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Thread: Hunting by yourself

  1. #1
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    Default Hunting by yourself

    New to Alaska beginning of last year. Overall quite experienced outdoors, a bit lacking in the solo backpacking department. Physically and mentally in good shape. Plan on doing the RL460(upper Eagle River black bear) and spending 5-7 nights way back. Wife is making me take a sat phone. Camping solo in bear territory is a bit intimidating, but by no means am I "scared". My wife on the other hand is not overly happy with me. When I told her that I am way more worried about falling off the side of a mountain than being attacked by a bear she failed to see the humor.... haha.

    So, any really good advice for camping solo? Who has done it, experiences, good, bad, and ugly? Any good advice on the ER hunt itself? I plan on getting a long ways back, and doing a hell of a lot of glassing and walking. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Piss a fence , and dont keep food in you tent, bears will leave you alone, but sleep witha loaded gun so you sleep better anyways .

    Keep a compass and map on your person, at all times, as wild chases in hunting can have a guy confused about where what is at its conclusion.

    Take a day bag, but plan extra grub and water, youll use and need both, especially if you end up waiting for daybreak by a small fire, so take a small book,, read it, use it as emergency toilet paper, start a fire with it..... and leave a note as to where your headed, so they can track you properly, to recover the body.

    Have fun, I'm sure theres a ton more advice commin'....
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

  3. #3
    Member hodgeman's Avatar
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    Solo is risky and bears are the least of your worries. Everybody freaks about bears but cold and wet are everywhere and will kill you if you screw up and the aforementioned tumbles off the high spots prove that gravity is no respecter of persons.

    That said- I go solo on occasion but it's a whole different experience. I go slow, thoughtful, and never get in a hurry. When I'm solo I generally am there for the experience more than a critter. My wife insists that I carry a SPOT so if something happens they at least know where to start looking. Haven't needed it yet, but one time makes it worth its weight in gold.

    Since you're lacking AK experience- I'd really suggest you find a partner. AK is just different than other spots on the map. The weather happens faster, and hits harder, help is further away, and the people are fewer and farther between. Some food for thought.
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

  4. #4

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    If you're going bear hunting I would recommend cooking in your tent. Why climb a mountain if you can get them right outside your tent? A couple pounds of bacon and you should be swimming in bears! As an added bonus you can be eating bacon while you're skinning a bear.

  5. #5

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    I've solo hunted for years. Like the other guy said, go slow, thoughtful with each step, and don't take chances. Use a hiking pole for a third point of contact. You might get some crampons for those slippery slopes - wish I had had a pair when I hunted the Chugach. Take your sat phone or a SPOT and your usual safety and survival gear. IMO, one of the most potentially dangerous parts of the hunt is the skinning/gutting/butchering process. That's because your often tired and you might be in a hurry to get the job done before dark and there you are wielding a really sharp object - your knife! Don't get in a hurry when using your knife. Bring extra batts. and an extra headlamp. Bring enough cord to tie your food bag in a tree to keep the bears out of your tent. You get the idea, now go fetch up a bear and share some pics and the story!

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    Member EMoss#83's Avatar
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    I hunt solo on occasion I really enjoy it. being close to anchorage will make it "feel" more comfortable. i leave a hunt plan and carry a personal beacon and a SAT phone and packable bear fence. I move slower and more deliberate and never walk were if i stumbled or tripped i would die.
    "f/64 and be there"

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    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    I do it alot and as said mother nature is the threat and no gun will scare her. Leave a good plan like I'm walking in one day and setting up camp hunting three and walking out on the fifth day.Parking at so and so then heading?. Don't camp on trails or right next to streams.Most of all be willing to come home early.
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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    Member cjustinm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amigo Will View Post
    I do it alot and as said mother nature is the threat and no gun will scare her. Leave a good plan like I'm walking in one day and setting up camp hunting three and walking out on the fifth day.Parking at so and so then heading?. Don't camp on trails or right next to streams.Most of all be willing to come home early.

    i second the "dont camp right on trails or riverbanks", high bear traffic areas for sure. ive done a lot of long trips by myself and i can say that some of the trouble (having a snowmachine go through the ice into a few feet of water at 25 below) would have been easier to get out of with a partner. While i mostly hunted alone in the lower 48 up here it can be pretty tough. moose hunting even with a partner can be a miserable experience when you get one down. i always traveled with a sat phone when solo. As far as camping in bear country setting up in really thick stuff made sense to me because at least you had a chance to hear them coming...unless its rainy. certainly pros and cons to solo hunting but a good, reliable partner can be hard to beat.

