I had traveled to Haida Gwaii for a field school semester in early September 2013, but my real reason for being there was the Sitka black-tail hunting. It was mid-October and I had decided to attempt a solo summit of Mt. Moresby, the highest summit on the island. I brought my trusty Marlin 30-30 with me as I was accustomed to do anywhere I went on the island. I wanted to make the summit in less than 8 hours and therefore packed minimally: my rifle, rope, binoculars, a small waist pack with essentials. If I saw a deer the plan was to shoot it, hang it and collect it on the way back.
I did not anticipate getting lost on a never ending BC hydro service road. After about 8 km of hiking I became very frustrated with the endless trail (without perfectly marked “Mt. Moresby this way” sign) and with myself for thinking there would be a perfect trail-head sign. In the middle of a maniacal tirade to myself and the forest I spotted a small doe in the distance. I quickly shut up and assumed my favoured shooting position, cross legged on my butt, resting my elbows on my knees. It wasn’t more than 30 yards away. I sat there observing her, running through my head whether it was a good idea to kill her considering the distance I would have to hike back to my truck. It was a very small doe and would’ve made for an easy pack. I observed it for about 20 minutes unable to make up my mind. Finally I decided to take the shot, and in the same instant the deer scampered off. I cursed myself for being so undecided and slow witted. I thought to myself “next deer you see, take it, no excuses”.
I began walking up the trail, repeating this thought in my head when suddenly there was movement in my peripheral vision. I looked up and there was a big, beautiful 3 point buck not 50 feet from me; the biggest I’d seen on island. I didn’t think twice after having told myself no excuses. I brought my Marlin up and shot him in his vitals right behind the shoulder. He reeled, went down, then got up and ran ~20 feet. Because he was up hill from me I could observe all of this with clarity. It was traumatic and sad. I could hear the blood in his lungs and his laboured breathing. He went down and stayed down. It was the most profound moment of my life that I can remember. I felt immensely connected to this animal. I thanked him as I ran my hands through his thick fur. He was the most beautiful animal I had ever seen. He was strong, with a powerful build especially in his shoulders and neck. His rack was a deep browny-red colour from rubbing on red alder bark. His coat was thick and ready for winter.
I dressed him and started on the gruelling 8 km pack out; and it was gruelling. I chose to carry him over my shoulders as opposed to dragging him, I found this to be less frustrating and, though more energy intensive, considerably quicker. In my estimation he weighted ~110 lbs dressed and was very uncomfortable to carry. Moreover, I had brought only a few snacks and had less than 750 ml water left. I only put him down once, but had to stop many times to catch my breath and gain my wits. I was severely dehydrated by the time I got back to my truck. Four hours later, when I finally laid him in the truck I noticed I had no feeling in my left arm and I could not lift it above my shoulder. It was extremely painful. On the drive home I could not shift gears with it. I had a 45 minute drive and 20 minute ferry right ahead of me to get to Queen Charlotte city. I went to the hospital and was treated for dehydration (Gatorade!). During the hike, the constant pressure on my clavicle had cause a nerve pinch which explained the loss of feeling. This went away overnight.
As a relatively new hunter I try to keep an open mind, stay conscious of my newbie status and remain a big sponge. I learned many lessons from this experience that I will not forget including (but not limited to): Hunt with a buddy. Perform adequate pre-game research on the area you are hunting so as not to get lost. When in doubt, over pack food and water. Consider your situation and location before harvesting a large deer.