Follow along with team members and brothers Austin & Auggie as they go after Dall Sheep in Alaska’s rugged backcountry.
Follow along with team members and brothers Austin & Auggie as they go after Dall Sheep in Alaska’s rugged backcountry.
Here is part 1/2 from a 2016 late season sitka blacktail hunt on Kodiak Island, AK
Public land is great choice for any DIY hunter, its widely available you just have to know where to look. Surveying Google Maps on my computer I saw an interesting national forest near Oregon’s coast and wanted to check it out. Choosing a few hunting locations in the Suislaw National Forest is a daunting task, it stretches for 991miles across the Pacific coast line of Oregon and provides ample hunting opportunity. “If you have never hunted this particular area how do you chose a location?” Firstly I read some information on blacktails provided by Oregon Department of Fish and Game, and checked out their Interactive hunting map. Secondly, I concentrated my efforts on one particular area on a system of clear cuts, using one specific road.
I also studied the game regulations provided by ODFG and found the particular GMU’s which I was allowed to hunt. I decided to hunt National Forest because it is the easiest way to find yourself in a legal hunting area if you are a DIY public land hunter and have a tag in your pocket. Reading everything I possibly could online about blacktail hunting, I learned that hunters have mixed success from tree stand hunting, still hunting, and spot and stalk techniques. Hunting the edge of clear cuts whenever possible also provides hunters with success. These tactics aren’t to much different from the way whitetails are pursued, although the terrain, diet, and behaviors of the blacktails are slightly different. I find that trees and forage are the key to any deer species, and having an understanding of the trees helps hone my hunting approach. I found myself studying trees more during the hunting season than studying deer, mainly because I couldn’t find any blacktails.
Using my iPhone maps app I drive to the selected national forest road a few miles outside a small surf town on the coast of Oregon. One man can only cover so much terrain on one hunt, and from what I have read/heard it’s not to easy to walk up on the said “ghost of the coast”. Drawing on previous experience from my 2013 blacktail hunt where I harvested a beautiful blacktail doe, I knew one particular tactic that would give me a great place to start. I got to the road where I was legal to hunt and started looking, slowly driving to find animal “highways” that cross the road. I took the first day to scout/hunt keeping my eyes open for any deer sign possible. I had one tree stand in my tool kit to hang, thus adding to my strategy for these blacktails. Kind of mind numbing to think that your hunting 991 square miles sitting in a tree waiting for one deer to show up though. I like my odds….. Finding a concealed blocked off logging road, I march a mile or so deep finding rubs and deer sign the whole way. I hung my stand and took off to search for more sign in the area not limiting myself to only one option.
Finding another meadow bound by a clear cut and a stream, there was an animal highway dividing the lands features. I knew I had found my secondary hunting location. There was a large stump over turned with a ball of dirt and tree roots in which I could sit approximately 8-10 feet off the ground perched perfectly for a 5-10 yard shot. If I sat at either location long enough I may just have a shot at a buck. Not seeing an animal in my new “spot” for the first few days, I was starting to get a little discouraged.
Sitting on the up-turned stump for the morning with no action, I decided to visit the tree stand. Again to no avail, I pound out the hours in the stand answering emails, Face-booking, Instagraming, and tweeting(guilty)…. The second day hunting was once again a total bust, there were deer tracks under both of my stand locations but no deer. It appeared as if they were coming through both of my trails at dark. Based upon the winds direction I decided on the third day that I would sit on-top the stump for the morning hunt and hit my tree stand for the afternoon hunt. At 10:30 am the wind changed for the worse and rendered both of my hunting locations null. Thinking fast I walk back to the car and drove to a small clear cut I had previously book marked for a two hour hiking appointment. Having just enough time for a short stalk and spot hunt, I followed my instinct and decided to hunt the closest possible public land bordering private land. The game plan was to rattle and grunt with the wind in my face working my way to a forked forest road, then walk my way back to the car. Luckily my 3G was working and gave me a pinpoint location of where I was relative to my vehicle, the private land, and the public land. Without having to fuss with any other GPS the iPhone was a great tool for the hunt, this allowed me to distinguish exactly where the private and public land boundaries were; a beneficial tool to the 21st century hunter.
