Alaska Traditional Archery Hunt: A Big Cinnamon Black Bear

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 about 40 minutes my dad whispered, "here he comes." I looked to the right through the thick trees and there he was! He came in through the trees and was just 4 yards away! It was unbelievable to see him that close, sniffing away. Then he spooked. Although we'd seen plenty of camera footage of him, we still couldn't believe how big he was.

The wind started swirling shortly after that, which makes bears very spooky and reluctant to come into bait, as they can't hear or smell as well. A bear's biggest fear when coming in to feed is running into a bigger bear. Often, they don't seem to care that people are around. It seems too obvious for them to not notice our presence, but we try to stay as concealed as possible to be safe.

After sitting for two more hours or so, the bear began coming in again, from a different direction. He came in several times between 11 p.m. and 12:30 a.m., and spooked every time. He gradually became more comfortable though, and finally gave my dad a good shot at about 12:45 a.m. (remember it's Alaska so we still were in legal shooting light). Using his recurve bow, he hit him a little far back, so we decided to come back and try to find him in the morning because it was fairly dark and the brush is very thick. Luckily the next morning we found him less than 150 yards from the bait, and boy was he a monster! This beautiful chocolate colored bear with big white claws was about the same size as my bear. He'll make Pope & Young for sure. Two record book bears taken with traditional bows! This is shaping up to be my best bear season ever!