As the snow comes down the mountain, I’m still in the hunt for some great adventures around the state.
To be prepared, though, it’s time to get the tires changed out for those over-the-pass drives when the rain changes to snow and ice.
Sitting in the tire shop, I checked in with Jon Faulkner for a weather report in Homer.
What? I turned the volume up on my phone. Perhaps this week wasn’t a good time?
“No. Deer meat. Pick up my deer meat from Alaska Airlines,” he said.
Faulkner had just returned from a weeklong live-aboard hunting adventure along the south coast of Kodiak.
“I’ve been deer hunting in Kodiak probably 17 times,” Faulkner said. “Most of the time it’s been in a tent. A few times we stayed in cabins. But this is the third time I’ve gone on a boat.”
It’s not an easy task to get to the boat, which is anchored in Olga Bay near the southwestern tip of Kodiak Island.
But for outdoor adventurers and hunters in Alaska, that’s not a problem. A Kodiak deer hunt is a great way to spend a week in the wilderness. There’s the added bonus of a warm, dry bed each evening. And all your meals are included.
So far, the extra stops to get to the boat, including overnight hotel stays in Kodiak, haven’t dampened the enthusiasm for these hunters. Nor has inclement weather or COVID-19.
Several companies offer deer hunting packages between the first part of October and the first week in December. All of the boats are rigged for fishing in the summer before making the switch to hunting in the fall.
Ninilchik Charters takes two of their boats, including the 63-foot Rainisong and the 50-foot Sundy, down to Kodiak for fall hunts. Owner Mike Flores said the hunts are sold out for this fall and for 2021.
Alaska Coastal Marine has the 65-foot Spirit rigged up for deer hunting between October and December. “It’s really a floating hotel,” said Kathy Rider, who answered several of my questions about the fall adventures.
“We cater mostly to repeat customers,” she said. “We’re completely sold out for this fall and we’re taking bookings for 2022. It costs about $22,000 for six people for a week.”
The Spirit has a two-man crew that stays with the boat for the whole season. “Our crew really enjoys the hunts,” said Rider. “Plus, they’re good cooks, so our hunters are very well-fed.”
All of the hunts are self-guided. The skippers ferry hunters to shore each day — and then they are on their own.
Faulkner sailed with Homer Ocean Charters, which has offered weeklong hunting packages for 30 years.
Faulkner called me the night before his hunt began from a hotel in Kodiak. Hunters have to fly in the night before, spend the night, then catch a floatplane the following day to fly directly to the boat in Olga Bay.
This particular group of five hunters was made up of all Alaska residents.
“I got teamed up with a novice. So, it was interesting teaching someone how to deer hunt,” Faulkner said.
In addition to the deer, Faulkner said the Kodiak brown bears also were out in force. “We enjoyed watching a 9-foot, 1,000-pound bear,” he said. “Once it got to 90 yards, we started making lots of noise. The bear eventually went away — but on its terms. Not ours,”
Homer Ocean Charters uses the 60-foot Outer Limits boat as its floating base. The weeklong packages cost $4,500 per hunter.
“There are six berths below deck for hunters,” Faulkner said. “Four of them have private heads. There’s a big galley up above. It’s quite spacious.”
Faulkner said the food was great. “They were picking crab pots with king crab for dinner,” he said. They serve breakfast and dinner on board, and the crew fixes a lunch for hunters to take ashore.
“The weather was spectacular,” Faulkner said. “We had three days of cloudless weather. In seven days there were just three or four hours of sprinkles.”
For those adventurers who have the hunting bug, cooler weather and remote locations are no problem. Many hunters save up for a long time for the chance to bring home some fresh deer meat.
Each of the boats has plenty of space to store your game in the freezer after the hunt. There also are boxes to pack it up and wrap it for the trip back home.
There are many variations on the Alaska hunting trip for moose, caribou, elk, goat or bear. Some hunters have a set camp, while others go out with little more than a tent and a sleeping bag.
But these Alaska marine operators have tapped into a niche for hunters that features a huge population of deer on a remote corner of Kodiak Island. Because it’s very popular, you’ll have to plan ahead.