Baiting black bears here in interior Alaska poses a few challenges, including river navigation, thick vegetation, and rampaging grizzly bears. But in my opinion, the most formidable challenge to overcome this time of year is the mosquito population. Alaska is infamous for its “state bird,” the mosquito, and I have never seen them so thick as I have when sitting on a black bear bait.
Especially during the wet, early summer months, gangs of bloodthirsty mosquitoes numbering in the thousands wait in the woods, ready to swarm any breathing creature that sets foot in their domain.
When most people think of flyfishing in Alaska, dreams of huge schools of salmon, or arm-size steelhead come to mind. But there’s another, often overlooked opportunity for flyfishing bliss: arctic grayling. Found in nearly every livable water system in Alaska, grayling are my favorite fish to pursue with a fly rod.
With most of the hunting I do here in Alaska, trail cameras aren’t really practical. This is simply because many of the locations are too remote for setting up and checking cameras on a regular basis. One form of hunting for which I do employ trail cams, though, is black bear baiting. In my part of interior Alaska, the forest and brush is so thick that the only practical way to hunt black bears is over bait.
It can be done without cameras, but I like to use them because cameras give you a clear picture of what bears are using a bait station, and when they are coming into it. The problem with trail cams, though, is that bears seem to love to chew on them. In the area we hunt, grizzlies in particular have a habit of destroying every trail camera I have ever put out…until now.
Have you ever had one of those hunting seasons where just about everything went wrong? Well that was black bear season for me this year. If you saw last year’s black bear coverage, well, this year was a bit of a disappointment.
I got my bait out even earlier, fully expecting to have black bears all over it before the grizzlies made it down out of the mountains. I was wrong. Within a couple days, there were at least 5 grizzlies on my baits and no black bears.
I’ve had several close calls while living and hunting here in Alaska—it kind of comes with the territory—but some of them stand out more than others. This particular incident occurred while I was sitting on one of my black bear baits in interior AK last month. The bait had been getting hit hard by a couple nice black bears, so I was excited to try and get a shot with my recurve bow.
Among the benefits of living in Alaska is access to some really remote places. For some of us, this encourages our natural inclination to do things that we normally wouldn’t ever think of, either because it’s far enough away to be safe*, or far enough away that no one will see us being so ridiculous.