There was as small road closed to all motor and atv vehicles, a great place to go with minimal if any foot traffic. The terrain consisted of rolling hills lined with douglas fir, the western hemlock, and small stands of big leaf maples. I headed up the steepest hill to find a few small rolling benches protected from the wind, the perfect location to rattle in a bedded buck. Calling to me is like painting a picture, the first step is to set up and begin the rattling sequence after a 5-10 minute silent pause. Light tickling of the antlers works to coax a closer buck, after 10-15 minutes the rattling will increase intensity crescendoing into a couple of bucks locked for the title of alpha buck and breeding rights. Rubbing the antlers on trees, scraping the ground, raking tree bark, simultaneously grunting, and doe bleating these all work. In this instance, nothing came to my beautifully painted buck fight in forest surrounded by red cedar trees amongst the tangles of a recently thinned clear cut. I continued to paint the entire clear cut as if there was a battle royal of the biggest bucks in the area all throwing down for the hootenanny. Nothing. Nothing came to the rattle, maybe I’m like a finger paint artist or something….
Working my way towards the opposing forest road, I let down my guard and begin to march toward the “pin dropped” location on my google maps app on the smart phone. Looking at my phone I have a pretty good barring of which direction to walk, I crammed the phone in my pocket and zipped it. Realizing the “pin dropped” location was further than anticipated, I knew I had a extra mile or so to the car and needed to get back to town for lunch plans. Better pick up the pace, I think to myself. I moved as swift and safe as possible through the douglas fir stand which I was currently hunting, the area was loaded with heavy blown downs mixed with a luscious green fern undergrowth.
Continued from PART 1:
Trotting through the woods, I notice a buck springing from his bed and take two bounds pausing at 20 yards. I immediately freeze, the buck does the same and keeps a tree between us peering with on eye around the tree focused on the direction I came from. I was caught off guard for two reasons, I was moving quickly to get back to my vehicle and wasn’t prepared to draw my long bow as movement would surely make the buck flee.
As the first buck stopped, my eyes caught movement and gravitated toward a second blacktail buck trailing his buddy at 15 yards. As luck would have it, I was perfectly downwind with a steady sea breeze coming from the Pacific Ocean. We all stood for about 1-2 minutes silently, it was very fascinating to watch these animals undisturbed in their natural environment. At 20 yards I watched how much they check the wind with a simple nose lift, or how they’re ears spin almost 360 degrees detecting the slightest branch breaking or noise in the forest. They could not smell me and could not detect the ensuing danger, they went back to feeding unaware of (me) the predators existence. Calmly the second buck started to walk away after he lost curiosity in the movement he had detected earlier. Just as he started to move and turn his back toward me I grab my grunt and softly grunted to him, he turns and immediately starts to walk directly at me. He paused at 12 yards facing me, positioned to walk behind thick brush and offer no shot opportunity I had to think quickly to turn him broad side. Thinking to myself, “this dudes neck is all swolled up he must be in the rut” and “I thought blacktails were smaller than whitetails?” and “This buck is a brute forky!”. Having a set of rattling antlers around my neck I simply lean forward and barley roll my shoulders resulting in a soft antler tickle. The buck couldn’t help himself and walked 4 yards closer to find the source of the antler rattle. Turning broad side at 8 yards he started to walk around a fallen tree, he caught my elbows movement as I anchored at full draw and then paused for a fatal moment. The arrow disappeared from sight in the blink of an eye and the buck took off running towards the other deer. They vanished in a fraction of a second, I crept quickly to the location of where the deer was standing when I shot him. Looking for signs of blood, hair, and or the arrow I found something quite peculiar.
