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Thread: Watching Brown Bears

  1. #1
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    Default Watching Brown Bears

    OK, this may not be the place to put this, but as hunters we all share an appreciation for the game we chase. This year I'm thinking about putting in for the McNeil River bear viewing permit and was interested in knowing if there is anyone else on this site that has ever wanted to give it a shot. I figure if there is a small group that submits together, that there is savings in chartering a flight for 3 or 4 vs. 1 or 2.

    So, if you are interested, drop me a PM.

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    Member Rumbarr's Avatar
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    Just curious since I don't know much about Alaska, you need a permit to view bears ? also whereabouts is McNeil River located ? Thanks, just since everything about Alaska interests me =)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rumbarr View Post
    Just curious since I don't know much about Alaska, you need a permit to view bears ? also whereabouts is McNeil River located ? Thanks, just since everything about Alaska interests me =)
    No you don't need a permit except in a few areas and that is for access not the veiwing. McNeil is a special place where you are overlooking the falls where the bears feed. It is in a preserve and the bears have become tollerant of man. I've been to Katmai and it is unreal having them walk feet from you, not yards, feet, and appearing to be totally oblivious to your existence. For a photographer, it must be nirvana, for me it was one of the greatest experiences I ever had around wildlife without a gun. You can feel them walk past, smell them and see yourself reflecting in their eyes. Knowing that they could kill you in an instant, but also realizing that they have no desire to do so.

    The cost is a couple of hundred bucks depending on whether you are a resident or non-res, and then you have to charter a flight out there. The preserve is located in the north east corner of Katmai, pretty much straight across the inlet from Homer. I figure the total cost per person, depending on size of the group to be in the $800-$1000 range.

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    Ahh the infamous Katmai, Tim treadwells domain that I read up on . You sound like you are a seasoned person face to face with grizzlys , I just be frozen solid if one walked a few feet me lol , the place you want to go to sounds like an interesting experience . Look forward to hearing how your trips goes =)

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    Member Bighorse's Avatar
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    Thats how I feel when those hot Florida bikinis walk within feet of me being oblivious to my existence.

    How much does it cost for a beach viewing permit in Southern Florida?

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    If you're married it can cost you all you have now and for a long time to come!

  7. #7
    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    I understand that the Chilkoot river in Haines now has more bear than McNeil and they may soon go to a McNeil type set-up.Often when fishing for coho there you may have a dozen brownies fishing right with you and looking for a free snack
    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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    amigo i havent heard of that one yet, how ever they did start a new program on the omalley river on kodiak, believe it starts this year if all goes well. its gana be interesting because they havent decided to close it to hunting in that area so the bears will get habitated to humans and be hunted at the same time, its gana be interesting to see how it turns out. As for mcniel river, ill be putting in for that again next draw term, you can apply every year unless you were sucessful then you have to wait 1 year to apply again. depending on what you want to see theres 2 different areas, mikfic creek which recieves a red run in june getts all the bear activity and they focus on that area, theres not nearly as many mature males this time of year but the few dominate monsters like luther and otto pop in and out to do some cowboy struting up the banks. Its breeding season and the females with cubs primarily stay down on the beach away from the activity, you will see lots of bush rumping, and may have to sit and wait for em to finish as the will stand in the trail in front of you, did you know bears can breed for 45 min.!! my buddy and a few others were taking 5 in the group and we had a drive by, a male chaseing a female, she ran right in the middle of us, jumped on my pack and over the top of sleepy jack, he woke up to the face and belly of a good sized bear, by the time he went to fetal position she was gone already! you get to move more and see different locations during the early season. if you put in for july and later youll be there for the chum run and will be sitting at the falls, this is when the males are found in higher density and what mcneil is more well known for, theres lots of fights early on to determine who gets what fishing hole! its a excperiance that anyone whome likes bears should do once, im hooked and be going every chance i can. after you win the draw you pay another fee for youre permit so its a 2 step process, then you book a flight, we pooled the trip and between the 2 of us it ran $1000 apeice, you can charter with others and they will mail you a list of the numbers and name sof others in youre time frame. they let you land a day early and leave a day late but the viewing is only for 4 days. they limit the groups to 10 for the time frame, offer a great cook cabin, no need for bringing anything but food, basic camp supllies, camera and plenty of media cards and batteries!, but dont forget youre hip boots! rain gear, sunscreen and bug dope! and the sauna is a must! keeps you from getting to stinky and after a day of being in the field its like a wet dream.

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    DSC_0182.jpgDSC_0220.jpgjust a couple of the 5,000 pics and 12 hrs of video i got.

  10. #10

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    How does everyone feel about organized bear viewing? On one hand if you let people go in and view bears where they congregate there'd be to many people/bear incidents and you know who looses there.
    On the other hand bears that become habituated to humans don't know enough to flee during hunting season?
    I walked the coast of Katmai during the spill and encountered bears on a daily basis. We had a shotgun and 44 for protection but only had 2 incidents. One was with a young curious sub-adult and another was with a bear that was headed for the high country when he winded us but got between the main group and one wanderer. Every other bear high tailed it for the hills as soon as they caught our scent. It was fun to watch them as they had their head down diggin for clams and we'd walk by in the headlands. As soon as our scent, wind and bear were aligned, up would pop the bears head and they'd start running full bore.
    I've also been to Kitoi Bay hatchery on Afognak Is which was so cool watching the bears fish there. It was like a mini McNeil. We would stand on the top of a set of stairs on the second floor of the bunk house and watch bears hull out salmon right below us. The smaller bears would bring them up into the bushes to eat right below and across a small opening from where we stood. It was amazing to watch.
    OK, where do you stand? Is bear viewing educational for the viewing public or an invasion of the bears space?

  11. #11
    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    In Haines durning the coho run the short river has lots and lots of bears right along side of lots of fishermen but come hunting time away from the park they are still a good hard hunt
    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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    Member Roland on the River's Avatar
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    I got an alternate permit for McNEil back in 1994. Very best Alaska outdoor experience. Certainly much diferent than guiding on Kodiak or AP
    The permit allows you to go to the falls if some of the 10 permitees decide not to.Only 10 per day.Got lucky after the first 2 days several didn't want to make the 2 mile hike so we went.
    Eight hours of bouncing between binocular, spotting scope 35mm camera then video camera then back again and finally the BIO says time to go.Quess what, slow moan from EVERYBODY That's how good it is.
    We had July 4thNo sows or cubs but HUGE BOARS. Many fights. Believe me it's a thrill. I think you have to apply by March.

  13. #13

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    Myself and a friend were Bowhunter Instructor of the Year for alaska and our reward was this trip to Mcneil Bear Viewing Sanctuary. It was amazing. We spent two full days among the bears as they gorged on the Salmon stuck when the tide rolled out. I learned a lot as it was primarily mamma's with cubs, watching the mom teach the young how to catch the salmon. The funny thing was all my friend and I had to take pictures were primitive cameras---compared to those who has come on the trip with ther mulit thousand dollar cameras. The closest the bears got to us was we had a cub at a couple feet while his mom fed on the other side of him, he was very curious and probably would have walked right up to us but the guide let them know we were there. Luckily I still have all those pictures saved. If you get the chance, you won't be dissapointed, take a great digital camera and a data port where you can go thru pictures and save the ones that you want, and delete those that you don't, allowing you to take more pictures, I was limited to my 35MM with about 8 rolls, couldn't believe that I went thru it all.

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