“I’ll try not to eat it all in one sitting,” I told the checkout clerk as I was paying for the 600 lbs of dog food we would be hauling up the Yukon River to bait black bears.

After weeks of preparation and scrambling like mad we were finally leaving. But as can often happen in Alaska, nature threw quite the wrench in our works.

Driving up Friday morning, about 40 miles from where we planned to launch our boats for the river leg of our journey, we were flagged down by a couple guys heading back to Fairbanks. They had just been to the river and were now heading home, boat in tow. They showed us pictures: the river still frozen, a huge ice shelf covering the bank. It looked to be about 12 feet thick and at least 40 feet wide. No way we could get our boats in the water.

After kicking around some ideas, my buddies and I decided to head back to town and regroup. Saturday morning we took off for another river, to a spot we have hunted in the past. Walking in on our old bait station was encouraging: fresh tracks everywhere. Bears will remember a free meal and check back every year.

We loaded up our barrels with a concoction of dog food, syrup, and Kentucky Fried Chicken grease, and then wired it to a tree. We hung a stink bait of rotten salmon skins and warm water just above it in a 5-gallon bucket. Any bear downwind will pick that up for miles.

It was a long day and a lot of work, but we got 3 baits cooking and set up tree stands and my Plotwatcher trail cams. We’ll head back up on June 1 to check the cameras and decide which bait to hunt.

Honestly, I’m really disappointed that we weren’t able to make it up the Yukon. The hunting is rumored to be fantastic. But with our baits quite a bit closer to town, we should be able to hunt them all month long, and should get a lot of action. There are grizzlies in the area, too, and more than once I’ve had them on my baits at this spot – as you can see from my video above. You can’t shoot them over bait, but I always get good pictures. That and a few black bear rugs are going to make for a fun June.