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
It’s been too long fellow hunters…. The team has been working on new projects and focused on launching them through different social networks. For the latest and greatest up to date content check out mission_alaska on Instagram where we have exclusive photos, videos, and stories of the Alaska Sportsman lifestyle. If your interested in short films check out our new videos through http://www.huntervids.com, they have a library full of hunting videos from across the country that will entertain any day dreaming outdoorsmen. Here is a link to one of our goat hunts on Hunter-Vids.
Raspberry Island: Race Against the Clock in Bear Haven
10/1/14 – 10/4/14
By Eric Hershey
As my jet began its descent, I gazed out over the gradual terrain of Kodiak Island, Alaska. I knew this view was misleading as Kodiak yields some of the toughest hunting landscape in the world. I was on my first fly-out big game hunt, scheduled to spend up to 10 days in remote Kodiak to hunt the highly-prized Roosevelt elk on Raspberry Island. I was born and raised in Alaska, but hadn’t taken my first big game animal until I was 24 when I shot a cow moose on an archery hunt with my dad in Fairbanks, Alaska. I was instantly hooked on Alaska big game hunting and when my work as an engineer brought my family to Kodiak for a year, I took advantage of the opportunity to explore the island, hunting deer and mountain goat.
I had never seen an elk in person but heard that the Roosevelt, largest of the elk family, could be as large as moose. Like much of Kodiak, there is a high density of colossal brown bears on Raspberry Island to contend with. Foul weather can blow in without notice and make hunters miserable and sometimes trapped for over a week. I was very excited for this opportunity but also nervous.
I was greeted at the Kodiak airport that evening by two local friends, Doug Dorner and Ryan Burt. Doug had helped me bag my first Sitka black-tailed deer when I lived in Kodiak the year before so I knew he would be an essential asset on this hunt. Ryan also had a lot of experience in the Kodiak outdoors. I loaded my gear into Doug’s truck and we set off to the float plane docks to meet our pilot, Keller. Between the three of us we had amassed enough gear to last for weeks, but somehow managed to cram everything into the Cessna 206 barely within the load limit.
It was a clear evening as we set out towards Raspberry Island, eager to spot the elk herd from the air before landing at camp. The local biologist had said there were 155 elk on Raspberry according to his last aerial survey. We had a general idea of where the elk could be on the island, but it was still a vast area to explore from the air with a heavy load and limited fuel. After scouting the north half of the island, we were beginning to get discouraged without a single elk sighting. Then, during one of the final passes, numerous light-brown spots started to pop out at us on one of the mountain-sides. The elk were congregated into a large herd, tucked away in a mountain bowl on the opposite side of the island from where we planned to set up camp at Onion Bay.
View of the elk herd from the air.
There are very few access points on Raspberry, even during decent weather, so we decided to stick with our original drop location and just hump it over to the other side of the island in the morning. After a smooth landing in Onion Bay, we picked out a spot at the north end of the bay to unload our gear. Keller handed the gear off one piece at a time and then bid us farewell as he lifted the plane up off the water with ease. As the plane disappeared over the horizon, there was an overwhelming silence and the realization sunk in we were now all on our own. We hauled our gear up the hill to a flat, sheltered spot to set up my Cabela’s Alaska Guide 6-man tent. An electric bear fence was set up around our tent as an added measure of comfort, but I was skeptical that it would actually work. We finished setting up camp at dark and then Doug cooked us up a hearty shrimp dinner. Our game plan was to wake up early that morning and set off up the mountain in the dark to reach the elk herd before they moved.
Ryan celebrates as our plane departs.
To reach the elk, we needed to climb up one mountain and down the other side, cross the valley, and climb up the next mountain to the bowl on the backside. We set out that morning an hour before sunrise in a windy drizzle. What had appeared to be a relatively easy 3 to 4 mile hike from the air, turned out to be nearly impenetrable alders and terrain. There was no clear path up the first mountain as we fought our way through alders and salmonberry thickets. When we reached the top of the first mountain at dawn, we were relieved to find a mossy game trail through towering spruce trees. The relief was short-lived when we began descending the backside of this mountain and were again pushing through thickets until we reached the valley. The valley at the center of the island was a break from the alders but also had its own obstacles. We took a detour around the lake and network of creeks through the dense, dark forest and across beaver dams and marsh. Along the way we saw massive fresh bear tracks and a few deer.
Ryan ascending the second mountain.
After meandering across the valley, we ascended the second mountain as the wind-driven rain picked up. I spotted a large brown bear about 1000 yards away which didn’t pay much attention to us. We hoped the nasty weather would keep the elk hunkered down near where we had spotted them the night before. From what I learned about elk, they are always on the move and will cover a large distance in a short amount of time even without any hunting pressure.
