When it comes to accomplished bowhunters, there’s no one quite like Chuck Adams, whose 2021 buck has just been certified as the new Pope and Young velvet world-record Sitka blacktail at 109 7/8 inches. Wearing his trademark green beanie, Adams has been bowhunting for 57 years, taking exceptional animals, writing about his hunts, and inspiring generations of bowhunters for decades.
I devoured his articles while growing up, and his trophy photos were the fodder of my daydreams. I often pretended I was Adams, sending arrows from my finger-drawn compound into giant bull elk, brown bears, mule deer, or whatever my imagination determined that old bale of wood shavings would be next. He was the first bowhunter to take all 29 species of North American big game, he has 210 Pope and Young entries to his name at last count, and he’s held multiple world records. He’s also still hunting hard.
I was able to speak with Adams, who has hunted Alaska’s Kodiak Island 17 times over the years, to hear about his latest, record-breaking hunt there. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Outdoor Life: Why have you been to Kodiak Island to hunt deer so often?
Chuck Adams: Sitka deer are one of my favorite animals to hunt, so I go back every chance I get.
OL: Many blacktail hunters choose to hunt in October or November, and you have too. But you like to hunt them in August best. Why?
CA: I like the summer just because it’s handier for me. When the fall hits, there are a lot of other animals to hunt. If you hunt in the summer, you’ve got to contend with bugs, climbs into the alpine, and complicated meat care. Later in the year it’s colder, the bugs are gone, and meat care is a lot easier, but bears are more of a problem because they aren’t down on the salmon streams. It’s a mixed bag either way, but I prefer to hunt in the summer simply because I have more free time then.
OL: And what is it about backpack hunting for Sitka blacktails on Kodiak that you love so much?
CA: One, as we just talked about it, it’s a great way to hunt in the summer. Two, you get multiple deer tags. It’s quite a project to fly to Alaska, and it would hardly be worth it for one deer tag. It’s nice to have several tags in your pocket. I love the high alpine country in the early season, I love spot-and-stalk hunting, and I love being able to sit on one point and glass multiple deer. I will tell you too that Sitka meat is the single best wild game meat I’ve ever eaten. Elk meat’s great, moose meat’s great, but I like Sitka the best of all.
OL: You prefer to hunt Kodiak with a buddy, but that didn’t work out this year. So you just went solo?
CA: Yes, and it wasn’t the first time I’ve done that. I set up a base camp, then will pack anywhere from 10 to 15 miles per day looking for deer. You could often fill all three of your deer tags in one day, but the real fun and challenge for me is looking for big animals. Ironically, this world-record deer was the first deer I saw on the whole trip. Not the first buck, but the first deer. I had set base camp and was climbing through some low foothills to get to the higher country where I wanted to spend my time. I peeked over a little knoll and there was this buck lying about a 125 yards away. I knew immediately that he was big and that he was a 4×4 with brow tines. The wind was right, so I circled around, made a stalk, snuck to within 36 yards, and got him. I was on the island another three weeks hunting to fill my other two tags and never saw another deer that would even compare.
OL: This new world-record buck is part of a recently created velvet category in the Pope and Young Club, which was announced in 2020. The new category accepts antlered animals that are still in velvet. Previously, the velvet had to be removed for the antlers to be accepted for official scoring. So is this the largest Sitka deer you’ve taken to date?
CA: That’s a hard one to answer, because in 1986 I broke the world-record for hard-horned Sitka deer on Kodiak, and that deer scored 108 4/8 inches. I shot that deer in the velvet and there was no velvet category with Pope and Young, so I stripped the velvet. I suspect that deer might have scored higher than this one, but I don’t know for sure. I broke the world record the day before with another deer that scored 107 and some change, so that one might have beat this one if I had left the velvet on it too.
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OL: What bow and arrow setup do you use?
CA: I still shoot a compound bow with my fingers, not a release. I just enjoy it more. I feel like my brain is connected to the arrow. If I do say so, I’m a pretty good shot with my fingers and I really don’t need the extra paraphernalia to take animals. Due to the short axle-to-axle designs and high let-off of most contemporary compounds, I’m somewhat restricted for shooting with my fingers. I shoot a custom Hoyt with a 75-pound draw weight and 50 percent let-off. I also like heavy arrows. This year I was hunting with Easton XX78 arrows that weigh over 600 grains part of the time, and Full Metal Jacket arrows part of the time that weigh about 500 grains. I use the G5 Striker and Striker V2, I really like those replaceable-blade 3-blade broadheads. It just works for me.