Alaska Brown Bear Records

Male Alaska brown bear have a head and body length of 7 to 9 feet, sometimes more. Tail length is 4 to 5 inches. They are 4 to 4-1/2 feet high at the shoulder and weigh 800 to 1,000 pounds and sometimes much more. Females are considerably smaller.

With the possible exception of the polar bear, the Alaska brown bear is the largest land-dwelling carnivore in the world. It is considerably larger than its close relatives the grizzly or the brown bears of Europe and Asia. Its great size is the result of an abundant and protein-rich salmon diet and the relatively mild climate in which it lives. It has a prominent hump on its shoulders, a concave facial profile and short and stout legs ending in large paws. Its long, thick coat is usually brown in color, although individuals vary from blond to almost black.

Behaviorally, they are unsociable and usually solitary except when mating or when forced by circumstances to share a salmon fishery with other bears. With no enemies other than humans, it is active at all hours. Breeding takes place during May and June. The female mates every second or third year, producing a litter of one to four and usually two cubs that are born in the den in January or February. She is an excellent mother, the cubs remaining with her at least two years, and often three or four. An Alaska brown bear is full grown at 10 to 11 years and has a life expectancy, barring accidents, of 25 to 30 years. Individuals have lived in captivity more than 36 years.

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Omnivorous, it eats grasses, sedges, roots, bulbs, berries, rodents, salmon and also carrion. Eyesight is only fair, but hearing and sense of smell are very acute. Usual pace is a slow walk, but capable of running fast though unable to jump. It is an excellent swimmer and cubs can climb trees, but adults, with their long foreclaws and heavy bodies, cannot. Alaska brown bears are normally silent, but can growl, grunt, roar, sniff and cough. They’re extremely strong, highly alert and usually cautious and unaggressive toward man, but there are exceptions. They retire to their dens during the cold of winter and hibernates for months. A sleeping bear can come out of hibernation with little provocation, and a bear will often leave its den in late winter to briefly wander outside.

Habitat is restricted to a narrow strip of the Alaskan coast, plus adjacent islands, within reach of spawning salmon runs. These bears are at home anywhere within this area, from saltwater beaches through swamps and forests to rocky mountainsides above the tree line.

They are distributed in Coastal Alaska from the Yukon River delta southward and eastward to the British Columbia border, plus the offshore islands–notably Kodiak, Afognak, Montague, Baranof, Chicagof and Admiralty.

100% of SCI Record Book and World Hunting Award net proceeds go to anti-poaching and conservation efforts worldwide.

For record-keeping purposes, SCI classifies all brown bears taken in Alaska Game Management Units 1-10 and 14-18 as Alaska brown bears. Those units encompass the area from the saltwater coast to the first ridge of inland mountains. All other brown bears from Alaska are considered grizzly bears. This boundary effectively separates the larger, salmon-eating, short-hibernating coastal bears from the smaller interior bears.

One of the top trophies of the North American continent, the Alaska brown bear is hunted on foot under trying conditions. Wearing hip boots and rain gear and carrying a heavy rifle, the hunter must wade rivers and negotiate muskeg swamps, tag alder thickets, steep mountainsides and soft snow. Should he find a good bear after long hours of glassing and waiting, he must get within range quickly because bears seldom remain in one place for long. He must shoot well, for a wounded brown bear is a very serious matter. He should be prepared to spend as many as half his allotted hunting days confined to his tent (or cabin, if he is lucky) in weather too foul to hunt. He can count on being wet, cold, and bone-tired much of the time, and he should use enough gun, for an Alaska brown bear is very large and very tough.


Challenging Uganda

Though it was closed for decades, (except for a pilot program at Lake Mburo), Uganda is open to sport hunting. In March 2010, I hunted with Christian Weth’s Uganda Wildlife Safaris, one of a few approved operators. Before the hunt, my wife and several friends went on a photo safari that included a hike to see the mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. After our return to Kampala, I embarked on my safari with PH Keith Charters, a Zimbabwe native who was living and hunting in Tanzania from July to December each year.

We spent the first day procuring food and driving to the UWS camp on the Ome River, a tributary of the Victoria Nile. The next morning I shot a Uganda kob. Ordinarily we would have stayed at Ome to hunt Nile buffaloes, but the bridge to the best areas was washed out.  So we drove three hours to Paraa Safari Lodge in Murchison Falls National Park, which put us 45 minutes from the temporary camp for our staff. From there, we hiked, searching for tracks of Nile buffalo bulls that move out of the park to the heavy cover beyond the roadside huts in the hunting concession. Unfortunately, in some areas the trees are being converted to charcoal, the primary cooking fuel used in the cities.  The cleared land is tilled and planted and the adjacent areas infested with snares–all major problems for the new safari industry.

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On our third day after buffaloes, we found the tracks of a lone bull and followed our head tracker, Tall (who is 6 foot 8 inches) for an hour until the tracks returned to the park. It rained the fourth night, so when we found a big track after two hours of searching the next morning, the tracking was fairly easy in the soft dirt and knee-high grass. After 45 minutes, we heard the bull crash off in heavy cover up the side of a ravine. After another 75 minutes of careful tracking, Tall froze and Keith Charters pointed as the bull broke from a thicket.

My first 300-grain bullet broke both shoulders. Nevertheless, Keith had me pour in two more shots. They were followed by five minutes of smiling and shaking hands with the crew before walking up for photos.

