorite bays. The salal and muskegs had 3/8 inch of hoar frost and everything was especially noisy. We saw no deer, but lots of buck rubs, as we usually do. My brother-in-law went to another spot and didn’t see any deer either.

Today was day 4. My expectations weren’t too high after the previous day. We were dropped at another cove I’ve hunted several times. We made our way up through the 3 muskegs you hunt. I’ve seen up to a dozen does in these, but never a buck. Today, we didn’t see a deer. We worked our way around the bowl by getting up onto a spine that lead back to the beach. We came to a muskeg and I almost called there. Then I saw the muskeg went down to the left. Here on top it was blowing, but it looked a lot quieter down there, out of the wind. So, we went there instead. As we got into the lower muskeg, I saw a doe that turned around and went into the woods. I blew on the call, but didn’t see anything. Then I saw the doe come out across a little creek and head up the other side of the muskeg. I blew the call, and that turned her. Then we saw another deer, and John said it looked like a doe or yearling also. Then I saw third deer bringing up the rear. And it was a buck. It froze broadside to us about 50 yards away on the other side of the creek. By this time, the doe had crossed back over to us and was coming up to the call. John was only 15 feet to my right, and couldn’t see the buck. I called him over. He said ” the doe’s right there”. She was about 10 yards in front of us. I said get over here before the buck leaves. The doe jumped a bit but then was calm. John got a rest against the tree. I saw him flick off the safety. Then the buck, which had been looking at us frozen still, turned his head to the right and I thought it was about to walk away when John squeezed the trigger. Right through the neck and it was all over. I was really excited.


My nephew John in Alaska

Hunting all day and we see three deer in this little out of the way spot and John gets his deer. John got out his phone and had me take a few photos. Then I helped John dress his deer, and he put the heart in some salal to cool. I cut a stick that we put between the hind legs, hoisted the deer up a tree, and skinned it. Same as last time, we put the deer in my pack and my gear in John’s pack. John decided to take back the head, and put his locking tag in it’s ear. It was 12:35 pm when we started down, and I figured we had plenty of time. My brother-in-law showed up right on time at 2pm and we had just reached the beach. Sure didn’t seem like a 90ish minute trek back but my back figured that was about right. This deer was the 4th that I’ve packed out this season, and this trek was probably the most rigorous. Just glad I can still do it and hopefully John will soon be taking over the packing duties.

Why we live here

Well, my boat problems continue.  Bob and I hunted our spot yesterday in decent weather.  It must have been in the high 40’s in the middle of the day.  I saw a deer and either saw another soon after, or the first one twice.  I jumped the deer in the brush and never saw the head nor had a chance for a shot.  We could manage to call nothing in to the call, but know others did get deer in the area. When we came back to the beach, it was getting on dark.  We came out about 1/4 mile down the beach from the boat, so we treked to where we’d anchored.  About half way there I saw 2 other boats leaving the cove.  When we got near where I thought the boat was anchored, I saw something unnerving.  There was a boat upside down near the beach.  I hoped that wasn’t our boat. When I got to our anchorage, I saw that it was our boat.  We’d anchored the boat in about 20 feet of water when we got there at 8 am.  The tide was going out and wouldn’t be high again until 545 pm.  Waters were calm all day.  I’m still baffled at what caused my skiff to overturn. I first called the Coast Guard to give them our situation.  It was getting on dark, a major weather front was moving in, and they never asked us if we needed a ride back.  They asked if we had survival gear and were okay and said they’d put out a call to mariners to see if anyone near could help.  Bob saw a commercial fishing boat heading to Juneau and I hung up with the Coast Guard and tried to hail the boat on my VHF. On the second call, he replied.  He said he’d be over to get us.  He had to back track around some islands and was over to us in 30 minutes.  I’d luckily thrown in the punt at the last minute, so we had a way to get out to him.  It was dark when he got there.  I sent Bob out first with a line tied to him.  When he got to the boat, I pulled the boat back to me,  put the life jacket on that Bob had worn, and paddled out.  We were both wet and getting cold. Then the skipper said he had a friend who was rounding the point and would be on site shortly.  His friend was on his way to town from a job in a big landing craft.  The skipper had his crew member put on some coffee for us and waited for his friend. The landing craft arrived, and with it’s crane, pulled our boat out of the water and onto his deck.  We were then on our way home warm and with our boat.  We couldn’t believe our luck.  The landing craft skipper said he’d put the boat on my boat trailer in the morning. Kurt came out and got us at Auke Bay.  He dropped me off at the house and I got out of my wet clothes, took a hot shower, and headed to Bob’s, where Laura had a hot meal waiting for us. Bob shook up martini’s and we recounted the story to Laura. Bob picked me up this morning and we went to get my boat and trailer where we left it at North Douglas, and headed out to retrieve the boat.  The landing craft captain neatly set it on my trailer.  Neither he nor the commercial boat skipper would take a cent for helping us.  Their only question was – did we get a deer. We dropped the boat off at the outboard shop to get an estimate of outboard repair for the insurance.  Not sure what I will do with the boat and motor. Kindness like this from strangers in our little city remind us why we love living here. 

