Blacktail Deer: Oregon’s Ghost of the Coast Part 1

archery hunting, arrows, Deer Hunting, DIY hunting, game processing, hunting, nature, public land, The next generation, traditional archery, unguided hunting

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 10.04.35 AM 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. Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 6.15.13 PM 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. Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 9.19.10 AM 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. Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 9.20.01 AM We spend many mornings chasing these elusive critters, rising at 3am and driving 3 hours to hunt first light. Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 9.17.25 AM 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…..

Longbow Hunting Hawaii 2014

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What a wild….exhilarating….crazy a$$ experience.  Running through the mountains of Maui, weaving through the rainforest chasing jungle bacon couldn’t be any better.  Feeling like Tarzan, sliding down wicked tree roots and swinging from vine to vine, a couple of traditional archery mountain men from Alaska endured the experience of a lifetime.

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Joining the Pokryfki family for their almost annual vacation to the Hawaii, I was extremely excited to be apart of the family enjoying the white sandy beaches of Maui.  Doing some research prior to the trip I learned obtaining a hunting license required a few hoops to jump through.   After contacting the Hawaii Department of Hunter Education and emailing them a picture of my driver’s license and Alaska Hunter Education card, I was awarded my Letter of Exemption number.  This exemption number is issued to hunters who have completed their Hunter Education Certification course; you need this in order to hunt on any of the Hawaiian Islands.  ALL non-resident HUNTERS (even 55 year or older) must have completed a hunter education course in order to receive this “Letter of Exemption form”.  And no, bow hunter education cards do not suffice for proper validation.   Most definitely a pain in the backside to get your proper paperwork in order to have the privilege of hunting in paradise.  Once you receive your letter, you can go the Hawaii’s DNR page and purchase your license for $95 dollars online.

More research told me there were several places where a DIY guy could hunt some pigs, goats, sheep, and or axis deer.  You can basically take two animals of every species, so bring plenty of ammunition and make sure to check the local regulations of bag limits on your particular island.  All you need is your weapon, a knife, your rental car (extra insurance plan recommended), your license, a good map, binoculars, and whatever else you need to make you feel like you’re “all that is man”.

The adventure started in an archery only area of Maui, rising at 4am and heading toward Haleakala Crater the public land hunt would begin at sunrise.  After Vince and I almost got stuck on the volcanic dirt road we were driving the hunting location chose us, we didn’t choose it.  Leaving the car on the southeast side of the 10,000ft mountain, I strung my bow and headed up the small creek drainage adjacent to us.  Finding relatively no sign near the water source, we continued to move upwards towards tree line.  Nearing tree line, Vince and I were rewarded to the shrills and squeals of some kind of pigs working their way through the small drainage.   Getting quickly into position, I knocked an arrow on my take down “Dan Ryan” longbow.  Feeling very confident at 20 yards, a Polynesian piglet was about to wonder into my danger zone.

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Noticing the volcanic dirt all around me was rooted up and still moist, I knew the pigs couldn’t be very far away.  Getting the feeling in my stomach that something was close and about to happen, I could feel the adrenaline begin to creep up my spine.  Waiting….waiting….waiting the pigs never showed.  I suspect they winded our location and gave us the “slippidddeeedooooda” heading towards the safety of the thick brush below.  After several hours of glassing for goats and whatever else moved, we returned to the car un-successful but very happy with the experience.  The scenery, the colors, vegetation, and raw beauty of the landscape below us were enough to satisfy my need for an escape into nature. It was just so incredible to be hunting such a beautiful piece of paradise and doing what I love most….being a wild man.

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Not being a hunting vacation, it was time to kick back with our gals on the beach.  Taking in a few well deserved brewskies and playing in the waves was a great way to thoroughly enjoy our family vacation.   Vince a true Alaskan, who has pioneered more locations and interesting sports in Alaska than anyone I know, is always a treat to spend time with.  Using his customized inflatable stand up paddleboards, we/he uses to navigate the wild rivers of Alaska, we managed to show up…blow up… and surf a few waves.  This vacation couldn’t be any better.  Our beautiful babes soaking up the sun and watching their men play in the surf….life is so tough. We all ended up taking turns on the stand-up paddle-boards having several very cool encounters with grazing sea turtles, moments none of us will forget.

