PEAX Equipment

Early Season Sitka Blacktail

SCliving Outdoors

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 9, 2018
Messages
948
Location
South Carolina
A few months ago my buddy Greg and I were texting about hunting when he mentioned how much he wanted to do an early season Sitka Blacktail hunt in the future. He'd never killed a deer in velvet and thought it looked like fun. I knew he'd drawn a highly coveted AZ elk tag in September, but he didn't have anything going on in August. I told him my hunting funds for the year were tight due to my moose hunt, but if he could cover the float plane in I'd take him to an area I'd hunted previously and he could be first shooter.

We reached out to the company that I'd flown with previously and they were able to fit us in their schedule. A plan was made. We would fly into Ketchikan then hop on the float plane and fly into a lake on POW. We'd have 9 days (8 full days) to hunt and fill 3 tags. We'd also built in 3 days on the back end of our hunt just in case weather was bad. We'd have 12 days in Alaska total. Greg purchased 2 tags and I felt pretty confident we could kill 3 nice bucks if the weather cooperated. We made plans and list and finally the day arrived. We landed in Ketchikan without any issues. It was cloudy and misty. I was worried the pilot wouldn't be able to get us in, but he showed his skills off and got us into the lake. Upon arrival we unloaded our gear, stashed what we didn't need and headed up the mountains with the rest. Because I'd hunted this same area in 2021 I knew where we were going which saved us a good bit of time. We began climbing towards the alpine. Some of the climb wasn't too bad, some was super sketchy and 2:15min later we emerged in the lower portion of the alpine. It was wet, we were wet, but we made it. We picked a couple flat(ish) areas and set up 2 tents and 3 tarps. I spotted a doe while we were setting up camp. She gave us some hope for the rest of the hunt.

The next day came and we were in the clouds. It rained and misted all day. Our visibily was never more then 100 yards or so. We couldn't see anything. Instead of walking around and screwing up the area we decided to stay at camp. We had time and I didn't want to take a chance of blowing some bucks off the mountain because we were a little stir crazy.

Day 3 alarm arrived with rain on our tents at 4:45, but when I poked my head out of my tent visibility was great. The rain soon retreated and we were excited to get out and chase some bucks. I knew based on my previous trip that this area held good deer numbers and some good bucks. The area we were camping allowed us to look over a pretty area with a few small ponds and trees that provided great cover and food. It was a fantastic easy to glass from camp area. As we were preparing to head out when I looked down by one of the ponds and saw a doe. This doe soon turned into a handful of deer with 3 small bucks. We passed on the bucks, but we were excited to spot them.

We were camped about 350' below the top of the mountain so we began to work our way up towards the top to a large green face where I'd seen some bucks on my last trip. Surprisingly, the face was empty so we continued to move. We were working our way around the west side of the mountain as the wind began to pick up and I made the decision to move across the top of the mountain to the east side and get out of the wind. As soon as we did the deer started to appear. We made our way to an area that had a lot of potential because it was out of the wind along with lots of feed, cover, and broken terrain that looked really promising. As we glassed Greg and I both spotted a bedded buck on the side of the mountain at the same time. I put my spotter on him and saw he was a nice buck. Greg decided that would be a good first buck for him. The buck was about 700 yards away so we moved down towards a flat bench that would trim off 300 yards or so. As we moved down we jumped a bachelor group of bucks that had been bedded below us. Non of the bucks were big enough to justify us shooting. One buck did look old, but he had a funky smaller rack so we decided to pass.

We got down to the bench for Greg to set up. We ranged the buck at 425. After 15 minutes or so the buck stood up and Greg put a perfect shot on him. The buck jumped and fell out of view, but I was confident the buck was done. As we celebrated Greg said "There's another deer". I moved my spotter over and there in the trees a larger buck was feeding. The shot must have caused him to get up out of his bed. I looked at the buck for about 5 seconds and I said someone needs to shoot that deer. Greg dropped down on the rifle we got a range of 460. Just like the last buck he made a perfect shot and he had both his bucks. We hiked around to find 2 beautiful Sitka Blacktails laying 30 yards apart. We took some pics then got to skinning. We both carried a buck back to camp up over the mountain and down the back side. It took a couple hours and while we were hiking a cloud moved in misting and raining on us most of the way back.

