The author’s wife makes her way across a mountain during an unsuccessful hunt with friends. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

The author’s wife makes her way across a mountain during an unsuccessful hunt with friends. (Jeff Lund / For the Juneau Empire)

I Went to the Woods: Giving it our best shot

Is it a feeling of accomplishment to simply get to the top? Yeah.

By Jeff Lund

For the Juneau Empire

It had been foggy the previous evening most of the early morning but broke just enough to lure us from our tents. There was enough mountain exposed, so Operation Buckingham was a go.

As years further separate you from your high school buddies, friendships can slowly fade into the past tense. Especially when college is out of state and the start of a career is in yet a different state. It is difficult to stay close when your lives are so different and far a part. It’s not a bad thing. It happens.

But Rob and I, good friends in high school, became close again when he and his wife Mandy visited me in Klawock six years ago while I was spending the summer at Mom’s house. Within months, they were leaving Montana to move back to Southeast Alaska.

A few weeks ago I pitched another trip to our home island complete with an alpine deer hunt, so they accompanied my wife, Abby, and me to Klawock for a few days of fishing, campfires and assessment of how much had changed and how much stayed the same since our days as Chieftains.

The first day federal land opened for non-federally qualified hunters, the four of us, along with our high school Alaska history teacher and his wife, were camped at the base of the alpine, ready to get Rob and Mandy a deer.

We split from Don and Teresa and started to stalk toward the edge of timber where we had seen bucks the evening before. There was no doubt we’d see one. It was just a matter of how close and whether both Mandy and Rob would get a shot.

We were maybe 100 yards from clearing brush and having the chance to glass to our left from a knob when we heard a series of gun shots, a pause, then two more from maybe 400 yards away.

So much for claiming the mountain. Two hunters had lawfully parked next to our truck, climbed up and reached the deer before we had. We dropped into a chute and continued to climb toward a few more deer that were on a shelf above the action. Just over 1,000 feet from the top of the mountain, we cleared another knoll, saw no deer, then looked down to see two men hauling game bags with meat toward two more dead deer that looked gutted and ready to be boned out. If I were not such a sore loser, I would have mustered a more congratulatory attitude toward these guys who, from what we saw, had probably taken four deer in about 30 seconds.

With the deer spooked off that side of the mountain, I encouraged the group to head for the ridge, if for no other reason than to leave no doubt.

So we staggered up the last 1061 vertical feet in .6 miles into the thin and fragile but stubborn fog. The mountain was steep and consistent, not rocky and technical — the type of terrain that best reveals the exact type of shape you are in. You can catch your breath while deciding which line looks the best. When it’s just steep, there are no excuses. You either need a break or you don’t, and if you do, there’s nothing wrong with it.

We stayed on the ridge in the fog that never relented, then worked our way back to camp and eventually the truck. Despite Mandy and Rob not getting a shot at a deer, it felt good. Why? I don’t know. Is it a feeling of accomplishment to simply get to the top? Yeah.

But there is also a trap in feeling the need to explain.

The point is actually doing what you say you enjoy, and trying enough things you know for sure that what you say isn’t for you, actually isn’t.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of July 6

Here’s what to expect this week.

Residents of Strasbaugh Apartments on Gastineau Avenue and others in the neighborhood wait outside a sealed-off area Sunday morning after a landslide triggered by heavy rain hit the building. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Landslide triggered by heavy rain damages apartment building on Gastineau Avenue

Officials close street as multiple mudslides reported; up to 4” more rain forecast by Monday night.

Shelley McNurney (right) and Tami Hesseltine examine a muticolor storage shelf in the gym of the former Floyd Dryden Middle School on Saturday, where surplus items from the school were being sold to residents and given away to nonprofit entities. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
No more pencils, no more bookshelves: Floyd Dryden works to clear out surplus items large and small

Furniture, microscopes, pianos among gymful of items being given away or sold by shut-down school.

Former President Donald Trump is surrounded by Secret Service agents at a campaign rally in Butler, Pa, on Saturday. Trump was rushed off stage at rally after sounds like shots; the former president was escorted into his motorcade at his rally in Butler, Pa., a rural town about an hour north of Pittsburgh. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)
Trump rally shooting investigated as assassination attempt; gunman identified

One rally attendee and the shooter dead, two other spectators critically injured.

Looking like a gray turtle, an automated mower cuts grass in front of Thunder Mountain Middle School with boxes stacked in a classroom window beyond. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Random adventures of robo-mowers…now performing again this summer at Juneau’s schools

Four pillow-sized bots resembling turtles with tiny razor-sharp blades provide class for the grass.

Disney Williams (right) orders coffee from Lorelai Bingham from the Flying Squirrel coffee stand at Juneau International Airport on Thursday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
New coffee stand at airport stirs up heated dispute about having proper authorization to operate

Fans of Flying Squirrel Espresso praise location, hours; officials say FAA violations could be costly.

Nano Brooks and Emily Mesch file for candidacy on Friday at the City and Borough of Juneau Municipal Clerk’s office in City Hall. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
City and Borough of Juneau regular municipal election candidate filing period opens

So far, most vie for Assembly District 2 seat — mayor, Board of Education, and District 1 also open.

Killah Priest performs at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center in December 2019. (Photo courtesy of Lance Mitchell)
Killah Priest sets new record with Alaskan artists on ‘Killah Borealis’

Wu-Tang Clan rapper seeks to lift Alaskan voices and culture in his return performance to Juneau

Most Read