I would like to thank everyone on here that helped me prepare for this hunt...from packing list, maps, personnel experience in the area..guides, the lodge owners in the area, Andrew Airways(Steve, Jeff, Gill, Taj the Pilot), Larry Vandell the Biologist in Kodiak to Art here in Anchorage for all of their advice, candor and patience they gave and shared with me me.
I cannot begin to explain the excitement and the level of anticipation that had me gripped over the last 8 months while preparing for this hunt of a lifetime..this was my first true adventure of many to come living here in Alaska. A true honor to be able to spend the time I did in the true wilderness of Kodiak with a good friend along with getting to experience what it all had to offer.
We flew to Kodiak on the 19th. Spent the night there and made a few rounds the next morning pickin up the tag, visiting with Andrew Airways and taking in some of the local attractions (Best Western Trophy wall) it had to offer. Andrew Airways is a top notch bussiness..great service and never even once acted like they would not go out of their way to accommodate any of our crazy request, except to return our guns..lol..they ran off with the night after the hunt.
We met Taj the pilot and helped Gill load the plane on the 20th around 2pm. Headed out for our 20 min flight into Saltery Lake. Great day with a little rain..the gods must of been watching closely as we approached as the rain stopped and the sun blasted waves of rays on the water as we landed. We set up base camp about 100ft above the water and proceeded to a spotting knob about 300 ft above to get a view of the bowl to our north.
Day 1 was going to be about learning the land and finding the optimal spike camp location for day 2.
Day 2 we headed out with 5 days of supplies to our spike camp location that later was verified by the GPS to be a 785ft right at the snowline, great commanding view of the valley floor and the mountains to our north...we knew Rough Creek would eventually be our destination but at this point we just wanted to get settled in and learn all the little nooks and crannies in our area...even the slightest black speck at 4 miles can fool you if you are not familiar with it later...The time we spent doing this was great..weather was around 40 and just a beautiful day on the mountains and what a honor it was to be there surrounded by it all..
Day 3 found us up at 530am sitting outside the tent glassing...at 8am we spotted our first bear and he was a BEAST...over 9ft with an awesome hide...ears were way out on the side of his head and we counted 5 head lengths compared to his body length. We knew this guy was a nice one..watched him closely for the next 30 mins when he moved to the back of the bowl and out of site. My buddy climbed the little mountain to the west to try and obtain a better view of where he might have bedded down(1500ft)..even from this point of view he could not make it out.
We decided since it was the first one spotted and only the third day to just stay put instead of rushing in without making sure we knew where he was...great call, at 6pm he showed back up and we continued to watch him at over 4 miles away till 11pm when it just got to dark to view him any longer. This made for a sleepless night knowing and anticipating what he might do tomorrow. If we could only get a chance at this guy. He was a great bear.
Day 4 The weather started turning for the worst...high winds, rain, snow and sleet kept our binos obscured throughout most of the day..with no sign of the big bear anywhere in the valley, we assumed he had moved back to his den to avoid the weather or moved to another adjoining valley to our East...we never saw this big boy again.
Day 5 We endured hurricane force winds for the next 36 hours and for 24 of that rarely even poked our heads out of the tent...great gear pays off....4 Season tent from REI and top notch stakes along with us laying on our backs are the only reason it stayed down. Was and awesome experience being in the middle of this...at this point we decided to make a Sat Phone call to our buddy back in Anchorage for a weather update...said for the next 72 hours it was going to be bad...rain, snow, sleet and high winds...we had come for 15 days regardless so were going to ride it out. No way, was I going back without doing it all and taking it all in the good and the bad.
Day 6-8 was pretty much the same...on Day 8 we were finally able to climb the mountain range to our west and sit at 1785ft to obtain that commanding view of Rough Creek and Saltery Cove area...Rough Creek looked more like bear country and we could see fresh tracks coming in from the west over the mountains...never expected for those guys to really walk over those mountains...what endurance it must take...but the tracks got us excited and gave us the motivation we needed to continue on with this hunt.