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After of few more days of RandR, Vince and I decided to try a different area of the island.   After hiking up several thousand feet, we planted our bottoms on volcanic rock and let our binoculars do the rest of the walking for us.   No animals or sign was spotted on this micro-adventure on the west side of the island, a place we would not return.  However we were rewarded with one of the most beautiful sunsets over Molokai, another Hawaiian island, I have ever seen.  As the sunset, we scurried back down mountain towards our car and decided we needed a new game plan.  On our way back to our château we spotted a very interesting home adorned with animal antlers galore.  Being two very curious and interested hunters from Alaska, we had to stop and get the inside scoop.  Walking up to the door a voice from above, like one from the Wizard of Oz, yelled out asking us our business.   We told him we were curious hunters from Alaska looking for a friend and some Hawaiian hunting wisdom.

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Suddenly keys were throne from the sky, and the voice said “common in!”  Opening the door and walking into what appeared to be a western themed museum, we met an extremely generous a friendly man named Glen.  Glen showed us around his place and became an instant friend, one we will visit many times in the future.  A man that has truly seen it all, a retired fireman turned entrepreneur taxidermist deluxe.  A man with the most impressive collection of trophy sized elk I have ever seen in my life, boasting one double beamed giant that scored 406.   After many laughs and lots of information shared Glen sent us on our way with the contact information for his grandson Mickey.   He says Mickey might be able to take you guys out for a day of hunting, if he can manage a day off from work.  He said Mickey has dogs and dogs are the key to hunting the jungle beasts that roam here.

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Mickey ended up giving us a ring and said we were welcome to come hunt with him and his dogs for one morning.   Excited to hunt with a local, Mickey was about to give us the thrill of a lifetime.  Meeting in a mountain town outside of Haiku, we meted and greeted and got straight down to hunting business.   Knowing Hawaiian cultural traditions were to use knife and dogs, I asked Mickey if longbows were allowed.  He said he didn’t mind the fusion of cultures and using a bow would be fine as long as we didn’t shoot one of his dogs. Deal.  Mickey signs us in to the hunter check station and lets his GPS collared dogs loose.   Three whip-its (looked like mini greyhounds) and two Brittany pit-bull mixes tear off through the jungle like greyhounds at a racetrack.  Slipping and sliding through the rainforest , an episode of George in the Jungle just began.   The dogs barking and signaling us to the location of the pig they just found, Mickey takes off sprinting leaving Vince and I in the mist.  Following the sound of chaos it wasn’t long before we found the barking dogs.

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Adrenaline rush from 0-10 in a heartbeat, the fight has just begun.   One of the larger dogs comes up besides me and is already mangled and bleeding from the first encounter with the pig.  The dogs battling the pig for about two minutes prior to our arrival gave them a few flesh wounds and a taste for the fight.   Arriving to the source of the barking to see no dogs or pig, deciphering the tangle of downed tree was the most difficult part.   Crawling across logs over a small pool made from a rainforest creek the downed trees were slicker than moose snot.  Making one misstep towards what looked like green vegetation and firm ground, my foot found air and my body found water.   Falling into the source of the commotion, I couldn’t see anything other than Vince and two dogs that were in the same predicament I was in.  A pool of water with no bottom, swimming like wet cats towards dry land.  As I perched myself upon another log, managing to pull the larger dog from the water towards the fight, I caught my first glimpse of the jungle dwelling “monsta”.   Bigger than black bears I have shot in the past, the massive beast emerges from under the tangle of downed logs with two whip-its clinging to his haunches.

