After 3 flights, and very nearly missing my first flight due to problems getting my guns checked in (whole other story) I arrived in Ketchikan late Saturday night, missing only one bag – which had all my clothes, gear and ammo. I did have my guns though! I took and early flight with Promech to POW and arrived to pick up my truck. After a few calls I found out my luggage had arrived and would be flown over shortly – which was a huge relief. I picked up supplies and our boat and then returned to pick up my partner, Dan Staton and my missing bag. Dan and I made a few stops and hit it off great (we had never met) – too much so since we missed several turns because we were talking elk hunting nonstop. We got to winter harbor to launch our boat. After a neat experience with the truck slowly going downhill while in gear and with the emergency brake on we finally got the boat loaded. During this we got our first experience with the rapid tide changes in this area of Alaska. The tide crept way up the launch ramp while we packed. We headed to Staney Creek Cabin at high tide to take our gear to the cabin. This cabin is accessible at high tide or by a half mile hike from a trailhead. Getting gear there by trail proved much easier then boating in at high tide. We then headed to a few areas I had picked to check out. We managed to see 2 bears which was a good sign, add in the bear I saw on the road just outside Craig and I saw 3 bears the first day alone. We found our way over to the trailhead and hiked in the dark to our cabin which was neat. The trail was unreal, timber and gravel with bridges the whole way. The cabin was also stocked with stuff leftover by others, duct tape, soups, and miscellaneous gear – to which we added several things when we left.
2008 Prince of Whales (POW) Bear Hunt, Donald Vargo (aka DonV)
Day 2 we headed out by boat early so we could scout some areas and find bait locations for Dan. I decided to recheck an area we had briefly checked the day before and found no sign. I immediately ran into a bear feeding along the edge of some grass. I determined him to be a medium bear. I was very worried about shooting a small bear so getting close and passing this bear and taking pictures gave my confidence a boost. I let them bear approach to within 18 yards before standing up to spook him. I got some great pictures. I then left and helped Dan find bait locations. I decided to return and glass the grass flat for evening and hope to see and stalk a bear that day. Dan had wanted to film me and pushed for coming with me after looking at another bait location. I wanted to get in and also did not think I would be sure enough to shoot a bear that day – big mistake. I hiked the ¼ mile and positioned myself upwind where I could glass the grass flat for bears. Within 30 minutes I looked over and glassed a good bear walking through the grass. I immediately grabbed my gear and ducked into the woods to close the distance from 300 yards to 100. I had decided I wanted to shoot a bear at 150 yards maximum. The woods were thick and I weaved up and down to make the quickest approach without sounding like a bulldozer. It was very hard to determine how far I had gone. I worked down towards the grass carefully and spotted a bears legs 50 yards away. I then saw a second bear dart into the woods I was in nearby. It looked like a good bear but it was tough to tell. I was not sure if I spooked him. I figured the 2nd bear would soon follow so I dropped down into the clearing more to try to get a better look at the bear. While waiting for the bear to move to where I could see it better I happened to catch a black shadow out of the corner of my eye, I glanced over and saw a good bear ghosting silently along a trail just inside the woods behind me, unaware I was there. At this point I did not know what was going on, there could be cubs around so I decided I needed to be ready just in case. The bear stopped only 15 feet away, where I could only see part of his back and lungs over a stump, I had no intention of shooting but wanted to be ready, I clicked my safety off which the bear heard and instantly whirled and was gone, I was amazed at how paranoid he was. The other bear likely ran at the sound of this bear fleeing. I then dropped a little more in the clearing. Once I was sure the bears were gone I looked back towards where I had started, there was a 3rd bear feeding in the grass 150 yards away! Amazing! I used my binoculars to study the bear and decided he was a shooter and crawled to a log to use as a rest about 10 feet away. I got there and eased my gun up, luckily for the bear he decided to feed into the woods and turned away never presenting a shot. When he walked away his butt looked HUGE. I figured he was not spooked and it was 3 hours until dark so I figured he might come back, or another bear might feed out. I set my shooting sticks up to my left and had the log to my right as a rest. Within a couple minutes I spotted a bear to my left feeding out of the woods into the grass. I used my binoculars to study him. He looked good. Ears on the side, head looked big, he did not walk like a young bear. I wanted to see his belly to see if it hung low, I never did but at one point he was in low enough grass that it was apparent that when I did not see his belly it hung low – a sign of a good bear. I could see the bear was rubber but I was still more than happy since I thought it was a good bear. I tried like heck to talk myself into not shooting since Dan could return and film me shooting my bear later. This was fruitless – I was pretty excited about taking a good bear, and my first bear! I had a rock solid rest and watched the bear for several minutes and he fed facing me and quartering towards me. I waited for a perfect broadside shot. He finally turned and I held dead on (I had ranged him at 150 yards). For the only time in my life I actually slowly squeezed the trigger and even stopped and restarted a few times when I drifted off. I have never taken an animal past 115 yards so this easy shot seemed long to me and I was not going to mess it up. At the shot the bear whirled and ran at an angle towards me. I pumped my Remington 7600 30-06 as I watched him, my gun jammed but I was no concerned. As soon as the bear had turned I saw a large red spot on the opposite side I shot at right over the center of the lungs. The bear was not running good and stumbled as I looked down to fix my gun. When I got a new shell in I looked up and the bear was not in sight, however I was pretty sure he was down where I last saw him. I then heard the death moan, 3-4 low long moans then nothing. I was sure my bear was down for keeps. I go up and started to walk over then talked myself into taking my standard 5 minute wait. I sat back down and went over the shot in detail just in case. I marked my location in my GPS, took pictures, checked my gun and anything else I could do to kill time. That took about 2 minutes. After 13 more looong minutes I crossed a shallow creek and found my bear dead where I last saw him. He went only about 20-30 yards. He was rubbed and I thought he looked small and I had made a mistake, however when I began to take pictures his head and claws seemed big and I started to think he was big again. My bear had a 18-9/16 skull and likely weighed 250-300 pounds and had would square over 6’. I plan to return with my bow in the future.