When I first saw this buck I saw that his antler was deformed, his antler hung downward on his face but still fully intact and attached to his pedicle. With the stick bow, you shouldn’t be a choosy hunter and the old saying stays true “don’t pass on the first day what you wouldn’t pass on the last day”. Knowing that any antlered buck in the GMU I was hunting is legal, I decided either of the bucks were in trouble if they showed me their vitals. When this buck turned broad side at 8 yards I had no doubt in my mind wether to come to full draw or not. After releasing the arrow and arriving at the location of the where the deer stood, I surveyed the area to find something odd on the ground. Upon closer examination I found that this wasn’t simply a drop of blood on the ground but that this was the actual antler of my deer. He somehow managed to break off the remaining portion of bone connecting his antler by catching it on a tree while he was on his death run. Shortly after I found the antler, the arrow appeared buried and covered in blood in a small brush pile.
Waiting for an hour or so before tracking the animal, I decided it was best not to move a muscle and continue to look for a blood trail in the immediate area until I had given the animal some time to expire. Experienced archery hunters and hunters in general will tell you the most gut wrenching exhilarating portion of the hunt doesn’t come before the shot, it comes after. The anxiety that comes with tracking a wounded animal is intense to say the least, and that anxiety was building in my mind as I had no real blood to track. Staying close to the area where I found my arrow and the antler, I began marking the direction the bucks had run off to with florescent flagging tape. Taking a very slow approach in their direction, as to not spook the deer from his first bedding after the shot, I spotted one of the bucks working his way directly towards me. The buck was following the same path he left upon an hour or so earlier. This is a valuable and interesting part of the story as it allowed for ample learning opportunities on how to hunt blacktail deer. This buck and other bucks I have hunted in my experience will return to an area using the same trail if they are not alerted to human presence or danger. This deer had no clue what had happened in the forest and was curious enough to come back through an hour or so later to investigate the source of commotion in his bedroom. He meandered off after a few minutes and headed toward the direction we all came from, although he didn’t have the droopy antlered buck with him, a good sign. Noting that one deer track was much heavier I knew the direction that the deer ran, after about 60 yards I found a pool of blood on the forest floor filled with pink bubbles and a mix of crimson clots. Not moving another inch I survey the area for more sign in any direction, the body of the deer, or simply an upturned hoof signaling the end of the hunt.
With no blood sign detected in any other direction, I started to let my eyes do the walking and survey further out for a possible lead. It was then that I noticed the deers body laying 40 yards away. I knock an arrow and take off my boots and pack to sneak within 20 yards for another shot if necessary. I dropped to a knee slowly and paused at stick bow range, there was no need for cou-de-gra. I walked up, gently pet his hide and thanked him for the bounty he would provide. Growing up Alaskan, going to undergrad school in Pennslyvania, and filming professional for living I’ve had my fair share of rifle harvested sitka blacktails, eastern whitetails, and central mule deer. However, this is my first Columbian blacktail buck with traditional archery equipment and any animal harvested with true stick and string in my book is a trophy. Completely throttled from the magical experience, a large wave of adrenalin coursed throughout my veins. I had to sit down for a moment, calm my excitement, and fully embrace the situation before the work really began. Its these moments that are seared into my mind after a successful hunt, savoring the nostalgia of the effort placed in the adventure. “I feel special that I’m allowed to sit in national forest sandwiched by the Pacific Ocean and woods filled with douglas-fir, western hemlocks, western red cedar, sitka spruce, big-leafed maples, and red alders with a deer tag and my longbow.” After a few moments of savoring the successful hunt a long drag back to the National Forest Road awaited me, it wasn’t long before the processing of the animal begun.
The final process for this hunt took me firstly to a buddies house to slice, dice, grind, and vacuum seal my delectable winter table fair; honor this animal by salvaging as much edible meat possible. Once the buck was completely processed and in the freezer, including a self european taxidermy job, I was off to the Oregon Department of Fish and Game office to submit a tooth sample and report my hunt online to validate my harvest. The ODFG here in Oregon does a great job on the fascination deer population found through out the states many GMU’s. Hunters do their part in conservation by purchasing game tags and hunting licenses, which in part, provides funding for biologists and conservation officers to regulate and control game diversities throughout the state. By hunters submitting tooth samples to this agency, the biologist can gather data on age, sex, distribution ranges, etc and then compile these facts to better understand the game species overall abundance and carrying capacity for certain areas. Without hunters and their ability to communicate game numbers and data with Departments such as ODFG, these agencies would not have the best information to pull from to set correct game limits and regulations involving certain species. These relationships are crucial to the continued success of wild game populations in North America. I am proud to say I’m a hunter and conservationist.
