As a caveat I did start posting this on another forum, but wanted to share here as well
To start the year off I had a hunt for Coues deer in Mexico. It was originally going to be in December but lots of rain postponed it to January. I went with my buddy Brady and we had a good price on a new ranch out of Hermosillo. I have unsuccessfully bowhunted spot and stalk for coues deer in Arizona a few times. I had killed a small 2pt buck with a rifle in AZ about 20 years ago.
Well, the weather didn't cooperate and it rained the first few days there. Makes for long boring sits at water holes! The other hunters were super slow as well. The Second to last day we set up a new ground blind at a small water hole that was getting hit. We brushed in the front we thought the deer would come from, then Brady said don't worry about the other side. I wanted to take the time but he was hungry!
The last day I sat the blind, and I see a monster buck circle around the waterhole and walk to the far side of the blind that wasn't brushed in. It came down the bank and at 45 yards facing straight at me locked onto the new blind! I had no shot as he took a step backwards and disappeared. Ugg, after a week of nothing i lost a chance at the biggest Coues I have ever seen.
Luckily not long afterwards 2 other bucks came in, a smaller 6pt and a 7pt. I had decided to shoot the first legal deer, being the last day. These young deer come into water and I pick the one broadside. I go through the draw process and settle the pin and release- I watch in horror as by arrow goes right under the buck! I used the wrong pin.
I do have to admit that white tail deer from a stand has always been my archery shooting nemesis! I have missed more whitetail from a stand than all other hunts combined! Pretty sure I get way too excited, but that's why I love it :) .
Luck was on my side. The 6pt buck that I didn't shoot at came back about 15 minutes later by himself. I took my time and made a good shot for my first Coues deer with a bow! I knew the ranch had extra deer tags so I stayed in the blind. Needless to say another small basket 8 came in about an hour later. It was at the far side of the water hole and spooky coming in. I waited it out and decided to try the shot. Not meant to be as the longer shot and jumpy buck completely jumped the string.
A coyote showed up later, and I put an arrow through it- a little back but solid hit. Pretty enjoyable for my first trip to hunt Mexico. The food is great and warm weather and Sunshine sure is a nice break from the Alaska winter!
Next up was Kodiak Mountain Goats. I never had a tag before so March is a great "off Season" hunt. I had a couple buddies who wanted to go as well. Winter hunting adds a whole new layer of gear and preparation. Weather is always a concern as well. We got into Kodiak and dropped off just before a storm blew in. First day glassing was promising!
Lots of snow that year- the Goats were less than a mile away but up about 2500'. Killer quad burn. The hardest part was busting through the snow. By afternoon the wind was blowing snow, but there were enough breaks to still see. We got to 4-500 yards below the group when they started to get spooky. The big Lead goat started heading away from us with the rest following.
I dropped down and dialed for the distance and hoped I was holding enough for the wind. My shot dropped her! The rest of the goats turned back momentarily not knowing what to do. My buddy was then able to connect with another. 2 goats down! The third friend was having a tough time with the snow since he weighed more and would break through. We started working on field dressing in the weather.
45 minutes later we see the 3 buddy crest the ridge. As luck would have a few new goats had feed over the top of the mountain. After a wind correction, there were 3 goats down! plenty of fun skinning out goats on a windswept hillside with 3' of snow!
With the daylight quickly fading we decided to cache the meat and hides and get back to camp before too late. We made it down after an exhausting day. The next day we busted out the snowshoes and were able to retrieve everything, while also glassing up a nice Billy the next mountain over. Due to work constraints with the pressing Covid pandemic I was to head home early while my buddies planned out a spike camp to go chase the billy.
Back to March- we all know the pandemic took a huge turn for the worse. The State of Alaska issued Health mandates that virtually shut down my dental office. So I decided to go hunting ??. I still had another goat tag for Kodiak and wanted a good billy. I had another buddy who had never killed a Goat so he was up to go.
We flew into a different spot this time and the weather forecast was much better. Once again we found some Goats from camp.
