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Thread: Nonresident black bear success—23 lessons learned

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    Default Nonresident black bear success—23 lessons learned

    1. First, thanks for the phone calls, private messages, and post responses. For review, I took my family (wife and four boys aged 4, 7, 10 and 13) to Alaska on a vacation during which we planned on chasing bears above the tree line while they got fat on blueberries.
    2. Once again, I was impressed by the genuine warmness we were greeted with by the local Alaskans, the rest of the union could learn from the friendliness found in your state.
    3. We were wet and chilly for most of the hunts. Rain and dew on the tall grass kept us wet, but our wool baselayers kept us warm despite the wetness. The Outdoor Research gaiters I bought were useless, my danner boots stayed wet, socks soaked each day. I found most weather reports inaccurate, so always bring rain gear on each hunt despite the forecast.
    4. Some suggested camping above treeline and depending on how you reached above treeline, I would agree. Now, this was not a “grown man serious hunt” because, well, most of is weren’t grown men. So each day we returned to our cabin, and we hunted every other day of our 8 day trip.
    5. Leather work gloves—the kind we use to build barb wired fences, were wonderful and Ill always have some anywhere Devils Club is found. The machete seemed like a bad idea while I was packing, but it too made easy work of the devils club. All that said, a full week later and we are still finding little “gifts” on our elbows and knees requiring tweezers.
    6. Kifaru Gun Bearer—worked great on the trail, but failed a ton after our first jaunt off the trail and through the alders. Id recommend something heavy duty to strap your gun in when going though that mess. They are like a thousand fig trees planted way to close to each other. But better than....
    7. Spruce Kills. In our opinion, the multiple dead spruce we climbed over proved more time consuming, and more tiring than the incline, devils club, or alder. Chest and knee high fallen giant trees made for slow going.
    8. We walked too much and didnt glass enough. Only once did we make it above treeline before day break. My 13 year old had to wait on me and my 10 year old, but we werent gassed, it just so happened the places we hunted took a long time to get through. Trail walking is easy, leaving trail isnt. But even a marathon runner would have been slowed in the thick stuff. So camping above treeline would give you more time to glass
    9. Like any hunting, the game is where you find it. We expected to get our bears way up high. So just as we exited our first 100 yard stretch of alders on the first mourning of our hunt at about 1500 feet, not even close to treeline, a bear was standing 40 yards away woofing and bouncing on a fallen tree. I really wanted my boys to get a bear before me, but they were still picking their way through the alders, and it was steep so they were downhill from me. The bear started to leave, so I shot it.
    10. Bears look big! I knew on the Kenai they generally run smaller than POW island, but I genuinely thought it was a big bear and even said so on the short video I took as we gave it time to die. In fact, it was just an average sized sow. Probably 150 pounds, but honestly folks, we were happy to get one together and it tastes wonderful.
    11. Grizz Fear. It was real for us, but it got better. We were about 200 yards off the trail where we shot the black bear on the first day. The trail we used to get there was little used, really high grass and had several areas where a big round animal had bedded down. We walked through a “toilet” where it appeared a big bear enjoyed pooping on a regular basis. Mostly high bush cranberries interestingly enough. We could only see about 50 yards in any direction while I quartered the bear. We worried any minute a grizz would come and chase us off the carcass. I packed out all the quarters bone in and both rib cages, because we wanted to hurry. I estimate it was about 130 pounds total while my 13 year old packed out the entire head and cape probably 40 pounds. It was 6.5 miles to the truck and was the hardest hike of my life. Pretty tough for my son as well. By the end of the trip, we were a lot less worried about getting eaten by a grizz.
    12. Conditioning. My sons are USA swimmers and were fine. They waited on me. Im 40, about 20 pounds overweight, but pretty active. I trained jiujitsu for a year prior, and ran stairs for 6 months before the hunt. We live on the south texas coast. Flat as can be. we would have made it up the mountain faster if i had been in better shape, but I never felt like the climb was impossible or that I should have been in better shape. But I also didnt go from being a couch potato. However, I dont know if I could train with a 100 pound pack, and have my joints hold up. The most I ever did stairs with was 50 pounds.
    13. Bear defense. I bought bear spray at Walmart in Anchorage and borrowed my brother in laws pistol. On the third hunt, i bent over and the bear spray discharged. The safety mechanism failed and it didn’t ever allow me to return it to safety. I bought a cheap holster for the borrowed pistol. After descending about 1000 feet after one hunt, I realized the pistol fell out at our last glassing spot. That return up the mountain sucked! Honestly, the areas by the salmon filled creeks where we most likely would have seen a grizz were so thick it felt pretty hopeless if a big brown bear wanted to get us. I also honestly thought, even before the accidental bear spray discharge, we were more likely to spray ourselves than use it on a bear. Luckily we didnt. I guess I will bring a pistol next time, but since you cant fly with bear spray, I dont know if I will bring that again. To be honest, I think if I turn the corner and mama bear and cubs are right there, I am toast anyways.
    14. Fish and Game over on Raspberry street in anchorage were super helpful. Friendly, and put us on the fish. Everyone should stop by before their adventure.
    15. Microspikes helped a ton on the wet grass, but one of my boys kept stepping on himself and falling. Worth it in my opinion.
    16. Fishboxes are for sell everywhere and do fine with frozen bear meat.
    17. Couldnt find a sealer on Saturday and it said they dont want them frozen so that was stressful. Took it to Knights Taxidermy and they took care of it for me.
    18. Just as heads up, my wife pretty much flipped out worried about us out hunting. Really surprised me, but the uniqueness of Alaska set her maternal instincts off. We finally had a “family hunt” on a really easy trail, all 6 of us and actually had a woman come running off the trail saying a grizz was coming, really panicked, had wet herself. I asked if it was in fact a grizz and not a black. She kind of wavered. We were right at the truck so they loaded up and I kind of waited, but nothing showed. Later down the trail, a woman jogging with ear buds stopped and told us about a couple black bears on the trail not leaving. She then saw the boys rifles, and asked us to please not shoot them. We finally came to a bridge, and in the creek was a black bear standing about 100 yards away. As we were glassing, one son started to take aim and two cubs scrambled to their mom. Obviously didnt shoot. Seeing the bears and some scared hikers calmed her in some strange way and she was fine after that.
    19. Fishing rules are fairly complicated, I’d suggest studying them before arriving.
    20. Wolves: we heard some, but didnt see them. Middle of the day, strangest noises Ive heard until one howled. One of the highlights of my sporting life.
    21. No freshwater salmon fishing around Seward.
    22. Excellent Dolly Varden fishing.
    23. Seward area had a weird population of orange, black, white and grey rabbits running around everywhere. Invasive? Or snowshoe?
    23. If you have a youngish fam, have the means to do so, this trip was an absolute blast. No, we didnt tag three bears or a wolf, but we caught silver salmon and dolly varden, shot squirrel, grouse and ptarmigan. Picked gallons of an assortment of berries, not just blueberries. The only thing different to do would have been to add on a few more weeks.