Large brown bear on hillside.
I started to reach the top of the saddle and immediately froze and dropped to ground as I began to spot elk at a distance. I motioned for Doug and Ryan to get down and pointed to where I had seen the elk.
“I see the herd!” I whispered, “Right over the saddle on the hillside.”
Eric hunkered down after spotting elk.
We slipped further up the mountain to a decent vantage point. The entire herd was on the backside of the mountain on the side of the bowl about 1000 yards away. I decided there would be too many eyes on me to stalk right at the herd, so we climbed higher up along the backside of the ridge line so I could descend on the elk with cover. I left my pack with Doug and Ryan at the top of the ridge and then began my descent towards the elk.
As I left Doug, he said, “You could shoot one of the spike bulls on the edge of the herd.”
“Yeah maybe,” I said, trying to convince myself I could settle for just a spike bull.
The ridgeline above the bowl provided essential cover and the wind was in my favor. I skirted along the ridge, pausing periodically at covered vantage points to examine the herd and plan my stalk. The large herd appeared to consist of two large alphas bulls, each surrounded by tight smaller herds. The rest of the elk were widely scattered around these herds. I could continue along the ridgeline within range of the upper herd, but it would be a longer stalk and there was too much uncertainty in the wind direction. I decided to pursue the lower herd since there was excellent cover through a spruce thicket which could allow me to stalk right within range.
Partial view of elk herd from vantage point.
As I crept through the spruce trees, my legs began cramping and the wind started changing direction. The strenuous hike from camp was finally catching up to me. The spruce trees were thicker than I anticipated, and I had to crawl under and around branches and wedge myself through trees for a few hundred yards. During my stalk I caught glances of the upper herd higher up in the bowl, which were starting to stand up and appeared spooked as they looked in my direction. As I moved further into the thicket, I appeared to hit a dead end at an impassible wall of thick brush. I debated turning around and trying a different stalk, but I knew I didn’t have much time before the entire herd fled. I just continued pushing through the dense thicket hoping the wind would mask the noise. At this point, I told myself I would just shoot the first bull I saw within range. Just when I began to give up hope of getting through unnoticed, I started seeing light through the trees and realized I was at the edge of the thicket.
I peered through one of the small openings and gasped as I saw a cow elk standing and looking right at me only 40 yards away. I immediately froze and waited for her to look away. As I edged closer, crawling under a branch to get a better view, I spotted a bull lying behind her. It was the huge alpha bull lying down only 45 yards away! I perched my Remington .300 Winchester Magnum onto a branch and located the elk in my scope through a small break in the trees. The cow was directly blocking a shot at the bull. For nearly 10 minutes, which felt like hours, I watched the cow through my scope staring at me while I tried to fight off leg cramps and excitement to remain still. Finally the cow elk lay back down and allowed a perfect shot at the bull’s massive neck. Without hesitation I immediately fired a round and lost site of the bull as numerous elk fled past me as the shot rang. When the chaos cleared, I could see the alpha still laying on the ground where I shot it, but trying with all his strength to get up to his feet and join his herd. I waited calmly with the bull in my sights to make sure he didn’t get up. I followed up with another shot in the neck and then crawled out of the thicket toward the bull. The bull lifted its head as I approached, so I fired once more behind the ears to finish him off.
The elk herd flees after hearing the shot.
I was shocked to see just how massive the animal was. He was the size of a large horse and appeared prehistoric in nature as I approached. The wide, thick antlers had magnificent white points. It had at least two broken points and there were distinct battle scars on its neck. The elk were still in the middle of rut and this bull was quite the fighter.
Eric proudly poses with his first elk kill.
Doug and Ryan moved down the mountain toward me with the gear. Doug reached me first and said sarcastically, “What’d you do that for!?” as he saw the huge elk lying beside me.
We stood around in awe of the elk and took pictures, but our joy was dampened at the realization of the dreaded pack back to camp. This one-way trip to the elk herd was 3.5 miles from camp and had taken over 4 hours! Since it was already noon, we would surely be heading back in the dark.
Doug and Ryan pose with the elk.
From stories I’ve heard, the brown bears can move in on an elk kill in less than an hour and will likely reach the gut pile by the first evening. Our primary goal was to get the meat away from the gut pile as quickly as possible. Ryan and I butchered the massive animal, constantly looking over our shoulder, while Doug hauled the quarters to a large spruce tree 400 yards away. After carrying the final load over to the spruce tree, Doug climbed the tree with a rope and we hoisted the meat bags up into the tree and tied them off about 15 feet up in the air.
