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My SE AK black bear hunt

rufous

New member
Joined
Nov 5, 2002
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47
Location
Walla Walla, WA
Following is the story of my first Alaskan Black Bear hunt. This hunt was in the works for about 3 years before I finally pulled it off. The major difficulty was finding someone to go with me. Boise (Rick) agreed to go so we started the major planning several months ago.

We left Boise, ID Saturday morning the 15th of May for Wrangell, AK. We got into Wrangell at about 10am and then did some grocery shopping before flying out to Kosciusko Island. I have some friends that live there and we stayed in their cabin (on a separate property from where their home is). Saturday evening we saw a big bear feeding on grass in the tidal flat near the cabin but since we flew in that day –no hunting on the same day you fly in- and there were other houses around we did not shoot it. It was rubbed also.

We started hunting Sunday morning by cruising the roads on the 4 wheeler. We drove away from the homes a bit and decided we needed to double check that our rifles were still sighted in. We shot at 150 yards and Rick’s shot hit about 1” from his aim point so he called it good. My shot was 5” high though (it should have been 2.7” high as I was zeroed at 250 yards). Rick was shooting his 375 H&H with the 250 Barnes X and I was shooting my 300 Win Mag with the 180 Partition. I fired another shot for confirmation and it was 0.5” lower than the first shot so I lowered the scope 7 clicks and fired another shot. It was lower but not quite as low as it should be so I adjusted the scope down another 3 clicks and called it good.

We headed west on the road and finally got out to the ocean. We saw another bear just after we started walking on the road once we got out to the ocean. It was only 50 yards away and feeding towards us. We could easily have shot it but it too was badly rubbed. We continued exploring the road system but did not see any shooter bears. One time when Rick was driving we came around a corner and a big bear was running down the road in front of us. Rick gave chase and we could probably have lassoed it if we had a rope, we were that close, before it dove off into the forest. I got off the 4 wheeler in hopes of seeing it and maybe shooting it. But even though I could hear it moving around not far away I could not see it as it was so thick in there. That evening we went back out to where the road ran to the ocean on the west side and I saw the same rubbed bear we had seen earlier that day. It was in a cove and I could have shot it but passed.

Monday morning my friend took us out in his skiff. We saw three bears in separate locations. Two of them looked pretty big and we stalked those two. The first one was on the move and it busted us. The other one we could have taken but it was not huge and it was rubbed. After getting back to the cabin that afternoon we decided to check out a clearcut that my friend suggested. We drove the 4 wheeler to the clearcut and got off to glass it before going down into it. Immediately we saw a big bear on the landing where the road came to an end in the middle of the clearcut. We saw another bear about 10 yards from it. We decided to try to get closer and see if the bigger of the two was a shooter. By this time they had both moved off a bit so they could not see our approach. When we got down there we first saw the smaller of the 2 and decided to pass on it. Then we saw the bigger one (it was only 100 yards away) and Rick said to hustle up to a stump and rest the rifle over it. We both got to the stump and I was trying to decide if I wanted this bear (was it big enough and was its hide in good enough condition?). Before we began our Alaska hunt Rick had graciously said that I could have first choice on a bear and if I did not want it then he might take it. As I was trying to make the decision on this bear we saw a third bear further out in the clearcut. I asked Rick if it was bigger and he said he was not sure. This bear was 275 yards out. It was walking away and I decided to shoot it if it presented me a shot at its vitals. It turned to the right and I fired, knocking it down. I fired a second shot immediately because I had heard so many horror stories about bears getting into the forest, never to be recovered. It was down in the brush and out of sight. We did not see it but we also did not see it move off. Then Rick said he would shoot the other bear which had not paid any attention to the two shots I just fired. By this time that bear was about 110 yards out walking along a log and when it presented Rick a good view of its vitals he fired. His bear ran about 10 yards and piled up dead. We were pumped with two bears down. Time was about 8:15pm. We walked down to Rick’s bear to ensure it was dead and took some pictures. His bear was a mature boar. We had a hard time measuring it as it was kind of balled up but if I remember correctly it was about 6’ long and had a girth of 49.5”.

Then we went to find the one I had shot. We only found a blood trail heading out of the clearcut and into the forest. We searched in the forest but lost the blood trail. I tied a hankie up where we saw the last blood sign and dejectedly gave up for the night. We decided it would not be a good idea to butcher Rick’s bear that night and pack it out because we were concerned about breaking our legs while trying to walk through all that brush and branches in the dark with heavy loads of meat. So we headed back to the cabin. My worst fears were being realized- that of losing a wounded bear. Fortunately it was not raining.

