An awesome Sitka blacktail buck.

Story & Photos by Nigel Fox

Kodiak is by far my favorite of all the places I have hunted in Alaska, as well as being one of the most frustrating places to hunt. The Sitka black-tailed deer and mountain goat hunting is top-notch and if you are lucky enough to draw a Kodiak brown bear tag you could have an incredible hunt! But the weather on Kodiak Island can ruin things quickly because it changes so rapidly.

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Breaking down a Sitka blacktail to pack out.

Unpredictable Weather

There have been times that I have been stuck in the city of Kodiak for four days straight, wondering if I am going to get out to my destination to hunt. On the other side, I have been stuck in the field just as long wondering if I am going to make it back to the city of Kodiak. You must do your preparation before hunting on Kodiak Island, have a backup plan, and if you can, plan a month where the weather is less likely to impact you. That can be hard to do.

I have come to expect some sort of delay because I like to hunt the Sitka blacktail deer rut in late November. The weather is always terrible at that time of the year, so I always make sure to have some sort of backup plan. There has never been a time that I haven’t been delayed at least a day or two.

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Our camp on Frazer Lake.

I generally arrive at Kodiak a full day or two days before my flight out to my remote camp. That gives me time to shop for food and needed supplies for my hunt. That is not the only reason I come in early. Arriving early also gives me a chance to talk to the fly-out service and talk to the local sporting-goods shop. Talking with these people helps give me a general feel of what is going on.

Plan for Delays

If other fly-outs get canceled days prior, then most likely my flight is going to get delayed, too. So, if my flight is delayed for multiple days, I first figure out my lodging situation and then figure out other activities while being delayed. What I mean by that is I get on OnX Maps and research the road system for possible areas to hike in to hunt. You also can research the Kodiak road system prior to your arrival, which is what I generally do for the best results.

When to Hunt Kodiak

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Enjoying a fire at camp after a long day of hunting.

If you talk to the local pro shops or locals on Kodiak, you can get a general idea of areas to hunt if you are delayed. Generally, deer hunting is open August 1 through October 31 with no weapons restrictions; November 1 through November 14 by bow and arrow, crossbow or muzzleloader only, weapon-specific certification required; and November 16 through December 31 for youth hunters aged 10- to 17 by bow and arrow, crossbow or muzzleloader only, weapon-specific certification and hunter education required.

There is also a road-system Kodiak brown bear permit available in Kodiak from October 25- to November 30. Nonresident brown bear hunters must be accompanied by a guide. You could fly into Kodiak and strictly hunt the road system. If you just want to shoot one Sitka blacktail buck, it would be an easy hunt, for sure.

Stranded in the Field

After several days in the field, the lights of Kodiak City are a welcome sight.

If you are stuck in the field because of the weather, you can’t do much but hunt or wait around until you can get picked up. On my 2019 hunt in South Uyak Bay, I was stuck in the field two extra days, which paid off for me by allowing me to fill my brown bear permit that I drew for that unit. On top of my brown bear harvest, we added a deer or two to the tally during our wait.

On the other hand, I have been delayed and stuck in the tent because of extremely bad weather. The weather can vary from one side of the island to the other. You can have nice weather in the field when there is terrible weather in the city of Kodiak, or vice versa, either of which can delay your pickup or departure.

Make Backup Plans

I have never had the stars align perfectly for any of my Kodiak Island hunts. After hunting Kodiak a few times and being delayed, I figured out a few options to make my hunt the best it can be. If you time it right, you can possibly fish for salmon or Dolly Varden in the fall and hunt the road system at the same time. I am not trying to deter anyone from hunting Kodiak because it is one of the most amazing places to hunt in the state of Alaska, but being prepared to go on your trip will make it that much more successful and a little less stressful.

An amazing view of Frazer Lake on Kodiak.

Nigel Fox has been co-owner/guide at Alaska Drift Away Fishing for over two decades. He is a lifelong Alaskan and avid bowhunter of the Alaska backcountry. When he is not spending time guiding clients on the Kenai River, he is on another Alaska hunting adventure.

For more, check out the entire Hunt Alaska article archive.