For more information on a DIY public land Blacktail hunting hunt check out http://www.dfw.state.or.us
For more information on how to become a hunter or if you have interest in the hunting movement we highly encourage you to check out your local Department of Fish and Game and ask about The Hunters Saftey Education Course offered year round.
Here is a link to Oregon’s Hunter Education Programs
Non-resident hunting license: $140
Need to make a good game plan with solid logistics and stick to it. Maps are critical to success, understanding game regulations and the area you are hunting are first priorities. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game (http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=hunting.main) home website provides great information on where to start and how to finish a successful moose hunt. This can help answer many of the initial questions someone has concerning a DIY Alaskan moose hunt, this should be the first place to start when coming up with a moose hunting game plan. You can find things like harvest statistics for your selected hunting area and animal information, hunting license and tags, pictures on how to field judge a moose, and most importantly all the regulations controlling your hunt.
The digital age is upon us and information is more available now than ever. Internet databases such as outdoor forum directories and www.rokslide.com make scouting a little easier. Some individuals like to fly into a hunting area and scout on the way, although there is rules that prevent hunters to chase animals the same day they are airborne. With no pre-season scouting for the majority of hunters out there, they must rely on putting boots on the ground and looking for the freshest moose sign possible. Printed maps of your area is instrumental for moose hunting. Know your area and how to move from point A to B (or at least have a game plan for it).
If you don’t have the option of scouting the area you will be hunting and have not targeted any particular bulls then gaining a vantage point to glass your hunting area is key. One technique used by saged Alaskan moose hunters is to hike the closest hill then climb a tree, allowing them to survey their hunting area. Climb a spruce tree or cottonwood or use techniques such as climbing a telescoping ladder to get above brushy swamps. Hiking above tree-line in the mountains and letting your optics do the walking for you increases your chances to see animals as well. In general visibility diminishes at lower elevations and gaining a vantage point could be your saving grace.
Always plan morning and evening hunts around wind direction. Moose (even rutting bulls) will usually circle 100-900 hundreds yards down wind before closing the distance. This early season archery bull circled 100-200 yards down wind before bedding permanently this 2014.
Antler raking or scraping is great for moose hunting because not a high level of skill or knowledge of the moose language is needed. Simply breaking and scraping spruce tree branches can be enough. Listening for a response to your call is crucial. Sometimes bulls approach silent, other times they will rake their antlers and/or grunt. An old moose shoulder blade, plastic oil container, milk jug, protein jug, commercialized fiberglass calls, birch tree bark scrapers, they all work to some degree. The last moose hunt I went on we made a moose scraper out of a jug of Muscle Milk protein and called in a dandy bull fit for the freezer.
You can add more items to this list, but I wouldn’t subtract any of these items or be caught dead in the field without them. Moose are just like any of the other member of the deer family, they move most at first light and last light depending on the photo period and rut phase. Knocking down a moose at last light can lead to a long evening away from the shelter of base camp, if you leave your survival kit you’ll be wishing you had one. If your not prepared to siwash* then your not prepared to harvest a bull moose.
