Lets just sum up this time of year with a single picture…
With the late spring this year I had serious concerns about whether or not we would be hitting things a little early.
The plan was to depart Juneau on May 4th and hunt for 3 days via boat. Our target: Black Bears. My buddy had never taken a Black Bear and was itchin’ to pull the trigger on one. We had been out scouting during a work patrol a week prior and had seen several nice bears, so we had high hopes. I would bring along my rifle and bow incase I saw one I wanted to poke a hole in after he got one down. I also had a Brown Bear tag because when hunting the mainland near Juneau, you’re never quite sure what you’ll run into.
We set off late in the afternoon in my buddies 22′ Hewescraft, destined for a bay approximately 50 miles south of town. Our plan was to cruise the beaches as we went in hopes of seeing a bear.
Not long into the cruise near Tracy Arm we spotted a toad of a Brown Bear working its way up a rocky beach into the wind. The bear was in a hurry so we had to make a quick decision. We decided the bear looked decent and started making a game plan on how we would get close enough.
Because the bear was moving so quickly, it was decided that I would get dropped off upwind from it with my bow in hopes that it would work directly to me. This plan was definitely not ideal since the wind was in the bear’s favor.
Shortly after being dropped off I watched as the bruin made its way to me. I could feel my heart start beating, and the adrenaline start rushing. I prepped and arrow in case things worked out. At 70 yards the bear stopped and stood up on a log. It started sniffing the air. I ranged it and saw it was perfectly broadside at 70 yards. I was confident I could land the shot, but I don’t like to risk long range shots on bears, and the fun of chasing a wounded bear through the wounds with an arrow sticking in a less than ideal location.
The bear sniffed the air several times and then slowly sauntered into the woods never to be seen again.
We continued on…
After about another hour we can to a stretch of shoreline where we had seen many bears before, and too our delight one was there now.
We quickly anchored the boat and rafted in. We stalked up the beach and to our amazement by the time we got there, there was nothing to be seen!
Having been skunked for the night, we quickly made our way to Hobart Bay where we tied to the Entrance Island dock for the night.
The next morning we woke early and headed south. All of the places we intended to hunt we were running into other hunters. I was shocked. It seems like even though you’re in Alaska, there is no place truly wild anymore where you can go without seeing a soul for days.
Shortly into the morning we saw a Black Bear sow and 2 cubs, but not much else. We weighed our options and decided to head back north.
After a couple of hours of running we arrived at our new stomping grounds. We decided to set a few shrimp pots, and checked a few promising beaches with some greenery on them. We saw some bear sign, but not as much as I had hoped.
We eventually elected to go to shore on some goose flats and check things out. We anchored the boat, then did a long paddle in on a flat beach. Once the raft was secured we set out walking, looking for tracks, turds, and signs of life.
We found a few sets of tracks, but nothing to get super excited about. I had brought my rifle with me, a .300 Winchester magnum by Fierce Arms. I didn’t intend to shoot anything on this walk as we were looking for a Black Bear for my friend. I also left my pack at the boat.
We hiked out a long spit so that we could round a finger of trees and check out the south-facing side of these flats as there should be more green grass there.
After about a mile of hiking we rounded the spit and walked about a 1/4 of a mile till we came to a small rise with a large log I could stand on and glass the entire flats from. It was sort of clear, and starting to get warm. I glassed the flats but at long distances it was hard to see with a mirage due to the heat.
We glassed for a little while and saw nothing to speak of. We began to speak about our options. It was about mid day now and we had some decisions to make regarding where we would hunt that evening.
As we stood on the log and spoke, I suddenly saw movement in the brown grass about 40 yards from us. As my eyes tried to process what I had seen, I realized it was an incredibly blonde Brown Bear that had been laying there the entire time, in the open, sleeping. I immediately raised my rifle and got my crosshairs laid on it. It was just laying there, every once in a while raising its head. My buddy immediately told me to shoot it. I was ready to, but I’ve learned my lesson to take my time and make sure there are no cubs with the bear.
Quickly the bear caught wind of us and started to stand. As it stood my friend more aggressively told me to shoot it! I was waiting for the perfect broadside shot so that I could hit it high in the shoulders, hopefully breaking it down and keeping it from running.
Quickly it rose and turned broadside and I left my rifle do the talking. With a single shot I anchored the bear, and just like that it was over.
After waiting a few minutes we approached the bear. As we neared it, I saw the beauty of it. It was not the biggest Brown Bear by any means, but I have not seen a more beautiful coated one here in Southeast Alaska.
After snapping some pictures we began our hike back to the boat. Once back at the boat we pulled anchor and came around to the other side of the spit. We anchored back up and head back to shore to skin the animal out.
After about 45 minutes we had it skinned and all ready to go. Great, still time to hunt the evening I though.
Once back the boat, we pulled anchor and started to cruise the beaches in the surrounding area looking for a black bear.
That evening there was no black bear to be found. What we did find was somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 other brown bears, all of decent size. However, having no more brown bear tags, we just glassed them and watched.
That would be the end of our hunt. After several days of hunting we had only seen 4 black bears. These numbers were absolutely dismal.
I’m starting to think that the brown bears are taking over town.
…Until next time…
Well, spring is in full swing now. The beaches are rapidly turning green and bears are becoming more and more abundant. When the sun decides to poke its head out there is warmth in it. It is my favorite time of year.
Here in the near future I’ll be chasing bears with a good friend. We hope to get at least 2 toads, but you never know. I had a chance to get out recently, and this spring is definitely not as early as last year, but we saw 4 nice bears, 2 which were real toads.
