.Central Prince of Wales
Island Sitka Hunt,
It was one of those hard-to-get-to places that held my fascination for
several years. The ridge nagged frequently at me since it was in my back
yard. Friends had made the climb at my urging only to come home with tales
of seeing big bucks but coming home empty handed.
. Long time residents
slowly gave up stories of hunting the peak in their younger days and harvesting
and seeing great bucks. The time had come; it was time I made the trek
up the mountain. A relatively new logging road got me near the slope's
base but the historic route up the mountain's southern flank now had been
harvested via helicopter logging.
with conventional timber harvest methods that utilize cable logging, even
with down-hill yarding, understand that skid trails make relative easy
going up to the back-line of a harvest unit. Helicopter yarding however,
results in unorganized and most importantly unconsolidated slash randomly
spread on the landscape. Place this on 80 to 100% slopes and it definitely
makes crossing these areas a challenge. One person that had hunted this
mountain years ago suggested an alternate route, a route that timber harvest
and wind-thrown trees would soon rule out.
waited until the weather forecast and the satellite imagery agreed on
a two-day favorable weather opening. The two friends who were to go with
me backed out the night before so I repacked for a light, solo hunt. I
figured I would leave after work, working my way as high up the mountain
as daylight would allow.
..I gave my somewhat
skeptical wife a good-bye hug and kiss and told her I'd see her the next
evening or the one after that. With a raised eyebrow she wished me luck
mumbling something about some crazy person. Obviously she was not referring
..I parked the truck at the base of the helicopter
unit, dawned my pack and began the climb. I had planned on trying the
alternate route suggested only to find the harvest unit had been expanded
and the stream buffer I was going to climb through had blown down. The
unharvested corridor we thought was still there was gone. This left me
little choice. I turned to face the helicopter unit.
..For two hours
I climbed through the slash to the back line of the unit. I entered the
timber and raced against the stetting sun to find a place on the 80% plus
slopes to pitch my tent. A somewhat level spot on the uphill side of the
base of a large spruce would have to do. I pitched the tent, threw in
my sleeping bag and pad and hung my pack and gear. I stretched out for
the night and let my muscles relax drifting off to sleep in anticipation
of the mornings hunt.
awoke at 5:00 am, discovered by a pair of ravens. With their urging I
dressed and donned my pack, now much lighter without the tent and sleeping
bag. Forty-five minutes later I broke out into the alpine. It had been
clam in the timber on the south-facing slope during the climb up. On top
the wind howled, the top of the mountain obscured by the fog that cascaded
over its crest from the north like a waterfall. Everywhere else, all the
surrounding peaks and ridges were clear, stirring under the suns first
Jim Baichtal with yet another beautiful Sitka Blacktail from
Even with the wind and fog, I spotted two large bucks feeding in a protected
hollow nearly a mile away. I continued to climb the ridge, working my
way through the alpine meadows, small ponds, and cliffs. By 7:30 am I
was within ¼ mile of the bucks but they had taken refuge from the wind.
I did not want to spook them from their resting spot. As the morning progressed,
the wind increased in velocity and grew colder. I climbed back down below
the fog, put on my rain gear to break the wind, and cowered behind a small
rock ledge out of the wind. For an hour I glassed the surrounding basins
and ridges, trying to absorb all the warmth I could from the rising suns
times I braved the chilling wind to scan to see if the bucks were back
out feeding. The second time I crested the ridge I came face to face with
a black bear boar. With the wind howling from him to me, he lumbered along
head down. Even from less than 20 feet it took three tries for me to get
his attention. He finally snapped his head up giving me a look that combined
surprise with disgust. He spun and disappeared up the ridge into the fog.
I returned to my sheltered outcrop.
