Kodiak Island 2017 :: Cost Summary
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This is by far the most common question I have been getting from readers about our 2017 Kodiak Island adventure – how much did it cost? The true answer is that “it depends”. Depends on how diligent you are in chasing down each and every last discount. Depends on how much Kodiak-appropriate gear you own already and how much you are going to have to rent. Depends a lot on the location you choose to hunt while on Kodiak. Depends on how many tags you choose to buy and for which species. Depends on if you want to combine a fishing trip on to the back end of your hunt. It really does depen. That said, this is how our trip broke down in terms of expenses. Keep in mind we benefited from sliding in under the 2016 Alaskan hunting license and permit prices, all of which doubled if purchased January 1, 2017, or later.

Commercial airfare from Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, to Kodiak Island, Alaska $762.81 total/$381.41 split. If you don’t utilize the Alaskan Airline credit card to do this sort of trip…you are stupid. Plain and simple. This was inclusive of flex-insurance for each ticket to accommodate the potential unruly nature of Alaskan weather ($70.50 total). Total savings $1291.74 total/$645.87 split.

Commercial check baggage fees RDU to Kodiak $50.00 total/$25 split. Again, flying Alaskan Air with their credit card saved us $50 apiece on this leg of the journey. Total savings $100.00/$50.00 split.

Commercial check baggage fees returning from Kodiak to RDU $500.00 total/$250.00 split. A huge price tag just to move luggage and meat, but considering we checked 10 bags (!!!!), $50/bag actually seems like a great deal. Total savings $250.00/$125.00 split.

Floatplane charter $2,664.00 total/$1,332.00 split. This item can be quite a bit cheaper depending on where on the island you choose to hunt and also if you more strategically weasel in a 3rd guy to share costs.

Alaskan non-resident hunting license and 2 deer tags. $385/person. Total savings $385/person.

Alaskan non-resident 7-day fishing license and king salmon stamp. $55+$20=$75 total/person.

Electric bear fence rental from Kodiak Kamps $150 total/$75 split. Priceless.

Delorme Inreach 1 month subscription and “rental” from a Rokslide forum member who was kind enough to share equipment. $67.00 total/$33.50 total. Another place where we saved significantly by not renting from an outfitter on Kodiak Island. Most places rates were $15/day which would have pushed this item up in the $150 range for the duration of our interior hunt.

Map printing costs using CalTopo and a local Kinkos here in Ohio. $34 total/$17 split.

Total incidental expenses including a couple dry boxes of firewood, last minute groceries before jumping on a floatplane, salmon fishing lures, terminal tackle, and a spincasting combo, tupperware containers for shipping antlers back to the Lower 48, wax-sealed boxes for shipping meat, and butchering supplies for the hotel. $268.44 total/$134.22 split.

2 nights at the Best Western in Kodiak $531.98 total/$265.99 split. Awfully expensive at first glance but you consider we converted our room on the first night into a venerable butcher shop, the hotel had a walk-in freezer that we used extensively, a restaurant in-house that served awesome free breakfasts, and supplied a complimentary shuttle service around town and to the airport, it seemed like money well-spent in hindsight.

All-day fishing charter + tip for the first mate = $770 total/$385 split.

Next-day processed salmon, halibut, rock bass, and cod $157 total/$78.50 split. Dropped off at 6 PM on Thursday night and picked up frozen in wax-sealed boxes including a special request that I made for 3 salmon carcasses, head-on.

Other tips $60 total/$30 split.

I don’t buy a ton of Mountain House, Backpacker’s Pantry-type meals for my hunts, so our backpacking menu was easily as cheap as what we would normally eat in our normal, everyday lives, so that’s a cost that would have been incurred regardless and I don’t like to include that in total trip cost calculations. So with all that said, our total trip costs summed to $3,467.62/person or just under $7,000 total all-expenses round-trip door-to-door. A couple considerations where we could have substantially trimmed costs…saying no to fishing and a fishing charter would have saved $638.50 per person (1 fewer checked bag per person, no fishing license, no charter, no processing fee, no fishing equipment purchases). You could drop that much again if you wanted to fly into a much closer hunting destination to Kodiak City, however, in a year right after a major winter die-off, you have to fly to where the deer are. After hearing many, many other hunters reporting back on their 2017 fall hunts, I am SO thankful we stayed flexible in where we chose to go hunting. The pay-off in terms of quality of hunt was enormous!!

