It’s been a frustrating hunting season for the offer, but hunting is hard so maybe he shouldn’t be surprised. (Jeff Lund | For the Juneau Empire)

It’s been a frustrating hunting season for the offer, but hunting is hard so maybe he shouldn’t be surprised. (Jeff Lund | For the Juneau Empire)

Is it really surprising?

I’ve been pretty surprised with how surprised I’ve been lately.

First has been the early afternoon darkness after daylight saving time. Despite growing up in Klawock and this being my sixth winter since moving back to Alaska, it’s apparently still shocking that it gets dark early. The worst part is that daylight will give to darkness for another month so again, how is this so jarring?

I guess something can be said for the elimination of useful hours for outdoor recreation, which is why we live in Alaska. You can spend daylight hours inside on a couch anywhere. So maybe it’s not so much the fact that it’s getting darker but that the season of recreation is changing. We’re entering the Weekend Warrior season which will last until spring which is so many feet of precipitation from now.

Gone are the opportunities to set some pots, fly fish the creeks, or go for a run in the morning sun before work. Gone also are the long afternoons and lazy evenings that allow just enough time for a circuit in the muskegs or beaches for a buck.

This then leads to the second of my surprises – the intensity of my weekend despair.

Friday night at book club my buddy motioned me to the kitchen to share a picture of a huge buck taken on the Ketchikan road system. He didn’t tell me where, and I didn’t ask because the big buck that used to live there is now dead.

This morning a student of mine showed me a picture of a 3×4 buck he called into a tiny muskeg. Ten minutes before that a different student showed me a buck of a lifetime – thick forks that forked again to form one of the heaviest set of antlers I have seen.

I saw rubs, fresh pellets, warm beds and exactly one doe during my two days in the woods over the weekend. I spent every ounce of daylight lurking in the forest and around muskegs for a replacement for store-bought meat and found none. I’ve hunted every weekend but one since I took my first buck of the year – in August.

The surprise comes not from the need to visit the meat department at the grocery store, but that I really thought I could throw enough hours at it and be rewarded. That the universe would respect my diligence and make a buck cross my path, or a buck itself would give up its life so I wouldn’t have to write the “a bad day hunting is better than a good day working” column.

Nonsense. I’m not owed anything. So, the surprising thing is how I allowed myself to get frustrated not only knowing intellectually that the variables in hunting make it quite possible to not be successful, but having experienced it last spring with searching for grouse with my .22, every season with steelhead, and last year with bucks.

There is a very real possibility that in spite of everyone saying, “You’ll get one” that I won’t. If my hours were at-bats, I’d have the batting average of a little leaguer leading off for the Yankees. It’s surprising that I’d waste time worrying about things like that.

I can’t wait to get out again this weekend, not because I am going to prove myself to anyone, or that I am due, or anything like that, but because I really do love being out there.

After all, missing a deer is better than missing the point.

• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.

More in News

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Aurora forecast for the week of Feb. 19

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, addresses a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Wednesday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sullivan touts new ocean cleanup headquarters in Juneau, attacks Biden in annual speech to legislators

Senator calls Trump “the best president ever” for Alaska, has harsh words for Iran and migrants

The Norwegian Bliss arrives in Juneau on April 17, 2023, the first cruise ship of the 2023 season. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Free public downtown Wi-Fi, park upgrades, more buses among proposals for marine passenger fees

Public comments being accepted until March 25 for more than $19 million in recommended projects.

Andy Mills (left), legislative liaison for the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, and Commissioner Ryan Anderson testify before the Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday about an executive order that would give the governor full control of the Alaska Marine Highway System’s operations board. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Governor says he wants control of ferry board so it’s not ‘at odds’ with him; senators express skepticism

Resolution to reject Dunleavy’s executive order among many being considered by legislators.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Monday, Feb. 19, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Paul Peterson, author of the Harvard study on national charter school performance. (KTOO 360TV screenshot)
Alaska lawmakers grapple with test-score performance gap between charters and other public schools

Charter study does not show how their testing success can be replicated in regular public schools.

An underwater image captured in 2016 shows sockeye salmon swimming up the Brooks River in Alaska’s Katmai National Park to spawn. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is buying about 50 million pounds of Alaska fish — pollock, pink salmon and sockeye salmon — to use in its food and nutrition-assistance programs. (Photo provided by the National Park Service)
Agriculture Department commits to big purchase of Alaska salmon and pollock for food programs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will purchase about 50 million pounds of… Continue reading

Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé students hold up signs during a rally along Egan Drive on Tuesday afternoon protesting a proposal to consolidate all local students in grades 10-12 at Thunder Mountain High School to help deal with the Juneau School District’s financial crisis. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
JDHS students, teachers rally to keep grades 9-12 at downtown school if consolidation occurs

District’s proposed move to TMHS would result in loss of vocational facilities, ninth-grade students.

Deven Mitchell, executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., gives a tour of the corporation’s investment floor to Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, and other attendees of an open house on Friday. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. leaders approve proposal to borrow up to $4 billion for investments

Plan must be OK’d by legislators and Gov. Mike Dunleavy because it requires changes to state law.

Most Read