I thought I’d post a picture from one of my recent trips to a place I hold dear to my heart.
As mid-April rolls around we are finally beginning to see some warmer temperatures. Along the roadsides fresh green grass begins to emerge and the woods are beginning to come to life.
The part I look forward to most about spring is spring bear hunting. Chasing black bears will forever have a special place in my heart. There is nothing quite as relaxing as sitting in a fresh estuary during the “magic-hour” listening to birds and the sounds of nature while watching for a dandy bruin to emerge from the woods to feed on the fresh salty goose-tounge that lines the beaches.
I was fortunate enough to get out this last week and have a peek around.
This year marks the earliest I have ever seen a black bear out in the field. April 16th I saw my first bear this year. He was a decent bear, though quite skinny. It made him hard to judge, but I’d guess he’d go 18″.
I’ve got some plans in the works, so hopefully in the coming weeks I’ll have some nice pictures and a story or 2 of a fun hunt during these spring months.
Did I mention that sometimes my job rocks?
Keeping in line with my original goal for my blog as being a place to share photos, videos, and my experiences, I decided it was time to start this series.
My goal is to periodically just share photos of places I’ve either been in my personal, or work life.
Port Walter is located on the eastern side of Baranof Island just north or Port Alexander. It is home to a NOAA research facility and an abandoned herring cannery.
Nakwasina River – Sitka, AK
A few years back myself and a couple of buddies decided we wanted to go on a fall Black Bear hunt. We wanted to try and take a Pope & Young quality bear so we decided what better place to do this than Kuiu Island.
For those that don’t know. Some of the largest bears taken in Southeast Alaska consistently come off of Kuiu Island. Kuiu Island is located in central southeast Alaska, just west of the community of Kake. Kuiu Island was once booming with logging, and was host to several small logging communities. Today, about half of the island is designated a wilderness area by the United States Forest Service (USFS), and the island is primarily used by adventures and outdoorsman.
With the season for bear opening on September 1st, we decided we would fly from Sitka, Alaska on August 31st via Harris Air, to Rowan Bay. We chose Rowan Bay because of a small USFS dock that was there, as well as easy access to an expansive logging road system. Since we would be primarily hunting along the creeks we decided we would spend most of our time hunting Rowan Creek, a large brown-water creek that was host to a run of Pink, Chum, and Coho salmon. We brought mountain bikes because we figured those combined with easy access to logging roads would allow us mobility to access several different areas relatively quickly (turned out not to be the case).
They day came and the weather was quite dreary. We didn’t know if we were going to make it out of Sitka due to the rain and low cloud ceiling. After a couple hour wait and breakfast at the airport, the pilot thought we had a window and we departed on our beaver!
After a short 45 minute flight we arrived in Rowan Bay. When we arrived at the dock we were somewhat surprised to see a local bear guide tied to the dock awaiting his clients. I knew that one liked to hunt this area, but I guess I was hopeful since we had gone so remote we wouldn’t run into one. Obviously not the case. The guide instantly recognized me as I got off the plane. Great, I thought. So much for a relaxing break from work. We exchanged pleasantries and agreed on a way so that we wouldn’t be hunting on top of each other.
We quickly gathered up a gear and headed to a large gravel pit where we decided to set up camp. Our camp consisted of a large bomb-shelter style tent, and multiple tarps in case in rained.
Since Alaska does not allow same-day airborne hunting for bears, we decided we’d hike down the road a ways to scout and see what we could find.
We came to a small creek at the mouth of an estuary that the road crossed. We could tell the area had been worked over hard by bears. Salmon carcasses littered the stream banks and the grass was matted down all over the place with bear trails. We continued down the road and discovered it was about a 2 mile hike to Rowan Creek. Luckily we saw the stream had a large amount of fish in it. We had high hopes for the coming days.
The next day one of my buddies and I set out to a creek beyond Rowan Creek called Brown Creek. The plan was that we would hunt that creek, and our third friend would hunt the upper end of Rowan Creek. We set off on our bikes and I quickly discovered 2 things. One, a mountain bike seat destroys your taint on a logging road with hunting gear and a backpack on, and 2, I was not in shape.
After a long bike ride we arrived at Brown Creek. We instantly saw a bear on the upper end of the creek. We could quickly tell he was not a shoot, but we had high hopes to see more.
We slowly began creeping up the creek. We were seeing sign all over the place, but not a lot of bears. We weren’t out at exactly prime time and we knew it. We continued on to a log-jam where we saw a bear come out below us. We hid in the log-jam, and my buddy gave a few screeches on a predator call. The bear came slowly wondering up to us. I drew back once the bear was about 5 yards away, and when it turned broadside, let loose an arrow. The arrow went clean through it and stuck into the log behind it. The bear had no clue it had been hit. It stood there as I watched blood gush out of both the entry and exit hole. The bear slowly wandered off into the tree-line. A few minutes later we followed the blood trail and found the bear dead a few yards inside the trees. The bear was a small bear, and we knew it.
We made quick work of the critter, getting him skinned out. As we headed back to the bridge we spotted another bear. This was a classic black, Black bear with a nice white v on its chest. My buddy took quick aim, firing one shot which dropped it in its tracks. Before we knew it we had that bear skinned and all packed up to.
We began our long ride back to camp. That was the most tortuous bike ride of my life. My taint and my legs were absolutely destroyed.
One back at camp we got the hides all squared away, and our 3rd buddy returned with a bear.
We spent several more days hunting, and my buddy missed a bruiser. All in all it was a great hunt. One that some day we hope to do again!