Of course, the $385 per person savings by going with 2016 license and permit fees is a cost-cutting opportunity of the past, but I would argue pretty adamantly that this is the highest adventure you access with the lowest cost required – at least from a hunting perspective – anywhere on earth. Bold statement I know, but I really do believe that.

Kodiak Island 2017 :: Revisiting Expectations
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I went back and retrieved the text from my traditional pre-adventure “expectations” post for our Kodiak Island trip. It is always so insightful and gratifying to look back on those and reflect on how the adventure actually did transpired as opposed to how I dreamed the adventure would maybe transpire.

I’ve been thinking about adventuring to Kodiak Island for quite some time, nearly a decade in fact. Kodiak Island has always intrigued me, fascinated me, drawn me. This trip is definitely a “trip of a lifetime” and here are my expectations and goals.

There is not one iota of a doubt, this trip ended up being a legitimate trip of a lifetime!!

The #1 goal is safety and I want to come home to central Ohio in one piece. I’m sure dad wants to return to North Carolina in much the same condition.

Mission accomplished. Safe flights, no angry or overly curious bears, and we survived a 15-hour long F1 tornado in a sil-nylon tipi.

The #2 goal is to adventure (using “adventure” here as a verb) at a level that does this “trip of a lifetime” justice. For dad and I, this will peg out the adventure meter for any shared hunt that we’ve done in the past and any that we are likely to do in the future. Admittedly though, the 1st and 2nd goal necessarily exist in a state of a precarious balance. I won’t detail one potential activity until the trip is over (it may involve a coho salmon run, a death slog of several miles, and staying overnight in an old & abandoned salmon cannery) but we definitely plan to carpe diem!

We definitely adventured. Sometimes we put ourselves out there in an adventuresome situation, other times the island put us through circumstances that we probably would not have chosen for ourselves. Either option, we endured just about as much adventure as we could have while still achieving Goal #1 above! The potential activity referenced above did not happen mainly because of 3 reasons, listed in no particular order. 1) We got weathered in 3 straight days. 2) We saw how many bears the salmon rivers attracted on the flight in. 3) We aren’t stupid (thankfully!).

Our #3 goal is to maintain a positive attitude. I know this and dad knows this, but it’s important to remember that just because it is an adventure, that doesn’t mean it won’t suck a lot. Pushki (cow parsnip), rain, Devil’s walking stick, swarming insects, rain, potential weather delays, more rain, soaking wet and impossibly dense vegetation, blisters, general misery due to over-exertion in a brutal place like Kodiak – expecting hardship (“embracing the suck” as I’ve heard some guys say) goes a long ways in preserving that mental edge necessary to adapt, overcome, and thrive on Kodiak Island. Having the right equipment and having quality equipment that is reliable goes a long ways in coping with unfavorable conditions too, and I’m confident that those bases are covered. It will undoubtedly be a major challenge to overcome the mental obstacles of the trip.

Only those of you who have been to Kodiak Island know what that island is capable of serving up. We knew it going in and we had realistic expectations. I know I talk about that all the time. But seriously, setting realistic expectations and being in the right frame of mind to deal with the inevitable adversities that come along with spending nearly 2 weeks on one of the harshest places on Planet Earth – that mental readiness does wonders for morale. Achieving this goal was a smashing success!

For brevity’s sake, I’ll identify our #4 and final goal to each shoot a quality Sitka blacktail deer. We will be carrying 4 tags, but we don’t HAVE to fill all 4 to be completely successful. (Though we gladly will!!) For me personally, I’d define an ideal Sitka buck as one having dark-colored antlers with hefty mass and at least one of his fighting tines with that classic blacktail split. Past that, width, tine length, number of tines don’t really matter too much. I’m not sure how dad will define his idea of a trophy Sitka, but we’ve got patience, time, and optics to hopefully sort through a bunch of deer and find some quality bucks.

