One of the most hot-button issues in the hunting community is the debate over the ethics of salvaging or not salvaging meat from an animal that has been hunted and killed. Some hunters believe that the meat from any animal killed should be eaten, while others wouldn’t salvage any meat from anything if they weren’t required to do so. It’s probably safe to say that most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these two ways of thought.
Some folks are seriously offended by the fact that we are not legally required to—and normally don’t—keep any meat from brown/grizzly bears. But as with most things, there is more to it than meets the eye.
If you’re planning on doing any serious hunting in Alaska, you’ll be spending quite a few nights in a tent. In most of Alaska you can count on having at least some nasty weather, and the rule of thumb for hunting the Alaska Peninsula is that you’re going to have more nasty days than good ones.
The biggest factor down there and in many places in AK is the wind. At some points, we saw gusts of 60 mph or more, and most days there was a steady wind of 20 to 30 mph. Selecting the right tent and knowing where and how to set it up properly are crucial if you hope to survive, let alone have a successful hunt.
We’ve all been there: shivering in our sleeping bags for what seems like hours before we finally drift off to sleep. I’d put up with it for a long time, as I’m always trying to find a balance between weight, packability, and warmth in a sleeping bag. Even with a well insulated bag, it’s difficult to warm up and stay warm after being battered to near hypothermia by the elements.
My biggest problem in that respect is my feet, which are usually freezing when I crawl into the bag. It wasn’t uncommon for me to wake up several times during the night with numb toes. I have to credit my hunting partner Steve for the solution to my problem; a while back he told me this extremely simple but effective tip.
When hunting in Alaska, It’s hard to rate equipment on the basis of importance. It takes an assortment of several absolute must-haves, but one thing that is as important as any is a good binocular. Any serious hunting in these parts, especially for brown bears, moose, and sheep requires a lot of glassing.
There is no substitute for putting in the effort of painstakingly glassing over every nook and cranny of the landscape over and over again. Without it, you’re better off staying home. And in order to be successful, the better the optics the easier it is to get the job done.
Whether black or brown/grizzly, bears can be one of the trickiest animals to size up in the field. The tough thing is that there isn’t really anything on their body that you can consistently use as a reference. Animals like moose, caribou, and sheep are much easier, as their antlers and horns can be fairly accurately judged.
Bears, however, often appear bigger than they really are, and it’s also tougher to distinguish males and females. There are several things to look for, though, and with some practice anyone can get the hang of it.
After taking two great bears in two days, we sure thought we were on a roll. However, as is often the case, we weren’t going to get off without having to pay our dues. As our focus went toward getting Steve’s bear, things slowed down for the next couple days. Gary and I spent the days fleshing our hides, then we would head out in the early evening.
The nice thing about brown bear hunting on the Alaska Peninsula is that the bears don’t really get moving until late in the evening. After making it back to camp with my bear hide and skull just after midnight, I was more than happy to be able to sleep in till noon the next day.
Surprisingly, the weather seemed to be holding for the second day in a row, so I spent the early afternoon beginning the overwhelming task of fleshing my bear hide. However with two uncut tags left, we once again headed out to glass later in the afternoon.
After spending all but a few hours of the first three days on the Alaska Peninsula stuck in the tent hiding from terrible weather, we finally had a sunny afternoon on opening day of the season. After all of the anticipation, we prepped our gear and headed down the beach to glass for bears that we could finally chase.
If there’s a stereotypical worry of any backpacker, camper or backcountry hunter, it’s camping in bear country. It’s probably safe to say that most of us have heard horror stories of people being dragged out of their tents, or hunters coming back at the end of the day to find their tent and camp completely destroyed. In order to hunt these brown bears, we had no option but to camp in some of the most bear-infested alder thickets in the world. We were between the mountains where they hibernate and the beaches they come to feed at — right smack dab in the middle of brown bear heaven. While there are plenty of schools of thought when it comes to camping among bears, here’s how it worked out for us.