Alaskan Sitka blacktrail hunt - 7 bucks down (photo heavy!)

shanevg

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Feb 25, 2012
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Lynden, WA
Well we are back from our Alaska Sitka Blacktail adventure. Alecvg, myself, and our buddy Brian all left WA on 8/14 to travel by car/ferry up to AK with the potential to shoot 12 bucks (4 a piece.) We didn't fill all our tags but we did get 7 bucks and had a great time!

Our plan was to travel by car, then by ferry and stay in a forest service cabin up in SE AK. We had backpacking tents and had plans to climb the rough and hard to climb mountains to take some giant bucks! The first 2 weeks of August had been blue bird skies every day, but the forecast was calling for plenty of rain, which wasn't what we were hoping for!

The first we awoke to to a bit of rain, but after going to town to pick up tags, we had some broken clouds and it looked good to climb the first mountain on our list.

Alec and Brian getting ready to climb:
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Deer trails in the wet, muddy ground up there are incredible!
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Very steep country!
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And brushy!
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shanevg

shanevg

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When we finally reached alpine we immediately spotted 2 bucks worth pursuing. Unfortunately, they were still at least 1000 feet elevation above us.
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The rain and fog moved in as we were climbing but as we reached the top of the mountain, we got a break in the fog within 275 yards of the two bucks. One 4 point with eye guards was already hard horned and a smaller buck was with him still in velvet. The 4 point was bedded and once he stood up I had him down in two shots with a rifle. The smaller buck hung around trying to figure out where the shots came from. We weren't planning on shooting him at first but eventually Alec decided to take him as well.

My buck:
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shanevg

shanevg

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Alec's buck:
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My buck ended up green scoring 89" gross and Alec's scored 74" gross.

We quickly set up camp and went and looked for one more buck for Brian. We actually saw another 4 point, similar in size to the one I got but he wasn't able to connect before the fog moved back in.

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Then the rain started. It rained all night long and all the next day. Alec and I actually boned out our deer in the vestibules of our backpacking tents! Plus we had to make our way down the mountain (each carrying our own tents) through some of the muddiest, steepest, cliffiest, nastiest, brushiest terrain I've ever hiked in. At one point, Brian was climbing up through some cliffs and we couldn't see him when he let loose a whole bunch of rocks. I seriously thought for a second that he was a goner. We all said our prayers and made it down safely to the car, but we were drenched to the bone and completely exhausted. It probably rained 1.5+ inches on us while we were hiking out!

The next couple of days involved lots of fog...
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shanevg

shanevg

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Glassing in during breaks in the fog...
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And hiding under trees and my rain poncho for hours, waiting for rain storms to pass!
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shanevg

shanevg

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In one break in the fog, I spotted a small buck get up from his bed. It was day 3 of our hunt and Brian still hadn't filled a tag so he was ready to take anything bigger than a spike. We kept stalking closer as the fog moved in and out and eventually got within 250 yards. Once the fog cleared, we spotted a second buck bedded 50 yards away and decided I would take the 2 point and he would take the 3 point. One shot later for Brian and a few later for me and we had two bucks down and there were deer running everywhere. Then we spotted another 3 point and with only one shell left (we'd left our packs about 800 yards back under our temporary shelter) Alec made a great one shot kill and we had 3 deer down within 50 yards of each other in less then 3 minutes with only 2 rifles!

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Alec's buck (3x2):
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Brian's buck (3x2 with eye guards):
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My buck: (2x2):
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shanevg

shanevg

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The weather stuck around for 4.5 days straight with one break in the middle when of course we were in town getting ice and more tags. At one point, we climbed a mountain hoping the fog and weather would clear. We set up our tents in the fog and decided to sleep it out 24 hours later with not a single clearing, we decided to head to a mountain at lower elevations and hope we could get below the fog. The fog at the higher elevations as well as the rain (wet cliffs and muddy hills/brush) really stopped us from hunting some of the bigger mountains we were hoping to hunt and stopped us from pursuing some of those bigger bucks we were hoping to get.

