Kodiak Island Challenge

By Ed Fanchin

Kodiak Island ChallengeEd Fanchin
Alaska, 2009, DIY, Public Land

When I started bowhunting over 20 years ago, Chuck Adams was in his prime. Adams was bowhunting Sitka blacktail deer on Kodiak Island every year and writing stories about his adventures. The magazine articles intrigued me. His stories of a truly wild place abundant with giant Kodiak brown bears and Sitka blacktail deer have never left my memory. I dreamed of visiting the island.

Last fall did not start off very well. My partner, Jeff Utter, and I hadn’t drawn any tags in the multiple states that we applied in. We decided to put together a last minute DIY trip to Kodiak Island to hunt Sitkas. This would be my third trip to the island, trying to quench the thirst that started 20 years earlier. We decided to go in September because the bucks would be “hard-horned” and still up high. Hopefully the bears would be low on the rivers feasting on the late salmon runs that the island is famous for. Another bonus was that we were going to purchase a caribou tag in case we ran into a few stragglers from the resident herd that lived there.

The float plane dropped us off on a secluded beach and was last seen disappearing through a distant mountain pass. Jeff and I set up a comfortable base camp, sat down and watched the sunset. I’ll never forget that moment, because before we could fully soak it all in, Mr. Reality walked right through our camp. A full grown Kodiak brown bear, the kind you read about, walked past us at 20 yards and let us know that we were camped right in his front yard.

Our first day in the field was a wet one. It rained most of the day, keeping the deer at bay in the alders, but we had a few brief openings when it wasn’t raining and the deer came out of the woodwork. Jeff and I were walking around the base of a 1500-foot mountain when I looked straight up on top of the ridge and saw a good buck feeding on the grass-covered hillside. Jeff spotted for me while I made the climb up toward the buck. I made the mistake of trying to take a shortcut through a tangled alder thicket on the steep slope. Lesson learned; I wouldn’t be doing that again.

I had taken a route on the opposite side of the hill from the buck. My plan was to creep over the top and sneak in from above. Just as I was about to crest the hill, I looked to my right and spotted the antlers of a bedded buck. I eased my binoculars up and saw that he was a small-framed 4x5, including eyeguards. Five-point main frame Sitkas are few and far between. I decided that this was a good first day Pope & Young candidate. I sneaked in to 25 yards, nocked an arrow, and drew my bow. All it took was a soft grunt and the buck was on his feet. It was already too late as I sent a Muzzy broadhead through his chest. My first tag was filled.

Kodiak Island Challenge

For a full account of Ed's adventure, go to page 18 in the May/June 2010 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.