Prince of Wales Chief

We got our unfinished container house to our lot in Craig without incident yesterday. Then we went to rescue Ellen, Barb and Ed when the key to the boat ignition broke when trying to open the glove box. Brian wanted to go hunting today so I thought I’d better go along. After a month of sun and dry and north wind it turned to southerly wind and rain. Too windy to go in the boat, so we thought we’d try somewhere we could drive to. Steve gave me a place to go when I helped him butcher his deer a couple days ago, and Brian also had a place to try near the same area. When we got out there, we decided to hunt together where Brian wanted to go. We drove up a logging road to a spot Brian knew well because it’s where they go snow machining. This could turn out to be a pretty good hike so I shouldered my full plastic frame back pack just in case. Brian went with a little pack. As we headed up the hill, my knee was stiff and things ached. The further we hiked, the better everything felt as it loosened up.

We worked our way up the mountain, calling in the grassy muskegs. We saw no deer. When we reached a high point, we descended to another group of muskegs. Rather than the open grassy ones we’d seen, these had lots of small cedar and bull pine and brush – the kind deer like to hang out in and the kind it’s easier for fat boy to sneak around in without every deer in the area seeing me. It was really blowing up here. We descended to a brushy muskeg that had a little ridge to it, and we were on the lee side. The ridge had a gully in the middle, and you could see the rain blowing through the gully up the hill in the wind. Brian was to my left as he blew the call a few times. He motioned that he saw a doe down hill and to my right. I couldn’t see her for a few moments, then here she comes charging up to us. She had a scar on her side. She made her way past me out about 20 yards and up to Brian. Then here comes a buck with a really white colored rack. Most racks are brownish red here from what they rub the velvet off, I guess, but this one was white like the white tail deer racks back home. I had chambered a shell before Brian started calling, so I was already loaded and flicked off the safety. I was going to wait till the buck came right across from me like the doe did, but the buck saw me move and held up. I decided not wait. I looked through my scope at him out there maybe 30 yards. The scope was fogged with the rain, but I could make out the white patch below his chin and it was over.

What a big deer. As I walked down to him, I could smell him from about 10 yards away. This guy was in the rut with his stinky rear hocks and big neck. Brian thought he could carry the gutted deer up the hill we came down. When I grabbed on to an antler to drag it, I said I couldn’t. I thought it best to butcher it there and put him in my pack. As I started to gut the deer, Brian said I had to pose for pictures. He took several with his iphone. I cut around the butt hole and tied it into a knot so it could be pulled through while Brian slit the belly and removed the guts. I cut a hanging stick to put through the back hocks. We put the stick through the hocks, I tied my rope to it between the deer’s legs. The other end of the rope I threw over a branch, pulled it under the stick again, and threw it over the branch again. Steve taught me to use the pulley principle to pull up your deer so you can skin it. We got the deer as high as we could, and Brian tied off the rope.

