"Those Northern Blacktails"
A Sitka Blacktail Hunt

...Sept. 23, 2001
...The events in New York City on 9-11-01 will follow us all our lives and I for one hope I never take life for granted again. All across America we hear stories of the thousands of people directly affected by this tragedy. In writing this story I am reminded that while we hunted we indeed had a part of our hearts in New York City.
...I was stranded in Ketchikan, Alaska by the grounded airline industry (I was to fly out for my annual elk hunt on noon Sept. 11). Knowing I needed to get to Seattle or miss the hunt, I tried every logistic idea possible. By the night of the 12th we knew there would be no trip south… I finally decided to accept an invitation from James and Heidi (my Daughter and son-in-law) to come up for a few days of deer hunting. It sounded like fun but admittedly I felt a bit guilty for leaving the news regarding the country on the verge of a pending war. Like most of the country, I had been glued to the TV. Believing it to be equally important to display confidence to my family and get on with our daily lives, we chose to make the trip to the kids home; a six hour ferry ride north. I was greatly disappointed about missing my Elk hunt, but it pales in comparison to the real losses. Here is the hunt taken from notes I penned each night before the lights went out.
...Sept. 13th
...We caught the Alaska Marine Highway out of town at 5 am; the ride was great…I have heard it called a poor mans cruise. Actually we talked about some day taking the ride up all the way to Skagway and traveling inland a bit. Nothing like dreaming, right? Well after we arrived and said our hellos, James and I went to the range and tuned up our rifles. I proceeded to get hammered by my 338…should have put on a jacket! I would stick with the Browning 25-06 unless I needed a moose gun. After some adjustments we were ready for the next step, my moose tag! Oh yeah, I forgot to mention we were also gearing up for moose as they would be open soon (the 15th).
...Sept. 14th
...Friday comes and we get underway, out of respect for my hosts I won't mention any destination details. Soon we were camped and ready, we would be traveling to and from by ATV. There were plenty of roads so it was basically the same as a pick-up only no heater.
...I was set up with my usual survival pack, a Whitetail daypack. I guess they don't make a Blacktail daypack, ha ha! In the pack was a flashlight w/extra batteries, compass, firestarters, waterbottle, camera, knife/steel, meat sacks and a map of the area…OK… there were some candy bars too! I have to tell you though, the Cabelas Whitetail Daypack is definitely one of the best small packs I have used to hunt and take boned meat out with. In camp, just in case, I kept my Dwight Schue pack. It would come in handy should one of us connect with a Bull Moose.
...With enough time for an evening hunt, James and I took off for a nearby hill to climb. Separating for a while, I followed a deer trail along a steep bluff. After spotting for some time I looked right below me, 80 feet away was a nice young forkhorn buck looking right back at me! Looking him over for just a minute, I chose to pass on him. He sure looked fat though! Heading down towards the road I jumped about three deer and they all went different directions! Pulling my previously packed 'cow' call out of my pocket, I blew a short note. The only deer still in site, a doe, leapt right towards me and kept coming to within 10 feet! Never will anyone convince me that calls don't work. I had purchased a fawn bleat call but the cow elk talker was a lot easier to use, although perhaps not as effective. All in all, it was a tremendous rush!
...Sept. 15th
...Up and attem by daylight, we were greeted by another typical Southeast Day…rain and wind! You gotta love this place…well you better! We started the day calling for Bull Moose with a call James and Terry had made. It was actually pretty real sounding and I thought if there was one within earshot he should come running. Soon we tired of the calling and jumped off into a beautiful muskeg and beaver pond bottom. With the wind in our face we split up and each took a separate side of the creek. Oddly enough, we bumped into each other after an hour of still-hunting down the creek. Again splitting up, I hunted my way back to the road and sat looking over a large muskeg. After about 45 minutes of setting, I was startled alert by three shots not over 500 yards away! I kind of knew it would be James, but had no idea he had just taken an awesome trophy class buck! Here is the short version as told to me.
...After crossing a nice muskeg he started into the brush and timber that typically borders them. Changing his mind he turned and stepped back into the open just in time to see the big buck crossing the open from the woods he almost entered…smart deer! 3 shots later he was a Blacktail Hunter's dream! Fortunate for me he came to the road and then together we returned and drug the deer back out to the road. What fun! We called it a day and went on into camp where we could share the story with the rest of the crew.