..At about 8:30
am the fog began to lift and the wind calmed. I took my binoculars and
scanned where the bucks were last seen. They were back out feeding, in
fact two other smaller bucks and two doe had joined them. I decided to
work closer. About 15 minutes later I found myself within 350 yards of
the closest deer planning my stalk. I glassed the bucks again, the big,
wide, three point nearest me would do if I could get close enough. As
he and two of the other bucks fed behind a stringer of alpine trees I
began to cross the open alpine slope.
..I had only gone
ten or so yards when out of the deep draw directly below me stepped a
heavy-horned 4 X 5. I had never spotted this buck. He fed with a small
fork horn and a doe. Needless to say my focus changed from the wide three
point across the bowl. There was only one problem, they were 200 yards
below me and I had no cover for the first 150 yards. I was caught out
in the open in the head of a steep alpine bowl.
..All three deer
fed down hill and away. I took off my pack, grabbed my possibles bag,
and carefully cradled my Hawken in my arms across my lap. My plan was
to move when all three deer fed. Bit by bit I should be able to cut down
..As trio began
to feed, I inched forward. For the next hour I moved when their attention
was elsewhere. They fed, scratched, bedded, groomed themselves and each
another and from time-to-time stared intently at that dark form in the
alpine bowl above them. One of those intense "looking through you" stares.
I thought I was busted at least a dozen times. They tried the stare-feed-got
ya routine, each time satisfying their curiosity, relaxing and feeding
more. Finally I slid into a fold in the earth that allowed me to duck-walk
into a boulder field directly above the bucks.
Jims buck gross's 104 1/8" and nets 97 5/8" which should
place him in the
top 5 of the Sitka blacktail deer catagory in the Longhunter Records.
picked the rock I wanted to reach, checked the wind and the powder under
the nipple, cocked back the hammer, placing my thumb between the cap and
the hammer, and crawled forward. ..Upon
reaching the boulder I peered around its base from behind a small stunted
cedar, the biggest buck was feeding a mere 40 yards distant. I took the
extra few moments to watch this incredible animal as he scanned his surroundings.
He fed closer to the base of the slope, momentarily hiding all but his
..I inched to
the side of the rock resting my elbow on my knee to steady the heavy-barreled
rifle. I was now in the open, 30 yards above the buck. I set the rear
trigger as he stepped from behind the ridge. Once more he scanned the
valley, watching the bucks on the far slope. The thick smoke briefly obscured
the buck from my vision. I rolled from beneath the rising smoke to find
the buck lying still on the bench below. The doe and fork horn that fed
with him were 40 yards to my left. As the roar of the Hawken echoed off
the surrounding hills the deer across the valley stood motionless.
..I reloaded and
moved to pay respects to the buck. As I sat by his side the doe and small
buck moved across the basin to the other deer. They too had begun to slowly
move away into the timber.
..During my stalk
the fog had completely dissipated and the wind all but subsided. The warming
rays of the sun felt good, it had turned into one of those days we cherish
in Southeast Alaska. I climbed back up to my pack and returned to take
photos and bone out the deer. With the boning complete I packed up the
meat and my gear and began the climb back up the ridge. I had all day,
so I took my time resting
often and exploring the ridge top that was earlier obscured by fog.
..I got to my
camp by about 2:00 pm. I took down the tent and stuffed the sleeping bag.
I added the gear to my already heavy pack and started the climb through
the slash of the helicopter unit below. I had thought that negotiating
the slash on the way up was difficult. The combination of the heavy load
and the unsure footing the logging slash provided required I move with
extra caution. I took 2 ½ hours to work my way back to the truck.
skeptical wife was surprised when 1.) I was home before dark, and 2.)
I had not stayed for two days on the mountain given our weather.
buck was a massive 4 X 5. His rack is only 13 3/8" wide but it is 13 1/2"
tall with heavy bases with over 4" circumferences. His rack green scores
a gross of 104 1/8", netting 97 5/8". Allowing for shrinkage, he should
place in the top 5 of the Sitka blacktail deer in the Longhunter Records..