Sitka Blacktail - POW Island, AK

Country Bumpkin

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Joined
Sep 22, 2015
Messages
688
Location
Boise, ID
Teaser pic... more to come as I get time

my hunting buddy is sawing logs in our hotel room. We rode the inter-island ferry from POW to Ketchikan today and don’t fly out until tomorrow. I’ll see what I can do to pst photos and some backstory. I was writing daily-details to myself in the tent every night while he was keeping the bears at bay with his snoring. I plan to actually write a narrative and possibly submit to some online places. You guys can be my first editors once I get to that point.
 

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Country Bumpkin

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 22, 2015
Messages
688
Location
Boise, ID
Please ignore the haphazard ramblings. I wrote all of this on my phone at night, so there is no structure to it, just play-by-plays.

Travel Day 8/25
We left Toms at 02:15, AK airlines shows up to check firearms at 4:45 (not sure what the point is of showing up early if the airlines have no concerns of getting our rifles squared away - I guess that’s the beauty of the Boise airport, easy in, easy out, okay with gun-toting travelers). Met airman Josh who grew up on POW, exchanged hunting and air force stories. Josh assured us that we would get into some bucks in the locations we had pegged. Ferry from ketch to POW, very pretty, worth the three hours and $$ savings over float-plane ride (IMO). Saw two bears eating fish on drive in, also saw 5 deer.

Hunt/hike day 1 (8/26) Saw 2 does on drive to parking spot at base of Manty MTn. Climbed through timber about 1-1/2 miles, took 4 hours of struggle, getting Cliffed out. Following someone else’s tape route that dead-ended. They appear to have given up (no more tape). We backtracked and Tom found a root-ladder that shimmied up between last set of cliffs (clutch moment, we were out of survey tape to backtrack). We named it Tom’s ladder and it became very useful on our hunt. Spotted 8 does/fawns up top, saw 4 Black Bears. Got clouded out right at prime time and spent rest of night in tent drinking fireball (I carried it up there and wasn’t about to keep lugging it around :) ). It POURED on us all night. Toms rain gear somehow rolled out from under vestibule and was soaked in morning.

Hunt day 2 (8/27)
Spent first several hours in the fog, Tom made fire to dry out rain gear. Spotted a doe in the fog. Fog lifted for a couple minutes, spotted biggest bear we had ever seen about 400 yds away (Tom things he was 7 ft, I wouldn’t know, but he made my 5’2” sow from this spring look like she belonged in kiddy pool). Note, bear in photo is significantly smaller than the big one we saw, he was too fast for pic. Fog finally lifted, for about 25 minutes, at 12:30. Spotted a doe bedded behind camp, spotted two across canyon. Clouds and rain moved in, we retreated to tent for a 45 min nap. Moved camp much closer to Manty. Saw 9 more does. If weather cooperates we will spend 30 minutes glassing in the morning and then making big push over to Manty and beyond.

Hunt day 3
Woke up to fog. Tom had an epiphany the night before that iodine was likely causing my throat to hurt because iodine is the reason that most people are allergic to shellfish. I woke up early to boil water for the day. Once the fog started lifting I woke Tom up. We had a quick breakfast and then walked a short distance over to the glassing point from the previous night. The fog kept coming in and out and we grew impatient so we hiked about 150 yards over to the ridge behind us. Immediately upon cresting the ridge I spotted a buck about 75 yds away. I got Toms attention with “Tom, Buck!” As Tom was getting a round chambered the buck, another slightly smaller buck and a doe, took off. Tom dropped him through the neck at 120 yds. I had a chance to shoot the smaller buck but decided to pass. We got him cut up and headed back to camp. Hiked back to where we camped the first night and descended the same path we came up (kind of). We saw a spike and a tiny forky on the way out. In total we saw 13 deer, 4 of which were bucks. The pack out was treacherous and punishing. I’m no stranger to action and adventure, I’m not afraid to break a few bones or get some stitches, but the risk associated with these mountains is insane. Hunting in the Sawtooth mtns of Idaho, in my opinion, gives me a relevant benchmark for what “steep and nasty” looks like. POW ascents/descents assuredly qualify. If you slipped and fell in the helicopter slash (always wet and riddled with Devils club) you could very well find yourself in a very soggy, sh!tty, situation. If you lost your footing in the moss-covered ledges that you inevitably scale to reach the alpines, you could find yourself being a permanent “trail” marker as they have on Everest. I’m not kidding, this place is no joke. As we drove back into Klawock we called the owner of Hollis Adventure Rentals, DJ, and told him we were inbound with meat, horns and cape. We stuck meat in DJ’s freezer and then ate a huge pizza at Papa’s Pizza in Craig. Highly recommend the stuffed breadsticks (they are, without a doubt, the best cheesy breadsticks Tom or I have ever had - we ended up finding reasons to eat there 3 times in 10 days). Also highly recommend using DJ for rental needs on POW. He’s a great guy with quality equipment, fair prices, and let us use his personal freezer space to keep our deer in as we continued to hunt.

