Written by: Caden St. James
My Dad has always had a passion for hunting and is a very skilled hunter. He has also accomplished a lot of hunting goals. However, there was one achievement he wanted very badly: the Super Slam. The Super Slam is taking all 29 native Big Game species in North America. Going into the fall of 2022, my Dad only had one species left to achieve his Super Slam. He would pursue that final species, but there was a twist; he didn’t want to finish his quest for the Super Slam alone. My dad surprised our entire family when he told us we would be joining him in Alaska to hunt Sitka Black Tail Deer.
My family consists of four people. My Mom lights up the room and has a strong faith in God. My Dad is also strong in God and has taught my brother and I everything we know about hunting. My brother, named Pierson, is a freshman and has a passion for fishing. My name is Caden and I’m in 7th grade and have a passion for hunting and sports. I was excited when my Dad told me we were going on the hunt, but also nervous. I didn’t know much about Alaska since I had never been there, but all I knew was that it was dangerous. I had heard lots of stories about how often brown bear attacks happen. I also knew this opportunity would be very fun though as I’m kind of a wild kid and like adventure. I also couldn’t wait to see a close friend, named Papa Duke, who would be flying separately. Papa Duke has always been like family to me and he tells the best stories and is very wise. We would be staying on a boat in the ocean near shore for the hunt, which would be a first for me, and I was nervous because my Mom tends to get seasick. My Dad told us all the stuff we needed to pack in case it got really hot or really cold or rained a bunch, which took me hours to get all my clothes ready. We arrived at the airport in the morning and boarded the plane. We were now on our way to Alaska!
After about 5 hours or so, we were about to land in Juneau Alaska. We eventually made it through the clouds where I could now see the type of land we would be hunting for 9 days. I could see that the land was very lush and green with many ponds and lakes. When we landed we went straight to the hotel where we met Papa Duke. As I looked around, the mountains looked thick with brush and were really wet. I knew this could be a hard hunt because we couldn’t see very far. We got dinner at the hotel then went to bed, for the hunt would come the next day.
In the morning we went to an airport to get in a water plane. Inside the airport, there was a massive deer mount that I saw ensuring that we were hunting in the right area. All five of us got on the plane which was a tight squeeze. The flight was about a half an hour to the island we were going to hunt. When we landed, we got in a boat with Captain Justin, who motored us to the large boat anchored just offshore where we were going to stay for the majority of the trip. Captain Justin was a very skilled hunter and guide. As soon as we got to the boat there were fresh honey buns awaiting us thanks to our chef, TFox. We all got settled in our rooms and unpacked. Lucky for my Mom, the boat didn’t rock much so she wasn’t getting sick. We then met two additional guides; Mr. Jackson, who was really nice, and Mr. Lucas who was very funny. The plan for the next day was for my Dad, Mr. Lucas, and myself to hunt one spot, while Pierson, Papa Duke, and Captain Justin hunted another spot. My Mom would stay back with Mr. Jackson and TFox since she didn’t have a tag.
Early the next morning after a quick breakfast my Dad, Mr. Lucas, and I all hopped in a smaller boat that had been tied to the main boat, and drove towards our spot. After about only 2 hours of glassing we spotted a really nice deer! I was surprised we saw one that fast. Although it was my Dad’s hunt, he let me hunt first and try to shoot this deer. We parked the boat out of sight so we didn’t spook the buck. My Dad and Mr. Lucas were in the front and we walked in a single file line so the deer wouldn’t see us as easily. Once we got closer to the deer, they signaled me up to the front of the line, which meant it was time to take the shot. We set up on a big rock with barnacles all over it. I looked through the scope and laid the crosshairs on him. I waited for him to turn broadside, and when he did, I slowly squeezed the trigger. BOOM! At first, I didn’t know if I had hit him, but then my Dad and Mr. Lucas started cheering! I had made a perfect shot that dropped the deer straight away! When we got up to the buck, he was way bigger than he looked through the scope. His hair was soft with a dark brown color and the antlers had a red color to them that made the animal special to me. We took some pictures, broke down the deer, and then headed back to the main boat. I was hoping that the other guys came back with something but they came back empty-handed. We were all starving so we all ate dinner until we were full and got some sleep.
In the morning we set out with the same groups and tried the same strategies. My Dad was hunting this time, and he would attempt to complete his Super Slam. We glassed for a lot longer this time before we saw any deer. My Dad spotted a massive buck on the shoreline. We parked the boat out of sight from the deer and slowly walked towards it. We stalked in slowly and saw a smaller deer. But then the bigger deer we originally spotted came out of nowhere. My Dad set the gun up to his liking making sure that his shot would be secure. He focused on his aiming point and slowly pulled the trigger. The gun went off and I quickly looked as fast as I could to see what happened. The massive buck had been shot! We advanced to the deer in excitement. As we got up to the buck, it was bigger than we ever thought! The frame of the antlers was huge for a Black Tail. I had a great feeling knowing I got to experience one of the most meaningful and memorable moments with my Dad.
