I just got back from a hunt of a lifetime!
The few people who know me on this forum have heard about my past experiences in Alaska and know I had unfinished business there, and a little something to prove.
Iíve dreamed about a griz hunt like this for a long time, and I got my opportunity this spring. My hunt was May 19-27th, 9 days because thatís all my work schedule would allow. It was an area thatís technically a brown bear area but itís very mountainous and a not your classic costal areas like the AK peninsula. We were at least 60 miles from the coast. The river we were hunting had as many as 4 different channels flowing water for us to navigate, letting us weave in and out to get to bears We were going for any legal bear especially with my bow would be thrilled with any griz.
We had great weather for comfort but not the best for bear movement. Varying from lows in the 30ís to highs in the 70ís, and not much rain like I expected. Those hot afternoons brought high winds also; we had several days where the wind was gusting to 50-60MPH causing dust storms on the river flat we were hunting.
We had the benefit of long days to hunt and also its downfall; there was 20 hours a day of adequate shooing light. So we only would get 4 or so hours of sleep a night. Even though I was dead tired I would still wakeup with not problem at first light. Those long days are hard on a body, at times we would take cat naps throughout the day taking turns glassing but it was still hard to stay motivated while holding off exhaustion.
Iím going to give a brief day by day summary to give everyone a feel for the hunt.
Day 1 - I flew in to Anchorage, I met Steve Johnson my Guide, I got my equipment together, and shot, so we could leave early the next morning.
Day 2 Ė We left form Steveís home at about 5.am, we arrived at our river about 6 hours later. We loaded all our gear in the boat and cruised the river for about 2-3 hours until we reached are hunting area. We periodically stopped to check river banks for fresh tracks and glassed high snow covered mountain sides for tracks, and bears. We set up camp by 4 or 5pm. spent the rest of the day glassing but no bears
Day 3 - I was up at the crack of dawn about 4am, eagerly searching mountain slopes and river banks but we didnít see any bears. We did see about 10 mountain goats and a wolverine which I thought was really cool. All hunting seasons were closed except for bear, so no reason to start stalking the wolverine. We stayed up until about midnight glassing and we crashed.
Day 4 - Again we were up at about 4- 4:30am glassing we saw another 10 -12 Mt. goats and Steve caught a glimpse of a black bear, but no brown bears sightings again.
Day 5 - We had a change in weather to a hazy, drizzly day and 40 degrees. First thing we noticed was on our hill was nice probably 8 foot bear track, it was right on our glassing perch (I mean were I planted my butt is were a bear track was, we were glassing feet away from a bear trail) the track had to have been made while were sleeping. We decided to move down river and glass a different section of river because fog was so thick we couldnít even see across the river. I was up on our typical perch above camp trying to glass thru the fog, while Steve was getting the boat ready.
When I all the sudden I see Steve running back toward camp. When he got there
he started waving at me to come down, there was a bear on our small 500 yard section of beach. I jumped and slid all the way down, I get my bow in had and started toward the bear. We were moving fast along the river bank toward the bear. The bear was at the tree line and then dropped down on the sand on the beach, and we kept stalking closer, we got to 75 yards and the bear came to my track on the beach where I had walked the day prior. He made a small circle around may track and then proceeded back in to the brush and out of sight.
We ran back to our glassing perch because he might pass by but he didnít. Then we oared down river about a half mile to try and cut him off again but we never saw him, the wind switched and the gig was up. This bear was about a 7 -7.5 footer with blond coat with dark brown feet, an absolutely beautiful bear.
A little disappointed but excited about the action we headed back to our normal glassing spot because a lot of the fog had burned off. We were not sitting 15 min when Steve says Bear! About a 1 mile or so away a bear was crossing the river flat. We ran down to the boat burned down the river toward the bear weaving or way over the closest stream of water in the river to the Mt. side. We beached the boat about 6-700 yards away from the bear and we started the stalk.
The bear had made it to the brush line at the base of the mountain and was slowly working or way. We also were using log jams and land topography to close the distance. We were actually ran at times the close the gap fast. We were on the flat side of the river on not on the Mt. side. We came to a Y in the river had to cross to keep closing the distance. The Y made a small island with bush in the center. We made quick decision to move to the flat side of the river, because a lot of the bear sign was out on the river flat. (Mt. streams are Cold!! There were still ice chunks in the water and the water was knee to mid thigh about 40 to 60 yards across.)
We closed the distance in 250 yards and then sat tight as the bear closed the distance to 200 yards coming to us perfectly down the edge of the river. And then he made an abrupt turn back to the brush we thought he would come back out right were we were because he had been weaving to from the brush back to the river bank several times. And that was the last time we saw him. The bear hand chosen to stop taking his current path and followed opposite Yíed section we didnít take down and out of our site. As time went on and we started to move back thinking he was in going to catch our wind. We donít kwon if he did or just decide to disappear in the bush. But if we would have chosen a Mt. side of the river contrary to the sign we were seeing I could have had a 40 yard shot on this bear fairly easily. It was a 7-8 foot bear chocolate colored.
We donít see anymore bears for the rest of the day, but we had a lot of fun chasing bears around!
