Outdoors... Great Alaska Shootout, Karluk River Style...

Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2001

I begin with Day six of our fourteen-day Karluk River hunting trip on Kodiak Island. We spent the first part of the day finishing skinning my bear and getting the hide and skull back to camp. The heavy snow, wind, and darkness chased us back to camp before we were done the night before. Bringing our saws with us the next morning, we were able to cut out the brush surrounding the bear making our job much easier.

At 2:00 p.m. we decided that we would go walk to the area near Larson Bay where Steve still had the rest of his deer tied 25 feet up a tree. Little did we know at the time our little hike would turn into a 10-mile jaunt! Upon reaching Larson Bay, getting the deer down and put in our backpack, I suggested we walk over to Larson Bay! "It can't be that far" I thought, "and maybe we can rent a room there." Steve agreed and off we were hiking along the shore of Larson Bay. Mile after mile went by and the village of Larson Bay didn't seem to be getting any closer. We met a couple of native guys on four wheelers heading to the portage area where we were camping to do some hunting with their two boys. The bear I shot was the one that they had been watching and going after!

The lights of Larson Bay were finally getting closer and we spotted vehicle lights on the hill above. With the tide coming in, Steve suggested we head toward the spot where we saw the vehicle in hopes of finding a road. I was too tired to argue and had two blisters already, so I simply followed. I asked Steve, "What happens if you're too tired to go any further?" His answer was simple and to the point. "Then you lay down and die!" With options like that I had no choice but to keep following him to Larson Bay! Going to Larson Bay was fine but the torrid pace Steve set carrying the pack of meat was unbelievable! The next time I follow him to Larson Bay from the Karluk River Portage I will have a jet propelled wheelchair!

We finally reached the road after stumbling through the brush in the dark with only one flashlight. After walking on the road for about a mile and a half we see a sign facing the direction we just came from. "Warning: Bear Area- No Pedestrians Allowed- Violators will be prosecuted!" We were walking on the world famous Larson Bay dump road with a pack of meat!

We walked on not yet fully aware just how lucky we had been. We arrive at the village and I see one house that was pretty well lit up. I go to the door and knock and was greeted by Brenda Aga. I asked her where I could rent a room. She invited me in and an elderly man by the name of Charles Aga asked where we walked in from. I told him we arrived from the Portage on the Karluk River. He replied, "I did that once when I was a young manthat is a long hike, boys." He then instructed his wife and daughter to feed us as he said these guys are probably hungry. We were each given a plate of tuna fish casserole, bread, butter, coffee and water. They also called their son Brad Aga who owns Uyak Bay Lodge and he came to pick us up. As we were leaving, Steve said, " I believe that was the best tuna fish casserole I ever ate!" I had to agree!

We spent the night at the lodge where I was able to call my wife and tell her we had three deer and a bear so far. Brad Aga runs a beautiful lodge and had many stories to share with the two hunters who just happened to wander into town. That night we were able to shower, wash our clothes and get a good nights sleep. The next morning we were fed breakfast and gave a tour of Larson Bay by one of the local gals who works for Brad. Brad had some of his employees take us back to the end of Larson Bay with a skiff- greatly shortening our walk. It was a trip to Larson Bay we will never forget!

Day 7, Sunday November 11th: We stayed around camp visiting the two native guys from Larson Bay. They were very pleasant people to be around and we had many, many stories to share about deer hunting.

Day 8, Monday, November 12th: We spent the day fleshing Steve's deer cape, my deer hide and bear hide in camp. We got the hides all salted and put back in the game bags.

Day 9, Tuesday, November 13th: We left camp and headed down the river in a raft that was full of holes! It was quite a trip as we saw several sows with three cubs feeding in the river on spawned out salmon. I'm not positive if it was the same sow or two different ones. Our raft was leaking so bad it was difficult to get through the low water areas of the river. We finally set up camp for the night, but then Steve spots a lone bear feeding in the river several yards down stream! The stalk is on as the bear and Steve are taking turns trading places on the river. They each cross the river several times and finally the bear winded Steve and turns to run away. Then apparently, the bear mistakenly thought Steve was a tourist and stopped and stood up to let the tourist take his picture like all the other tourists had done all summer long. By the time that he saw that Steve had a 375 H&H it was to late as Ol' Dead-Eye Dambacher gunned him down with two quick shots from the big gun. When I caught up to Steve standing over his bear. I instantly burst his bubble by telling him I saw a cub sleeping on the riverbank where he had first spotted the bear! His mouth dropped open so I drove the truck in I told him he was in big trouble now for killing a sow, but I finally burst out laughing at how he went form being happy to totally dejected. He then examined his bear and after seeing that it really was a boar and told me I was rotten for scaring him like that. Darkness was on us as we left the bear to finish setting up camp while trying to stay warm on a very cold evening. I got water over the tops of both boots and froze both of my feet. Little did I know I was going to have circulation problems with them for the next three weeks!

Day 10, Wednesday, November 14th: We finished skinning the bear and glassed for deer. We only saw one doe across the river from camp and a lone buck on a distant hillside.

Day 11, Thursday, November 15th: we again head down river where we get into some more deer hunting. I watched Steve make some fantastic long range shots and shoot some nice deer. My feet were so clod they were numb and sore at the same time! We camped out on the river and despite putting both feet on a hot water bottle they never got warm all night!

Day 12, Friday, November 16th: We break camp and once again head down river which meant more deer and yes, you guessed it, more long range shooting by Steve. This guy is becoming a killing machine and we can be thankful we had a few proxy tags.

Day 13, Saturday, November 17th: We finally reach the Karluk lagoon, only to discover the river is frozen! We decide that the only way we can make it through the ice jam is if we repair our raft. We drag it into the cabin which is located there and with our lanterns and cook stoves we were able to get it thawed out and warm enough to repair. That night we got 60 mph winds and thank God we were in the cabin! During the night the wind blew the ice back out of the river and we were able to get through.

Day 14, Sunday, November 18th: We leave the cabin and head into Karluk where a native deer hunter by the name of Ron Lind comes out of the village with his boat. Due to bad weather we spend the night at Ron's lodge. Another beautiful lodge in the wilderness of Alaska. The native people here treated us like gold. We fly out the following day with Seahawk Air, and Rolland told us we were his most successful hunters by far this year. But you can expect that when you give Steve Dambacher a gun and lots of bullets See you next week!

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