Gunwerks on Kodiak
“1,000 yards out of the box” has always been a catchy slogan, and those who have used a Gunwerks rifle system know that it speaks the truth. As a company that has become a leader in the industry by redefining what it means to be a custom rifle manufacturer, Gunwerks is home to more than just a classy logo and attractive rifles. Six years ago, I was first exposed to the Gunwerks brand first-hand while attending their Long-Range University course in Wyoming. The company has continued to grow and has separated itself from most other “rifle assemblers” to become a true “precision rifle manufacturer.” Fast forward to 2022 where we had an even deeper look into the minds and personalities of some of the Gunwerks staff while on Kodiak Island chasing Sitka blacktail deer.
When the invitation was extended for me to return to Kodiak to pursue one of my favorite Alaskan species, it was not a difficult decision to book flights and order my locking tags that same afternoon. I have personally hunted Kodiak from September through December, always encountering different experiences and conditions. Mid-November has always been one of the most enjoyable periods to see Kodiak for the balance of waterfowl hunting, fishing, deer rut activity, and tolerable temperatures. While most of the hunting community found themselves in Colorado for third season mule deer or sitting in tree stands for whitetail deer, Jessica Byers (Huntin’ Fool’s Marketing and PR Manager) and I headed north to the snow-covered state of Alaska.
Sunny, yet cold
Gunwerks’ flagship product has always been their long-range shooting systems since their inception, and they have developed a wide range of accessories and gear to complement them. These carefully crafted accessories, including bipods, optics, rangefinders, and tripods, are essential for any serious hunter looking to maximize their shooting experience. Each piece is specifically designed to ensure optimal stability for the rifle and provide the highest level of accuracy and precision possible.
Sorting through bucks
“Spoiled” is probably the best word to describe the gear setup we had when we left the boat and headed for the black, sandy beach. Equipped with the new Nexus rifle, Titanium 6IX+ suppressor, the new bipod, and Revic BR4 rangefinder, we felt ultra-prepared and ready for anything Alaska could throw at us. However, once we left the tidal flats and encountered our first batch of salmonberry brush and alder thickets, we began to question everything about our preparedness and physical fitness. It was tempting to think that we could climb high enough and quickly enough to make the most of the daylight hours, only to be faced with a thicket of devil’s club that made us wish we had stayed back on the boat to fish for halibut.
Past experience had taught me that putting your head down and climbing for the first 40-60 minutes would prove to be worth it. This time of year, most mature bucks had descended below 700 feet elevation into the rolling brush country to rut the groups of does. This also happens to be the same elevation the famous Kodiak brown bears frequent. While I have plenty of experience navigating brown/grizzly bear country, I still remain on edge every time I have a downed deer or while trying to find my way back to the drop-off location in the dark. It is essential for me to trust my rifle, from the action to the ammunition, and my carry system. While it’s almost become a fad to strap, tie, and hook more things onto your bino chest harness, I prefer not to carry a sidearm while rifle hunting. For one, I am not confident in my pistol skills, and two, I would much rather place my confidence in my rifle to deflect or stop a bear attack if it came down to it. Even though I chose to take a 6.5mm caliber rifle, I place accuracy and familiarity with a rifle above any large-bore, heavy-hitting caliber in dangerous Alaska situations.
Glassing from the Ridgetop
“Shoot the 2nd buck!"
Jessica opted for the lightest Gunwerks setup for her first Kodiak hunt, choosing the ClymR rifle in the 6.5 PRC platform with the 6IX titanium suppressor. This mountain rifle setup is compact and sleek, but typically, lighter rifles can result in increased recoil and difficulty securing a steady rest. However, the ClymR’s performance was exceptional as Jessica put the system to the test in various situations and positions to test the functionality of the new bipod, leveling the rifle on an island without level ground. On the other hand, I took my reliable Nexus 6.5PRC rifle, built on Gunwerks’ new NXT action. With expanded in-house engineering and manufacturing capabilities, Gunwerks can create unique components that support the aluminum NXT action, which is a significant step above all other long-range rifle companies. With a 6IX+ titanium suppressor, this setup became one of the most pleasant rifles I have ever used in the field.
The first two days of our hunt were full of bear sightings, snowdrifts up to our knees, and a few dead deer for some of the group. Spirits were high as we all exchanged notes about deer movement and places to look and studied our onX Hunt maps for the next day’s hunt. However, Team Huntin’ Fool was not on the board yet with any dead bucks.
Chasing Deer in the Salmonberry Brush
On day three, after glassing some lower terrain that appeared to be bear-free, Jessica was up first to let the 143 grain ELD-X bullet go to work on a nice 4x3 buck as he chased a doe across the ridge below us. Despite the shot distance being just 265 yards, having quick access to a steady bipod to make a sitting shot on a moving buck was critical to the success on this first sunny day of the trip. After taking photos, we carefully caped the deer for what we thought would be the best buck of her hunt. As we hustled back to the beach to stash the meat, cape, and antlers, I stopped to glass an adjacent hillside for any deer movement and noticed the antler tips of a buck shining in the fading light. I thought I would be able to make it back here to make it a two-buck afternoon. A quick drink of caffeine and a Snickers bar was all I needed to navigate back from the beach inland to a small flat where I hoped we could glass up the buck once again. Luckily, he was standing by now and the sunshine was low and behind me. From this point, I steadied the gun and let the ballistics calculator onboard the BR4 rangefinder do the work. I dialed up for 16.2 MOA (698 yards) and sent it. The soft crack of the suppressed Nexus rifle was almost sweet to the ears. Buck down, and now it was nearly dark! While some may question why I would shoot a buck in bear country right at sunset, I was ready to notch my first deer tag. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in Alaska, it’s that you hunt when the weather is good because it’s sure to change. Never quit early or give up while the weather is pleasant.
Buck at 698 yards
Adjusting to life on a boat with a group of 10 of us for a whole week was an adventure in and of itself. Wet gear, rifles cases, and hanging meat bags were scattered all over the boat. The rest of the week was spent catching halibut, rockfish, and ling cod from the liveaboard charter yacht, processing deer meat, eating fresh halibut cheeks, and testing our luck with shotguns for some fully-plumed out sea ducks. We were pleased to spend time with each of the staff members who joined us on the boat from early morning breakfasts to late night card games. I was impressed at their brilliant minds when it came to discussing Gunwerks’ and Revic products and how they came to find themselves working in Cody, Wyoming. It was very clear that these guys and gals do more than just put rifles together. Their drive to pursue problem- solving solutions for all hunters became very clear to me. By the end of the trip, we had filled 14 of the 18 deer tags on the boat with Jessica taking an even larger 4x3 buck with her second deer tag on the last day.
Alaska is still a very special place, and Gunwerks has revolutionized the long-range shooting industry with its innovative and high-quality products. This recent hunting expedition to Kodiak Island provided us with an opportunity to put Gunwerks gear to the test in some of the most challenging hunting conditions. Despite encountering difficulties in navigating the dense brush and encountering Kodiak brown bears, we were grateful for the reliable performance of our rifles, suppressors, and Revic accessories. The experience left us even more impressed with the quality and craftsmanship that Gunwerks puts into its products, and we are eager to see what innovative new offerings the company has in store for the future. Thanks to Neal, Landon, Avery, Josh, Jim, Cory, Jaci, and Zach for a great Alaska experience.