Blacktail Bucks – Born a Hunter


As we closed in on the beach all I could see was boiling brown. It looked like there we deer everywhere on the beach. The first thing I remember about hunting was Dad telling me “keep the barrel in a safe direction and follow me”…. Couldn’t believe he trusted me with a rifle at 8 years old and to hold it on my own. Respect was given at an early age. He looked me in the face and told me, “shoot the biggest one you see.” I nodded, put the cross hairs on the buck and let that 6mm get vocal.

That moment changed my life forever, at first I was a fishermen, then immediately became a hunter, its only now that I’ve realized what being a true sportsman is. 20 years later I find myself sitting on a plane en-route to Kodiak, a famous Sitka blacktail deer location known for it’s big bears and buff beach dwelling bucks. Jumping on the bush plane at the seaside docks I knew I was in for a treat. Late season hunting can produce some of the best bucks on Kodiak aka “The Rock”. Winter weather and colder temps bring on the rut, snow fall covers herbaceous alpine food and forces the deer into lower country concentrating them to elevations more suitable for day trips from base camp.

Jordan’s First Buck

This year I decided to target the later portion of the season post rut/end of the rut/secondary rut. Big bucks tend to be lower right at the snow line eating as much food as possible and keeping an eye and their nose towards any of the last receptive does (mainly young deer and fawns) that may come into estrus. With a shorter light cycle, deer will move all day long. Getting light around 9:30am and complete darkness around 4pm presents logistical challenges of harvesting and getting your deer back to base camp. Later season also provides a better chance at not losing your buck overnight to a hungry bear as some of the bruins have called it quits for the winter and head into hibernation. Although last year, my wife and I saw quite of a few big bears at our kill sights around Thanksgiving day.

Winter is coming…

This year I only spotted one bear from the air, he was feeding on a nearby salmon stream and had no concern for the Dehavilland Beaver we were flying in. Never spotted that big boy on the ground but we knew he was there. I tagged two bucks within the first two hours of the hunt and then spent most of the next day glassing from base camp, slicing and dicing my bucks, and looking for a nice mature deer to “tag out” on. On the third day, I was up and out of the tent well into dark, not that tough to get out of the tent at 800am though. Basically sleeping in and waking up to blacktail cruising the hill side all around the tent. I noticed a rather large “big fork” with in striking distance of camp. He appeared to be the biggest bodied most mature deer within glassing distance of camp. There were a few other smaller forkies and a couple of branched bucks, but none of them looked as big as this bad boy. I figured I’ll let the other ones grow and come back next year for a 4×4 jumbo buck of my dreams.

Big Forky

The chase was on, getting the wind right was my first priority, second only to moving slowly and appearing “non-threatening”. You have to remember these deer seldom see people and the only major predator they look for is monster volkswagon size bears that can’t move as quickly as themselves. I’ve found moving slowly, very slowly, you can almost walk directly up to deer within that 150-250 yard rifle shooting range. Well that game plan didn’t work so well on this mature buck, guess he knew better than to sit there and watch a Kuiu clad hunter walk right up to him and poke him with a bullet. He was with a doe but still looking for danger, go figure. The new game plan would be to circle up mid mountain above tree-line and descend on the unknowing buck. An hour later I spotted him sneaking into an alder patch. The rolling mountainous terrain allowed me to close the distance in a hurry, trotting down mountain to the last place I saw him before he slipped into the small alder patch.

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I laid my pack down and looked for movement. Like a ghost I caught him slipping through the brush. He stopped in an opening and stared straight at me. I ranged the brush line at 250 yards and knew my 270 Win topped with a 3×9 Vortex scope could make the shot without having to do any fancy bullet drop compensation formulas. I squeezed off the trigger and thuuuuwaaap, he dropped in his tracks. I was more than pumped to say the least shaking and experience buck fever after the shot. Didn’t understand what happened to me with this deer versus the first two I shot. Was it the body size? Was it the big fork? Was it the thrill of the chase? When I dropped down into the alder infested bottom and laid my hands on the buck I knew immediately why….. all of the above.

Slicing the buck up and putting him on my back I had a mile or two trek back to camp, giving me ample time to reflect on the adventure, exploring new country, and making memories that will last me another 20 years or so. I thought back to all the hunts I’ve been apart of on the Alaska’s biggest Island. I remembered my first buck with my dad, my wife’s first buck, and all the beautiful deer I was fortunate enough to harvest on the trip. This place is overwhelming, and I know with all my heart I’ll be back sooner than later. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll track down that buck of lifetime. One thing is for sure, the adventure never ends.

Kodiak Hotel

Hunters List:
3-9 Vortex Rifle Scope, 10×42 Razor Bino
Alaska Guide Creation Bino Harness
270 Win
Kuiu Camo and 7200 icon Pro Pack
Caribou Game Backs
Hilleburg Tent – Namjat
Work Sharp Sharpener
Skeleton Optic Sunglass