Yep. You read the daily reports. Success X 4.

DIY Hunting Adventure on Kodiak Island :: Days 12 & 13
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Nearly 2 weeks from the time we were loading our gear on to the luggage carousel at Raleigh-Durham airport to start our adventure to Kodiak Island, it was time to reverse directions and head back home. We had had an unbelievable adventure, start to finish, far surpassing any and all expectations, but now it was time to return to reality.

Waking up Friday morning, we grabbed a big breakfast from the Best Western’s restaurant and headed to the dockside store fronts to purchase a few mementos and gifts. We also made it a point to connect to some WiFi to check on chronic wasting disease import regulations between Alaska and North Carolina. Thankfully, Alaska is CWD-negative so far and as long as the tupperware tub were explicitly marked with all sorts of license and harvest ticket information, that part of things was seamless. With that information, it was back to the room to pack all our gear, double check our freezing meat in the hotel walk-in freezer, swing by Kodiak Smoking to grab our fish fillets from the day prior, and ride to the airport to catch our 5 PM departure flight back to Anchorage where we would leap frog to Seattle. Because of flying back into the time zones, we would have an overnight layover in Seattle before grabbing our final flight back to RDU. Simple right.

Well, simple stopped just as soon as heaped all our luggage, gun case, and frozen meat boxes into a pile. Holy cow! We had 6 frozen boxes of meat which we weighed individually and scuttled packages of steak and fillets back and forth to make sure each stayed at or under the 50 pound minimum. Add in a big tupperware container holding our 4 Sitka bucks, 2 more pieces of check luggage, a gun case and our 2 carry-on’s (my Kifaru and Dad’s Badlands pack loaded down), and it was an absurd amount of gear. Thankfully, our payload was nothing novel in the Kodiak airport, and the desk attendants were patient as labeled each item and paid the luggage fees…ouch!

With 2 hours to spare, we were sitting in place waiting for the departing flight to board and we would start our journey home.

False.

Once we boarded the flight, we sat on the runway for over 2 hours before we were told to exit the aircraft because there was a mechanical issue that could not be fixed. We were staring at a likely overnight delay until they mentioned the slight possibility that an aircraft mechanic and needed part had just boarded a plane in Anchorage and was inbound to see what he could do about things. That said, the earliest flight out they could feasibly imagine was 11 PM, meaning even if we did get out of Kodiak, we would miss our connection in Anchorage which would also put us behind schedule to make our final flight into Raleigh-Durham.

Thankfully, the Kodiak Airport is an interesting place to spend 10 extra hours of downtime. Everyone has a story to tell and folks were friendly, so we enjoyed the casual banter back-and-forth. An elderly couple who had just sold their commercial salmon fishing boat after 50 consecutive seasons. They were flying down to San Francisco to retire. A couple on their 40th anniversary trip who traveled to Kodiak Island to see sights that their oldest son had experienced as a 20-something year old working in the commercial fishing fleet. A young lady waiting to tell her husband that she was pregnant and overflowing with many stories to tell about her last 4 months spent as an intern working in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. Time went quickly and I even bummed a couple cups of boiling water from the desk attendants to re-constitute a couple freeze-dried meals for dinner right there in the terminal.

Finally, the plane was fixed and the signal was given to board again. Alaskan Air had re-booked our connection in Anchorage, which we BARELY made and then we landed in Seattle. With only a slightly longer layover there, we were soon on a flight pointed to RDU and slated to arrive Saturday evening, over 30 hours since we had first started our journey home. Unfortunately, when we arrived in Raleigh-Durham, only 2 of our bags had transferred in the hasty connection in Anchorage, so we drove the hour back to Dad’s house to start organizing a little gear, get a nap and a square meal, and travel back to the RDU airport 8 hours later at 2 AM to pick up the (hopefully still!!!) frozen meat boxes on a later flight that they had to re-route through Dallas.

