Thanksgiving Day on Afognak Island brought a nasty windstorm. This made a lot of areas inaccessible by boat due to a large swell, so we hunted the woods around Seal Bay. Another of Luke’s buddies, Josh Tobey, and I were dropped off on one side of the bay, and Luke, Adam, and Kevin hopped off on the other.

We slowly hiked up the steep hill at the head of the bay through foot-deep snow covered with fresh deer tracks. I was hunting with my recurve, and also had along a simple bleat call to try on the blacktails. After things settled down and we topped a ridge overlooking a brushy draw, we decided to try calling. Within two minutes of my first bleat, a nice fork-horn buck came running over another ridge and held up at about 40 yards directly across the draw. I didn’t feel comfortable with the shot, and Josh passed on him, so as the deer worked around downwind, we lost him.

After seeing that, and remembering the way my dad and I would call mule deer with a bleat call when I was a kid, we tried the next set-up differently. Josh did the calling, and I set up 50 yards down wind, standing next to a huge tree. After about 15 minutes of calling I saw a big 3×3 walk up the ridge directly toward me. He was getting closer and closer, and when he was 10 yards away, he walked behind a group of trees. As he popped his head out the other side only 8 yards away, the buck caught me at mid draw and spooked.

About an hour later, I spotted a small forked buck bedded about 60 yards below us in a draw. I figured there was no way I would be able to sneak up on him, but Josh encouraged me to give it a shot, so I took off after him. The next thing I knew I was 20 yards from the buck. He got up and started feeding and spotted me. To make a long story short, I flubbed two shots at him, the second shot hitting him in the guts. We spent the rest of the day tracking him down, finally shooting him with a rifle.

As much as it disgusted me to make two bad shots and wound the deer, it was quite a relief to be able to wrap things up and make sure that we recovered him. We made it back to the beach at last light and were on our way to a fantastic Thanksgiving dinner.