We arrived back at camp as the mist and cloud lifted. We sat down and relaxed while grabbing some food to eat. I took out my binoculars and began to glass the area close to camp where we'd seen the deer that morning. After about 5 minutes I looked over to Greg and said "I see a buck". Bedded on the ridge behind camp 475 yards away was a buck. I put my spotter on him and saw a nice buck sleeping away without a care in the world. I watched him thinking for close to 45 minutes. I knew we still had a lot of time to hunt and I was trying to decided if that was the deer I wanted to put my tag on. We had walked all over the mountain that day and I didn't know big of an effect that would have on seeing deer for the rest of the week. We also had good weather forecasted for the next few days but in my opinion that didn't mean anything in SE Alaska. I was hoping to potentially find a giant buck on this trip, but my goal is to kill mature animals and he was a really nice buck. I decided to get set up and if he offered me a good shot I would take it. I ranged the buck at 455 and about 30 minutes later he stood up offering me a good shot. The gun recoiled and I had a nice buck on the ground, our 3rd buck of the day. We hiked over to find a beautiful symmetrical buck. He was exactly what we though he was.

The next day we carried a load of meat down to the lake. I messaged the pilot on my inreach and he said he could come the next morning at 8am. That meant we would have to climb back up and bring down our 2nd load with the rest of the meat and camp. The climb down was pretty sketchy in places especially with 90ish lbs on our backs but we made it. Our pilot arrived right on time the next morning and flew us back to town. We got into town and we got our flights moved to come home early to save PTO for future adventures this year. We took a couple packable fishing poles and went out to catch some salmon before coming home. Our 12 day trip turned into a 6 day trip, but it was a blast.

We saw 20 deer total on our trip with 9 of them being bucks.
Alaska is amazing and we're already making plans to go back!


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The 3 bucks we jumped below us while glassing.

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Greg's first buck bedded on the hillside.

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Greg's second buck that got up after the shot.

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My buck bedded.

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Looks like a great hunt! Congrats on the success and I look forward to reading about your other hunts this year.

I am hoping to follow in your footsteps on this one in the next few years. Do you mind sharing the dates of your trip? I am up against a hard deadline every year of going back to work around August 9th or 10th, and am trying to squeeze it in before that.
 
Looks like a great hunt! Congrats on the success and I look forward to reading about your other hunts this year.

I am hoping to follow in your footsteps on this one in the next few years. Do you mind sharing the dates of your trip? I am up against a hard deadline every year of going back to work around August 9th or 10th, and am trying to squeeze it in before that.
We arrived Aug 15th. Shot our bucks on the 17th.
 
A few months ago my buddy Greg and I were texting about hunting when he mentioned how much he wanted to do an early season Sitka Blacktail hunt in the future. He'd never killed a deer in velvet and thought it looked like fun. I knew he'd drawn a highly coveted AZ elk tag in September, but he didn't have anything going on in August. I told him my hunting funds for the year were tight due to my moose hunt, but if he could cover the float plane in I'd take him to an area I'd hunted previously and he could be first shooter.

We reached out to the company that I'd flown with previously and they were able to fit us in their schedule. A plan was made. We would fly into Ketchikan then hop on the float plane and fly into a lake on POW. We'd have 9 days (8 full days) to hunt and fill 3 tags. We'd also built in 3 days on the back end of our hunt just in case weather was bad. We'd have 12 days in Alaska total. Greg purchased 2 tags and I felt pretty confident we could kill 3 nice bucks if the weather cooperated. We made plans and list and finally the day arrived. We landed in Ketchikan without any issues. It was cloudy and misty. I was worried the pilot wouldn't be able to get us in, but he showed his skills off and got us into the lake. Upon arrival we unloaded our gear, stashed what we didn't need and headed up the mountains with the rest. Because I'd hunted this same area in 2021 I knew where we were going which saved us a good bit of time. We began climbing towards the alpine. Some of the climb wasn't too bad, some was super sketchy and 2:15min later we emerged in the lower portion of the alpine. It was wet, we were wet, but we made it. We picked a couple flat(ish) areas and set up 2 tents and 3 tarps. I spotted a doe while we were setting up camp. She gave us some hope for the rest of the hunt.

The next day came and we were in the clouds. It rained and misted all day. Our visibily was never more then 100 yards or so. We couldn't see anything. Instead of walking around and screwing up the area we decided to stay at camp. We had time and I didn't want to take a chance of blowing some bucks off the mountain because we were a little stir crazy.

Day 3 alarm arrived with rain on our tents at 4:45, but when I poked my head out of my tent visibility was great. The rain soon retreated and we were excited to get out and chase some bucks. I knew based on my previous trip that this area held good deer numbers and some good bucks. The area we were camping allowed us to look over a pretty area with a few small ponds and trees that provided great cover and food. It was a fantastic easy to glass from camp area. As we were preparing to head out when I looked down by one of the ponds and saw a doe. This doe soon turned into a handful of deer with 3 small bucks. We passed on the bucks, but we were excited to spot them.