We glasses door a couple days but didn’t turn up a billy. There was a big collared nanny to go after. The morning we went after that group they had relocated a mile down the ridge. We had to skirt some cliffs on the beach but found a good chute to climb. My friend needed a closer shot so we tried to close the distance but got coiffed out directly below the goats. I saw them for a split second before the old goat busted us and left over the ridge,
We tried to skirt the cliff in the snow and ice. The one thing I learned about Mt. goats is they live in steep terrain! Easy to slip and fall. As we made our way to the next basin we spotted a few more goats coming our way. My buddy set up and after a few shots?? he had his first Mt. Goat!
Next up was bear season. I have grown to love the spring bait season. Great way out of winter and start getting in shape. My oldest had two first time bear hunters planning to come so we opened two new baits in addition to a bait I ran the previous year. Lots of bushwhacking and machete work to find suitable and legal locations.
Luck was on my side and the bears quickly showed up. Feeding a couple of Brown Bears takes a lot of bait! Once they started hitting regularly towards the end of season I committed to hunting them full time- which means sleeping in my ground blind 3 nights in a row only 20 yards from the bait by myself with my bow ??.
I didn’t know who scary that could be til the 3rd night the bears finally showed up together right before dark. If there ever was a time I wished I had the biggest rifle in my hands that was it!
the sow came in first while the boar warily circled. They took a piece of fresh bait and quickly left. 5 minutes later they come back. It took everything I had to calm my nerves and wait for the boar to present a shot.
Finally he came into to the bait mostly broadside, slight quarter to me. I drew and settled on a spot, But then told my self Middle of the Middle is better than shoulder! I released and saw my arrow hit dead center! The boar circled and ran down hill, the sow busted out thankfully straight away from me and I started shaking!!
It was getting close to midnight and a light drizzle was falling. There was no way I was going to spend another night solo in that blind or go after a bow shot Brown bear by myself in the dark ??. So I quickly bailed out the blind and made it to my truck and home.
The next morning I called some back up and we got to the bait by midday. I was hoping to find my arrow or good blood but nothing. I did feel ok about the shot, a bit back but the arrow seemed to go all the way in. I was shooting an Iron Will v100 standard with collar on an injexion shaft. Total weight about 450gr. I knew that blade would continue to cut if inside the bear.
I was relieved when my friend found some evidence- the back 6” of my arrow witch was crunched
Still no luck on the blood but the soft ground had definite paw marks. We followed the trail down to a little creek. We split up and slowly walked along both sides seeing lots of bear sign all over.
Not more than 20 yards I hear my buddies shout There it is! The bear had rolled up under a log dead! I can’t describe my emotions at finding the bear. I’m sure many bow hunters have spent a night not knowing if they would recover such a great animal. Also all the time over the past several years to finally get the chance to arrow a big boar. On top of that the sleep deprivation over the past several days and the emotional release of it being successfully over!!
While skinning the bear I found the rest of the arrow just under the hide on the opposite Ham. The bear must have been quartering to me more than I thought. It was very odd that the vanes had been bitten off though with blood on them - My thought as to what happened is the arrow went in at least to the vanes-
I recall at the shot it appeared the arrow went all the way in- the bear did a 180 and we found the vanes about 20 yds down the trail. The arrow must have pushed back out enough for the boar to bite it. then the bear took off again and this time the rest of the shaft and Broadhead worked its way in deeper to the opposite ham with every move until it came to the far hide. That’s like 3-4’ of penetration and the bear died close. Pretty good hemorrhage all along the path of the Broadhead- still very sharp!
Alaska had closed Non Residents from hunting in May. My oldest had plans with two buddies to come up for Black Bears as a senior Graduation trip. Luckily the state implemented the Covid testing option and in June they were able to travel.
The two new baits were looking good for bears and Caleb was very patient as a good friend to not let anyone hunt them until his friends got their bears first. It did make for a lot of dog food runs til they came ??
Next up Justus who had come up the year before and got skunked (mainly because he didn’t buy a tag til after Caleb shot a bear ??) We made extra sure this year to have a hot bait for him to hunt.
He made a great shot and also got his first bear! A nice boar. Justus is my son’s best friend and was like another son when we lived back in Colorado. Great kid an I’m glad I let Caleb bring him along hunting with us that first time. (They doubled up on cow elk )
Last up was my son Caleb. Not to be outdone he shot the biggest bear on the baits. Now the Black bears don’t get big here, probably because of all the Brown bears, genetics, who knows but it rare to see a big one like the SE. this one went 6’ nose to tail but was very old.