Mickey had circled the endlessly deep pond, the water source Vince and I had yet to find the bottom of, he fearlessly ran at the boar enticing the beast to turn and fight.  As I swam across the water and got to shore, clutching my soaking wet bow, I knocked an arrow and joined the fight.   One of the dogs was knocked nearly unconscious and was fighting to keep its head above water; Vince with no regards for the iphone in his pocket jumped back in the water and swam to the dogs rescue.  The last glimpse I got of Vince as I drug myself from the pond was of him shot-putting the dog onto to dry land and to safety.  Turning back towards Mickey and the battle, I readied myself for a shot.   The monster pig did not squeal and invited the dogs to duel with him until death.  Shucking the dogs like a human does to insects, this large brown boar was not singing “ hakuna-matada” this pig was going down and he planned to take us with him.

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Snapping his large tusks and lacerating dogs to the bone, I waited for a clear shot free of harming the dogs worse than the pig.   Mickey grabbed the pig’s foot in an attempt to distract him from the dogs, at that moment the boar swung his massive head, larger than a grizzly bears skull, towards my guts.   Seeing my stomach centimeters from these impressive animals tusks, I knew the battle needed to end quickly.  I came to full draw as the pig spun and sent my Zwickey shafted arrow through the giants’ lungs.  The arrow finding its mark, the pig had only seconds to live.  Those seconds of life meant this animal was still very dangerous and he proved his viciousness with once last bite on Jaws the Brittany pit-bull mix.  As the life let the pig, he managed to produce one last horrifying laceration to the dogs shoulder.   A scar that will stick with the dog the rest of his life.

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Administering first aide to several of the dogs and doing quick size up of our own injuries, we knew we had to get back to the truck quickly. After grabbing a few quick pictures we hiked back to the truck as fast as possible.   Moving slowly to a road nearby, carrying the 161-pound field dressed boar was difficult to manage while walking through the thick rainforest.   Meeting a friend of Mickey’s at a nearby road to whisk us quickly back to our vehicle.  After a short ride to Mickey’s beautiful home, we cleaned and administered care to all of the dogs.  We had to put several medical-staples in the two larger canines, and make sure the wounds would heal cleanly and correctly.   The dogs jumped up after we stapled them up, licked out faces and walked humbly back to their kennels for the next battle.   Mickey’s family cooked us an authentic Hawaiian breakfasts consisting of eggs, spam, and rice while we took care of the dogs.  A well-earned meal that has never tasted so good! The dogs were the true champions of the day and I will forever admired there sweet demeanor and excellent hunting skills.

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Mickey, the dogs, and Vince showed mountain warrior courage and I can honestly say I would go to battle again any day with my “brudda’s”.  What an epic unforgettable adventure with a twist of cultural traditions mixed with beautiful Hawaiian scenery.  I can’t wait to go back next year.

 

Thanks again to Sammye and Vince for an awesome christmas vacation, and thanks to Mickey the “Boar Masta” and his gang of hounds for showing us how to do it Hawaiian style. Big thanks also is in order for Mickey’s entire family in including his fabulous wife, daughter, and grand father Glen… You guys are da best!

Traditional Archery Hunting Oregon 2013

alaska, alaska hunting expedition, antler, antler hunting, archery hunting, arrows, bears, coyote attack, DIY hunting, Field Producer, grizzly bear, Hunting Culture, meat, public land, Survival, The next generation, traditional archery

Tag soup is not my favorite meal, but as a hunter I will tell you I have had my fair share of it. Striking out as a hunter and coming home with no animal to show after a long arduous hunt can be very discouraging and hard on a sportsmen’s morale. I always dream of harvesting big game animals in different locations across the country, hunting in new locations is always fun and there is plenty of DIY opportunities through out most of the United States. I have had many aspirations to perfecting my traditional archery game on the beautiful animals that roam North America and beyond.

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This year I decided to take an old commercial fishing buddy up on his offer to chase elk in Oregon with bows in hand. Kalen told me about Oregon’s over the counter tags for elk and deer, I said “I’ll bring my take down long bow and a quiver full of zwickeys headed arrows.”
We discuss plans over a fishermens dinner in port of Naknek Alaska, dreaming of big bull elk and possibly a mule deer in the mountains of Oregon.