We were camped about 350' below the top of the mountain so we began to work our way up towards the top to a large green face where I'd seen some bucks on my last trip. Surprisingly, the face was empty so we continued to move. We were working our way around the west side of the mountain as the wind began to pick up and I made the decision to move across the top of the mountain to the east side and get out of the wind. As soon as we did the deer started to appear. We made our way to an area that had a lot of potential because it was out of the wind along with lots of feed, cover, and broken terrain that looked really promising. As we glassed Greg and I both spotted a bedded buck on the side of the mountain at the same time. I put my spotter on him and saw he was a nice buck. Greg decided that would be a good first buck for him. The buck was about 700 yards away so we moved down towards a flat bench that would trim off 300 yards or so. As we moved down we jumped a bachelor group of bucks that had been bedded below us. Non of the bucks were big enough to justify us shooting. One buck did look old, but he had a funky smaller rack so we decided to pass.

We got down to the bench for Greg to set up. We ranged the buck at 425. After 15 minutes or so the buck stood up and Greg put a perfect shot on him. The buck jumped and fell out of view, but I was confident the buck was done. As we celebrated Greg said "There's another deer". I moved my spotter over and there in the trees a larger buck was feeding. The shot must have caused him to get up out of his bed. I looked at the buck for about 5 seconds and I said someone needs to shoot that deer. Greg dropped down on the rifle we got a range of 460. Just like the last buck he made a perfect shot and he had both his bucks. We hiked around to find 2 beautiful Sitka Blacktails laying 30 yards apart. We took some pics then got to skinning. We both carried a buck back to camp up over the mountain and down the back side. It took a couple hours and while we were hiking a cloud moved in misting and raining on us most of the way back.

We arrived back at camp as the mist and cloud lifted. We sat down and relaxed while grabbing some food to eat. I took out my binoculars and began to glass the area close to camp where we'd seen the deer that morning. After about 5 minutes I looked over to Greg and said "I see a buck". Bedded on the ridge behind camp 475 yards away was a buck. I put my spotter on him and saw a nice buck sleeping away without a care in the world. I watched him thinking for close to 45 minutes. I knew we still had a lot of time to hunt and I was trying to decided if that was the deer I wanted to put my tag on. We had walked all over the mountain that day and I didn't know big of an effect that would have on seeing deer for the rest of the week. We also had good weather forecasted for the next few days but in my opinion that didn't mean anything in SE Alaska. I was hoping to potentially find a giant buck on this trip, but my goal is to kill mature animals and he was a really nice buck. I decided to get set up and if he offered me a good shot I would take it. I ranged the buck at 455 and about 30 minutes later he stood up offering me a good shot. The gun recoiled and I had a nice buck on the ground, our 3rd buck of the day. We hiked over to find a beautiful symmetrical buck. He was exactly what we though he was.

The next day we carried a load of meat down to the lake. I messaged the pilot on my inreach and he said he could come the next morning at 8am. That meant we would have to climb back up and bring down our 2nd load with the rest of the meat and camp. The climb down was pretty sketchy in places especially with 90ish lbs on our backs but we made it. Our pilot arrived right on time the next morning and flew us back to town. We got into town and we got our flights moved to come home early to save PTO for future adventures this year. We took a couple packable fishing poles and went out to catch some salmon before coming home. Our 12 day trip turned into a 6 day trip, but it was a blast.

We saw 20 deer total on our trip with 9 of them being bucks.
Alaska is amazing and we're already making plans to go back!


View attachment 288921
View attachment 288909
The 3 bucks we jumped below us while glassing.

View attachment 288910
Greg's first buck bedded on the hillside.

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Greg's second buck that got up after the shot.

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View attachment 288915
My buck bedded.

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Fantastic report! You mean to tell me you'd prefer doing all that more than sweating your huevos off, sitting in a swamp surrounded by gators and moccasins hunting that crazy a** August 15 bow opener y'all have down in SC?
 
Fantastic report! You mean to tell me you'd prefer doing all that more than sweating your huevos off, sitting in a swamp surrounded by gators and moccasins hunting that crazy a** August 15 bow opener y'all have down in SC?
We have an Aug 15 rifle opener too in the low country. I’ll start hunting this week, lol.
 
Dude for a ginger from 'back east, you damn sure out hunt most of us on here.

Great trip, nice write up, sweet pics, you hit the trifecta.
The ginger hate in this country is real, lol. Thanks man. We had a good time.

Side note - I teach Sunday school to elementary kids at my church. One Sunday in the middle of the bible lesson a 3rd grader looks at me and says "My dad said Gingers don't have souls".
 
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The ginger hate is real in this country is real, lol. Thanks man. We had a good time.

Side note - I teach Sunday school to elementary kids at my church. One Sunday in the middle of the bible lesson a 3rd grader looks at me and says "My dad said Gingers don't have souls".
I hope you know I'm kidding...

it's just one of those things that's so blatantly ridiculous that I find it funny
 

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