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  • Hinchinbrook Island

    So I got invited to go to hinchinbrook island with a friend for bears in may. Im not sure about this adventure. Anyone done this trip? What should one expect for weather, scenery, wildlife, adventure, or just relaxation?

  • #2
    If you do it, take snow shoes! Went a few years back and there was 3' of snow in the hills at the end of April (early May). Also, be well aware of the weather and pay close attention to the tide. I'm assuming you're boating in from Valdez. If you're flying in to one of the forest service cabins, that's also a possibility and not a bad way to travel. (There's no black bear on Hinchinbrook; only browns).

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Truenorthed View Post
      If you do it, take snow shoes! Went a few years back and there was 3' of snow in the hills at the end of April (early May). Also, be well aware of the weather and pay close attention to the tide. I'm assuming you're boating in from Valdez. If you're flying in to one of the forest service cabins, that's also a possibility and not a bad way to travel. (There's no black bear on Hinchinbrook; only browns).
      I was with Ed on that hunt he mentioned above. He was nice and did not mention I almost died on that trip. It was a life changing trip for me at least. I posted this before and will just cut and paste it here. I will just add that there is lots of vertical land on that Island.


      I put together a spring brown bear hunt in PWS with a guy I met on the forum. We get together and make our plan to take my boat from Valdez to Hitchenbrook Island. I have a 21 ft Wooldridge Alaskan II, with all the safety gear, sat phone, survival suits, VHF, ectÖ. Our plan is to take the boat to Shelter bay and stay in the FS cabin. Well Shelter Bay is a bay that is kind of hidden with an entrance to it that is hard to find if you have never been there. Plus the map I had showed the cabin on the open water side. So we get there and canít find cabin. We anchor the boat and try to scout for the cabin on foot, takes us 15 minutes to figure out where it is and how to get the boat there. By the time we got back to the boat the tide monster had already bit us, the boat was 15 feet from the water on a mud flat. No big thing, already had the anchor out with 200 ft of rode and had another 400 ft coil of rope to tie to the boat and secure on shore. My friend tied off the extra rope and we were on our way to scout around the bay and wait for the tide to come in. We no sooner get around the corner when we spot a HUGE brownie, he had just pushed out and was hanging out just above the tree line.

      Okay Rookie mistake number 2, THINGS ARE NOT AS CLOSE AS THEY LOOK. After a horrible 3 hour climb, hampered by rotten snow and fallen timber we get to within 400 yards of him and the wind shifts. He gets our wind and is gone. The skies have turned an ugly black color and there was rain on the wind. We head down and make for the boat. We get there after about an hour and half, cold wet and tired. We are horrified to see that the tide has returned and the boat has come untied and is being blown out to sea by 50 MPH winds.

      Rookie mistake number 3, I think that I can walk out to the boat on this mud flat. Water temp is 38 degrees. I get out about 1/3 of the way to the boat and see that the water is over my head. My friend had a boat get away from him as a child in Canada and almost died getting it back, he wasnít going in that water for love or money. I stripped off to my under wear and started to swim the 400 yards to the boat. The wind was blowing it off shore and as soon as the water got deeper than 200 ft the anchor would swing under the boat and it would have been gone. Almost all of our gear was on the boat, another Rookie mistake. I swam about half way to the boat, thatís is when hypothermia started to set in. I started to not be able to move my arms or legs. I held my breath and was able to reach the bottom. I used the bottom to bounce my way back to shore. Now Iím hypothermic and not thinking good at all. Iím still focused on getting to that boat if it kills me. I see a large tree trunk that has floated up on shore. I get my friend to help me get it into the water, I used it like a surf board to swim to the boat. When I got there I let the tree go and tried to climb into the bow. My arms and legs did not have the strength to get me in the boat. I thought OH $%it Iím going to die right here at the boat. I had enough strength to get to the stern and was able to crawl in using the motor and the trim tabs. Once in the boat I had dry clothes and a propane heater. It still took me 30 minutes just to be able to lift the anchor and motor to shore.

