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…