After moving to lower elevation, we were fogged out yet again for another 12 hours or so. Finally after over 48 hours of fog, we finally got some breaks in the fog and started spotting a few bucks.

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This was our last full day of hunting, but the bucks just weren't moving that much. Alec and Brian hiked way out one ridge and hunted the back side where they saw some bucks go bed in the timber. I hiked out a parallel ridge where we had glassed some bucks across the valley a few days prior. I ended up having a great 3x3 come out right at noon but I missed a shot at 300 yards and was never able to get him. Brian and Alec were able to stalk up close on a buck on the backside of the ridge about a half hour before sunset and get a 35 yard shot on him. (I wasn't with them so I didn't get any pictures of that buck.)

While I was waiting for them to get back, I did get some great pictures of our first Alaskan sunset after 8 days up there!
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shanevg

shanevg

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We finally made it back to our cabin a little after midnight and Brian and Alec were completely exhausted. I knew that the next day was my last day to hunt and I still had two tags in my pocket. I decided to get up at 4 and go hunt solo near where we'd shot the 3 bucks a few days earlier as we'd spooked two others that we didn't get shots at. I got lucky and at very first light I had a buck spotted at 30 yards and dropped him with one shot from my rifle. As you can see in the picture, it was still quite dark! First time I've ever shot a buck that early in the morning. He was a very little 3x3 with eye guards.
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I had him all boned out by 6:30 am and went looking for that second buck we'd spooked a few days earlier but I never did find him. In the end we all came home with one tag unfilled (I had purchased 4 tags, Brian and Alec each purchased only 3.)

Here is a picture of all of our racks together. Alec's bucks are on the left, Brian's in the middle, and mine on the right.
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We were very glad we rented a forest service cabin for our accomodations. $45 bucks a night was well spent just to have a place to go dry out when necessary.
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When the tides were right, the salmon fishing was very good in front of the cabin. I couldn't believe how many salmon were in all the creeks up there!

Overall, it was a great trip but the weather really made things difficult. I definitely believe that we could have filled 12 tags had the fog not hit us as hard as it did. (Rain is OK as long as you can still see but fog really kills you when you can't see more than 30 yards!)

If you ever go to Alaska, a few pieces of advice:
1. Make sure you bring gators, they are a necessity!
2. Bring 3 sets of rain gear, you will use all of it!
3. Make sure your boots are water proof! They will still get wet!
4. What looks like a relatively easy ridge climb on a TOPO map is very cliffy. What looks cliffy on a TOPO map is sheer cliff! What looks like a flat ridge, still has 10-20 foot cliffs everywhere. TOPO maps only show 100 foot intervals and those 10-20 foot cliffs don't show up on them.
5. Alaskan alpine is not the same "easy" walking of WA alpine. It is a lot of large boulder fields with heather growing on top. I can't tell you how many time I'd step through a hole between rocks that looked like solid ground and sink up to my knee!
6. Give yourself plenty of time to wait out the weather of necessary. We had 8 full days to hunt and were able to fill 7 tags. In good weather, you could probably fill 12 tags in 4 days, but it's SE Alaska, you can't count on good weather!

Overall, we had a blast. Alec and Brian aren't sure they ever want to go brave the elements again just for "small deer" but I can't wait to get back although I think I'll make sure I go get a caribou and moose before I focus on the deer hunting.

Visit my web page if you want to see even more pictures!
http://www.lonegoatmedia.com/Hunting/Alaska-2013
 

bowuntr

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Mar 5, 2012
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Prescott, Az
You guys are bad ass... congrats on a great hunt. Great pics... S/E is on my bucket list. Ed F
 

Brock A

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Buckley, WA
Nice write up & great pics. Sounds like a trip that wont soon be forgotten. Brothers always seem to be the best hunting partners, Cool that you got to enjoy it with him.
 

focker34

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Feb 25, 2013
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Palmer, AK
Looks like my home country. Thanks for bringing back some memories! Hopefully I'll be chasing those "small deer" come next year.
 

bz_711

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May 7, 2012
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Awesome...Looks like that would be a ball with a couple buddies. Thanks for sharing!
 
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