20131219-130908.jpgFast forward to August, the early archery elk season has begun and Kalen and I take to the woods. We meet up in Portland and begin the long road trip east, before long we had made it to a small sporting goods shop and picked up our elk and deer archery tags.   Kalen had the drop on a few good locations from past experiences while hunting with family and friends, so we had a few places to start.  (Thanks Mike and Jacob!)

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Hitting up a new piece of national forest is always a little daunting at first, new territory keeps you on your feet and you must be aware of your surroundings or risk getting lost/in an emergency situation.   I like hunting new areas because I have to be acutely aware of all of my new surroundings as I am at a severe disadvantage with my shooting distance, the animal sense of smell can detect me over 200 yards as they have evolved to survive.  All of my shots must be under 25 yards or I risk missing or wounding a game animal.  I am stepping completely out of my element of hunting the back country of Alaska, applying my skills to a new hunting area…….SOOOO EXCITING.  This hunt is going to be awesome, about a week to get it done before I head off back to Alaska in search of bull moose and grizzly bears.

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Hunting Alaska is no doubt one of the most physically, mentally, I repeat physically difficult hunt in the entire world especially if you are a DIY hunter who packs his own meat out.  Exlporing, hunting, and harvesting all over the counter game animals across much of Alaska, I thought this Oregon elk and deer hunt would relatively be a piece of cake.  Thinking nothing can be more difficult than a DIY moose or a grizzly bear hunt, I figured, “I’ll just slip in this (over the counter tag area) new territory in Oregon, put on the old slipideeedoooooo daaaa on an unsuspecting elk  and harvest a beautiful bull”.   “Then while I’m packing my elk out to my vehicle, I will see a mule deer buck right next to the car and tag out.”  aha lol.   All joking aside, I figured Kalen had a compound bow and an equal or better chance at harvesting an elk or a deer, so at least we would be successful.  Even harvesting one animal out of all four of our tags, I would have counted the hunt as a complete overwhelming success.20131219-130550.jpg20131219-130532.jpg

We begin to hike the rugged mountains of eastern Oregon, we break through tree line and I feel at home again.  Wind in our face dirt under our feet we marched to a prominent ridge with the plan to bivy out  on our perch high in the mountains and in the morning we would catch the elk sneaking back into their beds in the thick timber below. Potentially we could run into an unsuspecting deer as we hunt for elk.  Well our technique worked, better during the evening hunts than the morning, but we had encounters by staying high and hunting the elk herd above treeline.

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We also saw many deer, one day as I began to do the old slipideedooo da and creeping whisper quite towards the creek ravine where we saw elk I was startled by an explosion from four yards away.  Sneaking to stealthily for my own good, I managed to sneak unknowingly within 4 yards of a giant bedded mule deer buck. Kalen said “all I heard was thuda thuda thud thuda, booooomb” He could hear the deers hooves beat the earth before he could see his majestic framed bone white antlers take off towards Montana.  We both watched the buck from different locations on the mountain, galloping across the wicked terrain with mind blowing ease and grace.  Even though a shot opportunity never presented itself, seeing that deer bound across the mountain was a cool encounter one I will never forget.

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We decided they were not coming to our calling set ups as the breeding season or “rut” had not kicked off yet and the bulls were seemingly un-interested.  Thats not to say that we couldn’t call in an unsuspecting  bull before the rest of the hunting community started throwing hoochey mama calls at them.  We tried every trick in the book, we even went all “Cam Hanes” on those elk commencing “beast mode” on a least several occasions while hammering after elk.   We ended up scaring the wapiti(elk) off in the next county with our aggressive tactics. We decided to completely switch up our game, we would set up mini natural ground blinds and wait for the elk to cross a pinch point.  Pin pointing the elk herds movement to cross a saddle every evening on their way to a wallow, we knew exactly where to sit and await the ambush.   20131218-181553.jpgSeveral days later after we had patterned the elk movements, Kalen and I split up, he would stay  high upon the mountain top and I would go slide into the timber line and wait on the saddle.   Like clock work the elk came over the saddle, and I was ready.  I had also chosen the wrong game trail as the elk ended up crossing the saddle 80 yards away from me closer towards Kalen’s position.   Kalen had the majority of the herd walking directly towards the rock outcropping where he was hiding.   The spike and the branch bull we had spotted from our binoculars several days before was no where to be seen.  There were two groups of elk feeding directly towards Kalen and away from me, a spike crested the the rocky outcropping just outside Kalen’s effective range.   They ended being slightly curious of Kalens cow call, however they fed directly past his location with the spike elk not presenting anything but an extremely far shot.  Walking out of danger an into greener pastures, that spike would live to see another day.  Our tag team ambush tactic worked as we had a close encounter, although we were not able to seal the deal on an elk, I felt as if I had earned my moneys worth of the 500+ dollar over the counter tag.  The exhilarating expeience of having several close encounters in a new DIY hunting destination was priceless and in retrospect the cost of the license was worth the hunt alone.20131218-181751.jpg

