Prince of Wales (POW) Island in Southeast Alaska is home to many Sitka black-tail deer which are a critical source of food for families on the island. August 1st marks the official beginning of the deer hunting season on Prince of Wales Island; residents, however, get to start their seasons a week early to begin filling their freezers. POW Island is 2230 square miles and is sparsely populated, which means there are a plethora of places to go hunting, much of which is located within the Tongass National Forest. The best of which are in the alpine far away from civilization, and not for the faint of heart.
With over 1500 miles of roads criss-crossing the island and going deep into the forest, the free-spirited adventurer armed with a GPS (and a gun for safety/hunting) is sure to find amazing places to hike and hunt. If you're new to the area, or a current resident looking for new places to explore, pick up a map of Prince of Wales Island at the POW Chamber of Commerce in Klawock, AK and copy of the "Prince of Wales Alpine Hiking Guide" online or at the Strictly Local Gallery in Craig, AK.
Joey Slowik, island resident and co-founder of the POW Mountain Club, after years of exploring the island with his wife and friends, published the Hiking Guide to help people find and navigate alpine hikes and climbs across the island. The guide offers information on necessary gear, preparing responsibly for outdoor excursions, how to access areas, and how to summit the various peaks. The seven alpine areas of the island covered in the guide are: Staney Creek, The Klawocks, Harris Peak, Polk Inlet, Coffman Cove, Thorne Bay, and the North Island.
The best time of the year to hunt in the alpine is September as the temperatures are still mild and the open terrain provides access to tremendous amounts of food. This is also before the rut begins (usually in October) which is the prime time to harvest deer. Don't forget to read all the hunting regulations, buy a hunting license and get your deer tags before you head out... you can find all the information you need here.
Hunting and hiking in the alpine on Prince of Wales Island is always sure to be an adventure. Whether you're heading our on your own, with friends, or hiring a guide, it's best to be overly prepared. Research the area thoroughly, buy maps and guides, talk to locals, and pack smart. Given the remote nature of our island, emergency rescues take time and are a challenge, so make sure you have what you need to remain safe on your adventures.
Residents of, and visitors to, the island love to share stories and pictures of their hunting and hiking adventures. If you have been to the alpine recently and would like to share yours, please consider emailing them to us at [email protected].
Photo credit: Teresa and Donald Busse