Hike/Hunt Day 4
Spent the morning getting gear sorted and running clothes through laundry wash I Klawock. Planned to ascend Black Bear Mountain but rain/fog prevented us from finding a definitive route. Gave up at 1:45 and spent rest of day drinking a few beers in Frank-the-Tank (aka Smokey, aka Busted-Bearings-Betty).
 

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Country Bumpkin

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Joined
Sep 22, 2015
Messages
688
Location
Boise, ID
More pics
 

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Country Bumpkin

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Joined
Sep 22, 2015
Messages
688
Location
Boise, ID
8/25 Hike / Hunt day ??

Spent last night sitting in Busted Bearings Betty watching the fog and rain. Plotted a “hopeful course” up Black Bear MTn with the GPS. We decided that we would leave by 9:00 am regardless of the weather and just trust the GPS. Left the truck at 8:45 and within 50 yds of road we found a flagged trail that almost exactly mirrored our plotted course. Wish we would have known yesterday, but it would not have gained us much since it’s been raining/cloudy/foggy since noon yesterday when we couldn’t see a way up anyways. Got to the top around 1:00 and watched the clouds lift and fall while we tended a small fire, always teasing us for a glimpse of the top of Taku’s Fang. Never did see Black Bear peak. Saw 4 does on way up. Raining and cloudy, retreated to tent at 4:30.
It’s been 4 hours... do you know how long 4 hours is? You could drive width-wise across the state if Idaho at its widest point in just over 4 hours. You could take your kids fishing and have ice cream in 4 hours. You could clean the house, give your wife a foot massage and earn enough bonus points to hunt chukkars for a day in December in 4 hours. You could watch a football game and take a nap in 4 hours. You could watch golf.... no, you can’t watch golf, that’s impossible!

Ways that Tom can Snore:

Grumble Snore - a typical hearty snore, doesn’t sound overly painful. Isn’t very loud or obtrusive. Has a rhythmic cadence.

Snort Snore - very sharp, sounds like it hurts. Likely isn’t very effective st getting oxygen to the brain.

Shop Vac Screamer - when you get an orange peel stuck in the shop vac that the kids threw under your seat and it whistles with a demonic oscillation. How is this possibly a Snore????

Infant Snot Sucking Bulb - if you have kids you know what I’m talking about. Sounds painful, about a level 7 on obtrusive. Baffling as to how it happens. Typically lasts less than 2 minutes before reverting back to grumble-in/grumble-out (sometimes grumble-in/shop/vac-out)

Sick Hissing Barn Cat
Not just a regular cat, I’m talking a 16 lbs, solid muscle, striped gray tiger with a “M” on his forehead with puss coming out both eyes......wet, mad and cornered .... hissing at you. 9.5 on the obtrusive scale. Pretty loud, keeps the bears away, drowns out the sound of the rain.

Stuck Spit Wad
With a large milkshake straw from McDonald’s, when your spit wad isn’t quite round enough for a good seal, the straw is to wet for it to easily slide through and it’s just barely passing air. If your car was making a sound like this you’d only sell it to your arch-enemy.

Can you tell that I’m getting a little stir crazy stuck in the tent because of the rain/fog...?

Sun the forecast....
 

