|hunting trip in Kodiak|
Yep, you read the headline correctly, it says hunting... Apparently if you spend enough time in Alaska you will end up going hunting. I got the opportunity to go to the island of Kodiak and jumped on it thinking that I was going to get some razor clams and sleep on a boat for the weekend. When i got there plans changed a bit.
I boarded a small twin propeller plane called a dehavalin dash 8 and we headed out just hours after I was invited for the weekend. With no security of any kind in the terminal and the ability to take a gun with you if you want, it was a popular airline for hunters. The flight was amazing as it flew over the Kenai peninsula in the orange light of a 3 hour sunset. Frozen lakes, massive fields of ice and snow and countless peaks scrapped at the frigid blue sky as we cut a path towards the island of Kodiak. When I landed I noticed that the landscape was far more mountainous than I had anticipated and Kodiak is actually an archipelago. I grabbed my bag and headed across the parking lot to a second airline called island air where I hopped on an even smaller plane with 5 other people including the pilot and copilot (max capacity) headed for a remote fishing village called Old Harbor. I was to stay with a native alaskan family who were extremely warm , welcoming and gracious. They brought me to their home and gave me a huge dinner after we had just met. It was fantastic and I headed out to their lodge to stay the night right on the bay filled with humpback whales who didnt care that it was winter and most likely stayed there because they couldn't bear to leave such a beautiful place.
We got up early before the sun the next day and had a traditional salmon breakfast called sikyuk and headed out to the boat for a day on the water. It was cold, but we had plenty of warm windproof clothing to keep us as warm as if we were sitting on the couch watching a fire at the lodge. Our original plan was to "dig some razor clams" at a beach south west of our location, but high winds and bad weather sent us in the other direction. We trolled the shorelines looking for deer as they grazed on the grasses of the mountain sides. They were well camo'd as their dark brown coats blended well with the grasses of winter. Once we spotted some we took the skiff ashore and began to climb the mountain. I was within about 200 yards of my first buck as I layed down in the grasses and let out a yelp to get his attention and to my suprise I was sucessfull! I have never been hunting before and the extent of my experience was shooting pigeons that were crapping on my car in Tucson with a bb gun. Seems like I as a pretty good shot though as it was a quick and painless. I climbed the rest of the way to find him in the snow. I dragged him all the way down the mountain in a waterfall....not the best route down but pretty much my only choice as the rest was too steep and filled with small brush and trees. Good thing I had on gore-tex or I would have been soaked. Once we were finished with the field dressing we put him on the skiff and headed back to the boat. I have to say that even though hunting is necessary to control populations of animals and it is done in a humane way I think that it really isn't something I want to do for fun. I am willing to do it for food though and I figure it's probably a lot better than buying a bunch of farm raised meat at the store. I could think of better things to do with my time for the fun aspect of life.
We headed out to sea and set the skate line to see if we could catch some fish. It was a long line of hooks anchored to the bottom about a hundred feet down. A buoy marked it's location as we headed to a remote cabin to find some four wheelers in the woods to take us to the bear! We arrived at the cabin to find that the four wheelers had the seats torn to shreds by the bears in the area and the keys missing so we decided to just hike to ocean beach. We made it about halfway there and had to turn back for darkness. No bear on this trip to the shore. I would see my first grizzly later on that night. Huge! and thank God running in the opposite direction. We returned to the skiff to go back to the boat and pull the skate line but on the way we ran into some seals and sea lions and an otter. The skate line had quite a few interesting creatures of the deep attached to it as we hauled it aboard. Nothing to keep though so we set it back out and headed back tot he deer hunt. I ended up getting 3 deer on the weekend and look forward to the smaller grocery bill for a while.
The night was great as I slept like a rock from all the climbing and stalking of deer on the mountains. I also was glad to get back to the town for the banya that waited for us at 160 or so degrees in a short cedar lined shack on the cliff. It was a cultural family sauna on steroids... it got so hot inside that it baked the cold of the days wind straight out of you. Inside the hut was a steel wood stove surrounded by rocks, the stove had a giant pot of water on it and the men splashed the rocks over and over until it was so humid you were dripping, with each splash the temperature inside seemed to rise 10 degrees driving you to the floor for some cooler air to breathe. We lounged in there until we couldn't stay awake anymore talking about the day and all the fun we had.
The next day was a blast as it was super sunny and warmer with a great dinner of salmon from the night before and another fantastic breakfast we headed back out to sea... We stopped at some black sand beaches and pulled the skate again to find halibut and cod attached to it this time! Good eating for sure!
After a fun filled weekend of adventure I rushed to make the flights home and don't think that I will ever forget my first visit to Kodiak. I learned alot about history of the area dn the people that live there, the aleuts, even picked up some words from their language... Enjoy the photos but they just don't do it justice!