Black Bear in Alaska
This time the trip went to Alaska, where we wanted to hunt big bears at the coast of Alaska.
I have wanted to hunt bears for a long time already, but the thought of hunting on bait after this beautiful animal, kept me from actually doing it so far. After having seen a hunting movie of high quality where people were hunting bears at the coast on boat, I researched some more and arranged myself a deal in Alaska. A boys dream...
After having come home from a bear hunt in Rumania, I quickly got ready to head east with huge excitement about how the big bear hunt would be like, in comparison to the “decency hunting” on the European brown bear.
Already at the landing on the airport in Anchorage, I began to get butterflies swirling in my stomach. What a nature. The snow was covered by a thin layer of ash after an eruption on Mount Redoubt, which is an active volcano 160 km southwest from Anchorage. It is daily active and erupts with massive explosions. The last one was about a month ago and it sent ash clouds to a height of 15 km in the air. You feel so small if you look down on these wides.
Alaska is rough nature and very practicing for every hunter.
The wild awaits. And after an overnight stay in a hotel, I continued with a smaller airplane to Valdez, where I would have to meet my outfitter the next day at the harbor. I spent the day at the airport where there was the annual plane-show. Everybody has a plane here and they come with them to this event.
The annual plane-show on Valdez airport.
The annual plane-show on Valdez airport.
I spent the night down at the harbor where local fishermen got ready for salmon-fishing. The sun was shining and the time flied because there was so much to see. On my way up to the town a big American pick-up stopped at my side. After the window was rolled down, a guy in my age asked me if I'm Max. Either they all know each other around here or I must have looked like a confused tourist. My question got answered quickly because the outfitter had been on my site www.maxhunt.eu and had recognized me from the pictures.
Greg (the name of the outfitter) took me up to shop for some last things before we were leaving the next day, and then drove me back to the hotel. Really nice guy, so now I could go to bed with my mind at rest.
I got up early next morning to pack the last of my stuff and enjoy a nice American breakfast with everything included. In retrospect I might understand now why they have a little larger weight average over there than in little Denmark. I really miss the coarse rye bread now...
Before I even finished my breakfast, Greg already showed up, even if he first was supposed to come at 9 am. The pick-up got packed quickly and the hotel was being informed when we would return. Thereafter we drive to the harbor where the Best Western Hotel lied, where we were supposed to fetch 2 more hunters from California who were going with me on this trip. I said hello to X and Y, two gentlemen in their best ages if you ask them. I've never had the doubt that everything in fact is bigger in America, but it just got confirmed when I saw the two mens luggage. Greg quickly gave up at trying to fit everything of the luggage in the pickup and choose to drive me to the harbor first and then to pick up the other two later.
Valdez is not a very big town and there are only 4353 citizens who mainly live off the oil industry. Valdez is the town where the pipeline from the northern Alaska is being filled into huge tanks, after they have crossed 1300 km of the country over 3 mountain chains and 800 creeks and rivers. Since the establishment in 1977, where it had cost over 8 billion dollars to fabricate it, about 20000 super tanks have been filled with oil in the town of Valdez.
The town lies on the end of the Prince William sound. Most people probably know the place because of the oil-catastrophe back in 1989 on the 2nd of march, where a EXXON VALDEZ (300m x50m) pierced 27 m into the depth and sunk so 42 million liters leaked into the ocean. This oil release is the biggest in the history of the United States and one of the biggest ecological catastrophes. An oil-catastrophe which I couldn't see anything of anymore and the locals also say that the fish and otter population never has been bigger than it is today. And then one shouldn't forget what tourism has done for this city after the catastrophe. From the one day to the other the town of Valdez got known on the world map and everyone wanted to see what had happened. Now the nature had healed again.
A super-tank on its way into Valdez.