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Country Bumpkin

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Sep 22, 2015
Messages
688
Location
Boise, ID
8/26 we woke up to pretty good conditions and decided that we wanted to check out the back side of Black Bear MTn. Packed up camp and headed towards a saddle. Saw a couple does right across camp, 3 more on the way up, thn saw 8-9 on the back side. It’s not too steep to hunt but it’s sketchy when it’s wet. We decided to come back around to the front. Crossed a boulder field that looked like 1,000 broken shins. On the front side we encountered “Lazy Lilly”. She was bedded at 300 yards directly in the middle of the basin. She didn’t know we were there for the first 45 minutes. Even after she finally spotted us she refused to get up or be bothered by us. She actually laid on her side like a dog. We spotted, what we are guessing, about 20 more does. No bucks. After spending the early afternoon there and watching all of the does/fawns get up to feed and bed back down multiple times (except for Lilly) we pulled the plug and decided that there weren’t any bucks in the area. Back down to Busted Bearings Betty. We drove into Klawock for more survey tape and to get Tom some cold meds. Drove to base of Rush Peak and slept in the truck.

8/27. Well, I suppose I’ll open myself up for some ridicule, but I’m going to call ‘em as they came. I guess this is just a reminder that I’m human and not the superhero that my kids think I am.... here goes...

Drove around a bit to see if we could find a better way up the mountain and finally set up around 8:30. It was super humid and hot fighting up through the brush into the muskeg. Finally got up to the alpine just below the peak and ate lunch. After 25 minutes of glassing Tom spotted a buck (3x3 including his eye guards). He was at 330 yards and I got a solid rest. The shot felt good and the buck ran sideways along the hill, I fumbled on my second shot (miss) and was wildly guessing on what was going wrong on my third. After 10 minutes I climbed up and around to see what happened while Tom stayed down to guide me in. I have killed a LOT of archery deer, I’m not stranger to tricky blood trails and I’m very persistent and patient in the process. I only found about 6 drops of blood and we searched for the next several hours. After months of preparation, physical conditioning, shooting practice and costs, I Blew It!! Sitting on a beautiful mountain peak with the sun on my shoulders and ravens soaring around on the thermals, I couldn’t be lower. My only guess is that, right before the shot, I told myself “remember, it’s an uphill angle and you don’t need to aim as high as you think”. My 300 yd stadia was centered on his heart when the first shot broke. I can only assume that I hit him low. I’m so incredibly frustrated with myself. I have a moral code and this does not fit within it. When I draw blood, I expect for it to be a quick, humane, kill and for that animal to feed my family. Wounding one of God’s critters is unacceptable and I don’t take this lightly. My confidence is broken.
Went to Thorne Bay. Tom tried like hell to cheer me up. We even had cheeseburgers. Still not happy.... Forecast says solid rain and fog for 36 hours. This is going to be a brutally epic mental challenge for me to not freak out and go a little nuts.
 

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Country Bumpkin

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Sep 22, 2015
Messages
688
Location
Boise, ID
8/28 spent the night in Betty in a gravel pit / shooting area. woke up to rain and decided to take a rain day, drove into Klawock to let DJ know about the rattling noise coming out of Betty’s front left end. DJ had us drive to the local repair shop, Kim’s Truck and Car Repair. DJ picked us up and took us to his house to grab a temporary rental and we went into Craig to get showers and coffee. Whew, we STUNK. Just as we returned to auto shop Kim pulled in from his test drive and gave us the keys to Betty. DJ runs awesome outfit, Hollis Adventure Rentals, and he’s a great guy (as was Kim, who showed us on a map where we could do some clear cut road hunting while it rained). We saw some does and eventually drove back up to the base of Manty mtn to give it a final 3-days of hell try.

On our way to Manty we ran into Josh, our airman buddy, so we spent a few minutes looking over maps and came to the conclusion that we should just hunt Manty for our final push.