James's trophy class 4x4 is an exceptional Sitka Blacktail. Alaska's liberal bag
limit allows numerous bucks to be taken by an individual hunter.

...Sept. 16th
...Another early start, only this fine morning it is only stars in the morning sky! With the promise of a fine day ahead of us, James and I head to a new area. As daylight opened up around us, I could see one of the gamiest looking spots I could imagine. Below was a huge series of muskegs and a mile away out in the middle was a low ridge running the full length. After a short discussion on our plans we took off, each going our own way.
...Only in the woods a short while I jumped 2 deer…Does. I had hunted my way out to the low ridge when not far away I heard a single shot. Surely it had to be James! Thinking he probably had another deer on the ground I really wanted to see one of my own. I had spotted lots of deer but they just didn't have horns. After several hours of still-hunting up through the bottom, I noticed a sharp ridge of dark timber out ahead. Thinking the deer might be hiding from the bugs on this unusually hot day, I headed for the ridge. It was very difficult to be quiet, so when I crashed around too much I simply grunted like a Bull Moose. Certainly I had no experience doing this in the past, it just seemed like a natural thing to do.
...I worked my way up the ridge trying to stay as quiet as possible, even seeing some does. Finally I spotted another deer; it looked like it may have just gotten up from a bed. At first it looked like another bald one, but on a second glance, I noticed a nice beam of antler on the deer's left side. Not knowing exactly how big he was I pulled up and took a neck shot. The guy dropped out of site and I was on my way to taking my first Sitka Blacktail Buck.
...Yes, I was really excited when I got to him and checked him out! He was a nice 3x3 buck, with a very palmated left main beam and a 'mini' cheater point! No monster, but hey a nice buck! We couldn't let James get all the fun! In the back of my mind I kept thinking of the single shot I had heard earlier. He was probably dragging another buck out.
...With the 3 point on the ground, I took a photo session, then boned and bagged him and set out for the road. An hour later up on the road James told me the hard luck story of getting a shot at another 4x and not connecting. Back at camp we found Paul and Abe had taken a nice fork horn in a timber patch also. Now we had three bucks in camp and they were all decent size!
Sept. 17th.
...Today we planned to go back into the area from the day before. The story we all heard of the big one that got away was too much to resist. It would be the whole gang to start with; the one big difference was the weather. The rain was coming down in buckets, and that is no exaggeration!
...From the road we studied the wind for a while and then took off into the brush, each in our own direction. I had been hunting, it seemed like, only an hour or so, when I stepped out into an open muskeg. Now I had been using a tactic of walking out and stopping at a bush. This would, I hoped, break up my outline and give me some cover in the open spots. With this rain just pounding down, I stopped behind a small tree, and immediately saw a deer standing behind his own bush about seventy yards away. Looking through my riflescope, I could not make out much because it was solid raindrops on the lens. Without much urgency, I reached into my pocket and got a tissue to clean the scope. At nearly the same time I noticed the deer starting to walk…and wow! It was a buck and a dandy at that! I have no memory of the tissue but do remember shooting through a rainy scope! And yes, I am ashamed to say, I missed him clean! Reloading the single-shot Browning 78 was not fast with the rain gear and all, but I did get a second shot and was fortunate to drop the 4x3. This buck was really nice, not huge in the antlers, but an awesome body. We noticed later in camp that he was missing three teeth and had some other loose ones. Definitely an old guy!
...The photo session on this buck was short lived due to the down-pouring rain but I did get a couple. Looking at my watch, it was 8:30 am. I boned and bagged the deer, and was on the road by 11:00. The trip out was an exciting one; I used my Cow Elk call to call in several more does. Once on the road, it was a long wait till the rest of the crew showed up. When they did, I found James had done it again and gotten a couple really nice bucks! He had a huge fork horn, and a 3x, what a great hunt for his family!
... When the smoke cleared, in three days we had taken six bucks! It was venison for five families! The time of fellowship with each other was priceless. The learning curve for hunting these great deer has definitely started for me and I am very excited to experiment with some of the things I tried on this hunt.
...A great big thanks to James for the invitation!
....... A great big thanks to Linda for the fried bread!

Dave Wood Ketchikan, AK
Hunt Date, September 13th -17th
Rifle, Browning m 78 in 25-06

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