The nearest we could bring the Land Cruiser was more than a mile away, but some locals volunteered to pack out the meat, cape and horns in return for some of the meat. The horns were quite good, with a 41-inch spread. The bosses had been worn completely smooth over the years and the hair had rubbed off the skin between them.

With my most important trophy in the salt, Keith, cameraman Walter Okot and I rode a boat up the Victoria Nile to view Murchison Falls the next morning. Then it was on to the UWS camp in the Kafu River Basin, nicknamed Bushbuck Camp because so many big bushbucks had been shot there. There, just two hours from Kampala, I shot an East African bush duiker and a beautiful Nile bushbuck. I didn’t hold out for one of the monsters because I wanted to allow five days to give the sitatunga a reasonable try.

Some animals can rarely be shot unless you hunt them for more than a few days. Leopards and sitatungas are good examples. In the Kafu area, I would be hunting the East African subspecies. On the first day, Keith and I scouted the swamps for tracks. About 90 minutes from Bushbuck Camp, we found some tracks and also spotted a total of eight females. We quickly decided to set up fly camp there for the last four days of my safari.

The next morning, with four small tents, supplies and a skeleton crew (tracker, cook, driver-skinner and game scout), we drove to the campsite and hunted while the crew set up camp and built a machan in a tree on an island a couple of hundred yards into the swamp. We spotted several of the reddish-colored females, and one old male that we vowed to look for again.

The next day, Keith and I sat on the platform of the machan, with Tall standing on the ladder, while the crew built a second machan.

Our strategy evolved into sitting on machans the first and last couple of hours of each day and walking the swamps in between.  The walking was hard, but it allowed us to reach islands (large anthills covered with trees and brush) from which to gain a little elevation and glass the swamp from different angles. Some walking was possible on top of the floating grass, but we broke through often and had to either wade in waist-deep water or crawl on top of the grass to better distribute our weight.

We spotted the bull we wanted three days out of four, but only his horns were visible in the tall grass, and then only for a few seconds as he moved from island to island in late morning or mid-afternoon in the far corner of the swamp.

On my last morning, we were in the first machan before sunrise. The swamp was covered with heavy fog, but it dissipated by 9 a.m., at which time Keith pointed to horn tips projecting from the grass. The bull was lying down at 290 yards near a feeding female. I moved three steps down the ladder and placed my .300 Win Mag on shooting sticks that Keith laid sideways, one end on the platform and the other on a tree branch.

After 15 agonizing minutes, the bull stood so that I could see his head and horns and the top of his back, which allowed me to make the shot. It was a satisfactory end to a challenging hunt.--Ken Wilson


Gary E.’s Favorite Deer Cartridges

Gary likes the 7×57 for deer hunting in woods.

When asked his thoughts on deer hunting calibers, SCI Member Gary E. responds:

“I think like you, that [choice of] deer calibers are a function of age. When I was young and just getting on my feet, I hunted with a 30-40 Krag. I then made it up to a .30-30 lever-gun that, in the northeast, was the go-to gun. Then low and behold the Savage 99 in .308 came into my hands. I thought that was a hot rod.

“As I became more established, the real hot rods came to me with lighter bullets and higher velocities. Enter the 7mm and .300 Wby. Mags, and the .338 Win. Mag. with 200-grain bullets.

“As I age, the ‘older-than-me’ cartridges pique my interest–7×57 Mauser, .25-‘06, and .300 H&H would suit me for the rest of my life. The .300 H&H fills the gap for me between light and medium rifles with 200-grain bullets, and the .338 is still there with 225’s just ‘cuz.

“My go-to deer rifles are the 7X57 for hunting in the woods, and the .25-‘06 in open country. I use the .338 whenever I get the feeling. It seems that .338 finds it’s way into my case everywhere I go. It rarely sees light but it feels right to have it there.

“In the end shoot what you like, and shoot well.”–Gary E.


Corey Cogdell To Compete In World Cup Final

Corey Cogdell

SCI-sponsored two-time Olympian and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Corey Cogdell (Eagle River, Alaska) will be part of a six-member squad competing Saturday as the 2012 International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) World Cup Final for Shotgun in Maribor, Slovenia.

Cogdell is hopeful to put results of a bad final round in London [2012 Olympics] behind her and showcase the skills that led her to an Olympic bronze medal in Beijing as well as the World Cup win she earned at the Tucson World Cup in March.

“It is always such an honor to compete in the World Cup Finals as one of the top 12 in the world,” said Cogdell.  “I’m looking forward to wrapping up my World Cup season with a strong performance.”

Joining Cogdell in the talented women’s trap field is Kayle Browning (Wooster, Arkansas) who finished second to Cogdell for an Olympic selection.  Browning earned her way to Maribor after earning a career first World Cup medal at the London Prepares event in April.   The wind, rain and cold conditions of London couldn’t detract Browning from recording the top performance of her career as the Arkansas native earned a bronze medal.

World  Cup Final Schedule

Saturday, Sept. 22
Women’s Trap Qualifying + Final
Men’s Trap Qualifying

Sunday, Sept. 23
Men’s Trap Qualifying (cont.) + Final

Monday, Sept. 24
Women’s Skeet Qualifying + Final
Double Trap Qualifying + Final
Men’s Skeet Qualifying

Tuesday, Sept. 25
Men’s Skeet Qualifying (cont.) + Final


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