It is a darn good thing that our travel did not get delayed anymore, because our meat was well into the thawing process when we picked it up after midnight. We swung by a grocery store to purchase 20 pounds of dry ice on the way back to Dad’s house, and hastily sorted and re-packed over 300 pounds of fresh protein into Dad’s deep freeze and into my coolers. Finally, at 4 AM, I had my truck loaded with gear, venison, salmon, and halibut, and began my drive back to Columbus, OH. By noon on Sunday, I was home, nearly 60 hours from the last decent wink of sleep that I had caught.

What a way to end what had been truly a trip-of-a-lifetime!

DIY Hunting Adventure on Kodiak Island :: Day 10 & 11
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As we had suspected, our last night’s sleep within Kodiak’s interior was a bit restless and sleepless. Around 11 PM, we both awoke to the sound of 2 bears squalling, balling, roaring and carrying on just around the head of the lake. They made quite the racket for a minute or two before the eerie silence settled back in around us. Whether they were fighting over the last of the sockeye salmon that had beached themselves at the head of the spawning run or if they had stumbled on to the carcass of our second buck from days earlier, it was unclear.

Then around 3 AM, Mr. Fox returned to camp. He chewed all the way through a blue tarp and had started working on dragging off a game bag full of venison when one of us startled awake. Of course, the first thought that crosses one’s mind while on Kodiak is not…fox…it’s BEAR! Pandemonium promptly ensued, but unzipping the tipi’s fly and shining our lights out, shotgun and pepper spray at the ready, revealed a less terrifying visitor. I ended up chasing him around for a few minutes before slicing off a few more scraps to lure him down to the lake’s edge. He did not return again that night and I apologize to whomever hunts that lake next for the pet fox that we tolerated, even encouraged.

Finally, the dawn broke and it wasn’t long until we could hear the drone of a float plane swinging to the southwest in order to fly up the valley and touch down on our lake. We hustled to stuff our sleeping bags in dry bags, deflate our sleeping pads, and tossed together the other remnants of our gear. The plane touched down and I started lugging gear to the lake shore while dad broke down the bear fence. The tipi came down in 3 or 4 minutes tops and a final sweep of the area was made. The pontoons were loaded down with venison, our wet stinking gear piled high behind the cockpit, and all the evidence that remained of our adventure was a matted down circle of grass about 40 feet in diameter.

We took a few obligatory pictures posing with our bucks atop the plane’s pontoons, piled into the plane, and taxied down the lake for takeoff. I could not help but notice how worn down the pedals were on the De Havilland. This plane had seen some serious hours in the air!

Whew, what an adventure!! The plane ride back was just as spectacular as our first flight out 9 days earlier. We saw numerous bears crowded around the salmon streams (probably north of 30 again), bald eagles, a large herd of over 40 mountain goats, and even a fellow pilot perched several hundred feet above us with the sunlight glinting off his propeller as he passed overhead.

Back in Kodiak 2 hours later, we made a few phone calls to loved ones, touched base with the local hotel, and confirmed an early morning fishing trip for the next day. Showers and restaurant-served meals were followed by a lengthy nap, and then we transformed our room into a butcher shop. From 7 PM until 3 AM, we cut and trimmed meat. Shuttling meat bags from the hotel’s freezer space upstairs and returning sealed freezer bags of steaks, roasts, burger trimmings, and other cuts back down to be frozen. Somewhere along the way we ran several loads of laundry, and made the rest of the phone calls that needed to be made.

At 3:30 AM, I fell asleep exhausted in the hotel room bed, dad having fallen asleep just 15 or 20 minutes before. At 6:00 AM the morning though, our alarms waited to ring us back awake and we had a 7:30 dockside appointment to make with Kodiak Island Charters. The lack of sleep was well worth it and within 10 minutes of leaving port, we had dropped 2 lines in the water as our boat captain trolled around some ocean buoys hoping to intersect some hungry salmon. It did not take long and we were hooked up. And hooked up again. And again. And again. The bite eventually slowed but not before one of the rods bent double as a halibut nailed a trolled spoon. It took a bit of work to bring him alongside the stern and a well-placed harpoon and timely gaff brought about a ~70 pound doormat of a halibut.

