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Thread: B&C Black Bear

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    Default B&C Black Bear

    This is a very long read.


    Let me start this by saying that this hunt is not available to everyone. First, I am an Alaskan resident and get my tags for hunting Prince of Wales Island over the counter. This avoids the drawing process that non-residents have to go through, and I get two tags for that region. Secondly, I have a brother that lives on the Island and he has a burning desire to seek out and hunt the largest black bears. He routinely takes P&Y class bears with his long bow or recurve.


    Thats not to say its easy or there is a gigantic record book bear behind every tree. He works harder than most by setting out baits that require not only extremely hard work but tactical scouting.


    While the most popular method on the Island is to cruise roads or bays looking for animals in spots for a favorable stalk, he uses a different strategy. He looks to the interior of the Island and favors remote lakes far off the beaten path. These lakes require a substantial hike from the nearest road access often through jungle like second growth. Once he finds a likely water body he packs in his kayak or a canoe and seeks the far shores. This nearly insures no competition from other hunters and hunting bears that have largely never been disturbed by man.
    Attachment 80662


    Then he scouts the lake shore looking for drainages and creeks that flow into these remote bodies of water. Since bears tend to follow these aquatic highways, it is often a good place to set up a bait and trail cam.


    Its then that he floats a 55 gallon drum in lashed to a canoe or towed behind a kayak. Then its more trips to haul in bait that usually consists of dog food and grease.


    This is exactly what happened in May when he set a bait on the far shore of a lake filled with trout and plenty of bear sign. Soon he had pictures of numerous potential book bears visiting the site.


    I flew down from my home in Palmer, AK to Prince of Wales Island and met my brother at the small airport in Klawock. We gathered supplies, shot my bow and readied for the next morning when we would drive out to the interior of the island.


    We drove north and reached a remote spot to park the truck and slipped into the woods dressed lightly for the hike down to the water. The mosquitos appreciated our lack of bug spray and T-shirts and hovered around us to the waters edge. We pulled out the stashed canoe and I tried to remember how to make it go forward and not paddle in circles.


    We shot across the lake, tied up the canoe and silently crept to the tree stands. The first thing I noticed was the enormous old growth trees that grew up the hill away from the lakeshore. The second thing that stood out was the bare ground beaten flat by large footprints of the bears.


    We settled in the stands and it wasn’t long before the forest returned to normal. Ducks landed on the lake and we could see beavers making their way through the still waters. The wind was calmer than most nights and in the right direction when it did blow. About the time we would relax a beaver would slap his tail on the surface of the water just below us and nearly send us out of our stands.
    Attachment 80663


    For five hours we sat there, thankful we had brought a Thermacell. We were both somewhat surprised that nothing had moved in that time frame, but I was actually starting to “unwind” and was thankful to just be back in the woods.

    My brother saw him first and whispered he could see a bear coming. This was the first bear of the evening and while he had hundreds of pictures of really good bears, this one had never been captured on camera.


    Im not sure at this point if he was passing through and smelled the bait or was looking for a receptive sow, but he clearly was a dominant male by the way he swaggered in our direction.


    As mentioned above our bait was a 55 gallon drum filled with dog food and a little restaurant grease mixed in. I had also bought some Twinkies in town and set them on top of the barrel. We have a running joke that you must put a Twinkie on the barrel or you won’t get to shoot a big bear. We had actually brought in dog food with us that night and had some left over. My brother poured it at the base of a tree about 10 yards from the bait.


    The bear stood on his hind legs and rubbed his back on the way in, that was the first time we got a clue that he was a bigger bear. He then came into the left over bait and began to feed. Both my brother and I exchanged glances and whispers. He asked me what I thought and I said he looks big, but its the first bear, first night.


    Two years ago we hunted hard for 7 days without little luck. It wasn’t until the last five minutes of shooting time that a good boar came in on the last night. I was fortunate enough to take that bear that went 19 7/16, but that’s another story for another time.


    We actually watched this bear feed for about 15 minutes before he came to start eating out of the bait barrel. My brother cuts a 10” hole in the side of the bait barrel 2/3rds of the way of the up. The 10” diameter hole is a built in measuring stick for skull size. An 18” bear can easily stick his head in the hole and eat. A 19” bear has to slightly push his head in the barrel. A 20” bear will have to push hard to fit, or not be able to fit at all. Anything over 20” will not fit.


    When this bear got to the barrel he never even tried to fit. He just sat down and reached his paw in. It should be noted that the barrel is suspended 6” off the ground on a chain and the bears back was taller than the top of the barrel.
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    I was still undecided in as much as I really needed a good relaxing hunt to wind down from my job, and didn’t want it to end quickly. It was at that point that Scott reminded me that I was now a resident of Alaska and had two tags!


