Sitka Gear
Baywatch Alaska - 2001


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I've grown accustomed to sleeping in. We dragged ourselves out of bed, put together our gear and food and headed out in the dark. At pink light we were set up and ready. The morning was uneventful and by midday both John and I started to get antsy. We left our ambush spot and scouted out the deepest corner of the hole along with the outlying areas. What we found was a total absence of brown bear activity, no tracks, no diggings. We did spot fresh wolf tracks and lots of black bear tracks, both new and old. It was possible that our brown bear sighting may have been pure luck. The wolves could be the reason the black bear were scarce in this area.

Halibut Bay was breathtaking at dawn.

We moved to the waterfall where we had seen the brown bear cross the river. There was no sign there either- just the one set of tracks. We bumped into a black bear feeding just a few yards away and watched him before heading back to our carved out ambush spot. Another black bear showed up, two hundred yards from the opposite bank. The bears were starting to trickle back into the hole, not a good sign for brown bear hunting. By 1PM we were settled back into our edge for the rest of the day.

John Romen was a trooper. I asked him how he could stand there looking into the woods for hours on end. He took me back to his Viet Nam days. He was an MP and would spend hours watching the perimeter for "sappers" - Viet Cong who would sneak into the compound and plant timed explosives. He told me about his first day there. He had asked another MP "how do you know when a sapper enters the compound - is there an alarm signal?" the other MP simply said "oh, you'll know." A few days later the ammunition bunker lit up in a large explosion - the MP said "There's your alarm signal!." I remarked to John that brown bears were probably not going to rattle him after his three year tour in Viet Nam. He just smiled.

Slowy as the day progressed, black bears began to trickle back to this area of the tide flat. Not a good sign for brown bears.

As the afternoon progressed we watched more black bears emerge from the hole. Things were returning to normal. As darkness approached our fifteen hour day was over. Our confidence in this area was gone, we both agreed that we'd be better off hunting a new area.

The zodiac needed to be walked out to deeper waters. It was a long day.

We returned to the float house at the same time that Tom and Johnnie were returning from Tombstone. They had decided early to head up there and at 7:00 PM the brown bear appeared. He was a dark chocolate color with two small rubs. He would go at least 8 feet. Tom was unable to get the shot and the bear disappeared after only a few moments in the open. It was Tom's first brown bear sighting. John Rommen asked them about Lori. They both remarked to John that she was no longer at Tombstone - she had headed out that day. He also went on to say that the hunting was exciting, and that they were nowhere near the fisherman's house.

On their way back home in the skiff they got caught in turbulent waters which beat them up pretty bad. Johnnie and Tom looked a bit washed out. Luckily they made it back safe. To me, this is the biggest danger to our hunt - if you capsize in the Portland Canal you'll last ten minutes before hypothermia finishes you off. For that reason Johnnie is cautious about when he ventures out of the bay. If the canal is rough - you're smart to stay off the water.

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