      Once at the cabin, I continued to make mistakes in my hypothermic state. I anchored the boat and had to get out of the driving rain and 50 plus MPH wind. During the storm the wind blew the water to our side of the bay, this storm surge along with the monthly high tide and me failing to properly moor the boat caused the boat to end up about 20 feet from the water. It took us 2 days to get the boat back operational and in the water. We never saw another bear. We faced a storm equal to hurricane force winds 4 days out of 7. We were so happy to have the seas die down so we could get back to Valdez. I learned many lessons on this trip. I should have known I was in for trouble when I saw all that 3/8 inch cable holding down that cabin. I felt like a train was driving by for 12 hours straight. The worst storm I have ever seen, we had gust to 90 MPH. So that trip was my scariest out hunting .

      Steve
      "I refuse to let the things I can't do stop me from doing the things I can"

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      • #4
        Had a similar trip into so called "Shelter Bay" a couple years ago deer hunting. Luckily, my 40 years of fishing the Copper River Delta gave me enough experience to survive it with a lot less trauma than you had Steve.

        I'd never hunted in there, but had heard friends talk about it so it was in the back of my mind for a shot on a week ling deer hunt to Hinchinbrook. We started out in Port Etches and had a couple nice days there and saw lots of deer and a little bear sign and my buddy got a real nice fork horn that we mistook for a 3x3 because it turned out he had real long double eye guards. We also caught a couple halibut and a ling cod and were having an all round great time. I caught the forecast that second evening and heard it was supposed to come up to SE 50 the next day. We decided to spend the night and not try to get any where in the dark. Then we thought about staying in Pt Etches, maybe going into Constantine Harbor for protection. When I got up in the morning it was up to 25 and coming up. I decided to get out of there as Pt Etches can be a funnel in an easterly. There's a pass through the head of the bay and easterlies scream through there. So we took off thinking of running up to Anderson Bay to hide out. On the way with the wind coming up fast I thought of going in Shelter Bay as we went by. So we turned in thinking we'd have great protection in there. I have a jet boat, so it was no problem going up the small stream that drains the bay. We got in and started looking for a good spot to anchor as it was blowing 35 to 40 by then. First problem, I couldn't find much water in the bay. It's shallow with a couple little channels that aren't much deeper than the rest of the bay. Second problem, the eel grass. It was so thick, it plugged my jet so bad my jet couldn't push my boat. Also no water was circulating so my engine started heating up. We threw the anchor and I popped the inspection plate on my jet and started cleaning out the eel grass. Did I mention the eel grass was bad? So bad that my 35 lb Bruce anchor would foul almost immediately and we were dragging across the bay towards shore. Nothing I could do, but finish cleaning the jet. Got it all back together just as we bumped shore and fired it up and pulled the fouled anchor and idled back in to the middle of the bay. Plugged up the jet again and repeated the first exercise, again bumping shore. This time I headed back towards the cabin looking desperately for an anchor spot, tried several, but couldn't get the anchor to stick. Did I mention the eel grass? Plugged up the jet again, this time much closer to shore, raced to clear it and made a pass by the cabin with no more luck than anywhere else. Plugged up the jet again. My friend and his son were getting good at helping me by then and we cleaned it again. After multiple tries to Anchor and 4 times cleaning the jet and an hour wasted, I decided we were getting out of there while we still could as the tide was dropping and it was blowing 50 by then. We started down the stream and on the right side heading out there is a small Island with a bunch of big spruce trees lining the shore and a lot of alders. There was a small indentation in the shoreline there with sand and very fine gravel and I made the decision to beach my boat there. I put the bow on the beach and we ran my anchor line up around a big spruce and tied it off. Then we ran a line off of the stern cleat on each side of the boat to other trees and pulled every millimeter of slack out of the lines we could. I kept the boat running in forward until the tide had dropped enough the front half of my boat was out of water, then turned it off and we finally relaxed cooked dinner and agreed on the order one of us would stay awake that night in the dark keeping an eye on things as the tide came back in. Middle of the night came and it was blowing a steady 70 with much higher gusts. We shined my spotlight up into the bay and could see breakers higher than I imagined that shallow of water could form. We were glad then that the anchor hadn't stuck in there when we tried as we'd have had some real trouble in there in the dark in that mess. Probably would have been blown on shore some place or maybe punched a hole in the bottom. We felt lucky we were where we were. By daylight it had finally come down to about 40 and we ate breakfast and waited for the tide to get high enough to leave. By the time we came around Johnstone Pt. it was down to a manageable 30 and we ran on into Cordova to take care of Tony's buck and recoup before we headed out for a couple more days to finish the hunt.
        An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.
        - Jef Mallett