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    It's been we'll covered but I'll reiterate that you shouldn't push your limits with the weather up here particularly in fall.

    Everyone has stories they can tell you that's been up here for very long, they are still here to tell them through good fortune, good preparation and good judgement, in that order...


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    I too think it may be a good idea for the first hunt or two to see about getting an experienced local hunter to go with you. Nothing like having someone that's done some hunting in your area to have along to pick their brain. If you decide later to go solo then your not out anything. Sometimes keeping your ears open to someone else"s trips can really help a person. I personally have done plenty of both but really enjoy another"s company at night around a campfire. You can always hunt solo during the day and meet up at camp at night. Just a thought, good luck, Ron.

  11. #11
    Supporting Member bullbuster's Avatar
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    Having hunted bear, moose, sheep, musk ox and caribou solo I say go for it. You learn to be conscious of every move that you make. Self rescue is a real possibility. I have broken thru ice on the North Slope, gotten lost, fallen off of a bluff into a creek and fallen face first into an icy stream with a load of sheep on my back. I could go on, but a successful adventure is coming home alive with most of the parts that you left home with.
    No better way to get to know yourself and your true character.
    Have fun and let us know how it went. The good & the bad. }:>
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    Love life and live it

  12. #12
    Member PacWestFishTaxidermy's Avatar
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    I used to be terrified of bears while hunting solo, but after a few nights on no sleep, you finally just give up and rest. The odds of being eaten by a bear are minuscule.

  13. #13
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    I've hunted solo a number of times in AK. and don't mind it......but it's a lot more safe, as well as more of a good time with somebody else you know along. If you are familiar with the area and feel comfortable about it then I'd say go for it. But if you are walking in there blindly for the first time then you may want to rethink it.

    You may be experienced in the woods, but these woods around here, depending on where you go, can be a LOT different than the woods where you come from. There are bogs you can run into that have no bottoms, and if you don't know what you're looking at can break through with a heavy pack on and never come up again. Not to mention it can be pretty easy to get turned around up here. Fog, overcast, no horizon to see for a long ways sometimes "can" get you wondering what direction you're going. If you go, make sure you have a compass (or 3 in case you have to prove to yourself the one you have is wrong) and know how to use it.

    I grew up hunting and fishing and traveling all over the beautiful Sierra Nevada's, but the first thing I realized when I came up here over 30 years ago is this place is a lot different. If you just have to go by yourself then go and have fun, but why not post on the "looking for a hunting partner" thread first, and see if you might find somebody that you may enjoy being with?

    Just something to think about.....

    Good Luck...!!!
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

  14. #14
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    I have done more hunting and taken more game solo here in Alaska than with a partner, so have many others, the deal breaker is being able, or lacking the ability to recognize your limits and skill set.

    Maintain good situational awareness, be prepared. More important than choosing a way then deciding that you can get "there", is choosing a way to get "back"safely all the time remembering you may have an additional 100lbs on your back while you navigate that steep slippery slope.

    An example from when I lived in Valdez; after work on Thursday, April 29 years ago, I spotted a bear waaaay up high in very steep and rugged goat country. I mention the date because it is early and there is still a ton of snow about, warm temps and major avalanche activity(situational awareness point). I made thorough study of the terrain and elevation from my vantage point and decided I could safely(calculated risk) make an attempt on that bear in two days, a Saturday, and my next day off.

    I left that following Saturday morning with my rifle, a knife, ammo, firestarter, E-blanket, small amount of food-nuts, dried fruit,2 Pemmican bars, 2 liters of water, a pack frame, a HEAVY DUTY canvas game bag plus two more quality game bags, cordage, good quality layered synthetic clothing and boots, binos and a headlamp. Pretty minimalist. I expected that I would return late that day BUT, I was PREPARED to spend the night if it came down to it.

