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!
Flying near Bjorka Island.
Flying up Whale Bay before we fly through the pass to Gut Bay.
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!
Our tent camp!
My buddy fleshing his hide.
Waiting at the dock for the plane!
Departing Rowan Bay
One of Baranof Island’s many lakes!