The older boys have all grown up to be great hunters! They are all Graduated and going out on their own. As we know it doesn't come easy, especially bowhunting! I started my youngest Jack who is 12 on his first bowhunt. As you will see its not that easy-
His first opportunity came and missed low. pretty nerve racking for him
This opportunity came right after. Of all his chances this is the one I feel worst about. He held it all together and made a great shot. I thought the bears was toast. But it was not to be. the arrow hit lower than we thought and only one tiny drop of blood. We looked that night and all the next day with the whole family and couldn't find any more blood or bear.
After the two low shots I checked his shooting on target and he was shooting a bit low. I had had the older boys helping him, and Justus who works at a bow shop coaching him. But archery Form and slow arrows makes it tough. I hadn't taken the time out of my busy schedule to check everything myself and see that he was good. We made a slight adjust to his sight and he wanted to try again.
The last weekend Jack decided he wanted to kill a bear, and this time he said he wanted to take his rifle. Last year he made a great shot and killed his first bear with the same rifle. I have no problem with rifle hunting and prefer my kids hunt than not! I checked the zero on the gun and it was dead on. We have a lot of bears in this area, so I have no problem letting him shoot another. Well, I have no idea what happened this time- the bear came in- he took the shot, and NO BEAR! he said while he was aiming he decided to move the aim point, he didn't have a steady rest maybe jerked? but no blood and NO BEAR after another day of searching. I guess it just wasn't meant to be for him that season. Hunting can be frustrating.
With Covid we weren’t sure if my son would be able to hunt or not. His summer job as a fishing guide with his Uncle had been slow due to Covid so he had a few days to look for sheep. His best friend Justus also was visiting again from CO and wanted to pack for us. So we changed our area to hunt.
2 days before opener we get to the area in the evening and start glassing. We unexpectedly turned up two rams on a mountain the opposite way we were planning to go. From the distance we couldn’t tell if they were legal or not, so decided to sleep on it and see if they were still there in the morning
One of the more stressful parts of sheep hunting is the “legal ram” judgment call! Last year I hunted with Caleb and we found a ram that I called at 7yrs, he thought 8. We knew it wasn’t full curl by the stick test but might be by the tip tangent rule. Needless to say I couldn’t shoot it, he was confident in his call so shot his fist ram last year. The Anchorage office aged it a 7 years but gave him the tip past tangent on the left antler to make it legal
I’m not that confident so prefer obviously legal to a Squeaker!
Great stuff so far, hopefully there's a few more hunts to come. And tip of the cap to getting/keeping your kids involved. Mine are just starting to get old enough to come along and I know it will make it harder to bring them with, but hopefully it pays off similarly well as your situation.
The next morning the rams were still there. We watched them a bit longer then they decided to move a couple miles to the next mountain. That was actually better to access since we didn’t have to cross a big River to get to them. The call was made to move in and see if we could count rings
The challenge is always keeping track of the sheep while trying to circle around or above. We would loose sight of them for at least a few hours while packing in.
Luckily we relocated them on the climb, but also spotted other hunters on the mountain. That’s sheep opener in Alaska! OTC crowds like the L48.
we watched the sheep all day trying to make a call. By that evening I couldn’t say it was legal to me but Caleb and Justus were saying they were confident it was 8! One ram was bigger and more mass than the other
First light wasn’t light at all! The clouds and fog had moved in and no sheep in sight. When the clouds clears we hiked up the ridge and ran into the other hunters who weren’t happy to see us. One of them thought that ram was a legal 8 as well. They thought we spooked them the night before but we came back saying we had been watching them for 2 days. The joys of public OTC hunting ! One of them was pissed because he thought it was a legal ram by 8 rings and thought he claimed it.
Needless to say we packed up and decided to head down and go to the original area to hunt. On the way down we spotted a black bear. The year before I had my camp destroyed by a bear during midday- so I shot it. Having 5 bear tags each and no meat salvage required in the fall I prefer to shoot the bears. Caleb was up to make the long shot ranged at 580. I sort of look at these black bears like coyotes, and we get plenty of tags every year and season open year round.
After taking care of the bear, restocking at the truck and getting psyched for another hump we headed out.