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Elk combo deer season was a blast in eastern Oregon, we closed the distance on a few elk and one branch bull however we couldn’t get closer than 80 yards of legal bull. We had encounters nearly every day and saw great numbers of cow elk and doe mule deer failing to find the antlered monarchs until we switched up our game.  Finding what formula worked best for us on our early season archery hunt was difficult to say the least, but challenging in a very rewarding way.  Not only did we find several new locations to chase elk and deer next year, but we will carry our new found confidence and early season tactics into the next elk season.  Driving back to Portland was a very sobering moment, we hunted elk and deer as hard as possible for a week straight leaving with a better understanding of the public land bulls that make remote Oregon mountains their home.   I didn’t have much time to dwell as I was heading north back home to Alaska in search of rutting bull moose and one of the largest land predators in the world (grizzly bear).  Knowing very well that elk season and deer season were not completely over, and that eastern and western Oregon had open hunting GMU’s (game management units); there was a good chance that heading back to Oregon for one or two more shots at the venison or wapiti would be in in my near future.

Coming back to Oregon for one last shot at an elk combo deer hunt before the archery season closed, I searched out new areas to look for potential honey holes almost using these last few days to scout for elk and deer more than hunt.   Late season public land hunting entails pursuing animals that have already seen a lot of pressure, I turned to the game regulations in an attempt to find areas with minimal hunting activity or something close to it.   I found a few interesting areas in the Oregon game regulations that are traditional archery hunting only my co-driver, hunting partner, best friend, and fiancé Jordan P (who by the way is a dead eye with traditional archery equipment) Said “lets go there”.   A traditional area makes sense as the majority of the hunters would probably be unsuccessful leaving scores of antlered beasts to chase.  We did not find any elk so to speak, but we were treated to some of the finest deer hunting in the world.  I saw 25-50 deer per day for the last couple days of the season, even having a few encounters with some Pope and Young giants, but no shot opportunities under 60 yards.  The highlights of the trip was spending time with Jordan and our two dogs, they all were such awesome hunting buddies.   Jordan would drop me off at the top of a National forest road and I would meet her at 1/2 mile increments every hour at the road, doing my best to still-hunt as much area as possible.  Once again, we left the hunting grounds empty handed as no shot opportunities under 60 yards presented themselves.   Again though, the cost of the archery tag for deer season had been well worth it, the over the counter tag provided me with a few animal encounters and an awesome date/mini vacation for my gal and I.
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After contacting ODFG and confirming that my archery tag was indeed good for the western deer hunting season, I decided to give deer hunting one more shot.   Only hunting in western Oregon is a completely different ball game.  The area of western and eastern Oregon are completely different in regards to terrain and vegetation, and a hunter has the unique opporuntity to harvest a Columbia blacktailed deer what is said to be one of the most difficult species to hunt in North America.
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The vertical line that divides the mountain ranges that separate eastern and western Oregon provides a unique habitat where blacktail, whitetail, and mule deer can coexist and potentially hybridize.   That thought of all three species living in the same vicinity of each other blew my mind and is another awesome reason to purchase this hunting tag.  For the particular GMU I targeted to hunt, the western season opened up November 16th and on the opening day I was gonna head out with stick bow in hand.   I chose some national forest hunting land a couple hours outside of Portland, with a game plan to hunt an open area with access to “all” hunters.  Being the very late archery season, post gun season, I knew that this hunt would probably be the most difficult hunt out of all of my Oregon archery tags.   But I was not discouraged as I knew this GMU was an any deer unit, and hopefully with a little luck I could fill my freezer with a little blacktail venison back strap.   Weather in the late season was a factor that came into play for my advantage, finally  things are going perfectly right.

