Cutthroat and Baird Peak Buck Hunts.
James F. Baichtal

August 2, 2001

August 1st was far too wet and stormy to hunt so I had to suffer and wait until the next day. August 2nd, I got up at 3:30 am, made coffee, bid my wife good buy since she would be gone for 4 days. I then drove to a gated closed road (Cutthroat, for those of you who know the island), took out my mountain bike, gathered my pack and muzzleloader and started my journey. Just before leaving I realized I had my wallet, which I wanted to leave behind. I went back to the truck. In hiding my wallet I found my wife Karen's purse. OK, I rationalized, she would figure out where she had left it and come get it, so I took off again.

Two miles in I turned around with the realization that Karen had no clue where I was and would need her purse. so I once again loaded up my bike and gear and returned home, gave her purse to her, told her good buy again and started back. I had ridden some six miles in before my seat came loose from the jarring of the rock road. I hid the bike in a place that I hoped bears would leave it alone and walked the final two miles to the end of the road. There I decided to try and make the alpine and come back in one day. I bagged up my tent, sleeping bag, change of clothes and spare food, hung it in the trees and began the climb up the mountain. On the way, I had to shoo a sow black bear and her cub off the deer trail that led up through the cliffs. This took about twenty minutes of coaxing, actually rocks, and explaining to her to leave.

The climb took two hours. At 12:15 I broke out into the alpine and began to see deer. In the next hour and a half I saw sixty deer, twenty of them bucks. I managed to get within fourty yards of the largest and take him with my muzzleloader. I boned him out, bagged him up and started back down at about 4:00 PM, I never made the top of the mountain where the big boys should be. I gathered up my gear at the end of the road, repacked my pack, and started out at 6:00 PM. I got to the bike which I could not ride because of the loose seat, positioned the pack on the handle bars and pushed the bike out with the pack resting on it.

At 10:40 PM I got back to the truck and was home by 11:15 . I then realized that I had rode/hiked/walked some twenty two miles, climbed some 1700 feet in elevation and packed out 70 pounds of deer meat and my stuff. No wonder I was sore the next day...can't wait to go back. I saw a total of some 70 deer and 13 bear on the trip and found moose and elk tracks on the road. The mist/clouds had hung on the peaks until about noon so all the deer were still out feeding when I got there. I also believe for obvious reasons few venture onto this particular peak. The buck I took was a 4 x 4, nearly 18" wide that green scores a gross of 93 7/8", but nets only 83 2/8" because of deductions. Still a great buck and a lot of good meat.

August 7, 2001

On Tuesday, August 7, I took off work and went hunting. Craig Trulock and myself left at 4:00 AM and drove about 40 minutes from town. We climbed a local mountain gaining the alpine by about 7AM. We immediately began seeing deer, mainly bucks. Nothing we wanted though. We hiked and climbed until we finally were looking in to one of the alpine basins off the back side of the mountain. There was a big huge bodied buck about 300 yards down off a cliff that we watched for quite a while. We discussed Craig taking him but opted to continue up the mountain and come back for him later.

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Jim Baichtal's, Bairds Peak Sitka .............................. Jim's Cutthroat Buck ..............

We began to climb again until we reached the summit of the peak. By this time we had probably seen 30 some deer, at least 70% of them bucks, and a bear. We then came to an incredible west-facing basin skirted by high cliffs. Craig worked up to the basin from the flank and I went right up the summit. Below us we could see many deer feeding and bedded. I worked out a finger ridge to the north and ran into a bunch of small bucks. I watched a group of seven bucks for a while as one removed his velvet from his antlers. Under subsistence regulations in Alaska I can harvest game for others and one of the ladies who work for us asked me to get her a deer. Now I know I had passed many small bucks along the way but I rationalized that we were on the highest part of our trip and it was all down hill from here. I radioed Craig and let him know my plan and he confirmed.

