Mark Peterson’s Brown Bear Rifle hunt for his NA29x3 quest provides a great model for why you should be careful picking when and where you hunt for brown bears. He hopes this story will empower you to make the best decisions before and during your next brown bear hunt.
Brown Bear Hunt Areas
As many of you know, there are two areas known to consistently produce the biggest brown bears year after year: the Alaskan Peninsula and Kodiak Island. On this particular hunt, I was rifle hunting the Alaskan Peninsula. This particular area is known as a “four year area,” meaning if you harvest a brown bear, you have to wait four years before you can hunt bear there again. The season for brown bears on the Alaskan Peninsula is Fall on odd years and Spring on even years. I chose one of WTA’s best brown bear/Alaskan outfitters for this hunt, as I’m a believer in trying to eliminate as many variables as I can before getting to the field and picking the best outfitter in the area eliminates a ton of variables.
Types of Brown Bear Hunts
This was a Spring brown bear hunt, and I chose that because the bears are up and moving more as they search for sows. During the Spring, bears can be anywhere while they’re looking for sows. Think about whitetails during the rut; they’re all over the place in search of does. The same holds true to brown bears in the Spring. The bears tend to cruise hilltops to catch the scent of sows. Because of how large an area the bears roam in the Spring, it is better to hunt with a rifle or muzzleloader rather than a bow. It’s very different from Fall bear hunts. In the Fall, the bears are usually concentrated around rivers since they’re trying to put on weight for the winter, before they den up. This makes the Fall hunt a far better choice if you are going to be archery hunting.
On this hunt…
We got into the main lodge just as a bad storm came through. We ended up getting stuck in the lodge for three days. When there was a slight break in the weather, we took advantage by hopping in the small plane that took us to our spike camp. It consisted of two tents: one for the guide (which also served as the cooking tent) and one for myself and cameraman. You can’t hunt the day you fly in Alaska, so we took the rest of the day to get settled into camp.
The next day, the weather was brutal, with rain and fog, but we still made it out to a glassing hill. The days during the Alaskan Spring are long. We ended up hunting & glassing for about 18 hours. We saw two bears off in the distance, but they were too far away to really see their size, and we couldn’t move closer. The next day, we woke up to sunny skies, and instantly we knew it was going to be a good day.
We glassed up an 8-foot bear on the walk from spike camp to our glassing hill. It only took a couple hours after we got to the hill before we spotted a giant bear coming over a mountain top. Luckily, it was heading in our general direction. We moved quickly to get in a position to cut him off. When we were finally in position, I aimed, and I took my shot from 250 yards. Luckily, I was able to get a steady rest and placed a good shot. This is more necessary than with less-dangerous game animals, as making a good shot on a brown bear is a must. A wounded brown bear can become a very dangerous situation in a hurry.
My bear squared over 10 feet and I am guessing weighed about 1,400 pounds. The hide alone weighed well over 120 pounds as we weighed it before we got on the plane from our main camp back to Anchorage. As you can imagine, the pack back to camp was pretty brutal.
Learn from My Experience
Brown bear hunting is tough, and I came into this hunt expecting to be in the field for 10+ days. But, with hunting, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don’t. This is one of the times I definitely was lucky. On brown bear hunts you need to expect bad weather, cold temperatures, high winds and lots of time in the tent because of rain and snow. The outfitter said it best—he doesn’t sell a guaranteed brown bear hunt. He sells cold, wet, and miserable! I’m booked to come back with this outfitter in 4 years to go after a brown bear with my muzzleloader, and I cannot wait!
All the best in the great outdoors,