Alaska Sitka Blacktail 2019

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August
July 30 – August 1
Notes: Arrived at the base of the mountain the evening before the day before the opener to ensure we’d be the first ones there. Glassed up a few bucks from down low. Hiked up the next day. Weather had been warm but the day before the opener there was plenty of rain. In 2018, super dry conditions had the deer almost done moving by daylight. Very hot and dry. Hours after a good rain, the deer popped and I shot a 2×3 on the 4th of August.

Opening morning jumped a buck on our way to glassing the bowl. Steve Shannon passed a 250 yard shot to get closer, buck spooked. Found a forkie which he shot. After a picture, I walked back up the bowl and to the ridge to see what else was around. Shot a huge forkie. Two bucks in 30 minutes on opening day. Key was rain to keep plants lush, sunny but not hot until the afternoon.
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August 8-9
Notes: Archery stalk the next week was stupid. Saw a nice forkie at 60 yards and rather than loop further around, I tried to cut down and just keep my head low. Dumb. Spooked. Gone. I’m an idiot.

August 14
Notes: Was sure that buck would be back in the same place he was, but no dice. Starting to see hardly any deer as the alpine traffic has been pretty intense though there has been some rain and cloudy conditions too.

August 18-19
Notes: New spot. Huge pain to hike, but figured it would keep people away. Blew stalk on buck at 500 yards. Had to loop around a little basin and lose sight of the buck as there was no in between. Close to what we thought was going to be 50 yards. Buck was gone. Had spooked at some point or we were a little off in our guess on the stalk. That was the only buck we saw.

September
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September 8
Dual purpose hunt with Ryan. We were looking for either a buck or a bear with the bow. As long as the vegetation hasn’t died the deer stay up top. Glassed for a few hours, saw a few bears, but nothing to make a move on. Made friends with a dude from Germany who was over here hunting. Such a great dude. Had flown into a lake but was so terrified of all the brown bears, he got picked up early and came back to town. No brown bears on Revilla, but there are some on the mainland which is just across the Behm Canal on Cleveland Peninsula. They made a stalk on a bear, but the guy decided not to shoot. We loaned him some cooking gear and he sent a text two days later of a bear he shot. We figured he just wanted to do it on his own terms. Glad we could make a friend on the mountain.

September 14
Notes: Tried some transition muskegs halfway down the mountain, though it looked like there was plenty of feed on the mountains. Saw limited sign. One doe emerged but wasn’t too excited about the scout. Glad I saw it, but won’t be going back there either during August or rut.

September 15
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Notes: Dual purpose hunt with Ryan again. Couple of new guys in the Coast Guard (nothing against Coast Guard gentlemen, but most come from down south and sometimes have different hunting ethics) approached near us so I went over and talked to them. Wanted to get their plan so we didn’t run into each other. They said they were going across the basin to the mountain across the way. We said great, we were going to hunt the bowl just below us. A half hour later Ryan and I were glassing a bear and he was deciding if he was going to make a move. We see the coasties start moving down the ridge opposite of the one they told us they would. Figured maybe they were going to the back side. But no. A minute later we here a shot. They shot the bear from under us just as Ryan was about to make a stalk. We don’t own the mountain, didn’t claim the bear, but there can be some danger when you communicate one plan to hunters, and do another. Had Ryan been down there stalking the bear, it could have been weird. As it turned out, we went to the opposite side of the bowl, saw a wolf and Ryan called it to 15 yards. I had a clear view. He didn’t. Wolf spooked but held at 30 yards. Ryan had a brief shot but wolves don’t stay still long and he took off unharmed.

October

October 18-19
Notes: Same area but a different network and much, much better. Found the first rubs of the year, fresh with what seems to be eye guards thanks to the deep gouges in the trunk of an alder. Excellent sign. Lots of rain lately, so the muskeg is really spongy and makes a lot of noise. Every step I take with my heel it grabs and makes the sucking noise. Stay away from the bright green. Step close to root wads or bushes. Only saw 1 doe, but they are probably resting up.

October 25-26
Notes: More muskegs on a different spur from last week. Crossed a creek and found nice rolling muskegs with higher midpoints for better glassing. Edges are extremely loud so I need to slow down and be patient rather than figure I’ll just see one as I walk down the middle of a muskeg.

October 27 – Buck #2
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Notes: Sunday trip off island in Dave’s boat. Well, not off island, but to a cove not accessible by road. Hiked up from the beach. Found a muskeg I wanted to approach, put a creek between me and the muskeg to cover the sound until I was near the edge. Walked slowly and quietly as I approached the edge. Buck bedded 30 yards in front of me. I froze. It slowly rose and walked directly away. I didn’t have a shot. Stayed quiet and slowly pursued after about five minutes. Found it had just broken into the muskeg. It stood broadside and took the shot. The illustration below shows my approach. X is where I spotted the deer in the bed and A is the second sighting and shot.
Lesson
Hunt the edges. Use the call to slow a bump.

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November 3 – Buck #3
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Notes: I can’t imagine how many bucks I unknowingly spook trying to get into muskegs now that I apply the lesson from the previous week. Approached a muskeg in the same network as two weeks ago. This time the wind was bad, so I went on a big loop so that I accessed the muskeg edge where I wanted. Tried to go as ninja as possible with about 40 yards to go before the muskeg as to not bump anything in the transition. Small elevated trail that circumnavigates the muskeg as expected. All muskegs have this and I figure use the muskeg itself to cut across but bed and travel a lot in the transition on the edge. Made a call and heard a buck move toward me. No shot. Wind swirled and it walked away. I blew the call gently. Fifteen minutes later I moved down the edge on the game trail past more beds. From back in the clutter I looked out and saw a doe. Figured there had to be a buck with it. The doe was clocking me so I waited until it moved its head, then closed distance to a tree between us. Then I saw the buck. Below is the path around then into the muskeg. The first rub is where I made the initial call and the buck approached from behind me. The beds mark the trail that I followed. X is the first sighting to A when I closed the gap and saw the buck.
Lesson
Hunt the edges. Don’t blow through the middle of the muskeg.
Pay attention to the wind. Don’t be afraid to walk and do it right.

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November 9-10
Notes: Archery madness. The last two weeks seemed to be solid rut, but bucks were paired up for sure. Was creeping with the bow and the trail converged on a doe. Doe clocked me and didn’t move. To my right a buck kept feeding forward to 15 yards. Huge 3×4 at least. Told myself not to look at the antlers. It was behind brush, then fed left to right behind two trees. I drew, but it never cleared the second tree. It looked up, sensed something, then bolted. Thirty minutes later, I came across a super tall 2×3 that stared at me then finally fed into a clearing but away from me. Angle was too steep. I drew, but it only held for a second and I wasn’t sure I wouldn’t send one up its pooper, so I didn’t try. Best memories of the season. Incredible experience being intimate range with my bow and some big deer.

November 23
Notes: Looked around the same spot with my bow. My buddy Ryan had a good look at a 3×3, that was coming to the call, but the tiniest of broken branches deflected his shot. The buck was up a little rise from him and other than a log with that tiny nub, it was doing down. Searched for two hours. No blood. No fur. No arrow.

November 24
Notes: Took a boat off island with Abby and Ryan. Followed a nice game trail. Spooked a doe, but that was it. Vegetation was way too loud.

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