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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Kodiak Hunting 101

Deer season opens in less than a week. Soon, instead of endless blog posts about skiing and snow it will all be about hunting and exploring the backcountry in search of various species of game. Time to fill the freezer. So in honor of the change in season, I figured I’d leak the secret to my success at hunting.

Rightly or wrongly, I do consider myself a successful hunter. I proxy hunt for a few people, and every time I go out deer hunting on the road system I harvest a mature 3 point buck with eye guards (see photos from last year). Most of the meat Zoya, Stu, Nora and I eat is something my hunting partners or I shot. Last year we ended up with over 1300 pounds of processed meat (deer, mountain goat, elk, and reindeer) – cleaned and cut up, wrapped, and sometimes ground – all in our own kitchen.

The secret to my success? I hike for my meat.

It always annoys me when I meet new guys to Kodiak who believe the first, and most essential piece of hunting gear they need to acquire is a four wheeler (ATV). Later, after the hunting season, I invariably find out that they did not harvest anything, or if they did, something puny. I’d say instead of spending 4 or 5 grand on a quad (if you’re lucky) – buy a custom rifle and good scope, and the best camping gear and clothes you can afford. You can buy some pretty good stuff with $5,000. Put your money where you’ll need it.

Don’t get me wrong – an ATV is a useful piece of hunting gear. You can use an ATV to access some remote places. But the essential point is that it only gets you there – you still have to hike and hunt for your meat. Most guys who hunt from ATVs never get off of their ATVs. Worse yet, ATV hunters are generally all concentrated into the same areas, and the melee and noise drives all the game away.

It’s funny but some areas of Kodiak’s road system now have better hunting than they did 25 years ago. Back then practically everybody hunted on foot and hunting pressure was pretty evenly distributed about the road system. Today, most people hunt in the ATV accessible areas and the other areas see much less pressure than they did 25 years ago. The key to getting a big buck is to hunt areas where ATVs cannot go.

The sad thing about ATVs is that they are slowly but surely degrading the road system hunting. Every year sees new ATV trails into what were pristine hunting areas. And soon enough these same areas are devoid of game.

A common defense of the ATV hunter is that the machine allows backcountry access to the young, out of shape, elderly and crippled. And that is true – but the increased access also pushes the game further away from the road and makes it more difficult for the individual on foot. What about access to the backcountry for people who cannot afford an ATV? After all, hiking in is free, and most people can get in shape.

OK enough on my rant – but if you’re new to Kodiak and want to get a big buck. Hunt high, buy great gear, and forego the ATV. Good Luck.

Photos: Some deer harvested last year on the Kodiak road system – first year in a while we did not harvest a road system 4-point-buck.


My LIttle Family: said...

Patrick, when do Nora & Stuey come of age to go hunting with you?

Zoya, Patrick, Nora and Stuart said...

Probably not all that far from now! But I must admit they will go fishing and hunt small game like snowshoe hares and ptarmigan before they go after deer. Start small.

Marnie said...

Them there deer are huge!
(Apparently it does help to hike. The deer I see around town are teeny.)
I finally remembered my password, now I can post annoying comments all the time!

Isiik said...

Yet another example of a great future column in the KDM. What shoudl we call your column? "Qat'sqaq Pisusqasinaq?" I don't know how to say "great" so that means "the big white hunter." ha ha

The Spin Studio said...

Are you saying I'm fat and need a tan?