Then he had me stand next to the deer for more photos. People who know how big I am will see from this photo – this is a big deer. We worked together skinning the deer. As Brian started on the rear legs, I cut off the front lower hocks. Then we each started in on a back leg and worked our way around the deer as we removed the hide. We skinned it down to the neck where I’d shot it, and I used a handy little saw Smiley gave me last summer to cut off the neck. As Brian worked on removing the antlers from the head, I cut off the front quarters and put them into the game bag loaded in my pack. Then Brian worked on the back straps as I cut out the tenderloins, and Brian sawed off the ribs. Then we cut off the back bone and put the hind quarters in as one piece. Brian took my gear of knife, sharpener, VHF, etc into his little pack and he carried the antlers. He helped me shoulder my pack full of venison, and we headed up the hill. Brian asked several times on the way back if I wanted him to carry the pack. I said I was okay. I wanted to carry it all the way out, just so I knew I still could.

The uphill ascent wasn’t too bad. Then we were on our way down hill back to the truck. My guess is we were maybe 3/4 of a mile to a mile in. It probably took us about 45 minutes to hike out. It was a relief to get back to the truck. All the way back I kept running through my mind that buck coming on hard following the doe. I pulled the tailgate open, and unshouldered my pack into the truck bed. The coffee from the thermos of coffee I bought from Black Bear store on the way out was still hot as I started the truck for the ride home. We cased our rifles and took off our raingear and were on our way. We stopped at Steve’s to show him the antlers and tell him the story. Then picked up the boat with a new ignition after the broken key and told the story again to Chet. At the house, I got the venison out of the pack to cool. I removed the meat from the front and hind quarters, and I cleaned off the stray deer hairs and muskeg fauna that were on the meat. What a day. It’s good to be here.


Moose Hunt

Bob and I made it to the DNR cabin on the mainland to moose hunt. The forecast was for a gale on Thur and Friday and we thought that if we could make it over on Wed, we’d be in a hidey hole and out of the weather. It was pretty lumpy going over with the wind coming down Lynn Canal, and we were glad to get inside the bay and calmer waters. We arrived at the cabin, offloaded the gear, set the crab pot, and anchored the boat. Someone had been there earlier in the morning and they left a bag of ice in the firepit and unbroken clay pigeons they’d obviously shot at during high tide. We put away the gear and enjoyed the sunshine. I checked the level of oil in the stove tank, and Bob fired up the stove inside.

The cabin is a very tight all-log structure with both an oil and wood stove. We’d get hunting tomorrow. Bob broke out some salami and cheese and bread and I brought out the Ritz crackers. We had salad and king salmon for dinner. When I got up to relieve myself in the middle of the night, the northern lights were pulsing. As you lay in your bunk in this cabin, you look north to a skyline of mountains, and tonight, the northern lights. The gale came as forecast overnight. Our anchorage, however, was clearly not as sheltered as I thought it would be. The wind was howling down the three arms of the bay, and we knew it must really be rolling out in Lynn Canal proper. We decided to stay put for the day to watch the boat and neither of us was disappointed.

Moose hunting here for us is marginal at best, and a day of rest was just as good. We put a couple extra lines on the boat for security, and listened to NPR to the tribulations of Donald Trump as the number of women claiming he groped them seemed to increase by the hour. We had Sara’s venison meatloaf and salad for dinner. The next day the wind dropped a bit and we felt confident our tie-up set up was holding the boat in place so we packed our gear for the long hike from our island to the mainland. The islands are connected all the way to the river mouth during about 8 of a 12 hour tide cycle.

We crossed just before high tide would cover the land bridges and knew they’d be dry again by the time we returned. It was a pretty gnarly walk in as we went in on the wrong side of one of the islands, came to cliffs, and had to walk down the center of the island, which had a lot of blow downs and devils club. It took about an hour to make our way to the mainland, where we found bear sign everywhere. Fresh, dark black scat from their obvious consumption of roots from the digs we saw everywhere. Lots of mallards were in the area, and a few honkers. We made our way inland, and decided to hunt away from the river since there was another group camped near the river mouth who had jet boats and we assumed were hunting the area along the river. We headed west toward the mountain. We came upon moose tracks and followed these west. We never saw any scat, though, so we weren’t sure how old the tracks were. On one creek sand bar we saw wolf, bear, and otter tracks. I picked high bush cranberries as I could. When we reached the mountain, we came back out to the grassy meadow along the beach hoping a moose might come out to feed in the evening. We made our way back and didn’t see any moose.