I met the chef, Bob on the boat and Greg’s right hand man Randy. Two guys who are completely down to earth. So I got my gear down to the cabin of the 50 feet long CUTTER. There is an incredible calm mood on the boat and the three of us started talking. Randy is Greg’s childhood friend and is now a independent carpenter by trade. He chooses to come up here with Greg each year to help him with the hunt. Probably mostly to satisfy his passion for hunting and to spend some days with his friends. Bob is Greg’s dad's best friend and a Vietnam veteran. A nice feller who reminds me of a mixture between the Swedish chef and the two old men who are always commenting in the end of The Muppet Show.
Valdez harbor at low tide..
Valdez harbor at low tide..
The sun was shining and the sky was without any clouds, which was very unusual for this time of year. Back home I had been informed that I should bring warm clothing, also for rain and a poncho, because there sometimes could come big amounts of water down from the sky. But I don't want to complain about the weather, now that it's better than expected.
Jimmy and me got to the boat with all the luggage and then we were ready to leave the harbor. We had six hours of sailing ahead of us. The three crew members all knew what their jobs were on the boat so we could leave the harbor. Randy and I took the aluminum jolly-boats and sailed them, out of the harbor. Meanwhile Bob released the moorings and up from the fly-bridge, Greg was steering the boat out through the harbor. The jolly-boats were now being secured on the backside of the boat again and we headed to the place where Greg and Randy believed there were some black bears.
The Navigation to the hunting area takes place with the aluminum jolly-boats on a tow.
The big bears are coming down from their stands after their hibernation in the spring time. It's on the beach where the first grass starts to show after the snow is melted. The bears eat a lot of grass in the beginning of spring to get their bowel systems going again. In the fall they eat berries, grass and carrion. The black bears in Alaska are of the same species as those you find longer south in America. But you never find the brighter or even brown ones, or the black bear who has a dot on its chest.
The navigation was going well and in the mean time Bob told lively about what was to be seen on starboard and the portside. But also how Greg and Randy were when they were little. I used the last cell phone reception to say goodbye to my family before we disappeared over the horizon and were getting to the hunting locations. With the joy of anticipation, we all stood in the steering cabin to see who could spot the first bear.
I saw numerous eagles sitting in the trees on stake-out along the coast. So when I jumped up and went running to get my camera to take a picture of the first eagle I had seen, I felt very much like a tourist. But Greg and Randy were just looking at each other smiling, which meant that it was supposedly pretty normal for foreign hunters to act that way. But as Bob also pulled out his camera, I reckoned that there must even for the locals be something worth taking a picture of. We went on the deck and Bob was pointing to the coast and explained that what I was seeing actually is a huge sea lion colony. And yes it was, already at a distance of one kilometer; we could hear and even smell them! A smell, that reminded me of a good summer day where the sand eel shipping’s come into the harbor of Esbjerg. But it was really impressive to see these huge animals lying on the rocks sun bathing.
Sea lions sunbathing on the rocks.
Now we started entrancing the fjord Greg choose for us to hunt in. The binoculars were put up to the eyes to see which one of us could spot the first bear. The longer we were getting inside, the water got calmer and since we were not on open sea anymore, we saw one otter after another passing our boat. They were lying on their backs with stones on their stomachs. Quickly Greg found a little protected bay where we could moor the boat.
My home under the whole trip.
We gathered our equipment and were firing test shots for the hunt which would be on the next morning.
Because everything is a bit bigger over here, Greg’s liked to see whether one also can shoot for bigger distances. So he sailed some 2½ liter canisters to the other side of the shore. After having shot the rifle into the cal. 300 Remington ultra Mag. to a hundred meters, I had to try my best on the cans that were now 380 meter far away from me. I was pretty glad over my lessons at the shooting range. I managed to hit two out of the three and Greg was quite satisfied with my presentation. I even think he was a bit surprised. We packed the gear together and headed back to the boat, where Bob was ready with the dinner: chili-cheese burger. A normal burger bun with a beef, some slices of cheese, then chili con carne which is being topped with grated cheese and some peas on the side. Probably the weirdest burger I ever had in my life, but also the best so far. A cold beer and I had given Bob a Michelin star. But to my surprise, there wasn't a single beer on board, so Bob had to be satisfied with 5 stars.