Survival kit – bare minimum
Gear selection can make or break a hunt, rough weather and terrain are inevitable on an Alaskan adventure. Your gear will experience some wear and tear, no doubt. GEAR: Hunting methods differ and depend on the individual hunter but here are a few guidelines for equipment. A heavier rifle caliber capable to shoot 200+ grained bullets out to 300 yards should do the trick. Quality binoculars 8x32s work great, these help hunters field judge moose on those late evening sits in low light conditions. Tent camp with the option to spike camp(1x bigger and 1x smaller tent ), sleeping bag and pads for everyone(0 degree rating mummy bags), and one action packer(tote or cooler) filled with a camp kitchen. An 8×12 (or larger) tarp works great to keep rain off your meat and doubles as a clean surface to help in field processing. A small fold out saw is nice to have along for splitting the sternum, removing antlers, limbs, and gathering firewood. A minimum of eight game bags should be brought, I like to bring 16 in case we drop another moose and/or need to change the game bags in the field if they get wet or dirty. Bring a big enough back pack or packing frame to fit 80-150 pound hind quarters/shoulders in it, day packs simply will not suffice. Cordage, you need much more rope than you think. Extra rope of all sizes along with a giant role of B-50 cord will really help you out in the long run, especially if your buddies aren’t their to lift those heavy moose quarters. An old guide trick I learned a while back was to tie a moose leg with B-50 cord to the closest tree limb you can find, this relieves pressure on the hunter to hold the leg, the knife, and then make the cut. Much more could be said about the correct gear needed for a moose hunt, this all circles back your game plan and methods for transportation to get you in and out of the field.
Moose hunting is tough, one must be mentally and physically ready to handle the task at hand. Once you knock down a moose the “fun is over”, after getting some beautiful trophy shots the slicing and dicing begins. It will take an average hunter about 3-8 hrs to field dress/quarter a moose in preparation for the pack out. Rule of thumb in Alaska is to not shoot a moose more than one mile away from your transportation; this is where physical toughness and mental toughness play a huge role. There are many bulls that go noticed yet untouched because hunters don’t want to deal with all the work, the big boys are out there you may just have to work harder than you bargained for. That being said, there are even bigger bulls that go unnoticed and untouched you just have to be semi-insane to go after them. This bull (pictured lower left) was a few miles past a public hiking trail. It took five days of meat packing up and over 2,500ft mountains to get this moose in the freezer, hands down one of the most grueling pack outs I have personally been apart of.
Take these tips with a grain of salt. There are many seasoned moose hunters out there that have come home and filled their freezers using different tactics. Point is, you can’t kill them from the couch… Do your research and get out there!
*Siwash: verb – camp without a tent.
We have only three days left till moose opens in Alaska for archery season, practice makes confidence. Austin, Jordan, Pickle, and Crixus take to the 3D archery range for some practice for the upcoming hunting season. Moose MEAT!
Quick dinner in the Brooks Range while hunting for sheep in 2007. Looking forward to hunting season this year.
Summer is here and on these warm beautiful days, I immediately think of brats on the grill. I know warmer days are coming soon and with Independence Day just around the corner, I started to make some venison sausages with ingredients that needed to be harvested from the garden.
– Jon Dykes
Enjoy your venison….
“Happy Independence Day America”!
On a recent hunt in British Columbia I met several of the most elite big game hunting guides you can find across the globe, the following article tracks the personal adventure of one of these world famous guides on a quest to harvest a BC mountain billy goat. While I was filming at Sean Lingl’s Canadian Guide Outfitters I was introduced to Aaron Parrotta, he was guiding another group of hunters in camp so we did not get to personally hunt with him. Although we didn’t get to spend time in the field with Aaron we did manage to find some time at the lodge to share stories and build friendships. Aaron, along with all of Sean Lingls guides, are very talented at finding trophy class animals for clients year round. When the guides do manage to find some time to hunt in the field for themselves, trophy class animals pushing Boone and Crocket measurements are the standard.
The following article was written by Aaron and chronicles his personal adventures of chasing white ghosts with black horns in the Kootenay’s of Britsh Columbia. It’s getting closer to big game hunting season, so here is a mountain goat hunt to pump up all the red meat enthusiasts out there. Enjoy!