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        • #5
          Stid and twodux those were some hair raising adventures, thanks for the great stories.....
          If you want to kill yourself a brownie go straight to English bay in Port Etches and walk up the creek. You better have plenty of ammo cause when you drop one bear more will come cause they have a kinship there. Up the beach at Garden Cove (the head of Etches on the right side going in) me and twodux buddy was stuck on the beach over night w/ his deer and no ride back to the boat cause the skiff broke down....Long story short he had a mini-14 w/ one 30 rd mag. By morning he had six bears stacked like cordwood on the beach and 2 rds left, they kept coming all night, yeah he was a little twitchy for a while. Now then,, if you want the monarch boar, go across Etches to Constantine harbor and walk up Constantine river. The monarch is there lurking in the woods chewing on skunk cabbage. Do me a favor and kill em all would ya. I tried to, thats why I wasn't allowed to hunt for 5 years during the 80's but thats another story .....
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          • #6
            Originally posted by fullbush View Post
            Stid and twodux those were some hair raising adventures, thanks for the great stories.....
            Agreed... that's a healthy dose of reality!
            Pursue happiness with diligence.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by fullbush View Post
              Stid and twodux those were some hair raising adventures, thanks for the great stories.....
              If you want to kill yourself a brownie go straight to English bay in Port Etches and walk up the creek. You better have plenty of ammo cause when you drop one bear more will come cause they have a kinship there. Up the beach at Garden Cove (the head of Etches on the right side going in) me and twodux buddy was stuck on the beach over night w/ his deer and no ride back to the boat cause the skiff broke down....Long story short he had a mini-14 w/ one 30 rd mag. By morning he had six bears stacked like cordwood on the beach and 2 rds left, they kept coming all night, yeah he was a little twitchy for a while. Now then,, if you want the monarch boar, go across Etches to Constantine harbor and walk up Constantine river. The monarch is there lurking in the woods chewing on skunk cabbage. Do me a favor and kill em all would ya. I tried to, thats why I wasn't allowed to hunt for 5 years during the 80's but thats another story .....
              The bears of Hinch are safe from me, made deal with GOD if he let me get home alive I would never go back. I don't plan on reneging on that promise.

              Steve
              "I refuse to let the things I can't do stop me from doing the things I can"

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              • #8
                Good one Stid. I made a deal with the bears a long time ago when I spent a couple winters wall tenting on Afognak Is. They leave me alone and I leave them alone. So far, other than stealing a couple deer, they have kept their word. So I'm holding to mine. Had some nose to nose encounters, and they always let me go with my scalp and my dignity. Well, one time when I came upon one in a brush patch while hunting squirrels for dog food in the spring I lost my dignity temporarily, but I don't blame the bear, it was my legs. I was just packing my 10/.22 and when I saw him about 30 or 40 yards from me, I started backing over the bank away from him. (so I could see him the whole time I was moving away). Trouble was, when I got over the bank I couldn't see him and that really troubled me. I had no idea what he was doing then, so I took off down that hill in leaps and bounds. Even when I was pretty sure I had made a safe get away, my legs disagreed and kept running on their own, all the way to my kayak in the lagoon, about a mile from where I started running. I'm pretty sure I may have been close to the world record on that run. Once I was out in the lagoon in my kayak, my legs finally let the rest of me calm down.
                An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.
                - Jef Mallett

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                • #9
                  Ha, and to think, I thought I was the only one that had a meeting with God on Hichenbrook. Sambuck12, similar to the others, plan, and then plan a little more.

                  I went the last two season's both in May for Brown's. Truly an awesome trip as long as the weather say's on your side. My first year was picture perfect, although no bears down. Last year, started out again picture perfect. Then on our 4th day, mother nature had a mad on and a gale storm came out of no place. Woke up at 4 am to water dripping all over us, went outside and could barely hold on as 8 to 12's kept slamming into my bow. Wind was blowing 85's easy. So for the next 26 hours we held on and watched as we lost my 2 zodiac's, two coolers of of our food and beverages, gun's cases, bow' cases, 3 fuel drums and a hunting gear. All in all, about $15k worth of boats and gear blew away. By the next day we had a small opening in the weather and took off for Seward. On the south end of Montague, we hit the 20' sea's and brought my prop's out of the water twice with my 31' Uniflite.

