Alaska Sitka Blacktail 2020

Pre-season

First time setting up game cams (2). My angles sucked, I forgot to set the date on one, but my spots weren’t terrible. Picked up some nice buck action in an area that’s great in the rut. Wonder if these guys wandered up or stayed low. Migration patterns of island deer is much different than that of Lower 48 deer.

Opening Day
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Rainy for weeks, then hot, hot, hot. Weather was supposed to break Friday evening, and rain Saturday for the opener. As long as there was enough of a ceiling, conditions might be close to ideal. Not so.
Wind was sustained at 20-25. Couple does popped, two small forkies. Scary slow given it should have been great feeding weather in the protected bowl I was glassing. Maybe I need to find a new spot. Last year the weather was hot, rain, warm. The deer popped in the morning warm after the rain and saw four bucks before 7 a.m.
Lesson: Scout new spots. Don’t always count on the honey hole.

August 3
Buck #1
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Break in the weather allowed another shot at my alpine spot. Once on top it rained and the wind picked up dropping visibility to less than 100 yards. I ended up wrapping myself in my hammock tarp (no trees in the alpine) which kept my warm while I waited things out.
Saw a forkie feed out in the bowl I was eyeing and tried to make a move down within range. Got a look at 400 yards and it was feeding with its head down so I figured it was game on. Tucked out of view and cut the range to 200, but when I popped up, he was gone. I am assuming he just fed down and out of the bowl.
On the way back to the truck, I saw a small forkie and couldn’t let him pass. Meat needs to go into the freezer.
Lesson: Don’t be too picky. If it’s really about the meat, then make it about the meat and notch a tag. 

August 10-11
Buck #2
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Abby arrived on the 7th, and the plan was to get into a new piece of alpine I had scouted for the chance at a mountain goat. We waited until she got her COVID test results back since on the form she signed it did say she was going to be quarantined at my residence. Probably wouldn’t have hurt anything to be out on a mountain, but if everyone made exceptions for themselves, no one would follow the rules. Anyway, we took my boat a few hours south of town, rode mountain bikes up an old logging road, hiked then made camp at about 1600 feet.
The route I scouted looked pretty good except for two timbered humps that we’d have to traverse on the way to the ridge that led to the alpine and 3200 foot peak.
According to the topographical lines, the first hump peaked at somewhere above 1900 the second one at just over 2300, then the broken muskeg/alpine started at 1900. So the plan was 1600 to 1900, dip below 1900, up to 2300, down to 1900 then cruise gradually to the top.
There was no 1800 line between the humps so I figured it wouldn’t be too tough of a hike down then back up again. What we found was that it was very near a 200 foot drop then incline through maddening brush. It was wet, foggy and energy sapping, so by the time we reached the top of the second hump we were already gassed, couldn’t see the mountain and had to drop to 1800 feet before starting the gradual climb to alpine.
We broke into the alpine just as the weather cleared enough to reveal bits of the bowl and peak. The bowl looked even better than I had guessed. Lush and full of texture to hold deer which would make stalks easier, provided you could spot the deer first then make a stalk. However, we were after goats which should have been high on the mountain which was now visible, but we saw no clusters of white.
By the time 2 p.m. rolled around, we had seen a few nice bucks, no goats and knowing the weather was going to worsen and we had a tough climb back to camp, I picked out a nice 2×3 and punched tag #2.
The hike back down sucked for sure, but waiting at the 4-mile mark were the mountain bikes and the Burley utility trailer I had recently purchased. We plopped the meat on it and I rode the brakes back to the boat.
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Lesson: Never think it will be as easy as you assume based on a scout. If you haven’t seen it, you haven’t seen it. That will prevent being beaten down by a worse hike than you thought. Figure it will be harder, brushier and nastier than you expect. It’s southeast Alaska. Duh.