From there, we ran about 40 minutes to a strait that separates Kodiak from a nearby neighboring island. Once there, we dropped anchor in about 160 feet of water and dropped 8 ounce sinkers armed with 10/0 circle hooks to the bottom. It was long before we were pumping halibut, cod, and a host of other bottom-dwelling fish up from the ocean’s bottom. We stayed there for about 3 hours and almost filled our limits of halibut, adding nearly 10 cod and several black sea bass to the ice box as well.

By mid-afternoon, we were back trolling to round our limits of salmon. We caught nearly an even split of king salmon versus silver salmon and headed back to the docks after 5 with ice boxes crammed to capacity. 23 salmon, 9 halibut and about a dozen other fish to boot. What a day! Even if we had gone fishless, the scenery and wildlife that we encountered out on the ocean was surreal. Puffins, sea otters, seabirds galore, perched bald eagles, stunning landscapes, breaching humpbacks, and exceptional company. Dad and I were both essentially at a loss of words by this point in the trip. Everything we had dreamed the trip could be, it was that much and so much more. Our fishing experience was just the cherry on top of what had already been a world class adventure.

We made contact with the local fish processors and made arrangements to pick up our filleted catch in the morning at 11:30 AM. Our plane was scheduled to depart Kodiak’s airport at 3:00 PM.

DIY Hunting Adventure on Kodiak Island :: Day 9
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Sorry about keeping you waiting. Been busy at work and there has been some beautiful October-early November weather to take advantage of as well. I suppose you could say I have been out creating more content, or at least attempting to!

Back to our Kodiak adventure.

We were up extra early the next morning. No doubt we were well rested after having spent 3 consecutive days tipi-bound. Because of the number of bucks we had seen from camp roughly 36 hours prior, we hoped a more lengthy break in the weather would bring out the bucks again. With coffee in hand, we set up the spotter and started searching the surrounding mountains. From just behind camp to approximately a mile and a half distant, the rising sun was making it easy to pick out the deer from the dense green vegetation. Over the past couple days, we decided not to be too picky with finding a second buck for Dad. The venison was just too tasty to let a tag go unfilled, so another 50-60 pounds of meat was the real priority.

After about an hour of glassing and looking over 15 or 20 different deer, we found a buck over and around the head of the lake that was pretty accessible and would be a short pack back to camp if successful. We got ready to start hiking and barely had the gate to the bear fence unclipped when Dad said “Bears!”. Right in line with our path of planned travel to the buck, 3 bears popped out of one alder thicket and disappeared into the next. For roughly 10 minutes, we kept an intent eye out, occasionally catching glimpses of the chocolate-coated bears as they meandered through the thick brush. We were hoping that we would see them continue south to clear the way for safe hiking, but that did not happen. We were pretty sure they holed up in an alder thicket just across the lake, only a quarter-mile distant. That buck and the plan to go get him got tossed out REAL quick.

Back into the bear fence we went to turn our attention back to the mountains. We needed to find another buck, but this time in a safer direction!

Thankfully, another half-hour revealed 2 bucks on the slope behind camp. One buck was decent-sized and positioned about halfway up the 2,000′ slope. The other buck was a size class or two larger, but he was also near the top of the slope. A serious pull from camp that looked rather intimidating. Still, the larger buck was a sort of back-up plan, and we struck off to see if we could close the distance on the buck at lower elevation and fill our last Sitka black-tailed deer tag on Kodiak Island.

Within 30 minutes, we were peeking up over a break in terrain hoping the buck was still up and feeding and not buried in the thick cover of the impenetrable alders. No such luck. We stayed there for 20 minutes picking apart the waist vegetation, hoping to maybe get lucky and see a set of antlers sticking up. No dice. It was obvious the buck had finished his morning meal and had holed up tucked away and safe in one of the many alder patches.