This time weather didn’t want to cooperate. It’s mid August and we get snow, fog and wet. Have to set up the tents to get out of the blowing freezing rain and snow. We give it a couple of days hiking over ridges looking for a legal ram. With the added freezing wet conditions some of these ridges are sketchy dangerous! We also would see other hunters on most other ridges - OTC public walk-in sheep is just like any other Western hunt! Part of it is dealing with the pressure!
S ummers are way to short in Alaska! I was dying to go after sheep again but needed to decided where. I convinced my wife and kids it would be a great idea to go on a “family “ camp out on Sat/Sun to an area I could check out. Well the “ camp out “ wasn’t that exciting for the fam, we did see some faint Northern Lights, but it rained a bunch as well, summer bugs were out, and kids like to complain about the drive.
But I did get extremely lucky and the last evening found some sheep. They were a ways off but looked like a couple mature rams. It would take at least a day and lots of prep to get to them. Oh well what are the chances they would even be there when I finally had time to hunt them?
I had promised my wife to take the younger kids the next weekend so she could have some time to herself and get stuff done before summer was over. I have a very accepting wife of my hunting habit! I wish I could take off all of August -November to hunt!! I’ll have to save that for when I retire and the kids grow- it’s amazing how fast that happens! Seeing my oldest already Graduated- so I took this weekend to spend time with them- backpacking and fishing of course. Weather was great, and the little grayling were hammering the flies!
Finally I had a week off to Hunt sheep again- this time Solo. Caleb had left for work as a moose packer, and you all know how it is sharing sheep spots ??(Sealed lips)
I went back to where I had spotted the band of sheep with my family two weeks earlier- and of all miracles they were still there!!! I can prepared this time to cross the River and work out an access plan depending on winds. It would take a lot of work but sheep usually don’t come easy. I had to back track a bunch to a spot I could launch my inflatable, float down the River .
Half a day later I relocated the rams and now how to bushwhack up and around the mountain. Uphill against alders is the worst! Always sketchy crossing rockslides in the cold shadows, and as evening came I finally reached the summit with my legs cramping. Finding Water is a limiting factor staying up high, but I got lucky with a good spring. With the sun setting I looked over the ridge where I had last seen the rams.... and they were gone. After changing angles I found the band of sheep in the opposite slope feeding away into the sun set about 600 yds. I got my spotter on them hoping to be able to tell if there was a legal ram- two were close on length, and one was broomed. On one side and short on the other. Stressful call to make at this distance and low light, so I would half to wait til morning to get closer and a better look.
I set up my solo tent and heated some food, light snow was in the forecast. I was exhausted after the full day exertion and slept ok, just the whole legal/Sub legal debate going on in my head.
At first light I ate a quick breakfast to warm up and packed camp. I quickly found the rams where I left them, and they were heading back towards me! I got my spotter out and ruled out any full curls, but couldn’t get a good count of rings. Unfortunately the rams went out of sight into a ravine, but would come out below me.
It took almost an hour for them to move the few hundred yards back into view- the first four popped over, including a mature one. I could only get 7-8 rings.... not enough confidence to pull the trigger. I needed 8-9 for margin of error! I had to wait and hope the wind held, that these rams didn’t spook.
They bedded about 200 yds below, then I made out 3 other rams. The other mature ram was 7/8 curl and unfortunately the same on rings 7-8? Then the heavier one broomed ram came up. I couldn’t believe it when I finally saw the bases- 9-10 rings!! Every time I counted I would get 9-10! The ram was feeding up to me and was 150 yds.
Something clicked and I went into Kill Mode- my rifle was on the bipod locked and loaded, no adjustments need for the shot, the second the crosshairs were on the vitals I touched the trigger and the ram dropped! Then slid out of sight.
I was shaking with excitement. I packed up my gear and and made my way down the slope. There was a an obvious blood trail down the slide, showing every rock and drop the ram hit, this is what I saw at the bottom of the ravine!
Next up was a Moose hunt- Now I know you are thinking that I live in Alaska and of course I’m hunting moose. Well I actually drew a Shiras Moose Tag in COLORADO! It took me moving away from the state to finally get a tag there!!
In 2020 the bull tag was good for all seasons. I came out for the end of archery to hopefully get a bull before rifle season started.
I drew a tag on the Grand Mesa, mainly because I knew the area and had a lot of friends in the area from living in GJ for 10 years.