Eric hauling final load to meat tree
We finally set out around 6 pm with loaded packs while darkness was setting in. On our descent toward the valley we spotted a large sow with cubs near where the boar was earlier that afternoon. We staggered back toward camp under the glow of our headlamps. I felt like there were eyes on us at all times as we moved through the pitch darkness. Ryan had lost his headlamp that morning so he tried to follow close behind me. There was no apparent path back to camp and we inevitably wound up fighting through alder patches whichever way we went. In an attempt to cut through the alders, I led us along a small creek up the backside of the mountain but the plan quickly backfired as alders around the creek became denser and towered above us. We crawled on through as I seemed to catch my rifle and frame pack on every branch. I was past the point of exhaustion as we made the endless descent towards Onion Bay. After finally collapsing into camp at around eleven, we prepared a spot for the meat by clearing an area of tall grass then placed the meat on alder branches, and set up a bear fence around the meat. Unfortunately, there weren’t any trees near camp sturdy enough to hang the meat from.
View of valley at sunset.
That night I awoke to a bear snorting right outside our tent. I instinctively grabbed the .44 Magnum pistol and yelled, “Bear!” Doug cautiously went outside and I followed with a flashlight and gun in hand. The bear had disappeared and the meat appeared undisturbed so we went back to sleep.
We slept in that morning and took our time getting ready as my body ached and I was dreading the hike back. It was a beautiful sunny day and we took advantage by drying out our gear from the day before. When someone finally looked at the time, we were alarmed to realize it was already past noon. With 4 hours each way to the meat tree, we were doomed to hike back in the dark again!
Doug sets off with loaded pack.
We were starting to learn better routes through the dense landscape but still seemed to always wind up in impenetrable alder patches. Doug led the way while Ryan and I lagged behind. When we finally ascended the second mountain we stopped and glassed the gut pile from a distance. The eagles were on the gut pile but there didn’t appear to be any bear activity. We lowered some meat from the tree and carried out the heaviest load that day.
Eric traversing the valley.
Our bodies were thoroughly exhausted and I was praying that someone wouldn’t get hurt. Doug almost fell into a pond as he was leading the way across an unstable beaver dam. With every step, my legs were on the verge of giving out under the heavy load, and I tried to stop nearly every few hundred yards to rest. I was impressed with Doug’s ability to continue pushing on and also motivate Ryan and me to keep moving. On our final descent down to Onion Bay in the dark, I incredibly stumbled across Ryan’s lost headlamp and then his thermos later on in a devil’s club patch. We let down our guard that night to drink a few beers and celebrate a successful hunt and one final load of meat.
We awoke that morning to rain, snow and wind. We set out on our last trip to retrieve the final load including a hind quarter, cape, and antlers. Our route was starting to get easier as we learned which ways not to go, but our aching bodies were wearing on us. Once we reached the mountain on the other side of the valley, we glassed the gut pile. Again there wasn’t much sign of bear activity. When we approached the tree this time we noticed something was different. The hind quarter was completely missing from the tree! Only the cape and the antlers remained in the tree untouched. We frantically searched around the tree and then it dawned on us what had happened. There were large claw marks going up the side of the tree. A brown bear had climbed the tree and grabbed the quarter, rope and all. It is uncommon for brown bears to climb trees, but this wise bear seemed to know exactly what he was doing. Bitter and disappointed, we set off to camp with our light loads. We were anxious to get back as quickly as possible to ensure our remaining meat was safe. We got back around 5 pm and found our meat pile undisturbed at camp. Now that the bears have tasted the meat, we decided it would be best to get off the island that evening if at all possible.
I called our pilot on the satellite phone and told him what had happened. “Are you ready right now?” he said. Keller had been scheduled to pick up another hunting party that evening but they still weren’t ready. “We can be!” I said.
We had to hustle to pack up camp before the pilot arrived. Keller helped us carry our gear down to the beach and loaded up the plane. Two trips later in the Cessna 206, we had everything back to the float plane dock in Kodiak.
We conquered a 10 day elk hunt in only 3 days and it was by far my most strenuous accomplishment. There is no time to rest on a hunt like this since after an elk is down, the clock starts ticking, and there is an urgency and obligation to secure the meat from the bears as quickly as possible. I found out later the most massive elk by weight are known to come from Raspberry Island. Even after losing an entire hind quarter to the bear we still ended up with 300 plus pounds of dressed, bone-out meat! After returning home, our pilot informed me that other hunting parties had lost nearly whole elk to bears that week so we were lucky we got out as much as we did. As I admire the huge elk mount on my wall, I reminisce the grueling 3 days in alder hell and bear haven, and I’d do it all over again given the opportunity. My advice to someone planning an elk hunt on Raspberry: Be prepared for bears and get in shape!
