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Baywatch Alaska - 2001


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A good night's sleep, and a day of rest did my body good. My legs were tight and we were both ready to charge up the valley. During yesterday's glassing we saw several bears including two real nice bears across the creek from camp. We also saw a bunch on what I called "far mountain" (how's that for creativity?) and a couple nice boars on Koelzer's mountain. We discussed the situation and decided to head back to Koelzer's mountain which is where I had the stalk on day 3.

Bryan glasses up the hillside as we head toward the summit.

The weather was fantastic, blue skies and moderate temps in the forties. Both of us cranked up the river at a record pace. We navigated deadfalls with ease and crossed the river several times before making the sharp ascent toward the bears. On the way upriver, the wind picked up sharply and the skies turned dark. In the distance, the mountains had vanished. A storm was moving our way quickly. Within 15 minutes Bryan and I were in a total white-out with bitter cold winds which whipped through our fleece clothing. Changing quickly into our rain gear to help block the winds was not enough. Bryan suggested that we find heavy cover. There was a small cove between the mountains and in that cove stood a thick willow tree. We stood downwind of that tree until the storm blew out. The landscape was now white with an inch of snow.

Within minutes a white-out blew in and dumped an inch of snow on us.

After the storm was over, we continued up the mountain until the sun appeared again. We stripped off our rain gear and made our way higher, above tree line. Then Bryan stopped in his tracks:

"Grizzly - 50 yards ahead."

I gently dropped my pack and moved closer to get a look. I could see the bear feeding in a draw ahead of us. The stalk looked doable and the wind was great. But Bryan needed to look the bear over some more. He eased closer and spent at least 10 minutes studying the bear. Bryan is an expert judge of bears, and when he spends this much time it usually means that it's not a shooter. Bryan slid back down the hill to me.

"I think its a big sow. The colors and behavior are questionable. I think we should pass her up." Bryan said.

Bryan and I discuss the grizzly's size and decide it's probably not a shooter.

I was ok with this decision. While sows with cubs are illegal, lone sows are legal but discouraged. Still, Bryan and I agreed at the beginning of the trip that we were after a boar, and a big one at that. So I was content with just getting in a position to film this beautiful grizzly as it fed on berries.

We enjoyed watching this bear for a 1/2 hour before it fed down the hill and we continued on.

As the bear moved further down the draw, Bryan and I decided to go all the way to the peak of the mountain. Once there, another blizzard whipped in, this time much more furious than before. Snow pellets belted us as we both scrambled to get into our rain gear. A half hour later, blue skies again. Bryan started to see some really large bears on "far mountain". We counted at least 3 big boars from our high vantage point. Bryan and I looked at the time and discussed a stalk. It was late in the day and while we may have been able to stalk one of them successfully before nightfall, we would have at least a 6 hour trip back in the dark. We decided it was smarter to head there early the next morning.

Bryan quickly changes into his rain gear as snow pellets rain down on us.

We saw no more bears that evening, but we did watch a huge moose follow a cow on the opposite hillside. The weather had turned sharply colder. We headed back to camp during daylight and arrived there by 9:PM - a record for us.

Bryan gets a laugh as I try to remove my arrows which are frozen inside my quiver.

With a gorgeous sunset in the background, we head back to camp, which is behind the mountain you see on the left - about 3 miles as the crow flies.


Determining if the Grizzly is a "Shooter"

  • Head size - his rule is if you can fit 3 ears between the two visible, it is probably a big one. Also, is the head flat, with a long nose? If so, then it's an adult.
  • Color - Boars are noticeably darker than females and young bears. Females have a beautiful blond or lighter highlights. Boars tend to be black, or deep chocolate brown.
  • Body Size - if you have to ask the question "is he big?" then he is probably too small. Big bears look big immediately, small bears can trick you into over thinking them as big, but in reality you should never have to ask. A big bear has a huge belly that seems to drag along the ground. His back is convex and his front legs waddle as he walks. Smaller bears have a more rounded back and their front legs are prominent, and move almost dog like.
  • Behavior - one thing that was instantly apparent to me after Bryan pointed it out, was the a big bear acts like a big bear. He pays little attention to anything around him and simple just keeps eating, in a slow - consistent manner. Smaller bears and females eat fast, and are constantly looking around for the big bears. They are much harder to stalk and kill due to their nervousness and inability to keep still.


Next - Day 6

Our grizzly hunt takes place in Northern British Columbia with Bryan Martin of Canadian Mountain Outfitters.

  • Sitka Gear