Bobs specialty, Chili Cheese Burger with some green on the side.
When I woke up early the next morning, I was totally restless to finally go out hunting. But as the hunt on big bears not only depends on wind, weather and the suns uprisings and sundown’s, but also on the tide, I had to wait until there was low tide. The tide varies up to 8 meters and where we were up to 5. When the water is lowest, the bears come to the coast to try and find some crabbes or clams in the now waterless areas. They often get attracted to the scent of clams, alga or other things. The actual hunt takes place on the brought aluminum jolly-boats with a 40 hp four stroke engine along the coast to spot a bear. When the bear is spotted, you go on land to find out whether it’s a shootable male bear.
After a couple hours of waiting we could finally begin. Jimmy and Y were sailing with Randy and I with Greg. We sailed to the end of the fjord, where we checked the coast and are kept an eye on the shore. It didn't take long until we spotted the first bear on the other side of the fjord. We stopped at the shore to be able to hold the spotting scope more calmly. It was so fascinating to see the first bear which we met, just walking on the beach, eating some fresh grass and enjoying the sun. The distance was more than 800 meter and after we observed the bear for a while, we decided to sail over to the other side to have a closer look at the bear, who was clearly a male.
Greg Jennen, outfitter and owner of Glacier Mountain Outfitters.
In the meanwhile the bear went back into the forest again, without having gotten the trace of us, so we waited if it would come back to the shore again. Not much time passes and I see some movements in the peeling about 30 meters out. Without a sound I signaled Greg to be aware of the movements and in fact, it was the bear! It was coming closer. I was ready with the rifle, I already turned down the enlarger and was now waiting for the bear to be absolutely clear and Greg giving me a sign that I could shoot. The bear calmly sticked it's head out of the bushes and from where I was lying, I almost had a clear shot. I carefully turned my head to Greg, who didn't have the same angle to the bear as me. He nodded and so I knew that I could shoot the bear now if would come out far enough. But it was like he knew something was up. He stood there, sniffing a couple of times, where after he turned and disappeared in the peeling again where he came from. What a kick! To have a bear in 30 meters of range, to have given the permission shoot, to have found it in the binoculars and to have released the rifle, until he disappeared where he came from. How much closer can you get?
The evening was about to come close so we sailed up the estuary of the river, which ran into a river delta at the end of the fjord, to look for bears there. We moored the jolly-boat and continued with brought kayaks on the low watered area. Here we found a little heightening of the delta where we could observe everything around us. But typical when you’re out hunting, the animal isn't where you expect it to be. So we went to the mother ship again after a few hours, where Bob had already made dinner.
Jimmy and Y were also already on the boat without having shot anything, even if they also had seen a bear. The evening passed with stories from this and foreign countries where there were stories about bears with the size of skyscrapers, so the evening was definitely not boring with these funny lads on board.
Next morning we again woke up to a cloud free sky. The bags were packed quickly. Bobs survival pack, which existed of turkey sandwiches (which would make it into the history books), chocolate for a whole kindergarten and some cherry cokes, also made it into the boats and we headed off. Today we wanted to try our luck a bit longer up the glacier. On the way we sailed through large fields of icebergs with a speed of 30 knots. It's just so beautiful when the otters are sunbathing and the sea eagle is circling over its nest at the coast.
We already spotted a bear after half an hour of navigation, which was walking down at the beach. There’s a small group of islands about 200 meters from the beach where the bear was walking, so we found cover there to get a closer glimpse of him. It was a younger male, shootable but Greg said, that there are good possibilities to find a bigger one. It's nice to see that Greg isn't just all about getting the hunt over and done with. I really feel, that he gets caught up in hunting, just the way I do.