    After climbing through steeper and more demanding forested area to reach treeline (that I was unable to detect two days earlier), I came to a bench spanning an area about a mile wide, from a gorge on one side to a ridge on the other, covered in greater than waist deep snow. I took a break and had a snack, looked up and saw the bear I was after suddenly appear and begin grazing in exactly the same place as a couple days earlier. [ already I have spent more energy than anticipated]

    I finish my snack and proceed across the bench toward the mountainside and bear, postholing to my crotch with every step. As soon as I notice a breeze I do a wind direction check keeping mind the general rule of thumb-"up the mountain by day, down the mountain by night"- the wind was moving down, WTH. OK, I will go with it. Seeing other hunters do this same thing only to blow the stalk, I did it anyways, I went straight at the bear rather to the side(as I should have), after all the wind is in my favor... Half way across what should have been a quarter mile, the bear catches my scent due to a deceitful swirling wind. He starts going straight up while I immediately start traveling to my right while watching the bear the whole time. He reaches a point where he stops and decides he is comfortable enough to lie down an unexpected bonus after seeing so many bears in the past continue traveling right over the top of mountains and disappear in similar scenarios. I continued moving sideways until I was about 400 yards horizontally from the bear , but I had another 300+ft vertically yet to gain, and I mean vertical. [even more energy spent than anticipated]

    Between me and the bear was a avalanche runout/chute/deposit area(?) about 300ft vertical. I am now standing at the base of literal goat country, and in order for me to go further requires that I climb alders growing out of the side of the mountain like the rungs of a ladder. This is typical Valdez area mountainside that I like to refer to as "fly on the wall-expletive" in which I had pursued several bears in the past only to loose them in that crap. [this I did plan on from the outset]

    Keeping one eye on the bear whenever possible, I notice he is still cat napping in the same spot. I scale the slope with the intention of gaining elevation exceeding that of the bear, for several reasons, only to find that the mountain side is now so rugged and vertical that only mountain goats or technical climbing gear can go higher. Not a great concern, it only means that I am at the same elevation as the periodically napping bear. I carefully made my way a close as possible, the terrain granted that it be 200 yards. I waited a good while and gathered my breath, while studying the bear and my shot placement opportunity. After he picked his head up to sniff the air "one more time", and I could define his shoulder, I pulled the trigger on my 06'. After giving it 30 minutes I made my way over and began processing, a short time into it I looked directly above me. Perhaps I heard something? Like ghosts, 7 goats were standing there watching me from about 60ft up! WoW, I never saw a one during the entire pursuit!

    Now, where the bear was napping/died was a ledge no bigger than a king size bed backed by sheer vertical rock so clean that it looked like it had been carved with a knife, no wonder he was confident enough to catnap. I get him skinned and quartered, put the hide with the feet and skull still attached into the HEAVY canvas game bag along with the hind quarters, backstrap, and the liver(for my neighbor). I sit down with my feet below me facing down the steep little path the bear had used to get there, my intent was to descend on that path. I put the pack on and start down, immediately my feet begin to go out from under me, thinking quick I drop straight to my butt and am able to prevent a 40ft fall to the rocks below, and in the process I dislodge a rock the size of cantaloupe that bounces off of my rifle scope scratching and denting it. I carefully disconnected the belt and shoulder straps and tipped the pack backward off of me. The decision to take that steep path and the additional heavy weight almost killed me. After gathering myself, I headed back the way I had come.

    Remember that avalanche runout I mentioned earlier? Well, it is the reason I emphasized the HEAVY DUTY canvas game bag! After reaching the top of that runout I removed my pack and then the bag that I had lashed to the frame, picked it up and, one, two, three, HEAVED it over the side and watched roll and bounce merrily to the bottom of the slope. After climbing back down the alder "ladder", I gathered the bag and relashed it to my pack frame none the worse for wear. By this point the day was getting on and I was getting tired, and I still had to cross the posthole cursed snow covered bench. With a heavy pack, postholing and not paying attention to my water intake I quickly became exhausted, so much so that I was dragging my rifle behind me by the muzzle and my attention [situational awareness was suffering] wandered. I stumbled into a tree well as deep as I was tall, now I had to muster the strength to climb out. The good part was that I had made it near tree line and easier walking was ahead!

    The "undetected rugged" (two "small" cliffs)terrain in the forested area I mentioned at the beginning was now ahead of me, and the gorge was on my right. I knew going up and scaling the two "small cliffs", that I could skirt them on the way down and planned on skirting to the right toward the gorge, as the terrain was more "rounded" in that direction. Well, being exhausted and dehydration kicking in, I became disoriented enough that I turned too much toward the gorge and walked right to the bottom before realizing it. Darkness was now setting in and continuing on was now out of the question. I was going to spend the night in the woods.