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Hunting the opening morning of the western deer season provided provided me with several advantages, one was the fact that other hunters would be in the woods moving deer.  Two the season opener had perfect blacktail deer hunting conditions  misty, snowy, cold, and nasty.   Oh baby, I started to feel really confident as the fresh snow gave me the chance to track deer in the Cascades Mountains.   I drove a two wheel drive car deep into the national forest as far as the car could go, I almost got stuck going up a steep hill.  The best decision was to turn around to avoid getting stuck and missing the season opener.  I hung my head out the window until I found fresh deer tracks and decided to pull over. 20131218-181436.jpg  I parked the car, strung up my take town stick bow, and charged after the deer tracks.   After about an hour of doing the old “slipperybob, slippideee kiiii yeaaaaa, not to be confused with the slippaaaruski, aka cat walking, #stealthy, #stillhunt, #spotandstalk, etc”  Basically I was tracking what appeared to be a buck as silently as I possibly could, using the fresh snow and wind direction to my advantage.   I noticed the animal tracks we extremely fresh, finding warm scat and recent wet (not frozen) scrapes.   Excitement and anticipation began to build enormously, I slowed my already cat like approach to snail speed.   After 20 more minutes of feathering my way through thick brush, tracking this buck through rabbit like undergrowth the tracks began to bound more than 10 ft apart.  This only meant one thing,  the buck had saw me before I saw him and he made a great vanishing act these houdini deer have been known for.

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Switching direction towards other fresh tracks in the area, I put my nose to the ground and knew this tactic was going to work.   “I could feel it in my bones” that a deer was very close to me and if I didn’t spook them that I could possibly get a shot.   I followed the new tracks for a few hours, sitting down during mid day around 11am to take in some beef jerky and water upon a downed tamarack tree.   Staying in the field on the hot new deer trail proved to be the final ingredient in having a shot opportunity under 25 yards.

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The tracks surprisingly had circled back towards the national forest logging road I was parked on, and headed directly towards the first set of tracks I had followed.   Commencing to snail speed I knocked an arrow and eased more slowly than ever towards a group of coniferous trees where the tracks had led.   Using these trees to my advantage I slowly crept around the snowy branches being careful not to brush the limbs revealing the location of the heavy footed predator trailing the prey.  Rounding the edge of the tree and stepping into another thick snow covered fern patch I noticed the arc of a deer back just 30 yards away.  Not moving a muscle I stood frozen, the deer stood up keeping a tree stump halfway between me and it and began walking towards my location.

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The stump keeping the animals vitals hidden I could only see a glimpse of what appeared to be a large, healthy, and unaccompanied blacktail doe with no head gear.   Slightly curious the deer began doing the head bob back and forth, the “did I just see a shadow” “some kind of movement” ” what was that”  “maybe I see another deer?” curiosity head bob.  The creatures patience began to wear thin, she turned to walk away and took three steps up hill quartering away at 30 yards I could not take a shot as she was just out of my effective range.   As the doe moved up hill, I fumbled in my pocket and pulled out a “Primos Doe esterous can call” and hit the call once as I  simultaneously crept 2.5 steps closer to the stump separating me from the back straps.

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The doe stopped in her tracks, turned and was curious as to what made the deer noise.   She took three steps toward the stump once again and stopped at about 24-25 yards facing me directly.   This was the closest I had been to any deer yet this season, as a traditional archer and longbow huntsmen I decided I was going to shoot if the deer was under 25 yards.  The gig was up and she had had enough, turning her head to walk away was all of the distraction I needed.  Instinctually guestimating the yardage to 25ish yards, coming to full draw, I picked a tuft of hair directly behind her shoulder releasing the arrow with impeccable form just as practiced thousands of times before.