    I quickly grabbed my bow from the hanger and readied for the shot. Here I was 8 yards from what was a bear bigger than any Ive ever had in range and suddenly my heart started going crazy. I felt my hands begin shaking as well.


    The bear had reached into the barrel with his left paw giving me a perfect angle to his vitals on his left side. I anchored and steadied for the shot as he rotated his leg back. I knew the next time he reached I was releasing the arrow.


    He did exactly that and I pulled the release. The arrow hit nearly exactly where I was aiming, but he was rotating slightly backward when the arrow reached him causing a slightly high/forward hit. The bear whirled and ran back into the forest, we could see the arrow had achieved about 18” of penetration.
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    We waited an hour to follow him up but found no blood. Instead of pushing into the forest more, we decided to back out. We were on remote lake with at least 7 different bears on camera and it was getting dark.


    We reviewed the video footage that night several times. We both agreed the shot was good, but there would be no exit wound. I was shooting an Oneida Extreme set at 66lbs with only about 60% let off and a 475 grain arrow. The KE is very good, but I must have hit the shoulder blade or something more substantial to stop the NAP Spitfire from exiting.


    In the morning we began our search. As we paddled across the lake a huge bear was walking down the shoreline towards the bait. We both had the same thought, maybe the arrow didn’t penetrate as well as we thought and this was the bear from last night returning.


    We paddled as silently as we could past the bear to a spot downwind of the bait. I got out and grabbed my bow and stalked into the bait sight until I could see the bear. I closed the distance to less than 40 yards before he either saw me or a fickle wind betrayed me. Either way he moved off and we moved into the site. We pulled the trail cam card and quickly looked though the pictures. The bear that I shot was on the card and we compared his photos with pics from the bear we had seen this morning. It was clearly not the same bear.


    We started working in the last known direction of travel the bear made the night before. If you have never hunted South East Alaska it is a jungle of old growth, second growth, devils club, skunk cabbage, moss and blow downs. This bear had run uphill from our area near the shore of second growth to an area of monstrous logged old growth timber.


    The logs were as big as 6 feet in diameter and lay like matchsticks. There were several log caves created by the downed timber that we shined out lights into checking for either sign or the bear. The canopy above us prevented much sunlight from getting in making the area seem much darker than the sunny day around us.


    We pressed on with little luck for about 80 yards. At times we were 15 ft above the ground on top of the slippery moss covered log piles. I was working my way towards the bottom of a hill when I heard my brother call out to me. He had found the arrow.


    I worked my way back up hill over the logs till I found him. He looked at his feet and there lay the arrow with only about 4 inches of blood on it. I’ve tracked over 300 animals both as a hunter and a guide so I knew what this meant, the arrow had only been a muscle hit.


    I was dejected, but we said lets keep looking, the video showed something different, and never quit the trail till all possibilities have been explored. At least we had a more definitive direction of travel and we moved on from that point. Again it was over the log piles and moss.


    Scott was moving along about 20 yards to my left when I came up on a tree that bridged a small ravine. The log was over 3 ft in diameter and bridged the 30 foot wide ravine. I started across as it was easy way to move ahead and gave me an elevated view of the area.


    About half way across I had this weird thought that it reminded me of that scene in King Kong where the men tracking Fay Wray are caught by the ape on a log and he shakes them off to fall to their deaths. While there was only about a 15 foot drop to bottom of the ravine, if a bear started down the other end of the log towards me, I was going to give him the road.


    My eyes were panning the forest floor on both sides of the log and as they passed back over my bridge they caught a small red smudge. Upon closer examine it turned out to be nickel sized drop of blood.


    Had our bear crossed this log as I was? I looked behind me and it appeared that some of the moss had been scraped off the log and there was a red smudge there as well. Now were we on the right track or was this the track of another bear with a small cut on his foot?


    I called out to Scott and he made his way over to me and came up on the log. I said lets see if this gets any better and we continued on. This tree had been laying there so long that small alders had begun to grow up from the trunk.


    One of these small saplings had blood on it high off the surface, it was him! We had somehow found his track, and now we were going to take this new sign as far as we could.


    We passed off the log and on to solid ground again finding small spots of blood from time to time. When we came upon a patch of moss and a spot were it was obvious the bear had bed. There was a pool of blood about the size of a paper plate, but no bear.


    This new discovery only reaffirmed my earlier suspicions that I had a muscle hit, and he had bedded here until the wound sealed. We were about 120 yards from the bait site at this point and everything pointed to a fruitless search. My brother and I both looked at each other and seemed to read each others thoughts.


