Alaskan Solitude – Black Bear Hunt
Southeast Alaska is known for black bear hunting. Her towering forests, and lush shorelines provide plenty of cover and food for big bears. As with most parts of Alaska, it takes some work and time to get there. One of my favorite things about southeast Alaska is that solitude is easy to come by. May 13th found the four of us (Dad, Ben, Ken and I), making the trip. We would travel by foot, car, boat and plane to get there. We landed on a commercial flight in Ketchikan, then boarded the Inter-Island Ferry and nestled in for the 3 hour voyage to Hollis. We chowed on some good food from the diner on the boat, along with a healthy helping of anticipation as we watched whales, sea lions, and fishermen out the ferry windows. We were blessed with a rare bluebird day.
We hit the island and traveled north via an old forest service Suburban. We’d be driving for a few hours and then embarking on a skiff to an isolated camp site, and hunt the beaches for big black bruins! The weather quickly turned Alaskan as we sped across the chop of the inside passage. After a few short hours of prospecting camp sites, we selected a nice grassy beach several feet above the high tide line and got to setting camp and eventually out looking for bears.
We motored through the bays for the next couple of days without finding very many stalk-able or shooter bears. Those that we made plays on fed into the trees. One evening we came back to camp and were making a very late lunch. Ken went for a stroll up the beach while Ben and I cooked supper. Soon I saw Ken come back around the corner of the bay waving his arms. We grabbed our guns and headed down. A lone boar was tipping rocks and eating crabs a few hundred yards away. Ken had seen him and quickly called us over. We also jumped another very young bear as we approached Ken. The tide was coming up and we needed to make our move. I joined Ken as we moved up the bay to get a better shot angle. The bear had gone behind a small rock outcropping, so we were able to move through the open bay as he crunched crabs behind the rock. As I saw him come out from behind the rock I dropped prone and motioned to Ken that the bear was coming back out. A few steps later, my .270 found it’s mark. The bear ran about 20 yards and piled up.
We approached the downed bear and admired his battle-scarred face and claws. I stood over the boar facing back from our shooting location and saw another bear. By then Ben and Dad had met up with us, so Ben and Ken took off after this bear. As they got into position to shoot, the bear re-entered the trees. It was starting to get dark, so I started processing my bear. Suddenly the other bear came back out into the grass along the tree edge. Ken shot and the bear turned, running straight towards them. Another quick shot dispatched the big boar and we’d taken 2 bears in about 15 minutes. One bullet struck the old boar right between the eyes.
Taking a day off from bear hunting typically isn’t part of the game plan. But we were able to meet up with a good friend, Bill Miller from Calder Mountain Lodge, to go fish for a few hours. The fishing was hot for Ling Cod and Yelloweye Rockfish (Alaskan Red Snapper). And I was able to pull in a single halibut. It provided us with a savory meal that night at camp and some of the best salt water fishing I’ve had in Alaska.
We were finally down to our last couple of days. Dad and Ben had yet to connect with a bear. We had a very large boar come out at dusk on our second to last day, unfortunately, he didn’t stay out feeding for long and Dad was unable to finish his stalk.
We finally located a bear, and the stalk was on. The bear was intent on rolling driftwood logs over and eating crabs and seaweed. He paid no attention as we slipped along the shore. We closed the distance to under 100 yards, and Ben put a perfect shot on the bear. He was face down eating grass as the bullet impacted him, he fell flat on his face and never twitched again. This bear was also missing a good chunk of his upper lip.
Sour weather was on the horizon. Getting stuck in a skiff in a nasty storm wasn’t something we wanted to mess with. Mother nature dictated our next move as we spent the next morning trimming and turning hides, packing camp, and motoring back to get the bears sealed and checked. We headed south, stopping in Whale Pass for the night. The next day we made our way south to Hollis, back on the ferry to Ketchikan and the long trip home, bear meat, hides, and an incredible batch of memories in tow.