When it comes to hunting opportunities, Alaska is a hard state to beat. With its abundant variety of game animals, Alaska would be my first choice if I were to move to a state just for hunting. You’ll find Dall’s sheep, black bears, brown bears, moose, caribou, mountain goats … and the list goes on. As a resident, you could fill a freezer every year while hunting out of your backdoor, and to me that’s paradise.
I don’t think I’ll be obtaining Alaska residency anytime soon, but I was able to book a brown bear hunt there this year on the peninsula. This location offers some of the best brown bear hunting in the world, and I’ve been planning and saving money for this trip for years. I’ve had the privilege to hunt black bears numerous times on Prince of Wales Island, but this would be my first brown bear adventure.
I booked the hunt through Brown Bear Safari with guide Ryan McCue and apprentice guide Jason Boyer. They’re good friends of mine with whom I’ve hunted before, so that was just as exciting as the hunt itself; it’s fun to go on a trip like this with people you enjoy being around.
Preparing for the hunt was difficult—I wanted to be ready for extreme cold and wet conditions. Footwear was probably my most difficult choice; I wasn’t sure how deep of swamps we would be in or how much water to expect. A lot of our time would be spent glassing from afar, but I knew I would need high-quality footwear for when we decided to make a move because the walking would get long and difficult … especially if I decided to go with hip waders. In the end, I chose comfortable, knee-high rubber boots with hopes that I would be able to avoid the deep bogs.
As my guide recommended, I got a sleeping bag rated for -40 degrees F because we would be camping on the tundra and the nights would be bitter cold. I also brought the warmest layers of clothes I could find, with excellent rain gear on the outside to cut the wind and hopefully keep me dry.
Once we landed at our new home on the tundra in the SuperCub, we set up camp and situated the tent in a group of alders to protect us from the elements as much as possible. The first days of hunting offered beautiful, sunny conditions. We had high winds, but overall it was a joy to be outside. We ate freeze-dried Mountain House products for all the meals to cut down on food weight.
We spotted some bears early on, but it was difficult to catch up with them. Most of them were 2-3 miles out and moving in the opposite direction; we tried to go after them, but ultimately they were much faster on that boggy tundra than we were. What we really needed was a bear that was stopped and feeding on berries or a bear moving in our direction. We all figured that if we continued putting in our time glassing from up high, we would eventually find a bear in the right situation for a successful stalk.
After the first couple of days, the weather turned brutal—it was raining and blowing like crazy. While in our tent one night, there were reported winds of 80 mph!
Finally, we spotted a blonde bear moving on the tundra. It wasn’t necessarily walking toward us, but it stopped in one location to feed on berries. Gathering only necessities, we quickly set out for a 3-mile hike.
We made a mad dash to the bear and ended up getting within 80 yards. I set up on my shooting sticks as the bear fed. As I was getting ready to squeeze the trigger, the bear looked up and spun around to bolt away. I took a slightly quartering away shot as it was leaving and made a good hit. The bear was still on its feet, so at about 300 yards I took another shot and dropped the bear in its tracks. I firmly believe you should keep shooting if an animal is still moving after a shot—and we definitely didn’t want to risk having a wounded bear on our hands.
As we walked up to this amazing bear, it was one of the lightest colored brown bears I had ever seen. Its coat was absolutely beautiful, and it had a mouthful of busted up teeth to match its old age. It was a great hunt and I enjoyed every part of it. I can’t wait to get back to Alaska!