It was early fall, we had just tucked the boat in for winter and headed for the deep forest of the mountains. Excitement was high, as it always is on the first hunt of the year. We made our camp overlooking a valley on the north east corner of Prince of Wales Island. We hunt on land owned by the Alaska Native Corporation, thanks to a good friend of ours, William Joseph. These forests have been untouched since the beginning of time. The small dirt road had stopped about three miles below us. By the time we packed in and made camp it was late evening and the debate began. Who was going for camp meat? In a family of nine, who all love to hunt and fish, the competition, as you might guess is strong. Biggest rack, most meat brought in, biggest fish, see where I’m going here? Only Boone and Crockett itself could have more competition. Camp meat is just that, it means first legel deer, no matter what kind of rack it supports, and at the time of year we were there even the does were open.
We had seen a couple of good bucks on the way up, and the sign every where showed there were a lot around. No one wanted to go for camp meat. So, the next morning early I headed out to find meat. As requested from the rest of the family the night before, I headed away from the valley with the big bucks so my meat quest wouldn’t scare them away. All in all, hoping I’d run across the “monster buck” in the deep forest. I knew of a spot I’d found a few years before, by a small clear stream. The area by the stream was covered with skunk cabbage, fiddleheads, and all the plants the deer love to eat. The cover around was thick, the small opening by the stream, only forty or fifty feet wide, a small rock cliff and a fallen enormous old tree had made a natural barrier. All this together meant the deer traveling to the high country or back down only had one way to go, through here. The tracks and sign around the small stream confirmed it all. This was the perfect spot for my bow.
I prepared my camo and waited, and waited… almost three hours I waited while bugs crawled over me and mosquitos feasted on the small portion of skin exposed on my hand holding the bow. I didn’t move, I barely breathed. My legs passed hurting and went into that almost numb, but still aching mode. It’s in those times I have to ask myself, “What makes us outdoorsmen enjoy this so much?” Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it. That small unnatural movement when a bush on the hill above me folded down instead shifting with the wind. I couldn’t see it, but I knew the deer was there. My heartbeat shot through the roof as it pumped blood back into my numb legs. I literally inched the bowstring back trying to not make one leaf around me move. Just before the bow was drawn I saw the patch of brown. As I locked the bowstring in my hand, behind my cheek, the deer walked into plain sight. It was an older doe, not a record buck. To me the perfect meat, to eat a barren older doe is the natural order of the woods, the old making way for the young. I opened my hand and let the arrow fly.
Now, my bow is old and tired, no sights or frills, but she’s true. I knew my arrow found its mark even though I was shooting up hill, which is something I don’t like to do. At first the trail was hard to follow, a track here, grass laid down from a footstep, which led me to real sign where she went over a log. Shortly after that I found her. My observation of her had been correct, she was barren and probably had been for a couple of seasons. By the time I was through field dressing and was preparing to pack back to camp, it was late evening. That’s bear time in our woods, and I will admit I moved back to camp very carefully.
If you don’t know what it is or are curious about skunk cabbage, fiddleheads, ect… check back with the website we’ll soon have a listing of Alaskan plants and their uses.