Hunting The Great Alaska Brown Bear
Pursuing Alaska’s Peninsula Brown Bears is certainly one of the most sought after experiences in the hunting world, and the great bears are one of our top priorities as an outfit. Nothing quite stirs my mind and heart like the sight of a brown bear in the Alaska wilderness, and after our initial early season sheep hunts, the brown bear becomes our primary focus, and we consider our Alaska Brown Bear Hunts to be among our greatest hunts.
We are currently running hunts in Game Management Units 19, 16B and GMU 9 and the first 2 units split the southern portion of the Alaska Range and cover well in excess of 40,000 square miles, while GMU 9 is the world-famous Alaska Peninsula. GMU 19 stretches from the Kuskokwim Valley all the way East to the Alaska Range and the Revelation Mountains, while GMU 16B reaches from the eastern edge of the Alaska Range all the way to Denali and back south to Cook Inlet. Both regions have a great number of brown bear that are for the most part salmon fed bears, and while they are not going to average being as large as the bears from Kodiak or the Peninsula they will range up into the 9 ft. + size. Occasionally a bone-fide 10 ft. bear will come out of the coastal areas, but we leave it up to our hunters as to what size of bear they are interested in. Many guys are thoroughly impressed with the first bear they see in the wild, even if it is a 7 ft. bear, while others are willing to pass by everything in hopes a 1,000 lb. monster. The Alaska Peninsula is a region that is managed for trophy quality brown bear, and only Kodiak Island compare to this region of Alaska when it comes to big brown bear. The expectations increase on the Peninsula as well as the price and logistical headaches, but it is simply the place to be if you are looking for a potential Boone & Crockett brown bear.
Many scientists consider grizzly and brown bears to be one and the same species (Ursus Arctos), but we certainly realize there is a difference when it comes to size, also there is a difference when it comes to the amount of money it cost to hunt each, brown bear hunts being much more expensive. Once a hunter arrives in brown bear camp he (or she) will typically spend a lot of time behind a set of binoculars, glassing the streams and sloughs where the salmon are running, and this is dependent upon the time of year we are hunting. Occasionally we will be in an area where bears may also be on the berries, but this is typically later in the season as the salmon are drying up. Our hunts are essentially backpack type hunts, that is we go light into the bush and this gives us the flexibility to make a move into a different area if the need arises. According to the particulars of the given area we are hunting, techniques may involve glassing the bears from a vantage point, still hunting the salmon streams for that up close and personal touch, or even the use boats when practical. Top-notch rain gear and hip boots are required gear on these hunts, and the best optics you can afford can make a long day of glassing go a lot easier.
Firearms for brown bear will always be the subject of much debate, but one thing is certain, we prefer that any hunter seriously wanting to hunt the big bears carry calibers such as the .300 magnums, .338 Win. Mag and up with premium bullets, and I do mean premium. We are not in the business of chasing wounded bears all across the country because someone wanted to prove a point made by some dim-witted outdoor writer. Personally, I would prefer that hunters use .375 H&H, and up if they can handle them effectively. The key phrase here is certainly “handle them effectively,” and if an individual can’t stomach the larger bore rifles they should use something they are more comfortable with, but there is a limit in this area. The biggest issue period is bullet construction, and your ability to hit the target effectively. Ideally, you should be looking at a caliber that will handle 200-grain bullets or larger, and Barne’s Triple Shock X bullets or Swift A-Frames are about as good as they get. Nosler Partitions are about the bottom of the barrel when it comes to performing on the shoulder of a big bear.