Taxidermy credit to J. Lewis Hershey.
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
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….. Ghosts of the coasts they have been called by many hunters who have been fortunate enough to roam the lands with these creatures. They have this nick name for a reason, they live in the thickest forests of North America and are rarely seen. The plan for the Oregon archery tag was to meet up with a hunting buddy and head to a few key areas in Mount Hood National Forest. Hopefully one of us would score a buck for the late season effort. My buddy takes me to a few of his hunting spots and we attempt to rattle in the infamous bench buck. Apparently bench deer are a result of blacktail and mule deer crossing and creating a hybridized specimen. Mule deer are said to have evolved from whitetails and blacktails breeding thousands of years ago, genetics aside deer species in Oregon are diverse. Wether or not these animals are mule or blacktail deer or a cross of both, they are interesting and fun all the same to hunt with traditional archery equipment. These animals live in a diverse ecosystem, the forest covers steep hills with rolling benches the perfect hiding place for a buck. We spend many mornings chasing these elusive critters, rising at 3am and driving 3 hours to hunt first light. Only seeing two deer crossing a highway providing no shot opportunity, the late season archery tag was going to be a tough one to notch. Sometimes switching up tactics is your only shot at success. I knew I needed to go to another area but choosing one hunting spot is tough especially if you don’t have land owner relationships with private land access conveniently located near town. Fortunately Oregon has plenty of public land to cover within a 2-3 hour drive, refer to the ODFG maps for more information. Continued…..
Father’s Day is always a good excuse to get out and do something fun as a family. So of course Mission AK’s Kalen Kolberg knew exactly what to do when he heard the Reds were running in the Klutina. He packed a couple rods, tackle, and a cooler full of ice then hit the road towards Copper Center with his family. The Klutina offers great fishing opportunities for families. Easy access from the highway and minimal crowds allow you to fish with your family and not have to worry about you or your loved ones getting a surprise piercing.
The Klutina is the 7th fastest flowing river in North America so its important to target slack water holes that hold fish and allow a good solid drift. Once we settled on a hole and fished for a few hours we managed to land some beautiful Copper River Sockeye and enjoy some quality family time in the great outdoors of Alaska.
After a long successful Father’s Day it was time to head back home and nurse our sunburn and fresh Mosquito bites. The 3.5 hour drive isn’t without it’s perks either. We were lucky enough to catch this gorgeous sunset passing through Lake Louise and managed to snap a quick cell phone pic.
The next morning was full of itching and moaning along with the hum of the vacuum sealer. The sight of bright red fillets in the freezer was more than enough to take our minds off our bumpy itchy skin. All in all it was a great Father’s Day filled with lots of laughs, bug bites, fish and fun.
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.
For those of you heading North to Alaska, Cubby’s Market place is a must see destination. A truly authentic Alaskan grocery store located near the intersection of the Parks Highway and the Talkeetna Spur Road, they provide goods to locals who live here year round as well as the busy summer recreationists who come to play in the surrounding Talkeetna Mountains. This store was opened by entrepreneurial spirited family who roots were started from the Alaskan dream. Greg and Lisa Pearson (2nd generation Alaskans) started this business from the ground up with help from their children Derek, Chris, Ashlynn, and many other family members and dedicated friends.
Cubby’s is more than a grocery store, it’s an experience. You enter through the doors into a modern-rustic Alaskan grocery store, where animal mounts and the AK lifestyle is displayed proudly. Being one of the Pearson’s “other children”, I am proud to say I helped out during the building process of Cubby’s. Greg has been filling his grocery store with impressive species of Alaskan game mounts since the store opened, and I am lucky enough to have several of my mounts inside.
The entire store is covered in game mounts from animals harvested around the state, if you head to the dairy section you will notice a small section dedicated to the animals harvest by team Mission Alaska. Here is owners and 3rd generation Alaskan’s Derek and Chris Pearson hanging the moose on Cubby’s Wall. This moose was from Austin Manelick’s and Vince Pokryfki’s 2013 moose hunt. Pretty fascinating story of how this moose found his way onto the Cubby’s wall. Team work makes the dream work, and with this moose it was no different.
From the river to the wall….
For any of you adventures north, make sure you stop in and see the beautiful Cubby’s Marketplace!