Jake has already posted a couple of photos from this trip but as i have spent considerable time reading the forum over the last 18 months or so i thought i had better post my own version of events for you all to enjoy. The forum is great and i will definately be hanging round
My father and I booked the hunt in August last year with Jake & Amber Jefferson at Black River Hunting Camps (BRWNBR on the forum). Every week for then to when we left Dad and I were organising something for the trip - rifle, scope, ammunition, flights, permits, licenses, insurance, firearm security, rental car, accommodation, tourist activities, suitable luggage, cold weather gear... there was quite a list of stuff to organise. Some of it was easy, some of it was not.
So i'll skip all the in between and go straight to the hunt. We flew into the Talkeetna Mountains from outside the Talkeetna township on the 21st of September. The weather was nice but beginning to turn for the worse.
Float plane base we flew in from:
It took two flights to get three of us in with all the gear. Jake and the gear went first with Dad and I in the second flight. We have a photo of Jake with a big grin on his face when we ask if we can hold the keys to his truck as he is flying away with ALL of our gear...
Jake runs a very comfortable camp (no smoking or alcohol) and as you would expect looks after his clients very well.
As we flew in in the afternoon we checked the zero on my rifle, had a small dinner then just soaked up the atmosphere until we went to bed.
We woke up to a brilliant sunrise:
Hunting caribou in Alaska must be real easy. We hadn't been walking from camp 20 minutes when this guy basically ran right up to us:
Soon after we spotting some grizzly food:
And then these guys ran up to us as well:
We spent the day sitting on a high feature glassing the surrounding countryside for animals. We spotted two moose, two black bears, a wolverine (well jake said he saw it... ) and quite a few caribou. We also spotted two grizzly bears, the first one about 4km away and the second one much closer. We attempted a stalk on the closer one but never managed to catch up to it. After that we followed a caribou back to camp.
Jake and I glassing from the high feature:
We got up the next morning and decided to head back to a area we could watch the area we had seen the second grizzly the day before. We had just reached a high point overlooking a basin when Jake spotted the grizzly about 400 yards right in front of us. Jake and I left Dad with the day packs and ran straight down the slope towards the bear. The wind was coming across from the left and so was not an issue. The bear was busy searching for food and had not noticed us. The hunt was on!
Jake and I managed to get to a slight rise over a small creek about 100 yards from where the bear was. It was here Jake and I decided to wait for a bit to see where the bear was going to go. I was pretty excited at this stage with a bear so close and Jake and I discussed a shooting position and he used the discussion to attempt to calm me down a bit before I had to shoot... i can't say i calmed down much at all.
The bear was walking/feeding its way right up the rise across the small creek from us. Jake and I were in position watching it get closer and closer. The bear stepped over to our side of the rise and looked up to scan the face in front of it. We were now in full view of it and at about 55 yards. It was facing directly towards us when Jake said to shoot before it spotted us and worked out what we were.
This photo is taken just as the bear raised it head, only a second or two before my first shot:
I was shooting a .375H&H shooting 260gr Accubonds. The bear was basically unaware of us at the time of the first shot… and did not go down. The bear slapped at the entry would and then went into a spin as it tried to “slap” the pain away. Jake called to shoot again as I was already throwing the bolt. At the second shot the bear took off in a spinning run off to our right. In the time it took me to reload after the second shot it had disappeared. It took me a “oh crap!!!” second to get it back in the scope and fire my third shot. The bear ended up stopping in the small creek and my last shot in my 4 shot magazine put it down for good. Jake and I cautiously approached it and made sure it was down. It was and we struggled to get it out of the water together. It was big grins and handshakes as I really became aware of the adrenalin pumping through me. What a rush! I went back up to the shoot location and collected some brass and then helped Dad carry the day packs down to the bear.
From left to right – bear, Malcolm, Jake and I:
At this point hunting in Alaska seems really easy. Everything you might want to take basically walks up to you!
The bear was about a 7 foot female. She was about 3 years old and had a beautiful skin with no rubs. Her claws were worn down by digging for ground squirrels. We took a few photos and Jake skinned her. We packed up our gear and made our way back to camp.
Jake and I overlooking the area we got the bear in. He and I have swapped packs so I can carry the bear skin and skull back to camp:
Due to a couple of factors, one being the worsening weather condition the decision was made to fly out of the hills and back to Talkeetna. We took the skin and skull to be tagged by the local Fish and Wildlife department and then dropped them off with a tannery to be turned into a rug before being sent home to NZ. Dad and I spent a few days around anchorage taking in the sights and doing a few touristy things before flying home. We have a couple of thousand photos from the trip mostly from activities before and after the hunt.
We had a great trip overall, looking back we learnt a few things and would have done a few things differently. Only really two disappointments – I didn’t know the terrain and so didn’t take my Canon 100-400L lens on day one, this was really stupid of me but I didn’t want the extra kilogram or two of the lens on terrain I didn’t know. The other disappointment was coming out of the hills early. It was absolutely the right decision to come out but it was still disappointing.
Dad and I thought there was considerable risk in booking a guide without meeting them so far in advance. Jake has a really great reputation and lived up to it. He was great to deal with both before and during the hunt. He was fit, knew the country and the game, he was thinking two or three steps ahead all the time and nothing was ever a problem. He is easy going and had a great sense of humor. I wouldn’t hesitate to book another hunt with him and would recommend him to others as well. He is not the most expensive guide out there nor is he the cheapest. He doesn’t advertise the highest success rates either but he listened to exactly what Dad and I wanted out of the trip and lived up to his word. I wish him and his family all the best. We will be back in Alaska on holiday next year and hopefully we can catch up with them again.