    Scott said, lets keep going, we’ve come this far. I nodded and moved ahead hoping find more sign. Sadly, there was no blood, no tracks, nothing to bring any encouragement.


    I began weaving from side to side trying look for a path or trail that the bear may have taken. My head was telling me to give up, but I didn’t want to let my brother down he had worked so hard setting this bait.


    I moved about 20 yards from the last blood and looked up a small rise, there in a depression I saw the tips of some hair! I was shocked, and slightly apprehensive that perhaps this bear was waiting for us and had the high ground. A similar tracking job two years ago had he and I staring at a record class bear at 10 yards that was looking at us from a perfect ambush point. That bear didn’t charge, but nevertheless it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up!


    Scott silently moved forward and I rested my pistol on a tree. At less than 10 yards Scott began throwing rocks on the bear to see if there was any response. Fortunately the only noise was our hearts beating in our ears, the bear had died.


    As we walked up it became apparent that we had taken a truly remarkable animal. We stood back just shaking our heads at the size, my first comment was “ I cant believe we found him”. He looked at me and said we found him because we didn’t give up.


    We took a number of pictures and got down to the skinning work. It wasn’t easy, he was big, and had stiffened up over night. But be patiently took the skin, skull and all legally required meat.


    I cut a hole in the rib cage and did a quick necropsy on the bear. The arrow had cut a perfect peace sign through the shoulder blade. It then passed through the onside lung, cut some of the big vessels off the front of the heart and logged in the sternum/rib junction on the off side.


    The damage was devastating, but did not produce an exit wound. All the blood was in the chest cavity, but the arrow did indeed have over 18” of penetration.
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    One of us decided we should make it out in one trip so we put all the meat in my brothers bag. I took the hide and skull on my back and hung another pack on my chest that contained all our other assorted gear grabbed my bow and off we went.


    People always over estimate how much their packs weigh and I won’t do that, but I will say it would have been smarter to make two trips. It go a little dicey at times while we were hiking out in that the packs would sway as we were stepping over logs and try to throw us down into the swamp. But we reached the shore and loaded the canoe.
    Attachment 80672


    The paddling was easy in a light breeze and when we unloaded and contemplated our hike out to the road, no one suggested doing it in one trip.


    We knew we had to hurry to town to take care of the meat and hide and so with sore backs and tired muscles we drove to Thorne Bay where a local taxidermist would flesh and salt the hide.


    While we were there, the taxidermist sealed the hide and skull. One of the State’s requirements is that the sealing agent must remove a tooth and measure the skull. As he put the skull in his measuring jig, his wife tallied the numbers. She said “20 2/16, wow!” Then she said “Nope I made a mistake, its 21 2/6 I forgot to carry the “1”! “ Twenty One plus inches! My jaw hit the floor!


    Never had I ever thought it would be that big, and to think I watched him for so long before taking the shot. We drove back to my brothers and packed the meat on ice to cool overnight. We celebrated with caribou steaks and halibut and maybe a cold one.


    We took the next day off and I cut up the meat and vacuum packed it for the freezer. As we had poor winds on the horizon for the next couple days we shifted gears and headed to the east side of the island to see if we could find an old road down to an inlet that might hold bears.


    On the way, we had a bear run down the road in front of us that was tall as the hood of his Toyota pickup. We bookmarked this spot for a bait for next year as it had a small lake nearby and a stream feeding it.


    We found a spot that might work for a put in for his small skiff. As it was too late to go back for the boat, we checked another area. As we drove down the road we came to a spot where the road was blocked by a winter land slide. The slide was so fierce that it ripped the soil down to bed rock and carried the debris of trees and boulders out into the inlet.


    As we could not pass any further we decided to just hike down to the inlet and see if we could spot any bears. The hike was steep and jumbled and we probably moved too quickly as the second I hit the beach i looked to my left and standing there was a bear not 75 yards from me looking at me. He ran into the woods and we continued on trying to find a way around the landslide.


    It was low tide so we climbed to the waters edge and made our way around the landslide to a vantage point that allowed us to watch the bay. Not long into our vigil we saw two bears across the water and later on 2 more came down to the head of the bay. The wind was wrong for a stalk so we just bided our time and planned for the next day. On our way out, seals came to the surface of the water and seemed amused at our attempts to now climb over the landslide at high tide.
    Attachment 80673


    We headed back to Craig and packed up for the next day. We put a tent, food, the boat and our hunting gear in the truck and hoped for good weather. Early the next morning we started the long drive to the boat launch we had seen the previous day.
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    We also threw some crab and shrimp pots in the boat as the charts showed that the bottom and depth in our hunting area might hold some crustaceans.