I have never hunted terrain like this with snowshoes, and for the guys who said you wont need them..well...for anyone out there who is ever planning on going on a spring hunt anywhere in Alaska..bring them and make sure they are good...(Thanks Jake, I took your advice)we hiked over 3-4 miles a day in there and after 1030am..they were a must...before that time you could run across the crusted ice and snow like it was a hardball road...great conditions. By the afternoon it became slush and I am talking about busting to your crotch slush...nasty and very difficult to even get back up and out of, crazy...
Day 9 we were at the top of the little mountain to the north around 1200ft by 630am, and had a great view of Rough Creek. Great weather and the sun felt good on our backs as it came over from the East...at 10am it started to change and then at 1030..there he came. Walking on a small bluff about 4 miles away...little tan grass patch at over 4 miles away and he was standing right in the middle. Hard for even the novice bear hunter like myself to even miss...thank god, I am glad I was looking at this point at this time...20secs later I would have missed him...
My heart was racing and I knew we would have to endure some serious conditions to reach him after he bedded up. If he even did this. The weather started blowing snow so thick I could barely keep an eye on him through the spotting scope or the binos…..I was getting pretty nervous at this point and just wanted to make sure I saw where he bedded down before we went in on the stalk...while my buddy was packing the daypack..(Big Mistake as we did not bring a large pack on this day)..I continued to try to maintain and eye on him. We knew we were going to have to move quick and cover at least 2 miles across snow on snowshoes, then traverse some serious terrain and slopes, cross Rough Creek, another small creek and climb about 600ft on the other side all in about 3-4 hours...
At 12 noon he climbed up in a little alder patch on the side of the mountain and bedded down. The snow as blinding as I strained to watch and confirm his location...we finally decided it was now or never...grabbed the bow..gun and backpack, snapped on the snowshoes and took off..2 hours later we were standing on the opposite side of Rough Creek whispering as we prepared for the stalk, took another shot of video explaining where we had arrived from and where we had to go, along with what we anticipated and lied ahead.
The stalk to get to his location was going to be hard and tough. Trying to move through alders that keep grabbing at your ankles… seems they never want to let go..your foot just seems to turn and roll..with every step..you cant see what lies below and you can often just faintly hear the water running under it...with each step closer we took we felt good about the stalk. The wind was right. The blowing snow was going to hinder him from seeing us as well as we moved in closer and the wind we going to keep our noise down to a min as well...
When we got to within about 200 yards of his last known location we really got excited.. I could not believe this was going to happen...we had spotted this bear from over 4 miles away...crossed some awesome and unforgiving terrain and just could not see going back empty handed.... I knew it was hunting and hunting at the best...great experience and feeling moving into our final position.
We decided to move along the grass patch that from 4 miles away looked to be about 10 yards wide and 40 yards long..but in actuality was more like 200 yards long and 70 yards wide. Great area with green grass already starting to show up...with a small winding creek flowing down the middle. The mountain to our left was very steep with two huge snow slides leveling out at the base. All we had to do was make it another 30 yards and we would be almost directly across of him... we finally made it to our spot...glassed and there he was...just lying there... I could make out this head and see almost 75% of his body mass...great looking bear. Not a huge animal, but my opportunity was finally there.
Everything I had planned and prepared for over the last 8 months had finally paid off.. I ranged the bear at 143 and decided I wanted to try and move in for a bow shot with my recurve...if I could get within 30 yards I would be in a great position to make the shot... I knew Trace with the backup gun would be right behind me and provide the security blanket I needed to get off one good arrow.....just as I started to make my way across the grassy area..he lifted his head and Trace whistled at me...told me to get down and don’t move... I started crawling slowly toward the bear at every opportunity he gave me to do so...his head would lift I would lay flat on the ground...Seems a bear lifts his head even in a deep sleep..crazy..and bet he did this for at least 30 times before I got to within 50 yards...then with no warning..he stands up.. I cant see this... I am lying flat on the ground, bow in hand...looking back at Trace..he is telling me to shoot it with the rifle and that he is moving toward me...using hand signals.....a little confused, I made sure he wanted me to use the gun..as bad as I wanted to take this bear with a bow..it would be an honor to take my first Alaskan Brown Bear with a rifle...I had brought it with me just in case the opportunity presented itself. Regardless I was going back with this bear..