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This is where the witchery of archery comes into play with the traditional archer…  “As I watched the arrow in what felt like super slow motion, I could see the archers paradox flexing the Zwickey shafted arrow bending and correcting itself to fly true.”   The arrow’s trajectory sent the arcing projectile high above the animals back, silhouetting itself perfectly against the white blanketed back drop.  The arrows flight was simply beautiful, in my mind I saw the arrow flying over the animal’s back, but in the last mili-nano second of slow motion the arrow lost forward momentum and began to fall as if guided by a higher power.  The white and red fletched arrow flies silently as the wind and does not interrupt natures perfect harmony.  Slicing through snow, fog, and mist connecting with flesh, blood and bone.. 20131218-182026.jpg

The arrow finds its mark, the doe trots off slowly and lays down for one final nap.   Watching the animal lay down, I knew the deer had been delivered a fatal blow and it was only a matter of seconds before she passed.   I slowly tracked the blood trail towards the location I saw her lay down.  Still practicing the art of the hunt, I tracked the beautifully painted blood trail across the vibrant white snow.

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Finding both halves of my arrow, I was ecstatic.  The blood trail started to be on both sides of the animal, which means the arrow went completely through the animal or part of the arrow (hence the broken shaft).   After about 80 yards of tracking this blood trail to the location where I saw the animal lay down, I could see the deer belly up another 15-20 yards down the mountain.  She died on her feet completely unaware of what happened and slid about 20 yards down hill to the base of hemlock tree.   There lay one of the hardest earn trophies of my hunting career, a beautiful public land blacktail doe taken with true stick and string.

-Austin Manelick

Thanks to everyone who was part of the hunt this year, shout out to Jake and Mike M, Kalen K, and Jordan P I had a blast hunting with you guys this year and thanks for all your assistance.

Vince P Traditional Archery for Small Game

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Vince P Traditional Archery for Small Game

This was actually a magical day in the woods. I took off from behind the cabin with longbow and a quiver full of arrows using the old Alaskan 56″ snowshoes to get around in. Up on the ridge I could see the entire Alaska Range and Denali. The alpenglow on the mountains was a photographers dream. I spooked a bird roosting in the Spruce and it flew away towards another stand not to far away. Sable (my dog) and I gave chase, off we went to find the grouse. As we approached, it flew again but this time I didn’t lose sight of it and saw where it landed. About 40 yards away high in another Spruce. I pulled the fluflu out of the quiver and let loose. The arrow tip penetrated all the way but the shaft stopped half way through the birds chest. The bird and the arrown took flight from the tree …. to be continued ..

Vince

Thanks for the picture and story Vince. Your adventures are incredible and you inspire us all to get out there!

New Age Thrill Seeker

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Ever since my father took me trout fishing in a local stream after my first day as a kindergartner at Pioneer Peak Elementry School, I was hooked for life.  I had recieved a new telescopic (totally BA) trout fishing rod set up and I could not wait to test my new implements of attack upon the majestic rainbow trout.  My dad picked me up after school and we headed to Wasilla Creek. It wasn’t too long before we found ourselves 50 yards from the road, in a perfect trout hole.  My Dad rigged me up with a small spoon lure and told me to cast in the dark, deep hole behind the log…. I did so expertly, as if I had been a bass master my entire 5 year old life, after my third of fourth perfect cast I felt my pole tip jerk directly toward my line..

Trout Killer: the Great Northern Pike found in my secret trout fishing lake

What happened next was almost unexplainable, to this day I still have a hard time finding words for it. My tiny stomach lurched forward and downward at the same time, and for a split second I swore I was levitating.   For a brief moment, my body seemed to have defied gravity. I did not know what was happening but I knew I had a trout or something on my line and I did not want it to get away.  After landing the trout my dad and I shared a moment of silence and awe at that little trout flopping on the bank. My body let me feel the ground once I got a hold of my very first self caught trout.  My body experienced one of my first adrenal highs. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but if fishing could give me that knee shaking experience….then I would catch more fish!!!!   At a very young age I knew I was a thrill seeker, and believe it or not fishing gave me that thrill.  It was only later that I experience hunting for the very first time, which brought the thrill to a completely different level.