    When we reached the boat launch we were greeted by an Alaska State Trooper who checked out licenses and gave us some information on bear movement and how few hunters were actually in the area.


    After putting the boat in we set up camp and sorted gear. The wind was good and calm so we baited the pots and dropped them in a likely sports. On the way out we cruised by a good bear but was too small for a stalk.


    It was getting on in the afternoon and although we had light till after 10pm we wanted to get hunting. A short distance from our camp we saw a dark blob on the beach. He was feeding towards us with the wind at his back. We pulled to about 200 yards down the beach and I told Scott, its your turn.


    He asked, do you know how to drive this?, I said yes just tell me where reverse is? I backed into the bay and pulled 1/4 mile out as Scott started down the beach. Everything was right as the bear fed down the grass line in his direction. The only problem was that it appeared the bear would run out of grass before Scott cut the distance to bow range.


    Through my binoculars I could tell this bear was a monster. He had the all the features of a big head, huge shoulders and low slung belly. I kept talking to myself hoping to will the bear closer but it wasn’t meant to be. At about 50 yards the bear just turned and walked up into the woods.


    After picking up my brother we idled down the bear spotting an occasional bear, but none in good positions for a stalk. At one point Scott spotted a set of ears over the top of a deadfall and we both stared through our glasses. This was a good bear but to get the wind right I had to move to the downwind side of a stream that looked like it might be crossable.


    I jumped off the boat and ran up the beach to get the wind right and try to find a place to cross. Although it was low tide, the creek was still quite high and I had to go up stream over 200 yards to find a place to cross. The rocks were moss covered and slippery and the current strong enough to nearly knock me off my feet. Eventually I made it across and moved the bear’s last spot. But I had taken too long and I only caught a glimpse of him as he moved into the woods. I tried using a predator call, but he wasn’t having any of it.


    We called it a night and motored back to the campsite eating some freeze dried meals, sipping an Alaskan and watching the flying squirrels dart and dive in the deepening darkness.
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    The next morning the forecast was going to change and we had a small window to do a brief cruise and pull the pots. Despite seeing 4-5 bears none were in spots that would allow us to beach the skiff and get the wind right.


    We reached our shrimp pots and of course me being the new guy, I volunteered to pull up the three pot string. Thankfully, he has a one way sprocket on the gunwale and as you pull up the line it locks in and won’t let the line slip back. It still took many minutes of powerful tugging to bring up the pots that held only 14 shrimp.


    We both laughed that we had enough for shrimp cocktail and moved on to the crab pots. These weren’t as deep and held four legal Dungeonous Crabs. We cleaned the crab and shrimp and packed them on ice for our drive back to town. It was going to be a very good dinner!


    The next day a friend of my brother’s called and asked if we wanted to go Salmon fishing. Im not much of a fisherman, in fact my lack of ability is legendary, but we went anyway.
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    We left the dock early and headed out in poor weather to a bay and spent the day fishing. While the action was spotty, the eagles and whales made up for the lack of fish at times and we actually put halibut, king salmon, black bass and a silver(coho) salmon in the boat.
    get-attachment.aspx6.jpg


    We saw over 50 sea otters and our boat captain remarked that the high numbers were raising havoc with the crab populations. But this giant weasels are protected unless you are a member of one of the Native Nations. He told us of one person and his uncle taking almost 100 in a day recently.


    After the fish were cleaned and put in the freezer we treated ourselves to fresh king salmon on the grill. The weather was not good for the rest of the time I spent on the island for our small skiff and big water so we put our feet up and relaxed for a couple days.


    On the day I flew home my brother headed out to the bait site to refresh the bait. He sent me the following pics as I flew back to Anchorage. Though he tried he never did connect, but we know that no one else did either! Guess where we will be next spring!
    standing at bait.jpg
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    Great bear, great read. Congratulations. Lisa and Rosey are top notch. They are great friends of mine. We are from the same town in Montana. That man has hunted around the world and killed almost everything with a long bow. He has some wild stories from when he guided here in Alaska in the 80's

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    Quote Originally Posted by kodiak kid View Post
    Great bear, great read. Congratulations. Lisa and Rosey are top notch. They are great friends of mine. We are from the same town in Montana. That man has hunted around the world and killed almost everything with a long bow. He has some wild stories from when he guided here in Alaska in the 80's
    I didn't get permission to use their names, so I left them out. But you are right they are great people. We had dinner with them one night and my brother hunted with him and another person a couple years back in Montana on a mountain lion hunt. His garage is packed full of skulls from africa, australia etc.
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    Great story and congrats on the fine bear.
    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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