Sound Deer Hunt
Oct 7-10, 2000
|Brad Somers and I (Neil Moomey) decided to go on
our first Alaskan Deer Hunt with my new boat. The forecast was for
12 ft seas and had been all week but so far the seas had only been 1-2
feet. Brad and I decided the forecast was way off and we would
give it a try. In retrospect, it was a bad call. Saturday we
launched our boat at Whittier, Alaska. We had a heavy load but the
boat handled well and planed easily. A West tail wind with 1-2 ft
waves gave us a decent ride. Our ultimate destination
was Green Island 70 miles from Whittier. My Honda 50hp gets great
mileage so we only carried 30 gallons of gas. We made one stop at
Perry Island for a break. Brad saw a doe but there wasn't much
deer sign so we would continue on. Our spirits were high.
When we got to Knight Island the wind was picking up. We decided
to look for deer sign. The deer trails indicated a population
worth hunting so we found a nice cove and set up camp Green Island
would be too risky for the weather we were having. That afternoon
the wind shifted direction and we encountered gale winds of 50 knots or
so. My old anchor rope broke and we tied on my reserve
anchor. The anchor would not hold in the gale and the boat was
bashing against the rocks. Brad and I rowed the boat out further
and added more chain and rope. We did this 4 times with little
luck. The wind blew so hard I we could barely make headway
rowing. Exhausted and stressed we went to bed. I could hear
my boat in the storm and it made it difficult to sleep.
Sunday was a beautiful day. The wind calmed down and the sun came out. We grabbed our guns and went our separate ways looking for deer. At 10:30 I spotted a nice doe only 15 yards away in the brush looking at me. I slowly raised my 12 gage and fired the 000 buckshot. She died instantly. I de-boned the meat and packed it to camp in one trip. Brad saw one deer but no shots. That evening I went out again and saw one small deer in the distance but could not get close.
Monday we decided to head back home. The winds had picked up but were not too bad on this side of the island. The boat had survived the storm with only a few scratches and small dents. I will use a larger anchor next time. We packed up and circled around the North end of Knight Island. We immediately encountered large swells and waves 3-6 feet. After much discussion we decided to take it slow and see what happens. The boat handled the waves well but the spray was slowly filling the boat. When we got half way across I noticed my feet was in 4 inches of water and the stern of the boat was in 10-12 inches of water. The battery had become submerged. I was very concerned as I did not know if this would stall the motor or not. I slowed the boat and we got out a 5 gal bucket. Brad bailed most of the water and we continued on. The waves now changed direction a little and some spray was hitting the motor. If I used too much gas the motor would sputter. This concerned me a great deal so I was forced to slow down a bit. We stopped at Lone Island and waited 4 fours for the weather to slow down. We had missed the last tunnel from Whittier for the day and we knew we would be late for work. By the time we got to Perry Island it was getting dark and the seas were still rough. We pulled in a protected cove and set up our tent in the dark under a nearly full moon. The moon really helped us to see. We spotted a passing boat and told them of our condition and asked if they would call Brad's wife. The line was busy and they promised to call later but never did.
Tuesday we woke to even stronger winds. To top it off it was now raining sideways. Brad and I decided to hunt for deer. After two frustrating hours we returned to our tarp and propane heater. There was nothing to do but wait. I got out the stove and cooked some venison back-straps. They were delicious. We tried to call passing ships but none were in sight. My 3ft antenna could not reach Whittier or the Coast Guard. We were stuck on a deserted island, alone in Prince William Sound.
Meanwhile, back in Anchorage, my friends were getting worried. They were hearing tales of 100 knot winds at Green Island and 40 ft ships not being able to hold anchor. My friend Cathy decided to call the US Coast Guard. The Coast Guard Valdez broadcast an alert and sent a J-Hawk helicopter to look for us. At 3:00 p.m. the wind died down to 15-20 knots and 2-3 ft seas. We decided to go for it. After leaving the cove I heard a message:
ATTENTION ALL VESSELS. THIS IS THE COAST GUARD VALDEZ WITH AN URGENT MESSAGE. BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR THE VESSEL "INNER TUBE" OVERDUE FROM WHITTIER. THE INNER TUBE IS A 16 FT ORANGE INFLATABLE WITH TWO PASSENGERS. etc.
I grabbed the mike and replied. COAST GUARD VALDEZ, THIS IS THE INNER TUBE, OVER.
There was no reply. My radio could not reach them. I called for any vessel with no response. An hour later I heard it again. This time they could hear me.
CG: INNER TUBE, ARE YOU IN EMINENT DANGER? OVER
ME: NEGATIVE, WE WERE JUST WAITING OUT THE WEATHER ON PERRY ISLAND. WE ARE IN PORT WELLS, HEADED FOR WHITTIER, OVER.
CG: VERY WELL, WOULD YOU LIKE US TO STAND DOWN OUR HELICOPTER? OVER.
ME: YES, PLEASE DO. WE NEED NO ASSISTANCE, THANK YOU. INNER TUBE OUT, STANDBY 16.
We got to Whittier just in time for the last tunnel of the day at 6:30. When we got to Girdwood I called the Coast Guard to let them know we had made it.
The next day we were hearing it on the radio and TV. The lag in news was announcing the CG was still looking for us. That night I heard my name on the 6 p.m. Channel 2 news. My friends picked on my for a week. I learned a few lessons on this trip. Get a bigger anchor and new rope, install a bilge pump, tell your friends not call the coast guard so early, and heed Gale warnings. All in all it was a great trip and we had a lot of fun.
Here we are stuck on Perry Island. Brad is in the boat trying to listen to the weather report and looking for ships passing by. The photo doesn't show it well but it was blowing and raining pretty hard.