I had a couple buddies scout around the summer, and keep tabs on other people. I got a video from a friend who got it from another etc. of a great bull in the unit . It would be a monster bull for the area.
I looked at the harvest stats over the last few years and most of the bulls killed were average to smaller sized for Colorado in the 20-30” range.
Being that I didn’t have all summer to scout, and was limited on my time there , I wasn’t going to be too picky! I really wanted to kill one with my bow more than anything. The odds of me ever drawing another Bull Shiras Moose tag would be slim to none. (I also knew I could hunt big Alaska moose every year I want to)
On the Mesa there were two main areas that historically had the most harvests. They are about an hour apart. The first couple days I went out with my buddy Steve and checked out an area. As luck would have it I found a bull that day- just the wrong kind of Bull! The OTC archery season was on, but I specifically decided NOT to buy an OTC Elk tag! I knew I couldn't get distracted by bugling elk and spend time chasing them when I had a rare Shiras tag.
What better way to get on elk than to not have a tag ! This guy walked right up to me. I do love elk hunting but would have to be another year.
No luck on Moose the first few days. My good friend Phil took a couple days off work to help me hunt. Justus also came out to keep us entertained! The tough part was turning up moose. Was a pretty dry year and the moose weren’t out like normal.
One afternoon we split up to cover more ground. I had some intel from elk hunters on a nice valley full of beaver ponds. We had spotted a cow moose in the area the day before.
I hike the mile in and keep thinking this looks great! Awesome moose habit. Maybe I should give out a Moose call?
Without thinking too much I make a cow call- instantly a bull grunts! I see the Willow thrash and a bull pokes his head out 80 yards away!
The problem is I’m out in the open! Standing in the middle of a big clearing I do exactly the wrong thing. I panicked and tried to run for cover.
Rutting bulls aren’t the smartest animals but a hunter running around in the wide open is pretty obviously not a cow. I tried to get closer and call again but the bull knew something was up and left .
The next day was also slow, no moose sightings and warm weather. The dry heat must have kept the moose in the dark timber. The Mesa is tough with lack of good glassing areas and lots of flat vegetation.
I’m my experience Moose hunting can be a grind! Low density animal and is surprising how they can hide
The last day of archery season start clear. Another warm day ahead. I was feeling a bit tired. We decided to sit and call in the AM. nothing. At noon we headed back to camp by a different route. There was a lot of Cattle still out on the hills. We had a running joke that every black beef cow we saw was a moose, and there was a lot of them!
As we passed a trail on a creek I had checked out the week before with Steve I saw another black body. Thinking it was another beef, I didn't say anything until we came clear of brush and I saw antlers! A mad scramble occurred, the Bull watched a bit confused. He knew something was up, and started to head out. I took a long shot with Phil and Justus watching, neither of them had time to video :(
The arrow hit a bit high and went half way in. The bull headed towards the timber as I tried to get another shot. He never stopped long enough to get a range and draw. Phil and Justus thought the shot was ok, not great, may may be good enough. We decided to go to camp, get lunch then come back on the blood trail.
An hour later we picked up some blood and my broken arrow. We slowly followed the trail into the timber. Phil is a great tracker and I really appreciated having him there with his optimism. It was slow going but we didn't want to loose it.
a 100 yards into the timber we sense something... then we jump the bull out of its bed! Dang its not dead, but we could tell it was moving slow. Phil and I move after the bull in the chest high brush and trees to see if I could get another shot. Justus stays back to not cause too much distraction. After a little chase I see the bull in the shadows- its amazing how a black animal that big just disappears in the trees!! I make a hasty shot through the only window I see and hear the thump of a good hit. Phil watches as the bull runs to our right and we loose sight, but think we hear it hit some trees.
We slowly work our way over and see it bedded down head still up. Not wanting it to suffer any longer I send the final arrow and let out a yell to Justus!
I couldn’t have done this hunt with out the help of some great friends. Even better to have help butchering up a bull. I was excited to have a harvest complete the hunt on the last day of archery season.
Another pic. Not sure if I will ever draw another Shiras tag. Will probably stop putting in for them in most states. upon examination the first shot was high lung and the bull was slowly bleeding internally. The arrow hit the off shoulder and stopped; they are a huge animal. The second shot I got through the brush was a bit back but was a complete passthrough.