Hunt day 8/29
Woke up at 6:30, hiking up Manty by 7:15. We decided the night before that we would pioneer a new route up manty, basically taking a logging rd further out than before and trying to climb up a “finger” that would hopefully get us to alpine at a lower elevation, avoiding as much helicopter slash and cliff-outs as possible. We were only half successful, and successful only in the sense that we didn’t get completely cliffed out and have to come back down. Our logging rd died about 3/4 mile short of what the map showed (it was water-barred and immediately choked out with slash and impenetrable brush) so we went vertical from there. The logging slash and new-growth was worse than anything we had encountered to date. We did some climbing that I’m not overly proud of, being that we are both Fathers and Husbands and have a lot to get back home to. Technically, we were in top form as we scaled some ledges, shoots and vegetation that I hope to never repeat. I’m not one to shy away from high-adrenaline/high-consequence activities, but given the remoteness of this island, the specific area we were in and the fact that there is no formal search and rescue on POW.... it was pretty stupid. Anyways, we finally reached the alpine after 3 hours of scrambling and climbing. We traveled along the alpine/muskeg area as we glassed the high points with the intention of really just pushing all the way through to the base of the final ascent up to Manty’s peak. We saw two does shortly after reaching the top. About 1/2 way to where we camped the night before we shot Toms buck we spotted a forky, a spike and a doe. The terrain up on top is incredibly broken with features and sub-alpine vegetation. Tom had a hunch that there might be more bucks/deer either with them or in the vicinity. I didn’t like that we couldn’t see a relatively wide expanse below us so we repositioned down about 30 yds to a rock outcropping and sat down. After less than a minute Tom spotted two bucks sneaking out of the expanse below us and very quickly stated that one of them was a “good buck”. This means Shooter in Toms lingo. We were both a flurry of flying scope covers and rifles setting up on packs. Tom told me that the one in the back was mine. I still hadn’t laid eyes on them as I had been focusing on a different area. Once I was set on my pack and spotted the bucks I wanted to be sure I was shooting the right buck so I asked Tom “is he still the one in back” to which Tom impatiently replied “yes, shoot him!” My thought process was that there had been several seconds from when Tom said it the first time to when I finally had a scope on them and needed to be certain that I was about to drop an animal in such a sh!tty pack out location. I really didn’t need an answer though as I zoomed in and immediately saw 3 points on the near side, a no-brainer to take home. They were getting pretty close to the drop off and I was losing shot opportunities with each step. I let him have it after a slight hesitation that didn’t actually turn into a stop and hit him a little far back. He dropped out of sight and the report of the shot confirmed a hard hit. Tom debated briefly on shooting the smaller forky that was with him but we decided that it wasn’t worth the pack out (remember, we had seen 5 bears in one day on this particular 1/2 mile stretch). We agreed that Tom would sit up top and make sure my buck didn’t get up while I picked my way down to him through the 200 yds of brush, rocky points and muskeg. Upon walking up on my buck it was apparent that he hadn’t moved from where he dropped and I let out a (very stress-relieving) war hoop to let Tom know, without a question, that we’d gotten it done. As I was getting to my buck Tom was tempted even further with a late forky trying to sneak out. We took some celebratory photos and were boned out and packed up in an hour. At one point Tom was working on the last bit of boning and I decided to boil some muskeg puddle water so that we could rehydrate before our descent when Tom proclaimed that I was on “bear-watch”, something we had grown accustomed to doing. A few minutes later, as Tom had his head down with bloody hands and deer parts scattered all around I exclaimed “Bear”. Tom later explained that he didn’t appreciate me saying something like that and not simultaneously running for a rifle or the bear spray, I guess he was a little jumpy by my simple and not-very-informative announcement of a bear in the area. Looking back on it, I probably could have said something like “bear, but don’t worry he’s not very close” or “bear up on the point 150 yds out”...... but I opted to simply blurt out “bear” and provide no further explanation or action. We both yelled at him and he reacted by trying to find a path off the rocky point so he could come help us debone the deer. Tom gave him a warning shot and, thankfully, he took off like a scalded cat. We made quick work of finishing up, loading packs and getting to the main ridge and route out. It took us 3-1/2 hours to get back to Betty and we drove into Craig to get more Papa’s Pizza (and the best cheesy bread either of us have ever had, as I will point out again). DJ allowed us to put another buck in his freezer. We grabbed a bottle of crown, some sprite and headed towards Hollis to celebrate at Harris River Campground.
 

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Country Bumpkin

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Messages
688
Location
Boise, ID
Without further adieu ..... my buck!

