My fascination with the giant brown bears of Alaska started when I was about 12 or 13 years old. While looking through a big game record book, It amazed me that eight out of the top ten Coastal brown bears listed, including the world record, came from Kodiak Continue reading “Keep Looking!” – Patience is the Key to a Trophy Brown Bear
I pulled my jacket hood over my head to ward off the cold wind and resumed searching the hills with my binoculars. The country that sprawled before me was as wild, dangerous and beautiful as my quarry, the Alaskan brown bear. Continue reading Flashback Friday – Quest for Bear
“There he is!” whispered Greg over the sound of limbs breaking.
I couldn’t see the bear with my rangefinder, but Greg located him in the alders. The Kodiak brown bear was just inside the brush and staring at us about 30 yards from where we stood. The bear started to walk away and Greg lost sight of him. We could hear loud noises farther away, so Greg used the call again, this time more softly, imitating a fawn in distress.
“Here he comes!” Greg said. We could hear crashing branches as the bear got closer. I stood just in front of Greg with my X-Force bow, arrow nocked and trigger in the loop. We were on the edge of a steep hill, where thick alders merged with an open meadow. A little open space no more than 20 yards in front of us was the only clear place where we could see. About 10 seconds passed as we both looked up and down the hill and in front of us. Then we both saw the big bear’s head and body, nine yards away, and above us.
“Shoot, shoot, shoot!” Greg whispered as I simultaneously raised my bow and pulled the string. The angle was a low percentage frontal shot, but with the bear above us, I could see the point where the neck met the chest and my pin settled right there.
It was my third time hunting in Kodiak. The first time was in 1992, and the second in 2000. Both times I had opportunities at mature boars, but could not capitalize. This third time was my biggest dream hunt since about 1987 when I began using a bow instead of a rifle. Since I started bow hunting, I had taken some of the most dangerous game in Africa, including lion, leopard, buffalo and elephant. I had a failed attempt at polar bear, but had taken black bear, a brown bear sow, and mountain lion. I’ve arrowed plenty of plains game and several species from North America and New Zealand, but dangerous game is special, and Kodiak brown bears are the largest predators in the world! I had fallen in love with Kodiak, so in 2006 I used the Internet to research it and found that Scott Mileur’s Areas 10 and 11 had some of the best hunting on the island. If you look in the pages of Alaska’s Fish and Game, you’ll find that they have all the info you can possibly imagine. I called the magazine and confirmed Scott had some of the best areas and that he was a true bear hunter who had hunted those areas for about 30 years. I checked his website, and while not really fancy, it had photographs of enormous bears.
I called him and he seemed to be a very nice guy. His first available opening for a May hunt was in 2009, so I took it. I was hunting in Texas in December 2008 when I received an email from Scott to confirm the hunt. I told him not to worry, and that I was going. My next deposit wasn’t due until the following March, but he was worried because of the economic crisis affecting all of us, and it’s hard to come up with a replacement hunter with only two months notice.
I sent my deposit the date it was due then spoke with Scott to finalize everything. We talked about equipment, the weather that was expected, and traveling arrangements. Scott told me my guide was going to be Greg Accord and that he would be guiding another bow hunter, Rick Hunt. If they finished Rick’s hunt first, Scott would join Greg and me.
I met Rick at Andrew’s Airways in Kodiak City. We got ready to take the flight to Olga Bay, but the weather was bad over there. To pass the time, we decided to go for lunch and to Mack’s Sport shop, and ultimately did not fly out until late the next afternoon. When we got to Olga Bay, Scott and Greg met us, and then we got to see our camp. There was one tent for Rick and me, another one for Scott that was also the kitchen/dining room, and one for Greg. The original plan was for the camp to be in a different place, but the lakes had been frozen longer than normal and the plane couldn’t land on ice. So much for global warming.
We ate and joked about how the minimum size skulls we wanted had just increased by an inch or two if the food was going to be that good all the time. The next morning, we woke up at 6 a.m., had breakfast, loaded into a small boat and headed north. Greg and I were dropped off first and Scott and Rick continued farther north.
Greg and I made it to a high point where we could see a valley and hills. The day went by and we saw five bears, one of which seemed a little bigger to me. Greg didn’t like it because it was rubbed badly, but I said I was looking for a big bear, not a rug, and maybe we should get closer and take a better look. Greg didn’t like the idea because he didn’t want to leave scent all over the area. On that he was right.