To the back-up plan. It took us a few minutes to re-locate the buck high on the mountain, but we did without too much trouble and found him still up and feeding. Knowing he would not stay on his feet forever, we made haste to cut the elevation that separated us from him. My biggest concern at that point was that Dad and I’s pace would not be adequate to get within shooting position before the morning’s thermals switched and pulled our scent directly uphill to the buck’s location. Every break to re-coop oxygen was another opportunity to update the yardage between us and our buck. Gradually, we worked to within 400 yards and decided that was about as close as we could get. The terrain features would hide the buck from our view and the shooting angle was already getting extremely steep. Time to set up and try to make the shot.

We got Dad into position, took a good range and then several more just to confirm, wound the turrets on his .270, and squeezed a few practice triggers. Show time. After 2 minutes, the buck gave Dad a great broadside look.

And bedded down. Before Dad could squeeze off a shot. I am not sure I have mentioned a key fact to this point. Our floatplane was scheduled to pick us up at 3 PM that very day and the time was 10:45. The buck’s bedding down threw a major wrench in our plans. We did not think it would take us long to get the buck back to camp if we were successful – it was all downhill. But, we did not have the luxury of waiting 3 or 4 hours for him to get back up and grab a midday snack. We decided to get creative. Dad placed his crosshairs right through the wickets of the buck’s antlers and waited for him to stand up as I made some loud noises to get him back standing. The next 30-45 minutes were comically frustrating to say the least. I whooped, hollered, yodeled, screamed, shouted, laughed, banged metal trekking poles together, hooted like an owl, and made every other loud noise I could think of. Either the buck could not hear us, he knew the game we were trying to play, or he just did not care – he would NOT stand up.

Finally, after about an hour, the buck stood up and stretched.

Boom!

Boom!

I was tracking each shot through the spotting scope and called out a “hit” each time. Dad was settling in for a 3rd round when the buck just disappeared back into the tall vegetation! We were tagged out. Dad had just made his longest shots to date. We agreed that I should stay in place and keep the spotting scope trained on where the buck had gone down. Dad would pick his way up the steep, slippery slope and locate him. Then I would climb up the mountain, we would take some quick photos, speed through the quartering process and hump back to camp as quickly as possible. We had a plane to catch!

It took Dad quite a while to put all that elevation behind him but the buck was lying exactly where we thought he would be. I scooted up quickly thereafter and we conducted our last Sitka black-tailed deer photo shoot of our adventure. It was a great buck with an enormous body. We could not have been more thrilled having set out to find a meat buck, we had taken yet another older age class Sitka buck.

We made record time to get back to camp and started consolidating our gear and equipment into different bags and packs. We decided to leave the tipi standing and the bear fence up until the floatplane arrived, but our haste to leave the mountain gave us about 30 minutes of free time to sample the fishing in our lake.

The small sockeye run had mostly played out but I managed to land a small colorful male and Dad had a few swipes at his lure without hooking up.

When our 30 minutes of free time turned into an hour of fishing, we decided we had better check our InReach unit just to make sure everything was still on schedule. Darn, delayed. Weather had socked our pilot in at the seaplane base in Kodiak and we made arrangements to stay at least one more night in the Seek Outside Redcliff. This had me worried for a couple reasons. First, I sort of figured Mr. Red Fox would be back again that night. Second, we had added 50 or 60 more pounds of fresh meat to already large meat cache and we had definitely not forgotten that our day started by seeing 3 bears coming close to camp and disappearing into a nearby alder thicket. Third, I was stretching my ability to keep meat from our first couple bucks at this point, and the thought of “one more day” turning into a “few more days” was weighing on my mind. Not like we had a choice in the matter though.

We spent the rest of the day digging out the bare minimum in terms of gear and equipment to sleep one last night and fried up one more batch of tenderloin for dinner. After a couple games of Cribbage, we turned in early and hoped the floatplane could fly in the morning.

Infolinks 2013