We are always looking for great hunting stories and individuals to contribute to the Mission Alaska inspirational cause. Well Mission Alaskan’s… I have found a story and a person who has inspired me to harvest a stone sheep. Recently I was at Sean Lingl’s hunting operation on Vancouver Island filming a black bear hunt for 9x UFC champion Matt Hughes, while on this hunt I met some very skilled hunters and had the time of my life. Sean has several guides that work almost year round hunting the gigantic animals that roam this island in British Columbia, these guides I would argue are some of the most talented and professional individuals in the outdoor industry. As for Sean, It was such an honor to be hunting with the Dallas Safari Clubs “Outfitter of the Year” truly a grade A+ experience and just an awesome guy. Not to mention that Sean lead us to a monstrous black bear that stretched the tape and the scales, and made awesome outdoor tv for Uncaged with Matt Hughes on the Sportsman Channel. Sean has surrounded himself with an impressive A-team of guides that have some great pictures and stories of successful hunts over the years. Nathan French, the youngest of the guides has some fantastic hunting stories, some of the stories are with his clients and the others are of his personal adventures.
Here at Mission Alaska our message is all about unguided, uncharted, untamed self made experiences. We encourage hunters to get out and hunt as often as possible, testing themselves against nature and finding new areas to hunt. Guides in certain situations are the only way to harvest certain species of animals, and one day I will need a guide to harvest my stone sheep… One man I will call on in the future is Nathan French, first of all he is a talented guide(phenomenal sheep guide), a great writer, and a developing videographer. Nathan captures his clients hunts on film, and manages to squeeze in only a few days to personally hunt himself and test the boundaries of his limits. After his guide season he manages to sneak back into the wilderness to fulfill his personal hunting goals, the hunt that follows is an epic one…
STONE SHEEP: Gray Ghosts with Golden Horns
By: Nathan French
Next morning we all packed up are gear, got are eyes set on big rams and fun adventures. On my back was six days worth of food, optics, tent, sleeping bag and pad, and miscellaneous gear. Johnny and I parted ways to cover more ground. Omar and I went south, Johnny and Garrick North. We were carrying satellite phones to keep in touch every other night to relay the day’s adventures.
Day 2 rolled around and we had spotted several rams already and lots of ewes. Already 8 miles back from the lake, we continued to push further. The wind from the minute we started was brutal. Didn’t matter which way you faced, it was in your face!!!! and strong!! We found out later, winds were measured at 60mph!
Later into day 2 we summited a high plateau and within minutes of glassing, we spotted two sheep far across the valley. With a closer look a 3rd sheep was spotted and right away I knew he deserved an even closer look. The wind was howling and not making it easy to glass; I was huddled under a cliff just to keep the spotter steady.
After I made the decision to get closer , I was off like the wind. Covering meters by the second. I dropped 2500 feet within several minutes and dropped off my whole camp at the bottom by a creek. We charged up the mountain with the camera rolling; Omar did one wicked job behind the handycam.
A long 2500ft ascent didn’t take long, I had one thing on my mind, and I was determined to get on this ram and nothing was going to stop me. Peaking over the edge in hopes to be above the ram, there he was 300yards away, feeding away happily. Without a doubt this ram was a shooter.
After video and pictures we skinned and butchered the ram and made are way back to the gear left by the creek. Midnight rolled around and we made er back. Without wiping the smile of my face, we unloaded the sheep and started making camp. Then came eating tenderloins from our days success and then followed several calls out on the sat phone to close friends. Not realizing it was past midnight, I woke my boss, parents and close friends with shouts of excitement.
Next day we headed back for the lake. A steep brutal climb up and over several mountains, 11 miles total and after a full day of grinding camp and the ram on my back, we made it !! Heavy load, long day. Yet so rewarding. There’s no better feeling than laying exhausted and looking at your pack with a ram on it. I think we had a little camp celebration and waited to hear from the boys on their outings!
Thanks for the article Nathan: More videos and stories to come in the near future. -Mission Alaska
Once people see a hunter’s deep-freezer full of great wild game meat and taste an awesome deer burger, they often say, “I have always wanted to go hunting, but no one has ever shown me and I don’t know how”. To that I always respond with 2 things.
1. Google your state’s hunter education program and sign up for a class.
2. Learn the states hunting regulations. Each state has different hunting laws and you must know how each state operates. Go to the nearest hunting/bait shop or customer service counter at Fred Meyer or WalMart, and ask for the free hunting and fishing regulations booklet. In there are the rules for your next hunting and fishing adventure.
Those are two big steps to get you closer to filling the freezer.