Trace then tells me he has lost sight of the bear as he descended from his bed...this made me really nervous as I know I was only 50 yards away or 60 at the last point....now he is moving in towards me. Trace is about 30 yards behind me and to my right where he would have the best opportunity to see him...regardless if he came out to the right he would walk right in the middle of the grassy field at 50-70yards..if he decided to move toward me he would cross the snow and provide me with a 30 yard shot....Anticipation, excitement was high..heart was pounding in my chest!...the hands were shaking and I knew this was going to happen.
I checked with Trace one last time, he motioned for me to crawl back toward him...that the bear was traversing the mountainside and moving away....(I have learned to never argue or assume you buddy is off the chart in a condition like this) I used every little low spot I could find...every blade of grass that was 9 inched or taller, rocks...whatever I could to try and conceal my return...I would wait for Trace to tell me when his head was down so I could crawl, slide or slither back toward our original position.
Finally after what seemed like 30 mins and in reality was more like 10 I made it back to our original spot...grabbed the rifle....turned the scope to 8pwr looked at the bear...checked and rechecked his head, hide...size...Trace expressed his concern and stated he thought it might go 8 1/2....this was day 10...10 long days of some of the roughest terrain and weather I had every encountered...my first true opportunity at an Alaska Kodiak Brown Bear....in my eyes it was a trophy of a lifetime... I truly had worked hard every day...spending 8-10 hours a day behind glass, climbe mountain ranges and crossed some of the most unforgiving country anyone one could endure..... I was taking this bear!
I explained to Trace to back me up.. I was going to shoot at the first opportunity it gave me and go for the shoulder. I wanted to break it down. If he tried to get up for him to take the next shot as I reloaded. I tracked it in the scope...watched it look our way and then about that time..it jumped!..startled..it locked in on us at 73 yards, lowered his head and pushed his front paws in the snow... as he started to rise and turn... I placed the cross hairs on the right sholder..just in front,(quartering toward us) and pulled the trigger.....he roared and turned, biting at the wound...I hear another shot from Trace and realized I was in the process of chambering my second round.....Trace's bullet hit him on the opposite shoulder and he slammed into the snow...balled up, then acted like he was going to get back up...(tough animals...everyone has stated shoot, shoot and continue shooting till that animal stops moving...) I told Trace I was going to shoot again...put the crosshairs on the shoulder and let her fly......it flipped back over on his back and rolled down the snow chute about 30 yards before coming to a rest....
What an emotional moment this was. Hands were shaking and the adrenaline was flowing through me....I could not help but let out a yell..in excitement! This was awesome! I had harvested one of the most majestic and most respected animals on the face of the earth!
My dream hunt was far from over...it was 430pm and we spent the next 3 hours properly dressing and skinning this beautiful animal. I had no idea how big these guys can get...holding that head, touching those feet and claws was just an awesome experience...
Being able to share those 11 days in some of Gods country...taking this trophy was what I had dreamed of since a kid...A lifelong dream had come true...this chapter of my life was completed and I knew there would be another chapter one day.
Many talk about how after harvesting your first Bear..whether it be a Black or Brown, you get the fever.. to go again.. I know I have it and cannot wait to for the opportunity. I live for this day!
I have some great video footage of this hunt as we documented every day. I and am sending it all in to a professional outdoor videographer for editing.... I hope he can put it together like I lived it...over 400 pictures of the last two weeksof my life...Great times, memories and struggles were made and accomplished on this hunt.
Thanks again to all that helped me in my success, I sincerely appreciate all the help and will help anyone with anything they need in preparing for their hunt of a lifetime...I know there are a few that drew the same tag I did for next spring. PM me.. I have the maps..know every rock in both of these drainages and have a packing list to boot...GPS locations of everywhere we went and stayed and will share it with anyone. Whatever it takes to help you accomplish your dream... I will try to do my part as many others have on this forum to assist me in this.
6 year old Boar
22 1/8 8 1/2ft