Here is Caleb filling a spike tag in Texas. big mechanical head saved the shot from being too far back to a filled tag. The boys had a fun time with new friends made from Archery shoots. They also had a NM hunt cancelled due to Covid travel restrictions.
Justus had a shot at a nice 8 pt buck but something went wrong with the shot. They trailed it for half a mile til it crossed the property line. They got permission to continue but it had dried up by then. That’s the breaks bowhunting. He did get a consolation doe.
Back to AK, my youngest boy drew a cow moose tag. By now winter had set in here with som early snows. He was excited all year to get a chance. We had thought about possibly bow hunting for the moose but after that spring bear season I was a little wary that he wasn’t ready.
So I set him up on a new rifle- his 243 wasn’t going to cut it for this hunt. I got a great deal on a Remington model Seven in 300 SAUM and loaded some 175 LRX bullets. He has always been a good shot at the range, and put in his practice.
Luckily this tag was close to home, one of the rare chances in AK. We networked with friends and had a couple close calls on getting a moose but they would always gave us the slip.
Halfway through the season we were talking to my wife (who doesn’t hunt) and she casually says - “Oh, we saw a few moose the other day while driving home from cc skiing “.
The area she mentioned was all public And I said “why didn’t you tell us sooner!”
Of course the answer was “I didn’t know you guys wanted a moose? Is that in your area?” Well, she is a good sport and lets us hunt wherever we want, just not dialed into the pursuit ??
We headed first thing Saturday and quickly spot 3 bedded moose! Exciting! We get a spotter on them and see a cow, a fork, and a little paddle horn bull.
We spend some time planning the stalk. The area has restrictions against shooting near roads, buildings, etc so we had to plan accordingly to be legal. Caleb would stay back and glass for us while Jack and I moved in.
It almost went as planned, But the moose saw us, the deep snow made it hard going! I had set up the video in a good spot, but the cow moved before the shot. I had to give Jack the better angle and quickly reset the camera. This is how kids learn!
Last up I had a trip to Arkansas with my best bud Brady. He always goes on another whitetail hunt for “real” deer. This year he scored on a brute from Illinois! Congrats Brady. It put him in a better mood to let me shoot whatever on his lease :)
I made it down to Arkansas late Nov. Since Brady has been controlling coyotes, and improving habitat, there has been a noticeable uptick in deer numbers from the drop a couple years ago. This certainly helped me since I had a bad case of the Yips again! It is a common problem I have with whitetail from a stand!
To document it I made a point to start self filming this year. It was a blast to set up my phone on a little holder and capture all my shots. Definitely not professional quality but I had fun and saw that the Southern Whitetail are triggered! A couple shots they completely ducked the arrow!
I Here is one stand to show my problems- I had shot high on a doe the night before on a long shot at last light. This stand was set up better but my shooting wasn't much better-
If you watch in slo mo that doe really ducked! I stayed in the stand and an hour later I got really excited- one of Brady's cull bucks showed up. His lease has pretty bad genetics. Lots of big mature spikes, and mature 4-6 points bucks. So shooting these bucks are the plan with at least one of the tags.
This management buck makes it to the same spot as that doe and the same thing happens! But watch the end of the video......
As luck would have it this buck had a death wish. I purposely aimed low, but still hit high! I guess I need to practice more from a tree stand. At least is was an easy tracking job. The arrow penetrated well and a 2nd wasn't needed.
This buck fit well into the management plan! Basically the bucks off limits are yearlings and any young buck 8 pts or bigger. For those they need to be 4 years plus. Unfortunately the average trophy size of those will be about 125-130” however a few bigger have been killed in the area over the years.
I hunted a couple more days for another cull buck with no luck. I also had a gimme chance at a fat doe, but she got spooked at 15 yards, and I ended up taking the shot at 30 but she was on edge and jumped the string. I think these deer are more spooky in the open plots Brady has made. I didn't have as much issue on tight travel route in the thick stuff. I plan to add lighted nocks for the video. It was a lot of fun to film my own hunts. But here is my last shot of 2020, another miss high!
In December my oldest boy Caleb and his best friend Justus both left to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The hardest part for them will be no hunting for 2 yrs!
They both had lots of personal growth in 2020 and will be fine men when they get back. For 2021 I get to focus on my youngest to teach him the ways of hunting and fishing (and a lot of skiing, and surfing)