I’ve made it a habit to articulate my emotions, goals, objectives, expectations leading up to most every big hunt I’ve taken in the past 6-8 years. Each “expectations” post usually starts similarly with some acknowledgement that each hunt is another “trip of a lifetime.” I try to treat each one as if they are the “trip of a lifetime” in part because they are, they are that meaningful to me, and in part because one never knows which moment could be your last. For better or worse, that’s sort of how life works. Each hunt is such a build-up with so much time, effort, (sometimes expense), anticipation, conversation, and planning that they all feel like the “trip of a lifetime.”

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

I could write a ton more in this post as I have done a lot of thinking and dreaming about Kodiak Island over the past 9 months and more extended timeline even before this trip became a reality in late December 2016. I expect we’ll engage in all sorts of other adventure along the way – ptarmigan hunting, bear viewing (preferably from a difference), fishing in different settings for different target species, seeing the Island’s diverse population of color morph “cross” foxes, bald eagles galore, sensational wildflowers, and probably some intimidatingly horrific weather conditions. There is even a tentative forecast that the Northern Lights could make an appearance if they coincide with good viewing conditions.

Kodiak Island or Bust!