The bucks came closer and the shot was not over 40 yards. The forked horn vanished in the smoke and as I lowered my Hawken to reload I heard a large crash and rocks rolling from the other side of the knob. The buck had fallen backwards off of a 150 foot cliff and then rolled some 300 feet to the cliff base. He came to rest near a snow bank. I waited for Craig and we climbed down to my "easy" buck, laughing at the circumstance. I threw the buck up on the snow and he glided down the slope to the bottom of the snow bank, where we boned him out and cooled the meat. We then climbed back up to the ridge and slowly hunted back the way we came.

We watched a sow bear with twins in one of the basins below us to the east. After a half hour of hiking, I walked to the cliff edge and saw the sow and cubs directly below us. They crossed a small stream in the basin at the head of a water fall. They were 1/2 mile distant and 1000 feet below us. One of the cubs must have not been paying attention because all at once he was swept over the falls. His bawling could be heard for over 30 seconds echoing throughout the valley. Momma bear leapt off the cliff to go to juniors aid and the other cub followed the best it could. Finally the valley fell silent except for the ravens, happy with the scraps I had left them near the summit. About five minutes later the three bears walked into the valley far below, the cubs both appearing no worse the wear.

We spotted other deer as we hiked down but still nothing like the big one from earlier that morning. I had been keeping a eye on him and had seen him bed several times and knew pretty close to where he lay. We worked back to the cliffs above him and could see the deer he was with, in their beds, but not him. Craig suggested that I use my deer call to coax him out, or at least stir things up a bit. I called long and hard on my doe and fawn bleat and got the attention of the bedded doe below, but there was no sign of the buck. Then suddenly I caught a glimpse of movement in the timber. The buck was sneaking out the back of the basin, up the cliffs, keeping to the trees. It was possible that Craig would get a shot as he topped the cliff, or through an opening in the timber. I grabbed my possibles bag and rifle and sprinted to cut him off. He had a 400 yard lead on me but I figured it was worth a try. Actually I knew I only had a snowballs chance in hell to pull this off, but what the heck. I pushed through the timber and broken landscape the best I could, getting parallel to where I had last seen him. I figured he had not stopped so neither did I. About 100 yards further on, I glanced left to see the buck hurrying up a trail at about 80 yards. I then did something I can't hardly believe. I swung on the buck, aimed in front to his shoulder and fired, just as he entered the timber. The massive bodied buck spun then crashed back into the timber. As I worked on reloading he accelerated through a stringer of timber about 80 yards ahead. I could only see flashes of the animal but I could hear him crashing and stumbling through the alpine brush. Then there was a big crash and then silence. I finished my reloading, capped the Hawken and walked towards the last sounds I heard. I could find nothing.

There were many small draws and timber fingers to search. I went to where the buck was when I shot and tracked him to where I though I had herd the last crash, from there the tracks disappeared. I found no blood so I began searching out each draw and deer trail. After searching off the back side of the mountain several times I returned to the last sign I had found. I stopped to rest a bit, knowing in my heart my shot was good, and sick at the prospect of not finding him. I sat back on a rock outcrop and looked to the right. There, one small draw over from where I had last searched, lay the buck. He was huge supporting a wide, high 4 X 4 rack. My shot had been true, taking him square through the shoulders, the roundball exiting the far side. I was shocked that I had shot. Evidently my subconscious had taken over. I normally would have passed on a running 80 yard shot especially after sprinting some 500 yards. I returned to Craig, gathered our butchering tools and then returned to the buck. We bagged the meat, picked up our stashed gear and headed off the mountain, still seeing deer. We finally got back home about 8:30 PM.

Craig Trulock is about my size. We had to move the buck only twenty feet or so to bone him out. Craig grabbed the horns and I grabbed the front legs, we had to heave together to move the massive buck at all, we could only move him about two feet at a time. I know he was approaching 200 lbs.

By the end of the hunt we must have seen some 60 deer, 40 of them being bucks and 5 bear. However, we saw nothing larger than the one I got . Not much can compare with a sunny day in the alpine of southeast Alaska...The huge bodied buck's, gross score is 91 0/8", and he nets an official 86 6/8

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