Back at camp, I was in bed by 11:30 p.m. after dinner and jokes about bear viewing. The next day, all of us went farther by boat to an old cannery, and then walked to Lake Akalura. Greg took Scott and Rick by inflatable boat to some other point on the lake and came back. We went in opposite directions and glassed from the beach. We started seeing bears right away–sows and cubs, plus a boar that I found right at the top of the hill. We kept glassing and napping for a few hours, and then I asked Greg if we could go to a very small hill nearby. The hill would put us in a better position to look at another hill on the left, which is where we kept seeing all the bears. Greg agreed and we went.
The view was much better there, plus we could see more of the valley, so we glassed and napped some more. At one point, Greg was napping while
I walked around a little bit, trying to look into places we hadn’t. I came back to where Greg was lying down and he asked, “Anything new?” “Not much…” I replied and, as I said the words I looked over Greg’s shoulder to see a big bear casually walking in the bottom, “…except for that!” I finished. We hurried to see the bear with the spotting scope, but even with my binoculars I could see he was definitely big.
“Let’s go,” I said.
We had a little discussion about the bear that I ended by saying, “I want this one.” We went down into the valley, crossed the stream, and saw the bear walking past a beaver dam as if his intention was to climb the hill in front of us–just not in a hurry. As we kept walking and getting closer we lost sight of him, so we got a little up and into the alders and started walking toward where we had seen the bear. We got to a point where the brush opened up a little bit and Greg said it was the last open space between the bear and us. He thought the bear was within 100 yards and that we should try and call it.
I got a little in front of Greg, nocked an arrow, and Greg called with a fawn in distress call—then, we waited. Greg called again, this time louder. Something like ten minutes went by and we regrouped. Maybe the bear was a little bit farther away and couldn’t hear us. The wind was good, so we climbed up a little bit and started walking toward where we thought the bear was.
We climbed a few yards, found a bear trail and started walking. Then we heard limbs breaking and saw the bear! In an instant I made the decision that, even though it was a low percentage shot, I was shooting. The pin settled and instinctively I squeezed my back and let the arrow fly. I saw the arrow hit its mark. The bear took the hit and started running down the hill, slowed, and took the bear trail ahead of us. It got just inside the alders and stopped.
“Shoot again!” Greg said.
“Too many branches!” I replied.
The bear started walking and disappeared. After a moment, we heard branches cracking almost from the same spot where we heard them before. “Here comes your bear!” Greg said. “I think the other one was a different bear. I saw a rub on his shoulders that I hadn’t seen in the other one.”
The second bear appeared and stopped at the bear trail just in front of where the first bear had entered the brush. He stood up and gave us a show as he rubbed himself against some branches, and then disappeared into the alders, following my bear. Greg was concerned that the second bear was going to eat my bear, so I told him we should go a little higher and try to see what was happening.
“Go bear, go!” Greg almost scared me when he started shouting. We continued shouting and getting closer and saw a bear in between the branches several times, sometimes standing up. “Cover your ears!” Greg said, and then fired a shot into the air to try and scare off the second bear.
We got to where we were just above the bear, some 15 yards away. We could hear noises and see the bear sometimes, and then saw the bear out in the open, walking away, slowly, like dignified royalty. We backtracked a little to where we had seen some blood and waited for half an hour before we started following the blood trail. “There he is,” we both said. We saw my bear laying still and started to approach; confident he was dead.
“Let’s see what you shot!” Greg said.
There he was, finally—a great Kodiak bear. I asked Greg what he thought and he said it was probably nine and a half feet, a very beautiful bear, and just a little rubbed but not badly. “Thank you very much!” I said to Greg, and then we started to get to work. We took some photos and video, then skinned the bear and cleaned the skull a little bit. The bear had bites all over the body and arms, maybe from the other bear or some other fights. Greg took the skin, then put the skull in a black plastic bag and attached it to my backpack.
“How does it feel?” Greg asked, maybe a little worried about my lower back. I had told him about two surgeries in 2002 on my lower back. “Actually, it feels pretty good,” I said.
We went back to the inflatable where we first took off, and then Greg went to pick up Scott and Rick. “Congratulations, bear hunter,” said Scott, as we started the walk back to the main boat.
We reached the camp at 11:30. I was exhausted, but happy, and after a quick dinner went to bed. The next morning Scott, Greg and Rick went to the same place, looking for the other bear. Back home, I called Scott from Mexico and he told me Rick got his bear a few days later and that it was a little bigger than mine. For those who would like to know, I used X-Force GX, Carbon Express Maxima 350 arrows and G5 125-grain Striker Magnum broadheads. The bear skull measured 25 6/8 inches at Kodiak’s Fish and Game.– Rodolfo F Barrera