    I sipped my water and nibbled my food slowly to avoid vomiting from the effects of dehydration. After a while I had cooled off and started getting cold, so I pulled out the mylar E-blanket, climbed inside and stretched out on the ground. Gee, I thought, this is nice, they really are warm! After a short time I hear "POP"! Then, my backside starts to get cold, crap! The mylar had split from the heel of my boot to my rear end, "what a piece of junk"! OK, I will tough it out a few hours until it is light enough to see my way the rest of the way down. Not happening! After shivering to the point it was almost uncontrollable I gathered sticks, dug out my fire starting kit and built a small fire between my legs. ****, why did I wait so long to do that?

    Around comes 5AM, I am rested enough and it is now light enough to travel safely through the woods. I made my way back to my car and was home at 8AM, safe and sound with lessons learned.

    First off, I will say that is one of the riskiest things I have ever attempted, though I do not make a habit of taking a lot of risk, but it was calculated and I had good understanding of the weather and snow conditions to go along with the evidence, or lack thereof, of avalanche activity and observation of that mountain side. I felt confident in what I knew and what I saw, this was a mountain within view of my house. I had also been living in Alaska for 17 years by then, so I was no stranger to the mercurial habits of the weather or its' potential.

    I think it was mentioned in a earlier post, but I will say it again; it is the single most important factor to keep in mind any time one recreates out of doors in this state. It was not a factor in this experience aside from the wind violating that pesky "rule of thumb".

    The mistake that could have been the most critical was my failure to hydrate properly. Even though I did not realize it at the time, had I consumed more water before I tried to descend with the heavy pack, I may have been thinking clearly enough to recognize the path was too steep and therefor too great a risk. The later effects of dehydration are evident by my stumbling into the tree well, and later, finding myself at the bottom of the gorge. What prevented things from being worse was that I still had enough awareness to recognize when to stop, how to rehydrate and reenergize properly and to prevent hypothermia. So, while weather was not directly a factor, temperature was.

    Plan for weather first.

    Always have on your person plenty of water, DRINK IT before you need it, and have a means to make fire.

    Maintain situational awareness at all times.

    Wear layered synthetic or wool clothing, leave the cotton at home.

    Plan every move and expect to make adjustments.

    Do not get in a hurry.

    Give your wife a map and explicit details of your intended destination and estimated time afield.

    Do not be bearanoid, be bear aware, use common sense and keep food odors away from your tent. This was also mentioned earlier, pee a fence around your camp; urinate in a different place each time around the perimeter.

    Take the other good advice given.

    Have a good time.

    Have a safe hunt.

    Be sure to report back!

    Apologies for being long winded, boring and/or sounding like a hen... Sometimes I get on a roll

  15. #15
    Member Arctic Sapper's Avatar
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    All good advice, and I am going to second everything that has been said. I would try to partner up if it is your first time hunting in remote AK.
    Good luck.

  16. #16
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    Well guys remote is a relative term. This hunt has one of the most popular hiking trails in alaska running through it. It would be a great place to make friends as well as bear hunt. There are plenty of black bears along that trail! As well as safe and beautiful campsites above treeline. In a week or two that area will be ideal for bears. We were in girdwood this weekend hiking but it is a little Early for crow pass. Didn't spot any bears yet. I wouldn't hesitate as that is a spectAcular area to spend time whether you get a bear or not.
    I come home with an honestly earned feeling that something good has taken place. It makes no difference whether I got anything, it has to do with how the day was spent. Fred Bear

  17. #17
    Member highestview's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by magpie View Post
    If you're going bear hunting I would recommend cooking in your tent. Why climb a mountain if you can get them right outside your tent? A couple pounds of bacon and you should be swimming in bears! As an added bonus you can be eating bacon while you're skinning a bear.
    Bad, bad, BAD advice.....


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    Born in Alaska: The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6

  18. #18
    Supporting Member bullbuster's Avatar
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    338WM, good read.
    Live life and love it
    Love life and live it

  19. #19
    Member soon2beinAK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bullbuster View Post
    338WM, good read.
    Second that


    Wishing I was in AK

  20. #20
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    Thanks everyone, especially.338. Lots of solid advice. I figured with a sat phone and a relatively busy trail nearby I won't truly be out too far from civilization. My wife may even spend a few nights out there with me. Looking forward to the whole thing, I will post pics and hopefully a success story in a few weeks!

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