                  The man and I talked a lot during this 48 hours, I think I am a better person now because of it, and I got new underwear... roud:

                  But it is an awesome trip, bring your halibut poles too. Set up an emergency tie off point and have a plan if it turns snotty on you. During my deal, the weather in Cordova said it was lite rain and gust's to 15 to 20...

                  Tie everything down-and then again. Lot's of "good" rope. Here are a few pic's. Have a float plan etc.

                  PM me if you want to chat or have any other questions.


                  Tony

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                  • #10
                    Spring Bear on Hinchinbrook

                    Originally posted by sambuck12 View Post
                    So I got invited to go to hinchinbrook island with a friend for bears in may. Im not sure about this adventure. Anyone done this trip? What should one expect for weather, scenery, wildlife, adventure, or just relaxation?
                    We are headed to Double Bay April 17 through 24th. We know it is a little early although we hope to catch an early Boar. We will run out of Valdez in my 17' Zodiac RIB and tow a 8' Zodiac behind. I will let you know how it goes, Paul

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by gschuitt View Post
                      We are headed to Double Bay April 17 through 24th. We know it is a little early although we hope to catch an early Boar. We will run out of Valdez in my 17' Zodiac RIB and tow a 8' Zodiac behind. I will let you know how it goes, Paul
                      Just one tip, get a copy of the ferry schedule. The high speed ferry hauls but so leave ahead of it, that way if you get into trouble help will at least be near. Same thing when you get ready to come back. Make sure you have some sort of VHF, to both call for help if needed and to check weather and take several copies of the tide book. Double Bay is SHALLOW and has a very large tidal flat, if you are going to the cabin make sure you arrive at high tide and you may still have a long walk.

                      Good luck

                      Steve
                      "I refuse to let the things I can't do stop me from doing the things I can"

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                      • #12
                        I have hunted Hichinbrook for bear before, there are some good bear there and alot of good fishing spots, the only problem can be the weather its a good run out there so be prepared for the worse. I have been caught out there before in a 27 foot Seasport and had the crap knocked out of us for hours almost lost it a few times had to call a Pan Pan. Can be real scary out there. I really question your choice of boats to take that far out there. Just be careful and watch the weather and remember there forecast are wrong alot of the times for that area.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by gschuitt View Post
                          We are headed to Double Bay April 17 through 24th. We know it is a little early although we hope to catch an early Boar. We will run out of Valdez in my 17' Zodiac RIB and tow a 8' Zodiac behind. I will let you know how it goes, Paul
                          If I remember right that is a 70 mile trip each way. I have fished Hinchinbrook a lot and stayed in all the bays mentioned and waited out an August storm for a few extra days as well. Lower seas easily turn to 6 & 8 foot confused seas when they start bouncing off Knowles Head and Red Head and makes for some anxious moments in a small boat, you make it 95% of the way across Orca Inlet to find seas 3 times as big as when you left Hinchinbrook and you have no options but to go through. It can also be as flat as a bathtub and what a treat that is. I don't know anything about the 17 Zodiac Rib but I just looked at some pictures of them and - Well good luck and looking forward to the hunt report. I have watched a lot of big bears out there and it is one of my favorite places in the sound.

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                          • #14
                            thanks guys, now how about some uplifting good experiences on Hinchinbrook Island, you all have my wife scared and have messed up my spring brown bear hunt... any good experiences out there?

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                            • #15
                              Just to reinforce what Steve was emphasizing earlier, 'Don't lose your head'. You can replace all sorts of gear, but you can't replace your life. Make good, conservative decisions and I think you'll be okay. As others have echoed, plan on 'nasty' weather; Better to plan for the worst weather and be equipped. The force of the sustained wind in that place is incredible and will cause you to have some deep respect for mother nature. I remember very clearly the rain coming down side-ways and the cabin rocking back and forth like a baby-swing. There's no way to sugar coat it! If you keep your head and plan, I think you'll have a memorable experience.

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