Sun is better than rain, but the author and his wife know both can make hunting difficult. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

Sun is better than rain, but the author and his wife know both can make hunting difficult. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: The heat of the moment

The tent was unzipped only enough for my feet to be outside. I was exhausted and needed a respite from the mosquitos that were able to attack unencumbered in the windless alpine.

Moments later Abby was next to me in a similar posture, ears, eyes and nostrils insect-free.

It was only mid-morning, but the realization that the hunt was over had settled in. With the heat, size of the moon, lack of fog or clouds and tight time window, the odds were not good that we’d be able to tag a mountain goat or a deer, but we tried anyway.

We left the boat launch and six hours later were on the edge of the alpine, roasting under the late afternoon heat. We glassed the snow patches and saw nothing. There was one doe bedded defiantly in the sun, but the mountain was otherwise brutally majestic in its stillness.

Not wanting to spread our scent all over the mountain, we stayed on the lower tier and glassed, hoping to make a move in the waning moments of the daylight, but thinking the following morning would be our chance.

Fifteen minutes before sunset a mountain goat fed over the ridge on the opposite side of the mountain. It was remarkably similar to what happened on my wife’s successful mountain goat hunt a few weeks ago. A goat fed over the ridge directly across the basin. We moved quickly around the ridge, crested the peak, lost sight of the goat, but found a good buck bedded behind a rock. Abby told me to take the buck, so I was holding, waiting for it to stand when the mountain goat appeared to our left.

The deal was, if we saw a buck first, it was mine, goat, hers. Now there were both, and I kept the rifle only because she was afraid in the commotion of giving her the rifle, we’d lose both. The buck didn’t move as the goat fed closer, seemingly unconcerned with the humans bedded just 75 yards away.

As I turned to watch the goat continue its way toward us, the buck bolted and I didn’t bother taking a shot at the running deer.

The goat looked up as I handed the rifle to Abby, but still didn’t seem to mind. We finished processing the goat in the last minutes of daylight, had dinner then started hiking back to camp.

I was hoping for a repeat of something similar, but this mountain was a little more rugged, the distance between us and the goat a little further and the sun a little closer to setting. We had no move.

So we waited for a buck on our side of the mountain while the mosquitos feasted. We stayed until dark, but no deer left the protection of the cool timber and under the bright moon, we made it back to camp. We knew that unless clouds or fog rolled in the bright moon would allow an all-night feast and deer would be returning to cover just as the sun rose.

I unzipped the tent at 4:30, a full hour before sunrise and saw an ever-growing glow trace the ridge. We crept to our glassing spot and searched while the mosquitos hunted.

An hour passed. Nothing. In the goat’s place was a large black bear vacuuming berries. We hiked half a mile up the ridge without seeing, or spooking, anything. After another hour we retreated to the tent and called it.

Time and weather dictate all outdoor activities in Southeast Alaska, and that understanding helps temper disappointment.

There will be other opportunities.

• 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 “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

More in Sports

Food has so much more value if you get it yourself and few things taste better than fresh game meat. (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Freezer full of fun

My wife added a little sugar, but not so much that the… Continue reading

A Ketchikan High School volleyball player, at left, unsuccessfully tries to hit the ball over the net, giving Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé the decisive winning point in a game Saturday during the Southeast Super Slamma Jamma Volleyball Tournament in Sitka. JDHS, after winning the opening game of the lower-ranking Coho Division in Saturday’s tournament, lost the division championship game to Homer High School in straight sets. (Screenshot from Mount Edgecumbe High School video of tournament)
JDHS, TMHS both claim victories of sorts at Sitka tournament

For previously winless Crimson Bears, advancing to a title game marks a step forward.

Juneau’s Anthony Garcia (22) carries the ball deep into West Anchorage High School territory to set up the Huskies’ first touchdown early in the third quarter during Saturday’s game in Anchorage. (Screenshot from Juneau Huskies football livestream video)
Depleted Huskies lose at West Anchorage 59-21

JV players make up one-third of Juneau’s squad during matchup against top team in conference.

Juneau’s two high school volleyball teams, Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé, face off last Saturday at TMHS as they go through polar opposite seasons this year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau’s volleyball teams going in opposite directions entering tournament play

TMHS is undefeated, JDHS winless as teams begin three-day Sitka competition.

Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé junior Ida Meyer, right, wins the Sitka Invitational by a fraction of a second in front of Sitka junior Clare Mullin on Saturday. (James Poulson / Sitka Sentinel)
JDHS girls, boys crush Sitka course

Largest field in Southeast history sees Crimson Bears on top

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire
Athletes compete in a swim event Saturday afternoon at the Dimond Park Aquatic Center.
Records broken at weekend high school swim meet in Juneau

JDHS and TMHS coaches share optimism as season progresses.

Zack Bursell, left, stands with father John, right, after winning the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks, Saturday, Sept. 16. (Photo courtesy Jamie Bursell)
Juneau’s Zack Bursell wins Equinox Marathon

Local runner finishes more than seven minutes ahead of runner-up at Fairbanks race

Tom Thompson and Klas Stolpe at the start of the 44-mile solo ultra during the 40th Annual Klondike Road Relay, Saturday, Sept. 9. Stolpe was running as team No One Fights Alone in support of his brother James who is fighting cancer. (Photo by Tom Thompson)
No one fights alone on the Klondike Road Relay

A victorious 44-mile solo quest among 1,800 participants at 40th annual Skagway-to-Whitehorse race

Colony High School running back Bryce Guzman (5) looks for room to run in a downpour during Friday night’s game against the Juneau Huskies at Adair-Kennedy Field. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Huskies lose 19-6 defensive struggle to Colony in title game rematch

Juneau takes early lead at home, but Colony rallies during occasionally heavy rain Friday night.

Runners ascend the old ski hill on the campus of the University of Alaska Fairbanks at the start of the 2015 Equinox Marathon. (Photo by Ned Rozell)
Alaska Science Forum: Running over the same old ground

Oh my, it’s that time again. The Equinox Marathon starts with a… Continue reading

What do telemarketers do during the weekend? (Photo by Jeff Lund)
I Went to the Woods: Do telemarketers hunt for something besides human prey?

It’s Sam calling… As I discussed the critical moment at which the… Continue reading

Thunder Mountain High School players and spectators celebrate as the Falcons score the winning point to prevail in a five-set series over Ketchikan High School on Saturday night. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
A drama-filled weekend as Juneau’s volleyball teams continue contrasting seasons

TMHS prevails in toughest game yet to stay undefeated; JDHS puts up fight seeking first win.