Without disturbing the bear, we retreated quietly back to the island and sailed longer into the fjord. We spent the day in here and were sailing around for a bit while we were waiting for the tide to come again and the bears would be heading to the beaches again. In the early afternoon, we again spotted a bear that seemed to be rather big. We checked the wind and were heading further to the coast. There were much more small cliffs than we were used to. Soon it showed that the bear was a she. So we just enjoyed the sight of this fantastic animal for a bit while Greg shared his knowledge about bears and how you can tell the sex of a bear, ”Little head and a big ass, female for sure!” A sentence you will always remember.
The time flied and it definitely didn't feel like having been out for over ten hours. The sun was beginning to sink behind the mountains while we spotted another bear. Greg said it was a female, even if it was more than 1000 meters away. We sail closer to the bear to be sure and tried to get closer to him. We got so close, that we could finally see the bear. There was no doubt anymore. It was a beautiful male who was biting rue of the stones. We were at a distance of about 90 meters but unfortunately it wasn't possible to shoot from here because of a cliff a little further along. I decided to try and come in a shooting position whereas Greg stayed at his place. It's not quite the easiest task to be sneaking soundless ahead to a bear that is lying 90 meter away from you, if you have waders on. But I succeeded in getting to a distance of 80 meters of the bear, who still lied there, biting rues off the stones. It was impossible to shoot a sound shot in this position, so I patiently waited until the bear would move.
The bear we sneaked in on to a distance of about 90 meters.
It lifted its head and was sniffing around numerous times. A situation which reminded me a bit too much of the last bear I released my safe on. Minutes were feeling like hours now.. Suddenly the bear rose without hesitation down to the water and stopped at the shore. I quickly released the safe on my rifle, took a deep breath and sent the bullet on its way. The bear got shot right in the back thigh, so he fell because of the shot, where after he turns around and then died.
I turned my look to Greg who was just as excited as I was. Together we were going to the place where the bear lied. It was so beautiful! Because the bear was lying partially in the water and it was rising now, we moves the bear a little further up the beach. Here we took pictures and started to skin the bear. Greg put a little red badge with a license number on the bear, which got me the permission to shoot a black bear in the first place. There are many rules about this sort of stuff and they are being kept very strictly. It didn't take very long to skin the bear, where after we parted the animal and put it into bags and then down to the boat. There was nothing that was being left behind and back at the boat, the meat was going to be put in the freezer.
Jimmy and Y didn't succeed in shooting a bear, but that didn't keep them from sharing the joy over my bear. Even though I sensed a bit of jealousy from Y, who missed a shot on a bear today. So it was only the anger of having missed which shone through the felt emotion. If we had heard hunting stories the previous day, they definitely got topped today during dinner, where some of the men forgot to eat from being too euphoric. When I finally got to bed, I came to think of the absence of beer during dinner and after a hunt. Smiling at this, because it was so typical Scandinavian, I fell asleep to the waves hitting the side of the boat.
You sleep really well after a hunt like that. The next morning I had a hard time getting up. When I finally got up I saw, that it was pouring outside. So I was glad having shot my bear the day before. And for all of you who say, that there is no such thing as bad weather but only bad clothing, you should take a trip to Alaska and rethink that sentence. So I stayed on the boat with Bob and enjoyed his company and not to forget his really interesting reports about Vietnam and his wild life. Lovely feller..
Bob in his element.
At midday Jimmy and Y came home to the boat again and Y had succeeded in shooting a bear now. A beautiful male, which was a little bit smaller than mine, but still over 16 inches, measured by the skull. During lunch I asked Jimmy carefully if I could join him and Greg to see if they would manage to find a right bear for him. Jimmy was even almost honored over the fact that I asked, so I packed my video camera and followed them for the rest of the day. We spotted a few bears but didn't find the right one. Again Greg said that we should wait to find the right bear because we had the time on our side.
Y with his black bear.
