The 24 Hour Hunt,
August 1, 2002,
1st broke cool and slightly overcast. We had slept at the trailhead that
night. I was hunting with Dave Schimd and Moriz Mertz, my wife's second
cousin visiting from Germany. We awoke at 3:30 AM and fifteen minutes
later we were on the trail. It took us 3 hours to hike the 7 miles to
where we started up the mountain. We saw no deer along the way but were
entertained by two different black bear.
began the climb from the trail up to the alpine. We flagged our route
for an easier return. I had made this trek last year so generally knew
the route. I had also gotten off the route on the way back down last year
and knew the perils of drifting a bit to the south. It was imperative
that we find the one crack through the cliffs to the alpine above and
the same crack for our return. The climb took 2 hours.
called in several does on the small muskeg benches on the way up. At about
8:30 we broke out into the open alpine. The day was warming and the deer
would be heading for their beds if they were not already there. Within
moments we began seeing deer. A half-mile away a large buck was just feeding
into the timber and several smaller bucks and a doe fed on the distant
slope. As we still-hunted through the hummocky alpine meadows and stunted
timber, I looked left and saw 2 bucks and a doe at 60 yards, the biggest
buck was a real nice, heavy 4 X 5. I had already made up my mind that
Dave would have the first shot, his opportunities to hunt are far fewer
than mine. We crept up behind a ridge and pond coming out 40 yards from
the feeding trio. The buck ran up an alpine draw a few yards before Dave's
.300 put him down for good. At Dave's shot, a buck who's antlers were
at least as wide as his ears, rose from his bed, gave us one quick look,
and disappeared over the ridge crest. I dropped my pack, grabbed my possibles
bag, worked over a couple of ridges and up an adjacent alpine draw to
try and cut him off.
I crested the ridge, he was standing some 50 yards away. At the moment
I got my sights on him he dropped over into the adjoining basin. I moved
to that basin's edge as fast and quietly as possible. I crept up behind
a large boulder and small stunted hemlocks to already find him silhouetted,
this time some 150+ yards across the basin just before he dropped off
the backside of the mountain and into the timber. We would have to match
wits another day. In trying to out maneuver the buck, I had busted from
their beds at least a dozen deer, several of them smaller bucks.
returned back to find Dave and Moriz half way through the boning of Dave's
fine buck. We finished the boning, packed the deer up and moved it to
the shade and found a place for lunch and glassing. The deer were bedded
deep in the timber from about 10:30 am to 1:30 PM. A few does and smaller
bucks fed in the shadows of the cliffs or moved between bedding areas.
We glassed, ate, napped, and dried our socks and feet. We discussed our
afternoon hunt options as we glassed. I convinced Dave and Moriz to head
back to the trailhead and to home. I had all I needed to stay the night
here on the mountain and I really wanted to see what moved later in the
evening and at dawn. Dave reluctantly agreed, leaving his cell phone with
me for emergencies.
about 2:30 PM, I accompanied them to the edge of the alpine and the head
of the game trail down. We bid adieu and I turned to position myself to
the evening's hunt. I relaxed from our previous vantage point until about
4:00 PM. I had decided to work my way up to the top of the mountain and
wait for the deer to begin to feed. As I crossed the wide alpine bowl
between my vantage point and the ridges peak, a nice fork horn and a doe
appeared out of the shadows of the creek bottom. They were some 400 yards
distant. I was caught in the open, I slowly sat down and watched. It was
too late for they had me pegged. I was not interested in harvesting the
buck but I did not want to spook them out of the country either. Nervous,
the doe and buck crossed the draw and ran upslope into a narrow stringer
of timber. Much to my surprise, a very nice 4 X 5 ran out the other side,
this must be the first buck we saw heading for timber earlier in the morning.
immediately had me located even though I was not moving. He must have
been watching me from the security of the timber. Options were running
through my mind, I really wanted a chance at this fine buck, however I
was over 400 yards away from him and out in the open. I decided to just
slowly walk towards him, not directly but quartering, and to lowly blow
on my deer call on occasion. I slipped off my pack, put my possibles over
my shoulder, and slowly began to move across the muskeg meadow. I picked
a spot below him on the far side of the basin from where I thought I could
make the shot, that is if I could get there and he cooperated. Several
times he made motions to move off. Twice I stopped, holding his attention
and once a sharp tone on the deer call held his curiosity, after all,
what ever that was out in the meadow was two ledges below and across the
an estimated 110 yards I figured I had best try for the shot. The actions
of the buck suggested he was not long for his vantage point, and he had
just turned full broadside. I knelt, resting my elbow on one knee, set
the rear trigger, estimated the drop, held a fine bead, and fired. The
buck stumbled and raced into the timber. The crash of brush that echoed
across the basin told me my aim was true. I returned for my pack and climbed
to find the buck not 20 yards from where I last seen him, shot through
the front shoulders and lungs. My custom .54 Hawken had made meat again.