    9E628712-BB3B-4FB0-8D7D-38226E8F0F08.jpg
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    Fishing was great in Soldotna Attachment 98338

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    That sounds like an absolute blast of a hunt!!! Did you stay in a forest service cabin?


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    Quote Originally Posted by rooster85 View Post
    That sounds like an absolute blast of a hunt!!! Did you stay in a forest service cabin?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

    We actually had two reserved, but some issues developed and we didnt get to stay in either. Its definitely on our list to do it next time. We had reserved a couple ones suggested in DMs and phone conversations. Frankly, I need to go back and stay for two months.

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    Looks like a great time!

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    Excellent read!

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    Congrats man. That was a fun read
    "I'm going out to fish." - Peter

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    Member Andy82Hoyt's Avatar
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    Great write up, thanks for sharing. What an experience for your family.


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    You have to experience Alaska to understand it. I have been hiking with several people when we stood and watched a black bear just 15 ft away eating grass, this is on a well traveled trail. I have had brown bears below my deck of my house, moose in the yard several times a year it is just our life. I hope you and your family return. If you do let me know, we might get some flying in.
    DENNY

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    Excellent writeup, and thanks for sharing. More pictures would have added a lot to it. You and your boys will remember this trip as long as you live..

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    Speaking of pictures, were any of you able to view his pics other than the two in the original post? I couldn't, unfortunately. Just got the forum's famous

    "vBulletin Message Invalid Attachment specified. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator"
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Great write up! Like others have said, this was a trip your family will never forget!! I live on the Kenai, if you are going to make it up here; give me a shout and i'd be glad to assist in any way I can. Nothing better than getting kids in the outdoors!

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    Speaking of pictures, were any of you able to view his pics other than the two in the original post? I couldn't, unfortunately. Just got the forum's famous

    "vBulletin Message Invalid Attachment specified. If you followed a valid link, please notify the administrator"
    Me too. Rick
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    Attachment 98403
    Quote Originally Posted by Old John View Post
    Excellent writeup, and thanks for sharing. More pictures would have added a lot to it. You and your boys will remember this trip as long as you live..
    Attachment 98403Attachment 98403Attachment 98404

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