8/30
Let’s be honest, this island offered up the most challenging terrain we have ever hunted. We both live and hunt the mountains of Central Idaho (including the Sawtooths). We are no strangers to steep and difficult hunting conditions. POW is a different animal. It’s cliffy/ledgy steep, it’s always wet and slippery, there’s this charming plant called Devils Club, it’s remote and dreary. There’s nothing hospitable about this island except for the happy locals who are eager to hear if you had found success. It’s a potentially dangerous place to hunt should you elect to pursue alpine bucks on the wrong mountain. There are no “trails” to these peaks so you must be comfortable with navigation, have your gear dialed, very competent with mountain hunting conditions and in top physical conditioning to stay after it for 10 days. Just think, we lost at least 3 days to weather (fortunately it was when we happened to already be down and off the peaks). In the end, we found such great satisfaction in our two bucks that we elected to simply enjoy the rest of our time on POW. We discussed it and decided that it would be both greedy and foolhardy to tempt the “Buck Gods”, as Tom calls them, to pursue two more bucks in our short remaining time on the island. We ended up doing some laundry, organizing our gear, shooting some cross-canyon 650 yd rocks, and finding a nice camping site for our last two nights. We are, in our minds, rather maturely foregoing the young-and-determined week and destroy option in lieu of simply enjoying our surroundings and company before we get back to the demands of modern life as we know it. It’s been a great adventure for both of us as great friends, we couldn’t bare to spoil it
 

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Country Bumpkin

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Messages
688
Location
Boise, ID
We spent the last couple days kicking around on the island, driving to neat camping spots on the ocean, getting cleaned and packed up, getting the bucks in boxes, and just enjoying some hard-earned relaxing days of PTO.

Thanks for reading.
 

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Country Bumpkin

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Sep 22, 2015
Messages
688
Location
Boise, ID
Two questions; what rifle is that (sweet) and what's up with the painted toenails?

Full custom by MCM Firearms in Idaho
Remington action, Proof barrel at 24” in 7RM, Stockys carbon fiber stock topped with a Leupold VX6 in 6-24 with varmint reticle.

Toenails.... the Sunday before our departure I was trying to sneak in a nap when my 4 year old daughter asked me if she could paint my toenails. I agreed, assuming that I would just remove it that night after she went to bed. After she was done with my right foot my wife came in and said “oh Thea, when do you think you should tell Daddy that we don’t have anymore nail polish remover...”

At that point I was committed and let her finish my left foot. It became kind of a joke in our house and I decided that I could use a little “reminder of home” during our two week adventure. She was very pleased when I sent her this photo.
 

Country Bumpkin

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Joined
Sep 22, 2015
Messages
688
Location
Boise, ID
Want to hear how you tore your britches open to, gonna be a good story I bet

Congrats
Thank you. Those are actually my kryptek Koldos rain pants. They have side zip vents. I never did find the sweet spot. During those torturous hikes, you are both trying to keep rain water from getting in while allowing perspiration to get out. I’m a “hot hiker” and sweat a lot. I spent a lot of days wearing open-vented rain pants.
 

Country Bumpkin

Well-Known Member
Joined
Sep 22, 2015
Messages
688
Location
Boise, ID
Kodiak has brown bear, POW doesn't.

Op- let us know how the Sitka deer population is over there, I almost went last year but our "guy" told us not to bother, the wolf have crossed over from the mainland to POW and have decreased the deer population quite a bit..he said they are trying to get rid of the wolves and get the deer population back up. He suggested Kodiak over POW for deer, but he said if hunting on Kodiak make sure you bring a large caliber sidearm.
I discussed this subject with several locals. You quickly determine the informed and experienced from the ignorant. I’m not saying your buddy is ignorant, but I can say that we saw a LOT of deer, from Sea to Summit. We didn’t find a single wolf track or scat. We find plenty of wolf sign where we hunt in Idaho but none on POW. Of the locals that seemed to actually get out of their trucks to hunt, they all admitted to seeing more wolves in recent winters but all were adamant that the deer numbers are still thriving. I will go so far as to say I have never hunted a higher-game-density location. POW is thick with deer and huge black bears. I’m sure that your contact has seen a decline in numbers, but by my standards there’s a lot left.
 
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