Alaska Sitka Blacktail Hunt Review – Roughing it, Alaskan Style

by Tony Arpaia

Once again I found myself in Alaska hunting Alaska Sitka Blacktail deer with an option of black bear and sea ducks available as desert.

I have hunted with this outfitter in the past and after meeting him again at the Lehigh Valley Chapter annual fundraiser in 2010 we talked about putting an Alaska Sitka blacktail hunt together, which would be less physically demanding than our successful Mountain Goat hunt the year before. Plans were made, the deal was set and dreams forecasted as a fulfilled trip lay in store for Fall season to come.

Tony Arpaia hunting blacktails in Alaska

Tony Arpaia


Once again, Alaska doesn’t disappoint. Hunting familiar lands with an experienced outfitter, seeing game daily and returning after the hunt to lavish accommodations and to great food. Oh, the rigors of hunting keep me smiling.

September came fast and before I knew it I was headed for Valdez, Alaska to seek out this diminutive species of deer that inhabit the coastal islands of the sound. Otto mentioned that he would secure the reservation of a larger vessel to base our hunts from but never in my wildest dreams would I expect the vessel that I was to see.

Combing the sandy beaches of surrounding island chains in search of Sitka black tail deer and black bear makes memories of all the past rough hunting trips forgettable. Even the tow boats that we used for the landing crafts were spacious and comfortable. Luxury accommodations and relaxing sightseeing were on the menu for this trip. We lavished ourselves in comfort aboard the 60+ foot yacht and took the aluminum skiffs daily ashore looking for game in full view of mountainous glaciers and tributary streams so full of spawning salmon that walking on top of them was possible without wetting your feet.

While canvassing the area looking for game we spotted a few commercial fishing vessels that were out shrimping. Pulling alongside to engage in brief conversation supplied us with enough fresh shrimp for dinner that anyone can ever wish for. The food was so good on this trip that only a greasy fast food hamburger would bring us back to reality.

Alaska Sitka Blacktail Hunt
Coming around a large island we glassed the shore and spotted a nice buck in the distance. Plans were made and a stalk began to close the distance. As luck would have it the buck vanished into the brush but after a careful search of the surrounding wooded hillside he materialized once again. It didn’t take long to put this dish to rest. We were now ready for our next course.

Two black bear hunters in the group were also tagged out within days of the hunt with well furred bears. Scouring the drainage streams brought bears in view within minutes of each other. Sometimes there were four to five bears out at once feeding on the fish. Watching them seems so surreal. In the past I’ve only seen this much action on the discovery channel. I passed on all the black bear only because I have several to my credit and was extremely particular on what I was looking for. Easily we spotted dozens of bear daily. Most of them were within bow distance.

Alaska Sitka Blacktail

Tony and his guide after a successful Alaska Sitka Blacktail deer hunt


Midday found us back at the yacht having lunch and readying our shotguns for the vast species of sea ducks that inhabit the waterways. Everything from Golden Eyes to Harlequins were found daily. Sea duck hunting was a blast. Try as we did for these speedsters, most shots hit the water several feet behind them. But when the shot was in the air, hope was in the heart. Laughter was addicting, our sides hurt by end of day. Smiles were had by all on this trip. By the end of a long day, relaxing aboard the yacht with a Sundowner in hand was customary to the day’s events.

Once again, Alaska doesn’t disappoint. Hunting familiar lands with an experienced outfitter, seeing game daily and returning after the hunt to lavish accommodations and to great food. Oh, the rigors of hunting keep me smiling.

Tony Arpaia
Life Member APHA, EFNAWS, SCI, NAHC

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