By the time we got back to camp, it was about midday, which meant my Dad could still archery hunt. We headed back to the hunting spot but this time with Mr. Jackson. After we got to the spot, we started boating along the shore, glassing the area again. After about 2 hours of glassing my Dad spotted a buck. Mr. Jackson dropped us off onshore, and then stayed in the boat within sight, but watching from a distance. We had to walk through a mossy area which was nice because the moss isn’t very loud. Once we cleared the moss it was time to start hiking along the side of a rocky slope. We got to a point where we could peek our heads up and look for the deer. At first, we couldn’t spot him, but we finally saw his antlers sticking out of the grass. My Dad went on ahead alone to get closer for a better shot. After waiting 30-40 minutes, the deer finally got up and started walking away. Right before he went into the trees he turned broadside and stopped, and my Dad took the shot. My Dad had hit him good! The buck ran out of my sight. I looked back and saw Mr. Lucas celebrating behind me, excited for my dad. But something was off, I couldn’t hear my Dad at all celebrating in front of me. As I turned back towards my Dad I saw that the deer was still in the open. My Dad took his time and slowly pulled the trigger on his release. My Dad hit him again, and we watched the deer run into the trees. We tracked the blood trail until we couldn’t see blood anymore. After looking for a bit we finally spotted him in the wet mossy landscape, and he appeared to be dead. We were all pumped walking up to it and I grabbed his antler. I felt him move! The deer got up and charged me and he was about foot away from pinning me to a tree with his antlers! He missed and then came back at me again but collapsed. I was really jacked up after that and pretty nervous. We settled down and took some pictures. After gutting the deer we headed back to the boat. When we got back we exchanged stories with the other group and heard that they didn’t get as lucky and didn’t see anything. We were all super hungry so we ate well and then got some rest for the next day.
Since my Dad and I were tagged out we focused on helping Pierson and Papa Duke kill a deer. The groups this time were Papa Duke and Captain Justin, and the other group was Pierson, my Dad, and Mr. Lucas. But I felt bad for my Mom being on the boat, so I stayed back with her as well as Mr. Jackson, and TFox. We talked about life for hours and we got to hear some interesting stories about TFox’s chef life. We did some puzzles as we watched the weather getting worse. The crews came back when the weather got bad, and had only seen Brown Bears moving on the shoreline. The only thing that we could do now was pray for the weather to get better. When I woke up on the fourth day it was pouring and I had slept in. My mom, Mr. Jackson, and I went out on a small boat to go spot the bears that were seen the evening before. We looked around for about 10 minutes before we spotted them at the same spot where they were the day before. There was a mother bear with her two cubs on the shore flipping rocks looking for something to eat. On the way back to the boat, Mr.Jackson told us about crabbing, and we could do that later if we wanted to. When we got back to the camp we did some more puzzles and hung out. The crews came back a few hours later. The weather was still pretty bad and no deer were being spotted. I helped cook dinner that night, which was mashed potatoes and fried chicken, which was very delicious. Then we all went to bed.
In the morning, I was ready to crab! As the crews left to hunt, Mr. Jackson and I went to set two crab traps. We set pots in the water with bait, which were old fish carcasses. Papa Duke came back in the early afternoon and said that he passed up on a small buck because he wanted it to mature more. Pierson came back empty-handed as well. But they had a pretty cool interaction with a brown bear that growled at them. Since there was still time left in the day, my Dad, my Mom, and Captain Justin went whale watching and saw Whales, Orcas, and Sea Lions.
For dinner we had lamb which was amazing, and with that we all called it a night and got some rest. In the early morning, the hunting crews set off once again. After breakfast, Mr. Jackson and I went to pull the crab pots. We pulled the first trap up and caught about 10 crabs, which was good, but not enough for all of us to feast on. But when we pulled up the second pot, there were at least 25 or more crabs! But the coolest part was that there were about 20 starfish in the pots. Mr. Jackson and TFox showed me how to properly clean a crab, we let the legs soak in the ocean until we would cook them that night. The afternoon passed and when Pierson came back he said he hadn’t gotten anything. But when Papa Duke came back he had shot a buck! The buck wasn’t big but it wasn’t small either. After eating all the crab that we wanted, we all went to bed for the last time on the boat.
The eighth day was the last day of hunting, and Pierson had to make something happen. Pierson, my Dad, and Mr. Lucas went out one more time to shoot a Black Tail. After hiking through rain, sleet, and snow for the whole day, hope was running out and there were only 30 minutes left until dark. But then all of a sudden, a deer walks out! Pierson pulled the trigger and put down the deer. He said it all kinda happened fast! They made it back to camp and we were all tagged out. We took pictures and celebrated the ending of an amazing trip, and my Dad’s achievement of completing his Super Slam. We ate dinner and hung out a while, not wanting the trip to be over. We eventually went to bed and were picked up that morning in another water boat that took us back to the airport. We stayed one more night before leaving the next morning for home. What an amazing trip!