I took pictures and slowly boned out the buck, planning on spending the
night on the mountain. I used the cell phone to call my wife and let her
know of my success and plans.
I finished my chores the distant rumble of thunder echoed from the surrounding
glacially scoured valleys. Through my glasses I could see that my home
was right under the thunderstorm. I again called my wife Karen who confirmed
that soon after I called the storm moved in and it was dumping rain on
Thorne Bay. I let her know that it was still clear and sunny where I was
and I still intended to spend the night up high. As I donned my pack to
look for a campsite for the evening, clouds began to form, rotating clockwise
in the valley below. The storm had shifted direction; thunderheads were
forming directly above me, it was time for me to get my backside down
off the mountain. Now!
headed for our lunch spot and crested the ridge coming face to face with
a young boar black bear. He was very curious about that sweet smelling
package on my back. We discussed his options and a luckily thrown rock
in his side moved him from the trail. I worked my way down the valley
leading to the trail through the cliff only to find that my young friend
was following. I took off the pack, approached the bear and again discussed
his options. He eventually left, most likely to find a carcass and gut
dropped through the timber towards the end of the trail. I was about half
way to the trail's end when the skies darkened and lightning began to
strike within the valley. The temperatures dropped and it began to hail.
The average hail stone size was 3/8"…enough to sting. I found a wind thrown
tree to take refuge under, dawned my rain gear, and put my Hawken in a
wool gun cover. The hailstorm lasted for some 15 minutes. As it let up
I continued my descent of the mountain. The forest floor was covered with
hail and the steep slopes were now particularly slick. I found my way
back to the trailhead even though a bear had removed much of my flagging
since the morning's climb.
reached the trailhead at 8:30 PM. I found a spring to fill my water bottle
from and changed my socks to dry my feet for the long walk out. The clouds
were threatening and distant thunder echoed through the valleys. I got
my head lamps ready for I knew that it would be long after dark before
I reached the truck. I began the long walk out passing two different bear
feeding on berries adjacent to the trail. I had made it about 1 mile when
200 yards to my left a tree exploded in a bright light and a deafening
roar as the evenings storm began in earnest. The skies opened up. The
trail began flowing water. Creeks that had been but a trickle flowed bank
full. The waterfall from the cirque lake across the canyon echoed throughout
the basin only to be drowned out by the frequent thunder.
9:30 PM and 12:00 AM I had front row seats to an incredible symphony that
reverberated off the surrounding mountains. The rain never let up. I was
soaked. My high-tech raingear was no match for the fury of the storm.
I was warm however, straining under the load on my back. At about midnight
the rain abruptly stopped. The stars and moon came out. The storm echoed
off in the distance, now the sound of the waterfall across the canyon
dominated the night. I reached the truck at 2:30 AM and home at about
hung the meat and slipped into bed. As I lay there sharing bits of my
adventure with my wife, the sounds of the first birds of the morning came
through the window. The skies began to lighten as I drifted off to sleep.
My muscles finally relaxing, I dreamt of the adventure, the storm, and
the events of the past 24 hours. This year or next I'll return to try
my hand at the wide buck that slipped off over the ridge. The buck I harvested
provided a wealth of some of the world's best fair. He is a 4 x 5, nearly
15" wide that green scores a gross of 95 1/8" netting 89 2/8" with deductions.
Editors Note: I want to personally thank James
for his many contributions to the site. His writing style and photographs
put readers right along side him as he hunts the Alaskan high country.
An area most of us can only dream of ever having the opportunity to hunt.
Thanks James, it is people like you that make the site what it is. I am
looking forward to the story of your latest buck.
Jim Baichtal, P.O. Box 19515, Thorne Bay, Alaska 99919 email@example.com