I am back from my trip to Montague Island where I spent a few days deer hunting with my husband and a couple of long time friends. This trip was a spur-of-the-minute one, giving us another opportunity to exercise our Second Amendment rights as well as other American liberties.
My husband spent most of Tuesday helping our friend remove the floats and install the tires on our two aircraft. Removing the floats is a big job and an important one to complete before the lakes freeze. While working on their aircraft, the two friends decided to go to Montague Island the next day to hunt for deer. We spent a few hours getting equipment, food, and clothing ready for the trip - and then waited on the weather.
The weather in Anchorage was mostly clear on Wednesday with temperatures around 50 degrees, but thick clouds were hanging around the mountain tops and had completely closed Portage Pass over to Whittier. The two pilots kept a watch on the weather, which cleared enough to take off from Lake Hood air strip about 3:00.
We took off first and flew across Cook Inlet where our friends caught up with us and passed us. We flew through the mountains at around 2000 feet to Seward. The weather was better at Seward so we were able to fly at 3000 feet across the water. We saw about 20 mountain goats on the mountain tops and the cliffs around the water.
By the time we arrived at Montague Island, we were seeing rain drops on the windshield and lower visibility. When we arrived we could see that our friends were already on the ground and setting up a cooking shelter. Their Maule flies about 30 miles per hour faster than our Super Cub so they always arrive long before we do. We flew around for five minutes or so to look for deer but didn't see any.
We landed without any problems just after 5:00 on a wide, sandy beach with the tide going out and taxied as close to camp as possible. Immediately upon exiting the aircraft, we broke out our rain gear. The rain gear apparently had magical powers because the rain stopped as soon as we were suited up. All the grass, bushes and trees were dripping with rain so we needed the rain gear to stay dry even without rain falling.
We unloaded our airplanes and set up camp. We were eating dinner by 6:30. The temperatures were still quite warm and enjoyable. We spent a leisurely evening and went to bed about 9:00.
A cold front came during the night, leaving a thin layer of frost on everything. Knowing that the frost would melt, leaving the grass, bushes and trees wet again, we again donned our Healy Hanson rain gear. My husband and I chose to hike in our Danner Winter Light hunting boots, and our friends chose rubber boots and hip waders. We like our boots because they keep our feet dry and are easier to hike in; however, we have to be careful where we place our feet and how we cross streams. Our friends like the rubber boots because they are better for crossing streams and boggy marshes.
Montague Island appears to be volcano based. At least, most of the rocks I've seen appear to be made of lava. The beaches are nice and sandy with occasional places with lots of rocks. The moss-covered ground on the inner island is very spongy and water logged with many small streams and holes filled with water, some of them hidden in the grass. The trees are thick except in the many meadows. The middle of the island contains very tall mountains and cliffs.
We were just heading out of camp about 8:00 a.m. with our friends going up the beach past the aircraft and us heading the other direction. We had gone about 50 feet when our friends called to us and wanted us to go back. We returned to where they were and saw the very large tracks of a brown bear that had walked down the beach sometime during the night, going the same direction that we were heading.
I was kind of spooked to be walking into thick trees and tall grass with a known bear in the area. I made sure that I stayed right on my husband's heels for two reasons. I wanted to be close enough for him to protect me plus I figured that two people together would look larger and perhaps cause a bear to think twice before attacking. I was somewhat relieved a couple of hours later when we crossed the bear trail going down the middle of a meadow - heading in the opposite direction to where we were going.
We hiked up through a pass in the mountains and down the other side to the beach. We found a very large rock and climbed to the top of it to eat our lunch. We took our time with lunch, watching the beach in both directions for deer as well as enjoying the ocean waves as they crashed against the rocks at high tide.
The deer on Montague Island are Sitka Black Tails, which are quite small, about the size of a large dog. They flourish well on the islands but don't survive the deep snow of the mainland the few times that they have been seen there. Most of the deer on Montague spend the summers and early fall in the high mountains and cliffs until they are driven down lower by snow. We have often seen deer on the beach so we hoped to find success there. They seem to like eating the kelp washed up by the waves.
We were just finishing lunch and repacking the pack when I looked down the beach and saw a deer a few hundred yards away. My husband grabbed his rifle and told me to come with him. I took my time and loitered behind him. He got close enough to the deer that he thought he might scare it into the trees. The deer was in a little dip on the beach so only the head and chest could be seen. My husband took a first shot from a standing position but shot low. The deer just stood there looking at him so he took a second shot. The deer jumped and ran towards the grass and trees. I had a difficult time believing that my husband had missed twice. When I got to the spot where he waited for me, I could see blood on the sand. The deer was hit in the heart/lungs and ran about twenty feet before dying in the grass.
In the fifty plus years that my husband has been hunting deer, he has become professional in the way he cares for and handles the meat. Since we moved to Alaska and began hunting for moose, he has perfected his skills at removing the four quarters, back strap, and any other usable meat without the need to clean out the insides of the animal. Within a very short time, we had the meat harvested and in our pack.
We headed back towards camp, all the time looking for more deer. I was carrying the pack with the deer meat. The main reason was because it seemed to be the lighter of the two packs. A second important reason was that I preferred to have the meat on my back and the rifle in my husband's hands rather than the meat on his back and me trying to shoot a bear. A few years ago, one of our family friends was killed by a brown bear while carrying deer meat so I'm a little sensitive in the matter.
Our trip ended after a couple of days and nights of clear weather. Our group harvested four deer - far fewer than the legal amount of sixteen deer between the four of us. The weather was clear enough that we flew back at 8000 feet, over the tops of the mountains containing the Harding Ice Fields - glaciers that stretch for miles and miles and miles. We had a 35 mile per hour tail wind and were back in Anchorage about an hour after leaving the island.
I have just one question: how could I hike up and down mountains, climb over log jams, and carry heavy loads for the better part of three days - and end up gaining two pounds? My husband always comes home from hunting trips several pounds lighter so why did I gain weight? Even in a free country life isn't always fair!