Kodiak Sitka Blacktail Hunt: Making Memories 2017
First off, this could be a little long winded but I'm going to try and not leave out any (many) details. I can't figure out how to post pictures but I'd be glad to send them to someone if they can?
My dad started taking me hunting with him when I was 5 years old. At that time we (he) had hog dogs and every year during the week of Thanksgiving we would head out to hunt hogs. It was great for me to be able to hang out with my dad, and it was great for him because he didn't have to see his inlaws during Thanksgiving. Haha. Those trips instilled in me a love for hunting.
Anyway, we have been blessed since then to continue to hunt together and meet a lot of neat people along the way.
I am now 31 and he's 61 and he has always dreamed of hunting Alaska. I talked to several different outfitters about putting together a hunt for us. One of the guys that I talked to was Jake Jefferson. Almost immediately after talking to Jake I knew that he would be "our" guy. Jake recommended coming up on a Kodiak deer hunt. We could fly in on a float plane, hunt spot and stalk, shoot two deer a piece during the rut, could shoot foxes, and be able to hunt together. What's not to love about that? It was perfect for a couple of Tennessee boys.
Leading up to the hunt Jake was easy to get a hold of and answered all of my stupid questions about logistics, gear and other stuff. He kept me in the loop and even called to tell me to go ahead and buy our tags early because they were going to double in price! That's huge when you are buying four tags. We got to know each other pretty well leading up to the hunt which is pretty nice when you are going to sleep next to somebody you haven't ever met in a tent for a week.
We flew out of Nashville Monday November 13th and after two connecting flights we arrived in Kodiak at 6pm. All of our bags made it, so we checked into the hotel room and caught up on some rest. We didn't start hunting until Wednesday so we spent Tuesday sightseeing around Kodiak. Kodiak is a beautiful town with a lot of history. Tuesday evening Jake came by and we got our game plan together for Wednesday.
Wednesday morning we got up fairly early (Jake called me princess because I like to sleep but hey we've all got our problems, right?) and collected some of Jakes's gear from the hanger. Jake took us around town and showed us the crab boats and the wind turbines above town. We also went to a spot where he knew some salmon were still spawning. There were eagles EVERYWHERE!! My dad had never seen an eagle before so it was awesome to see him so excited.
We flew out from Andrews Airways at 1:30pm. Neither one of us had ever been on a float plane before and that is an experience that was worth the cost of admission. I can't put it into words. Alaska is the most beautiful place I have ever seen and getting a birds eye view of it enhances that beauty even more. Once we landed we unloaded the plain, and set up camp. We had some time before dark so we hiked up to a small ridge to glass for deer and have a look around. We even found some old whale bones on the beach as well as bear tracks... BIG bear tracks.. We weren't in Tennessee anymore. We arrived at the tent just before dark and Jake got started cooking. Not mountain house, REAL food!! We are a meal fit for a king and stayed up and listened to story after story from Jake. If you didn't know before you met him, it doesn't take long to figure out Jake loves what he does.
Thursday morning we woke up to Jake cooking eggs and bacon. After eating breakfast we packed our packs for the day and started out to find these deer. The weather was perfect except for wind. Let me take a second to try and explain the terrain on Kodiak.. Looking at the elevation one might not realize how rugged this country is. It is very steep and rough in parts. The ground is pretty much always uneven. We hiked a little over an hour and spotted a big brown bear at a little over half a mile before we setup to glass. The bear had caught our wind and left... he didn't stick around. Immediately, Jake started spotting deer. We saw two bucks and a doe right off the bat. In the time it would take us to find a deer he had spotted he would have found three or four more. The deer were staying up high because there wasn't any snow present so it became obvious early on that any stalks made were going to be on deer up high. We hadn't been classing long when Jake says "Shooter... we need to shoot that deer.." I wanted Dad to go after the deer but he declined and I quickly loaded a round and we began our stalk. The deer was close to 1000 yards when we saw him and we eased up on a ridge hoping to get within shooting range. Jake and I slowly eased over the top of the ridge and found the deer. He ranged him at 325 and I put my rifle on his pack, got steady and shot him. The deer stumbled but stayed on his feet so I gave him one more. He was done. Those little 6.5 Creedmoors do work. We high fived and hugged. Jake and Dad stayed on the ridge while I climbed up and brought the deer down to bone out. The deer was a great 8pt that was exactly what I was hoping for in a Sitka Blacktail. We tagged him, boned him out and loaded him in my pack and off we headed to find Dad a deer.
Little background about Dad, he hunts because he loves to hunt not chasing record books. He isn't obsessed with antler size or the tape measure. We had gotten to another ridge to glass and found a doe that all the boys liked. These deer were in out of the alders at around 600 yards and we watched between 10-15 bucks on that hillside. One buck showed up and it was obvious he was dominant. He went in the alders and collected his girl and none of the other boys objected. As soon as I saw him I knew Dad would want to make a play for him. He was a huge bodied buck with a strong right side with three points, his other side had a horn that tried to grow backwards. We all talked and decided to try and setup to shoot that buck. We dropped off the ridge and got to within 400yds of him. There were two problems. 1. He was bedded and wouldn't stand up. This went on for hours. 2. The wind was gusting 30+ mph. We were running out of daylight so we had to make something happen. We knew it would take us well over an hour to get back to camp so we needed to shoot the deer soon. Dad allowed for the wind and let one roll. He didn't allow enough for wind, so it wasn't a one shot deal but after a couple of more shots he had his buck. I let him climb the mountain to retrieve that one. We tagged him, took pictures and boned him out and then took off for the tent. We arrived right at dark. Jake fleshed the capes and salted the hides and then got right to cooking dinner. Jalapeño moose dogs and more epic tales. Sleep came easy that night.
We woke up early the next morning and checked the weather. The forecast had deteriorated every day since we arrived. We left the tent with high hopes and a full belly from eggs and tortillas. We went to a new spot and hunkered down on the side of the ridge looking for deer. As usual Jake started seeing deer immediately. There were two bucks with a doe on a very high ridge probably and a very hard climb. Dad joked that if that big forky walked down the valley he would gladly shoot it. It wasn't long before Jake said there's your big forky... Sure enough in the valley below us was a beautiful six point buck. Dad eased his way down the ridge and made a great 350yd shot. Nobody had to climb up the mountain to retrieve that one.
After the tagging and pictures and loading the deer in my pack we climbed another ridge to look for more deer. I jokingly told Dad to conjure me up another 8 point since the forky thing worked so well... wouldn't you know it a little while later an 8 point dropped off the ridge and slowly came our way. I got setup steady on my knee and shot the deer in the valley floor. One shot through both front shoulders and I had my second buck. We got back to camp and Jake talked to Andrews airways... The weather was looking worse. (50mph winds possible on Sunday) We needed to fly out Saturday or risk of being stuck out until after Thanksgiving. That night we ate chili, moose dogs and sheep quesadillas.
Saturday planes started flying early so we packed up camp and waited for our ride. The plane ride out was as amazing as the ride in.
Sitting in the airport now with a long layover I've had time to reflect on the trip. First off, as I said, I've been blessed to be able to do what I've done. The memories made with my dad through the years are priceless. Second, I've made a friend. Jake is second to none. If anybody out there is looking for an Alaskan adventure, do yourself a favor and contact him. He was spot on in everything he said and delivered from start to finish. Sorry for the long read.