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BEARS, FISH, AND SITKA BLACKTAILS C T R A F A S T F I LE BY AUSTIN ATKINSON AND HUNTIN’ FOOL PHA STAFF I f you’ve never been too tired to fish, then you haven’t been to Kodiak Island on a Sitka blacktail boat hunt. Early last spring, we decided to plan a group hunt as Professional Hunt Advisors at Huntin’ Fool that would take us up to the northland to pursue the most budget-friendly species in Alaska, Sitka blacktail deer. We also elected to book an extra spot on the trip that we could award to one member in the Membership Drive giveaway. In early August, we drew member Deo Bove’s winning ticket and the trip was set. Over 15,000 deer are harvested per year in Alaska, and non-resident deer limits are up to three bucks on Kodiak. We knew we were in for a special hunt with a high chance of success. Native to southeast Alaska, Sitka blacktail deer also make their home in the Prince William Sound area, the Kodiak Archipelago, and the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia. Kodiak Island is arguably the most exciting place to hunt this tiny deer, 16 and those who visit there are sure to have a true Alaska experience. There are four basic hunt methods in which you can take a Sitka deer on Kodiak. First is a fully guided hunt. It can be difficult to find an outfitter that offers exclusive trips for Sitka blacktail deer as most choose to offer them on a trophy fee basis during other hunts. Fall brown bear hunts or mountain goat hunts tend to be the best options to add on a Sitka blacktail buck for a trophy fee. If you are looking to plan a guided hunt to Kodiak, give our Outfitter Specialist a call and he can help you get lined out. The second way to experience a blacktail hunt is to plan a drop-off hunt where you are flown in to a remote beach or freshwater lake by an air charter plane. This hunt can be planned economically and usually involves renting a small USFS cabin or bringing in your own tent camp. With the weather that Alaska can experience in the fall and the insane brown bear populations, I usually do not recommend this option for the faint of heart. The last two methods for Sitka blacktail hunting are undoubtedly the most popular for first-time Sitka hunters. These opportunities involve self-guided hunts that allow sportsmen to have some of the planning taken care of by a licensed transporter who offers these excursions. The first option is to stay on land in a small lodge/cabin where you will have the comforts of electricity, hot showers, warm meals, and a nice bed to sleep in. These trips are great for groups looking to have a hunt without too many unknowns. Each day of your hunt, you will leave either in a small boat or vehicle to a drop-off point of your choice with your gear and a sack lunch. In the evening, you will be able to get picked up by the transporter and brought back to their warm abode. For our group hunt, we elected to book a transported hunt, but for the fourth hunt option, a liveaboard self-guided hunt with a charter boat service which we will describe in this article. Anyone who has fished the Homer/ Soldotna area on the Kenai Peninsula has undoubtedly heard of Ninilchik Charters. I made sure to speak with owner Mike Flores and his staff early in the planning