I didn't get into hunting seriously until I was in my mid 20s. My dad didn't hunt and we lived in Florida. My mother's side of the family has a long history here in Alaska. She was born in Chignik and was adopted by a couple who homesteaded Wasilla in 1949. As far back as I can remember, while growing up in Florida and knowing I was from Alaska, I wanted to live here. I visited my grandmother a few summers and eventually moved up after high school for college.
I got my first taste of hunting while in college up here. My future father in law drew a caribou tag for the Kenai Peninsula. He was recovering from heart surgery and needed a partner to make sure he was safe. I didn't learn much from him. We didn't see any caribou but did attempt a stalk on a black bear. He got too exhausted and we abandoned the stalk.
I ended up having to move down south due to changes in my goals for education. Unfortunately I didn't get to move back here until 2014. We were gone over 10 years. One of the places I lived while outside was Idaho. We lived there 7 years. It was there that my love for hunting was born. Friends from church invited me to go mule deer and elk hunting. They ended up becoming the best friends I have ever had. I didn't have much expectations for harvesting anything my first year. My reasoning for going hunting was I enjoyed the mountains and hiking. It sounded like a good excuse to enjoy both with good friends.
My first year I didn't have much expectations. We put scores of miles of boot leather down hiking up and down hills and mountains. We didn't see any elk and I only got one chance at a fork and horn mule deer. He was standing with a group of does. It took me a bit to find him in my scope. When I finally settled, got steady, and pulled the trigger nothing happened. The safety was still on. By the time I got it off the group of deer kangaroo hopped out of site.
That first year I didn't harvest anything but got hooked on hunting. I marveled at how well my friends spotted animals and how quickly they could locate them in their rifle scopes. I began practicing the skills all the time and eventually got to where I could on occasion spot animals before my friends. I ended up becoming a successful hunter in Idaho. I harvested deer every year, several elk, and my once in a lifetime Idaho moose.
My work situation changed and the opportunity to move back to Alaska presented itself. Last year I was not an Alaska resident because I had not lived here for a year yet so I flew back to Idaho to hunt with my friends. That means this year is my first year as a resident hunting Alaska.
Alaska took me back to school. I put in for the dc590 caribou hunt thinking its close proximity to where I live would make hunting it more convenient. I quickly learned that access by foot was near impossible. I tried several access points and found them near impossible to pack an animal out in a reasonable time. I switched gears and took my family floating down a river to hunt moose over 4 days. I didn't see any moose but learned several lessons on increasing my chances float hunting and making it more comfortable for the family. There is a lot that goes into taking your wife and four children ages 1+ to 12 years.
All the time I allotted off work for hunting was consumed in those two endeavors. I ended up glassing the mountains locally for moose during the rest of the season after work and on weekends. I ended up spotting a legal bull. He was a forky. I tried to stalk him the first time I saw him but was thwarted having to cross a river. I spotted him for a few days after and even learned how and where to cross the river. I put in a pretty good stalk but it ended up getting too dark to seal the deal. My wedding anniversary trip was scheduled for the last weekend of moose hunting season so I had to give up on harvesting that bull moose. I felt the moose season was successful. I learned much and even spotted a legal bull.
My anniversary trip was two nights stay in a forest service cabin with just my wife. Her grandmother watched the children. We planned on hunting during our trip and had a great hike to the cabin. The first morning my wife spotted the largest brown bear we had ever seen. It was well above the alders on a mountain about a mile away eating berries. We decided to try to harvest him. After breakfast, we glassed the area of the mountain he was moving towards and didn't see any sign of a bear. We gave up pursuing him and decided to do some fishing. After some success fishing we were making our way back to the cabin when my wife said "there he is". I looked up and he was just above the alders high up on a the same mountain eating berries. We immediately started to plan our stalk. I got to an open area on the same mountain he was on and he started moving our way. Seeing him now at 500 yards he was indeed monstrous through my 12 power binocs. He entered some alders and came out below them at 400 yards. Excitement coursed through me like no other hunting experience I have had. He entered another group of alders and came out at 330 yards. He was in a small clearing and it looked like I might not get another opportunity. He ended up disappearing into the alders. The next day we looked for him but only saw a new trail between the alders made by something very large. I was disappointed not getting to bring him home. His ears in proportion to his head were small. the quality of his fur was one of the best I have seen. He was so fat his belly nearly dragged the ground. I hope to go back next year for a longer duration and get another chance at a good bear or sheep.
This was my first experience pursuing a brown bear. I have some questions for anyone with more experience hunting bears in the mountains. It looks like my wife will now be my primary hunting partner. She is left handed and is afraid of shooting anything larger than her 243. She has harvested several mule deer with it. I have a browning BLR in 300wm that she could back me up with. My primary rifle is now a bolt action 338wm. I want her or anyone I hunt with to have at least a 30 caliber rifle to back me up. What would you recommend I get for my wife or should I just work with her on my 300wm? I am also looking for ideas on if we had to follow the bear into the alders what should we carry for a potential charge in close quarters. If I had shot the bear and it ran into the alders how long should I wait before I try to retrieve him? Any and all tips on hunting these giants is much appreciated.
Sorry for the long post. Thanks for any help.