We got back to the clearcut the next morning and butchered and packed Rick’s bear back to the landing where we had parked the truck, placing it under the truck in the shade. Then we took off to try and find the bear I shot. It was 1:30pm by now and I was anxious. Rick had wisely said we should butcher his bear first and give the one I shot more time in case it was not dead. We got through the clearcut and to the hankie I had left the night before and started trying to find more blood. The bear had been going in a straight line downhill and we figured it would continue in that direction so we focused our attention that way. No blood was found downhill though. The night before I heard movement off to the right so I started working to the right. There were bear trails and tunnels all over in there. No blood was found to the right so we started looking to the left and finally picked up more blood. It was very slow going. We would find a bit of blood and get encouraged and then not find more for sometimes several minutes of crawling around on our hands and knees, all the while getting more discouraged and in despair. Then another bit of blood would be found and so on.

We finally got to a point where the bear must have spent the night because there was a lot more blood. We were excited and on high alert. Rick crawled under a log and his leg cramped badly. He let out a bit of a scream. I asked what was going on, thinking something had stung him or he had gotten into nettles or something like that. He said his leg was cramped terribly. Then I heard movement in the brush below us. I told Rick this and he said to go toward the sound. I moved quickly toward to sound, trying to get a good vantage point. I got up on a fallen log where I could see down the brushy slope and saw bushes moving. I only had my Ruger Bisley 45 Colt single action revolver with me, figuring we would quickly find the bear dead. Rick was packing his 375 but he was behind me still trying to get his leg to uncramp. Then I saw the bear hobbling along below me and amazingly it came out on a road. We had no idea there was a road below us. We figured if we did recover this bear we would have to pack it all the way back up through the rainforest and across 300 yards of clearcut back to the truck. I was standing on a log with no support or rest to steady my aim but I knew I had to fire on this bear and hope I could hit it. The bear had to be about 100 yards away. I fired once, twice and three times. Praise God I hit it with my third shot and rolled it in the road. I yelled out to Rick that I had hit it. He called back asking where it was. I told him it was on a road down below. Naturally he too was dumbfounded to hear that there was a road below us. I quickly reloaded (I had another 6 of my handloads which use the Cast Performance 335 grain WLNGC at 1270 fps) and headed down to the road as fast as I could without breaking my legs. Believe me when I tell you I made good time!

I found a generous blood trail along the right side of the road and followed it about 40 yards and then saw the bear in the ditch on the left side of the road. It was still trying to move uphill and all I could see was its rump and spine. I opened up on him from 10 feet, hitting him 4 times while he bellowed. Finally he was down and laid out in the ditch but still alive and snapping his jaws at the brush. I put another one into his chest as he was laid out on his back. Then he let out a couple long death moans and gave it up. That was immensely intense. I let out a war whoop, releasing my pent up tension and yelled to Rick that he was finished. Rick arrived on the scene asking me, “what the heck are you doing- trying to make a net?” That thoroughly cracked me up and got me laughing. We were only 1.3 miles by road to the truck so I hustled back to get it (Rick had tweaked his knee the night before in the clearcut). We then tied some rope to the bear and dragged in onto the road with the truck. My bear was also a mature boar with a nose to tail length of 72” and a girth of 46”. We figure it is pretty old. He was gray around the muzzle and his molars were very worn. His skull measured 19 and 9/16”.

I feel terrible about putting this bear through hell. I do not know what went wrong with my first shot. I have taken several deer at much longer ranges and would not have taken the shot if I was not supremely confident of the results. I was calm and the range was not extreme- 280 yards. We did find the bullet logded against the hide on the left side of his chest. With all the pistol bullet holes we did not figure there was much point in doing an autopsy, nor did we want to take the time to open him up. We also recovered one of my pistol bullets. My second shot with my rifle the night before connected in his hind end so both of those shots were hits, though obviously not good vital hits. The only thing I can think of is that my rifle still was not properly sighted in (perhaps it was hitting too low at that range). I will have to go out maybe this weekend and check. Anyway while I feel bad to have put this bear through such a rough time I am also proud that we persevered and finished what I started. Had it been raining there is no way we would have found him.

A big thanks go to Rick for joining me on this adventure, for sharing with me his hunting skills (you know that if you play chess or tennis or whatever with someone better than you, you will improve faster than if you play with someone not as good as you- Rick is a better hunter than I and I profited from hunting with him) and for helping me to recover my bear. Thanks also to Big Sky, BW and Johnnie Laird who have advised me over the last 3 years on black bear hunting in SE AK. Rufous (AKA Bruin Carlson).

If I could email some photos to someone to post here I would sure appreciate it. Rufous.
 

Elkhunter

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Dec 20, 2000
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Jackson, Wyoming
Way to go on the bears and and nice pics.
 
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