During the course of your hunting career, sooner or later, you'll wake up and discover that you are not getting any younger. I personally didn’t figure that out until this past big-game season. I had knee issues during my first three days in the woods. I spoke with the doctor at the end of the season and he attributed this, IT band syndrome, to over training during the off-season. This spring I had to reinvent the wheel to keep my fitness level up for 2011.
This spring black bear season has been phenomenal. In the first week of the season my family and hunting buddies put four bears on the ground – three of them being boars squaring 6 feet or more.
With all this good luck, and our baits are still getting hammered, my little sister Courtney wanted in on the action. So Friday afternoon we pulled the boat down the highway and when we got to the river that leads to our spot things didn’t look good. The wind was really howling, which makes the hunting bears unproductive most of the time. Taking a gamble, we jumped in the jet boat and headed downriver anyway, getting to our blind at about 8:15pm.
The design intent for the Icon was simple: bring an alpine mountaineering pack to the hunting market. To do this, Kuiu had to accomplish a few things …
First, the total pack weight needed to be as light as possible, but not at the sacrifice of durability. Specific gear for hunting and mountaineering would require specific pockets: for spotting scopes, headlamps, and water purifiers, among other things. The bag would have to compress down for day hunts but be able to expand dramatically to pack out meat. It had to have balance, to keep the meat high, preventing sagging on the long hike back to the truck.
When I plugged in my Day Six Plotwatcher and saw chocolate-colored hide moving around our bait station I nearly jumped out of my skin. In interior Alaska, especially around Fairbanks, the cinnamon color phase in black bears is very rare. There are a few of these pretty bears up here, but most are jet black. Very few even have white chest spots. This cinnamon was a pretty cool opportunity, and I wasn’t going to let it go!
After shooting that great big boar the Friday before, it was only fair to let my dad Britt have a shot at the big cinnamon. After reviewing the Plotwatcher we figured what paths he was moving down and set up a ground blind 13 yards from the barrel. As I re-filled the bait, my dad and uncle made a simple blind using brush and some camouflage fabric. We checked other baits, then came back at about 8 p.m. and settled in for the night.
After killing a monster 8-foot black bear with a rifle a few years back, I sort of lost interest in black bear hunting. After all, how could I ever top that one? Especially in interior Alaska where the average black bear squares out at 5 ½ feet?
This year, doing Live Hunt, I decide to give black bears another try, but only if I upped the ante a bit.
Although I make no claim of being a talented archer, I have shot bows since I was a kid. I’m certified for bowhunting-only areas in Alaska. Still, until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t shot a single big game animal with a bow. So I made it a goal this spring bear season to fill at least two of my tags with a bow. Taking a step farther, I wanted to get at least one bear with my compound and one with a maple long bow I had made a few years back in Oregon.
Yesterday I took the hide and skull of that brute black bear I shot a few days ago to the local Department of Fish & Game office for the mandatory reporting. I was feeling pretty lucky running into such a huge bear the first night on the stand. What I learned at Fish & Game was pretty nice, too.
A few years back, I killed a black bear with a rifle. The skull measured 20 15/16 inches, which is 1/16 off the all-time Boone & Crockett list. This skull didn’t seem much smaller, but there’s no way to really tell until the calipers are out.
Two hours in the treestand, seeing nothing but squirrels, I picked up movement far off in the trees. My heart started racing and then … disappointment. Two adolescent grizzlies rolled into the baits, took a whiff, then trotted back off into the woods at the sound of a boat on the nearby river.
Not 20 minutes later movement caught my eye again. This time it was black.
I knew right away he was a big one. He came in slow, studying the surroundings, huffing the air, following the same path the grizzlies came down. He waddled over to the bait barrel, then walked right under my treestand.