Everyday after school, between sports and home work, I would head to the woods or the streams carrying my fishing pole on my mountain bike. Later that bike would become an ATV..   Yeah sure I had video games, but getting to the next level was not gratifying for me because I knew the next level would always be there and I would always be able to beat the game.  There wasn’t too much fun in video games for me, deep down when I played them, I knew there would be a monster trout sitting under that log that I wasn’t fishing.  The outdoors was a challenge for me, every time I left the house I knew I would have to be clever enough to outsmart a fish or a squirrel.   My next personal metaphoric “video game level” would be my next small animal target, or my next dream hunt for Moose or Dall sheep.  After many years of small game hunting, I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to to start hunting big game animals.

I will not tell a lie, the outdoors gratifies me beyond words.  The only way to break the experience with nature down such as catching a fish, harvesting an animal, or even seeing an animal, is the chemical response in the brain linked to adrenal release.  Adrenaline so to speak is what I chase, this chemical is released when your “rod tip jerks” or when you spot a grey squirrel and you’re hunting for dinner, or when you’re hunting for bull moose and a trophy 60 plus incher walks out with a rack thats wider than a door frame.  Your body’s natural instinct is to release this super human chemical giving you seemingless power, you must seek a thrill to experience it.  The harvesting of an animal is not the thrill, I get just as much satisfaction releasing a 26 inch rainbow trout as I would harvesting and eating the fish.  The kill is not as important as outsmarting the game animal, for instance letting a legal but small antlered animal walk by you instead of needlessly taking a life just because you can.  The taker of a life involves maturity and respect for the animals as well, close relationships are formed with the animals we pursue.  A last second buzzer beater, a half court 3 pointer  shot with no time left to beat the other team, that feeling as the ball goes in the hoop is a similar feeling to the experience of catching or harvesting an animal.

I don’t discriminate. I follow each U.S. state Fish and Wildlife regulations and within law, pick several legal game animals to pursue whether it’s big game or small game the thrill is the same.  I have been an accomplished big game hunter most of life, in part to a father who at one time was a Master Alaska Guide.  We have hunted both big and small game together and to me the adrenaline rush is nearly the same.  More exciting to me than hunting or fishing for myself, is sharing the sport with someone new, sharing the experience (the rush) of animal encounter with someone who is interested.  This last winter I decided to take my best friend and high school sweetheart Jordan Pokryfki small game hunting.

In high school her father, Vince, would teach us how to make port orford cedar arrows and osage orange self made D-bows.  We both had a love for the bow and making beautiful arrows, it was now time to put these arrows to action in the next challenge.  Noticing that Jordan was deadly with a bow I suggested we purchase a hunting license together, she asked me if we could actually hunt legally if she had purchased the license. I told her yes we could hunt small game (Snow shoe hare, ptarmigan, red squirrel, and spruce hen)because thats the small game open this season and off we went.

Jordan and austin

Bunny Hunting

Our first time out, we definitely looked deadly, however we spotted no bunnies during our snow shoe adventure.  Un-deterred  we decided we would head back out to a different bunny hunting location the following weekend, and this time we would use snow machines to get further from the road and deeper into bunny country.

One bunny, one zwickey doubled bladed broad head.

Our new game plan, using snow machines to get further into bunny country worked!  Jordan and I would succesfully harvest several bunnies this day, and had a blast doing it.  Jordan liked it so much we decided to go the following weekend to the same place, this time we would bring her dad and have equal success.

What a beautiful Alaskan winter day, an amazing moment.

Like I said, I don’t discriminate in the adventures I go on, the satisfaction I received would only be comparable to the happiness of  Jordan and her first successful hunting experience.   Seeing Jordan come to full draw with her home made refinished bow as bunnies zoomed through the willows, would bring me to a full draw smile and many awesome memories.