Approaching Black Bear


Well-known member
Jun 8, 2018
Hunting Black Bear for the first time, 2nd week in May of 2021, with tags for SE AK. This will be an unguided trip with my wife, her in the shooter #1 position. Fulfilling a lifelong trip for both of us to see Alaska and mixing in a new challenge by hunting something we've never chased.

As I'm consuming as much content as possible, I have a couple of questions about black bear approach.

First, relating to the spot and stalk itself. Is it effective to try and locate bear from a moving boat? I suppose this could be comparable to hunting from a 4 wheeler and the expectations one might have for that, but perhaps it's just the way it's done around there...

Or, is one better off trying to identify certain habits or features on a map and focus there with a wait em out approach?

I'm really just trying to better strategize on the hunt and would love to hear from some experienced Black Bear hunters who have hunted the SE coast.

Also, what's the "bubble" like for a bear here? Wondering how much I can get away with and at what distances. I'm guessing smell is something you still won't get away with, but are they extremely focused on feeding and relatively un-threatened by your presence? Or, if they spot you or hear you will they get out of dodge?

I hear their eyesight is not the greatest and you can get away with a decent amount but I suppose this question also helps inform my opinion on the first question as well.

I think of animal safety bubbles a factor of pressure, so it may mean this question is too subjective. That said, I'm interesting in hearing different perspectives.
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Thanks for a post about hunting. No help.

I appreciate a legitimate question about hunting.

There are too many angry posts out there.
Seems like the preferred method of hunting bears in SE Alaska is from a boat. Just like vehicles, they can hear a power boat coming from a ways off. Sometimes they will react and run back into the trees and sometimes they will hang out. Every bear is going to be different and probably even the same bear on different days is going to react differently.

Their eyesight is worse than ours. Smell is #1 and hearing #2.

I’ve been twice and there was no shortage of bears either time. Cover some ground and you should find several each day.

Good luck.
Well if you asked the bears that spent half their time feeding about 100 yards behind my campsite on my last weeklong black bear hunt, I would say that they really didn't care that I was there! That made for some interesting nights in my tent as I was hunting solo and my bear fence decided that was the trip it didn't want to work on.

To answer a bit more about your questions. Most people here are hunting from a boat. If they are motorized they glass from a long way out, and then just idle in quietly when they want to put on a stalk. Or if you're paddling, you just try to get there as soon as you can before the bear walks off the beach and heads somewhere else.

I have never used a motorized boat on any of my hunts so I'm not used to cruising large swathes of country. I tend to pick an area on the map that has what I see are potential feeding and good paddling areas and get dropped off there. If you're motorized you have much more room to roam and that can be a good thing. Either way you do it, you're in for some beautiful and wild country.
I’m no expert, but I’ve been to SE Alaska twice for black bears. We constantly cruised the quiet bays and inlets away from the main channels and never had trouble finding bears out feeding on the grassy beaches in the late afternoons. I wouldn’t just point the boat right at a bear and motor straight toward one, but they let you get away with quite a bit. I just don’t believe that they associate the water with danger, generally speaking. They won’t argue with their nose, however. If you’re trying to beach your boat upwind you’re wasting your time. But if you work downwind in the boat, you can often get to the beach with no problems. Then just hope the wind holds!!! Black bears definitely aren’t nervous like a whitetail or something. They’re top-of-the-food-chain animals and they exhibit a lack of anxiety that their position affords them. It’s a great hunt. Enjoy it!!
Responses above have all been very helpful and definitely answer the questions I had. Thank you for the context and encouraging reports. Can't wait until May!
Search out FreshTracks Alaska bear hunting videos, there has to be half a dozen between OYOA and FreshTracks Seasons.

Cruise, spot and stalk.

Or like the most recent one in memory, find a huge blackie as Big Fin is headed down to the creek to filter water.
I too will be hunting black bears in southeast Alaska this year. My dad, brother and I will be going the first week of May. We have most of our logistics figured out and we will be renting a boat. It does seem like many people rent a boat as well as a float plane. Seems like Randy Newberg himself has done that. I guess I am trying to figure out the purpose of having half the camp fly to the spot and the other half take the boat it. Not sure I understand why that is a typical option. Boat we rented is a Hewes 18 foot skiff. So nothing fancy, I guess 3 guys and gear sitting in that and coasting for any sort of distance is less than ideal?

Any thoughts?
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