We walked the opposite beach of the island back and it was free and easy walking. I noticed some black spots across the bay, and Bob confirmed they were two brown bears that looked like they were digging for roots along the distant beach. As we neared the cabin, we could see the PBR on the porch. My pace picked up in my mind, but my legs would not have it. We both cracked a beer and sat in the evening sun – the only time it hits the cabin at this time of the year. We decided to have sockeye salmon for dinner. I removed them from their packaging and seasoned it with salt and pepper. Bob restarted the oil stove which we shut down when we left for the day, and I started a wood fire for a more immediate warming of the cabin. Soon, the wood fire was roaring and the cabin was 90 degrees. Bob and I grew drowsy, soon both of us were lights out. We got up from our naps at 10 pm. Now wide awake, neither of us was hungry for dinner so we put the salmon back in the cooler and had snacks and listened to the radio for an hour. A famous Canadian politician had passed away – James Prentice – which was reported on the CBC show on our local NPR station, but never a peep on the US NPR.

They were too busy following Trumps antics. When the BBC came on an hour later, they had a story about a presidential write in candidate in Utah who had a chance to win the state. Again, no story about this on NPR. Only more Trump stories. It’s very sad the state of our public radio and the stories they choose to cover. It’s no wonder third party candidates can never get traction when no news agency covers them, and when they do, they always ask – why are you running when you have no chance to win. Maybe this election will change that, but I doubt it. Republican and Democrat are like Jewish and Catholic- they are religions to their followers.

The next morning the forecasted winds were to come down to 20 knots for the day and back to 30 later in the day. We decided to leave a day early and try to sneak home. Otherwise, we’d be stuck for several more days due to the winds, and that would be okay, too. We loaded up our gear, turned off the oil to the stove, stacked the firewood we brought for the next person, swept the cabin clean, and motored out of the bay. We had a following sea and not much chop in the bay. As we eased out into Lynn Canal, we could see big waves breaking to the north and east. We decided to head south and east so we’d be in the trough and not bucking into it. We decided to head south until we got in the lee of Lincoln Island, and then head north again on one side of Shelter Island or the other back to Amalga if we could. We made our way across and soon got into 4 foot seas. The waves were well spread apart so we could go up one side and down the other. The waves may have climbed to some 5 footers when we were in the thick of it, but we never got side washed or felt like we might breach forward. After about half an hour, we were through the thickest of it and now along the Lincoln Island shore.

We were home free. When we got around Lincoln Island, we could see the waves were really big in Lynn Canal at North Pass, so I decided to go around Shelter and we could dock at Auke Bay and then have someone take us by car to Amalga Harbor to get the truck and trailer and haul the boat out at Auke Bay. At South Shelter, there was hardly any chop now, and it was flat calm to the south. We headed for North Douglas Harbor instead. I called Sara, and she came to get us. She let us off at Bob’s and we drove out to get the truck and trailer. An hour later, we were back at North Douglas, loaded the boat, and headed for home. Another successful trip to one of my favorite spots. Nobody got hurt or drowned, I got a few high bush cranberries, and we saw the northern lights. Moose season ended yesterday, but there’s plenty of time to get more deer in before the end of the year.

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.

Dewire and Rewire

It’s been enjoyable rewiring the boat after it was swamped last weekend.  I learned a bit about preparing wiring ends for marine use on the slope, so making the wire ends neat with heat tubing over the crimps.  I’m also making all the wiring long enough so I can remove the whole fuse box and bring it out into the light instead of having to lie on my back and look up under a dark dash later on.  All my electronics seem to work.  Just need to replace the transducer to the depth sounder that broke off from the stern.  Now I know better how the boat is wired if something doesn’t work.  I’ll have to replace the floor this winter as it’s rotted, and I see the spray foam underneat is soaked, too. Sara and I will spend the weekend in Fairbanks at Ken Dunshie’s memorial.  We’ll see alot of our Fairbanks friends, some who I’ve not seen in decades.