By Peter Marvin
A co-worker sent an email asking if I would be interested in going to Kodiak Island to deer hunt with an outfitter called Larsen Bay Lodge. To say I was excited, would be putting it mildly. The year before, I had hunted Kodiak after drawing a prime bear tag and killed a bear and several deer on the trip. The spot and stalk style hunting of Sitka blacktail is especially exciting with the bear factor. My friend, Ed, won an all-inclusive trip for two to the lodge through the Sportsman’s News Pro Membership Sweepstakes.
Since I do most of my hunts out of a backpack with minimalist gear and food, it was quite nice to have a five-star lodge and gourmet meals prepared for us. This place was nothing short of spectacular.
Due to the weather on our first day of hunting, we remained in the more protected Larsen Bay. The landing-craft boat dropped us off and we hiked along a creek bottom into a valley. The wind blew hard as we climbed a mountainside to glass into the valley. Once upon the mountainside the winds were fierce and we tucked into a small hollow to set up optics and seek shelter from the wind. Over a mile away, tucked into a high bowl, we saw deer. There were several bucks in the groups we saw, but it was not possible to reach those deer before the scheduled boat pick-up. We hiked back down just as the boat was arriving to the shore. We then headed back to the lodge for an amazing dinner, hot shower and comfortable bed.
The winds were causing high seas, so on Day two we again stayed in Larsen Bay. Ed and I were dropped at the same location and we planned to hike into the bowl area where we had seen deer the previous day. The wind was bad and worsened as we continued to hike higher to the areas we expected to see deer.
Once we found an area with deep cut ridges, I spotted a doe working her way down a draw into a creek bottom, completely out of the wind. Ed set up and watched the doe and we spotted another doe bedded in some brush. About 200 yards from these two does, looking across a thickly vegetated draw with a small creek, we found the wind to be in our favor. I crept back along the ridge, out of sight, hoping to see where the walking doe had gone. Just then, the doe came back with a nice buck in close pursuit. I hurriedly belly crawled out of sight and got back to Ed. We set up a tripod and Ed got as steady of a rest as possible in the 30-plus mile per hour wind on our ridge.
Ed squeezed off a perfect shot on the buck. We quickly clawed our way through the mess of brush along the creek bottom to get to the buck. Once there, we found that it was completely and pleasantly wind-free. After a few photos, we got to work breaking down the deer into our Stone Glacier Packs. We hiked a different ridge and valley to get back to the main valley drainage. Our trekking poles and stiff hiking boots were great insurance and helped to get us safely back to the pick-up point.
The next day, we boated across Uyak Bay and hiked into a beautiful valley. We first hiked the shore at low tide and reached a river with a rocky section and a small waterfall. Vertical cliffs at the river outlet were impassable. We backtracked a quarter mile and cut a trail through the woods to get access. Along the way, we found several deer carcasses due to a harsh winter and spring. We set up to glass on a high knoll, looking into one of the most gorgeous deer valleys I have ever seen. Unfortunately, we saw no deer. We did see a red fox swim across the river and charge a family of otters. The otter attack failed and the fox kept hunting the hillsides for a meal.
We hiked back to the pick-up point a little early, hoping to find deer along the hike back. No such luck, but we met up with two other guys from the lodge who had gone another direction that morning. I set up my spotter and found a lone deer on the top ridge of an outlying island over a mile away. Little did we know that the next day we would be on top of that ridge at 1500 feet above sea level. Back at the lodge, over a delicious dinner, we recounted the day’s events and discussed the next day’s strategy. Mike Carlson, the lodge owner, told us the last island that we spotted was good hunting. The day before, the bear hunting group had seen several deer there while boating. We decided to take two groups of guys to the island.
The next morning, Ed and another hunter stayed down on the salt, where they duck hunted and explored the coast for deer. Two other hunters joined me to hike up the island. At first the hike was typical Kodiak, with thick brush that required bobbing and weaving to penetrate. Once we broke into the first bench at 600 feet, we caught two small deer bounding for cover. This was a sign of good things to come. As we crested, we caught a sow and cub moving on the backside of the island. We tracked their direction, set-up to glass and eat lunch.
As we sat, I turned around to see a buck appear and skyline 220 yards away. I quickly got on my tripod and dropped the deer. I decided to quickly gut and haul the deer back down to the ocean to limit spreading scent to the bears. My mad-dash sprint managed to get me back to the ocean in under 45 minutes of high speed dragging, rolling and pulling. A couple hours later, as I processed my deer on the beach, I heard the guys down another buck. I ran back up the mountainside to help them haul down the deer and we caught the boat pick-up just in time.
While, the hunting was tough due to lower deer numbers from the previous winters die-off, the area we hunted was amazing. The accommodations, meals and equipment provided by Larsen’s Bay Lodge (800-748-2238) is truly first-class.