Even if all the previous nights had passed with conversations about hunting, it wasn't hard to find a subject today because we now had gotten two bears. Jimmy also went to sleep trustingly that night because Greg had the amazing ability to please his customers, without being fake. This gives the hunters trust in him, as the well experienced hunter that he is. Greg is 37 now and he grew up with hunting since he was a little child. Not only does he live from hunting, but also with it. He doesn't just use it for its resources, but merely also cares about all the things and animals who are involved with it.
The night passes quickly if one gets rocked to sleep on the lovely yacht. After a quick breakfast we set out to hunt the last bear we had a license for. It isn't possible to buy more licenses in Alaska as it is in some of the other US-states. So you got to think about the order before you get to the location because the outfitter usually books all of his licenses away, not to have some left over in the end. Bobs lunch-boxes were ready and we headed off. This time we sailed into another sound we haven't been in before and placed ourselves on a small island, so we could observe everything around us. While we spent a couple of hours on the island without anything moving, Jimmy was napping a little. It must be tough for a 60 year old man from California to be hunting here. In the mean time Greg tells me about the snow goats, which were standing on the vertical cliffs down to the sound, and how you hunt them. It was really amazing when they stand 700 meter above us!
On the way to one of the many fjords.
It got close to the afternoon and we sailed further into the sound where we then spotted a bear on the shore. “There it is!” It’s so awesome to see how the pulses of 3 passionate hunters rise in a little aluminum jolly-boat. We sailed the jolly-boat to the coast with the routine of being cautious of wind and weather, where after we started to sneak on the bear who sat and ate 200 meter away from us without having a clue about what was about to happen. Jimmy and Greg now had crawled to an acceptable shooting distance. Greg looked at me to see, if I had the camera ready and I nodded. Everything was up to Jimmy now. He placed a bullet in the bears lung area with his 7 mm. Rem. Mag., where after is died.
So now it finally also succeeded for Jimmy to shoot a bear and the joy was great amongst everybody. While I carefully approached the lifeless bear, Greg and Jimmy were getting the jolly-boat. I kept a safe distance to the bear and waited until the two hunters catched up. It showed that it really had passed away. Even if it was the third bear I saw, the fascination wasn't lesser than the previous times.
We got over with the obligatory pictures quickly, parted the animal to get in on the boat and sailed home to the boat again. The joy was big about the third killed bear and now it was finally Jimmy’s turn to tell about his experience about having shot a bear.
Jimmy with his black bear.
The next morning we packed everything into the jolly-boats and got ready for the long journey back to Valdez City, where Jimmy, Y and I were being set off. Bob, Randy and Greg would continue south, where they would meet some hunters who wanted to hunt brown bears on an island where there hasn't been hunted on for decades. The journey home was long and the weather got worse, so we had to live through wind and waves. When we got to the glacier, we had to turn around and sail into the open sea because there was too much ice coming out of the fjord. It would take us a few more hours but that didn't worry me in this company. Greg and I got to talk again and he knew that I wasn't in a hurry getting back to tiny Denmark again, so he suggested that I could come with them to the next hunting location to do some filming. An offer I couldn't turn down and definitely when Bob told me that I could buy his license to shoot a brown bear. Bob made a quick deal with me, that if he ever gets to Europe, I had to give him a tour through Hamburg or Amsterdam, so I hit the jackpot! God only knows why he exactly chose those two cities...
After our arrival at the Valdez harbor, we said goodbye to Jimmy and Y and started to make the boat ready to leave for the next morning. We had to get some fuel, shop for groceries and also drink a bear with the lads in the local pub, where I got served the biggest T-bone steak of North America. A steak which quickly got me the nickname T-Bone from my friends “over there”...
Randy and Bob where we have the trips first bear.
I was so exited! Not only because I got the opportunity to shoot a brown bear, but also to spend a few more days with these enjoyable fellers. More about that later...
THANK YOU SO MUCH TO WWW.MAXHUNT.EU FOR THE GREAT WRITE UP ON ONE OF OUR HUNTS.
THANK YOU SO MUCH TO WWW.MAXHUNT.EU FOR THE GREAT WRITE UP ON ONE OF OUR HUNTS.