Day 6 Ė We glassed the morning in the same location and didnít see anything, we figured that we spread around to much scent. So we broke camp and moved about 3-4 miles up river. We found fresh tracks and good looking areas, so we set up camp and glassed the remainder of the evening but no bearís encounters.
Day 7 Ė We glassed or new area all morning, but there was no movement in spite of favorable conditions. We decided to beak camp at about 10am and float down the river in the rain hoping something would be moving because of the favorable conditions. We floated the 3-4 miles and came to our old spot. It was about lunch time so we decided to stop there for lunch and glass from our good old spot. Steve started to make lunch and I glassed from our perch. After about 10 min of glassing I see BEAR! Back on the opposite side of the river where we made or last stalk a bear was working the edge.
We made the same actions as day 5, speeding over with the boat, and running behind log jams to get to his bear fast. We decide to stick very tight to the brush this time. We lost sight of the bear and just moved to a point we thought we would intercept him. We ran around the back side of an island of trees and started a very slow stalk forward. The distance between the island of trees and the brush line of the Mtís was about 60 yard a do able shot for me. We set up almost at the pint of the island waiting for our bear to show up cruising the brush line like he had been doing prior.
We waited 20-30min and we started to get nervous. We thought we scared him, or he got by us. So we started to slowly working are way forward for the direction he was coming from, to see if we could spot him again. We moved up 30 yards or so and I saw a flash of brown! We froze for another 30 min. thinking he was just moving slow and we would see him again. After that 30 min passed we figured it was not going happen, it wouldnít take him that long to move that distance we need to see him thru a shooing lane we had picked out. We moved to the edge of the brush at the base of the Mt. Steve poked his head in where I had saw the flash I put down my bow had shouldered my rifle, I didnít think I was going to stop any charges with a bow in hand. We found bears tracks, he had stopped and bedded about 75yard in font of us in the brush line, I saw him when he got up to run. If we would have been a little more patient we may have killed that bear. We figure it was a 7-7.5 foot bear chocolate colored it may have been the same chocolate colored bear we put a stalk on prior.
We took lunch and discussed our options. We decided to check a beach about a half mile down river from our good old spot, so we would be able view this flat that had all the bear activity and have a fresh beach also, We were also thinking that we probably set up camp for the last few days.
We beached the boat and the first thing we saw was a monster track! We poked our around a little more and saw other activity, we decided this was where we would spend the rest for the hunt. We were very limited on camp sites we only had about 400 yards or so of beach and we wanted to stay as far up river as possible and down wind. The only reasonable camp site was about 30 yards of beach on the end, which ended in a rock cliff at the river and also where we parked the boat. The section of beach was right in the bear tracks, our tent stakes were actually stinking in the ground in the bearís old trail. We started making jokes about setting up a trip wire with Steveís loaded 416 on the end.
We glassed for the 4 hours of remaining light that night with on bear movement. But did see the weirdest thing I have ever seen a moose do. Across the river a moose was ruing up and down the bank like a race horse. It would run around in a circle, buck, and kick. We just figured it was happy or high in life, I never thought a moose could move like that. It was cool.
Day 8 Ė Crunch time last few days,
We woke up late around 5:30 or 6AM thankful we werenít eaten in the night. Those long days were getting to us. Steve told me to get up on our hill were we glassed from last night while he made breakfast and coffee. I surveyed our surroundings twice over and then Steve came up with breakfast. I just took a sip of coffee and I see on the point a monster blob of brown, I tell Steve here we go! Itís the big bear! I had checked yardages last night and had shots from 30 Ė 60 yards from our hill. The bear kept closing the distance on his same route as prior days. He held up at 200 yard for a moment and continued on when he hit 100-150 he started to act weird he slowed his travel and started to circle. Just like the first bear we stalked did. This big bear was at our track from the previous day when we first scouted the beach. The beach was not wide and only a few bounds this bear would be in the brush never to be seen again. The wind was blowing at 30 mph minimum, a hard bow shot if he gets to 60 yards. I made the decision to use my rifle in lieu of waiting for a shot with my bow. At 100 yards 1 shot form my Ruger #1 30-06 anchored the bear I he never got off the ground I shoot 2 more times for insurance. This monster was down for good. Shouted, and laughed I just killed a monster bear.
As we came down off our perch and started walking toward the bear it only got bigger! It was the biggest bear I have ever seen.
This bear squared 9.5 feet the bear had a conservative 27 inch skull measured taken by AK fish and game in Glenallen.
I know some may ridicule me for not using my bow, but bash away. I donít feel sorry I shot him with my ruger #1. It was the 2nd to last day and this was probably a once in a lifetime trip and I didnít want to go home empty handed. This is a B &C bear I couldnít pass him up.
Day 9 - After I had my Brown Bear Steve took me on an imaginary Dall Sheep hunt. I was icing on the already amazing cake! We saw 8 rams with on being around 38Ē
This hunt was with Steve Johnson ďUltimate Alaskan Adventures Hunting Guide ServiceĒ http://www.ultimatealaskanadventure.com/index.htm.
Steve does guides for Bear, Sheep and Mt. Goat hunts. I highly recommend him for anyone who is thinking about an Alaskan trip for the above mention species. He is a wealth of hunting knowledge, hard working, and a just an over all fun guy to be around and easy to talk to.