Hunting Arctic Grizzly in Alaska 2020

Hunting Grizzly Bears in Alaska

September 3, 2020 – Roughly 120 miles North of the Arctic Circle, it was Kyle’s first day to hunt grizzly bears in Alaska. He had flown in the previous day on the Super Cub to our remote camp. It is illegal to fly and hunt the same day so today was the first day we could hunt bears. These particular brown bears we were hunting are inland bears which are known better as Grizzly Bears. And since we were above the Arctic Circle, then we call them Arctic Grizzly Bears.

Glassing Grizzly Bears in Alaska

While waiting for the right opportunity, we glassed a number of different grizzly bears throughout the day. But some of the bears we saw had too many variables working against us. This particular grizzly bear was up the side of a nearby mountain eating berries but moving rather quickly and disappeared over the top.

Some of the grizzly bears were very far away through some very heavy brush. But other bears were fairly close like this sow grizzly and two cubs. Watching these three bears fish for salmon was a treat. The ravens would try and steal a bite but the cubs would run them off.

Kyle sitting on the tundra among blueberries glassing for Grizzly Bears in Arctic Alaska looking out over the river valley and gravel bars.

One of the more impressive grizzly bears we spotted was a long distance away from us. There was a lot of dense brush to get through. This bear was steadily moving away from us and seemed alert. We watched him stand up and check his surroundings. This would have been a difficult bear to hunt and get close enough for a shot because it was a calm and quiet day. The bear would likely hear us coming. And we might have lost sight of him in the process. Much patience is need when hunting grizzly bears in Alaska.

Kyle glasses for grizzly bears from the hill behind camp.

Stalking Grizzly Bears in Alaska

Later in the evening, we spotted a grizzly out in the open tundra on the other side of the river eating blueberries. We continued watching this bear until it began making it’s way down a drainage toward the river to fish.

Then we decided to make our move and see if we could intercept the bear. We made our way down the hill from which we were glassing and began our tip-toe across the rock and gravel bars toward the river. As we were crossing the braids, I looked downriver one of the channels and spotted the bear working its way up toward us. And then it disappeared into the trees. So we continued across the river and climbed up onto the bluff on the opposite bank where we could wait for the grizzly to reappear.

Making the Shot on a Grizzly Bear

Within minutes the bear reappeared and was still on the same course about to walk out in front of us. At 380 yards it was now in the open and Kyle made his first shots with his 300 Win Mag immobilizing the bear, then took several more to put it down.

Day 1 and Kyle had his first Alaskan arctic grizzly bear. It was a rather quick but successful hunt. This was an old bear with worn down teeth, scars on its face and ears, missing part of its nose and had grown some impressively long claws.

That night the skies were clear and the temperature dropped below freezing. As a result, we had a most impressive display of the Northern Lights. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate a successful day hunting grizzly bears in Alaska.

So if you are interested or would like to learn more about guided hunts for brown bear, arctic grizzly, caribou and wolves – check out:

Arctic Alaska Part 2

Arctic Cold

The nights were getting cold. Sub-freezing temperatures holding until late morning when the sun would finally creep up above the mountains and thaw some of the frost. It was a chore getting up with 20F putting on waders and wading boots that are frozen solid. Boiling water and pouring over the boots usually did the trick.

Full moon over the river setting behind the mountain.

If the sun was out all day, late afternoon felt pretty nice until the sun dipped behind the mountain and it would instantly drop about 20F. Heavy frost or a light dusting of snow was expected most mornings now.

Camping in Alaska

Glassing The Tundra

Our next group of hunters arrived and we now had four new tags to fill. I did not expect that it would all happen in two days, let alone three in one. The morning of September 16 we were up on our hill glassing the valleys and mountain sides when we spotted two decent bulls coming down the mountain behind our camp.

Once the two bulls crossed the river and appeared to be making their way through the brush in the valley down below, we came up with a plan. The guide took two of the hunters down to intercept while I stayed up on the hill with the other two hunters to keep glassing on the bulls and provide hand signals to where they needed to be.

After a short time we could no longer find the bulls and had lost them somewhere in the brush. The hunters down below had ventured a half mile or more south and had stopped at a confluence where two drainages merged, glassing back to us watching for hand signals. We didn’t know where the bulls were so at this point no signals were given besides a shrug. Now we were just waiting for the bulls to emerge from cover.

As we sat idle and watched from the hill, several more small herds of caribou were moving through in the distance and one herd was making their way toward the guys down below. Unknowing, the guys started hiking up the other drainage toward this new group of caribou. All we could do was watch.

A Distant Shot

As they neared, it was apparent they spotted the herd when they all dropped down to the ground. A decent bull was in the mix and after we heard the gunshot, we watched it drop. The hunter made a clean 125 yard shot from the other side of the drainage.

While all of this was happening, we finally glassed the original two bulls again. They had bedded down in the brush which made it difficult to see them. We grabbed our packs and started hiking South to meet the other guys. Once we met up again, a new plan emerged.

I stayed with the successful hunter and worked on caping and quartering out the caribou. The guide took the other three hunters back North to keep an eye on the two bulls bedded down. He was going to give hand signals if he needed me.

About Those Hand Signals

Just as I was finishing up, there was a confusion of hand signals and miming back and forth through the binoculars until I finally understood the signal to run quickly over to where the other hunters were. On my way jogging and hopping across the tundra I could see the two bulls emerging from the brush. Staying crouched, I quickly caught up with the guide and the two hunters that were planning to shoot.

The bulls were moving and quartering away so we needed to move quickly to get close enough for a shot once they cleared the brush. At 250 yards, the two bulls were coming out into the open. I helped one of the hunters, Chris, locate the first bull as it was stepping out into the river – the guide spotted for the other hunter, Mike.

Three Caribou Down

The bulls were getting nervous and it was now or never. Chris made the shot and the caribou just stood there. Then it stumbled and splashed into the water. Mike was quick to make a shot on the second bull before it disappeared back into the brush.

Chris with his bull caribou after we pulled it out of the water.

It was getting late in the day so once we quartered out the caribou, we packed what we could back to camp and left the rest to cool overnight. The next day Mike hiked back with me to help pack out the rest of the meat while the other guys headed back to the glassing hill.

Day 2

As we were preparing our last trip back to camp, we glassed a group of caribou further South and we could see the guys moving into position. Again, we were able to watch it all unfold through our binoculars as the last hunter shot his caribou. It was a successful hunt for all four hunters and they were all done in just two days.

Arctic Alaska Part 1

Recently I had the opportunity to help out with some guided hunts North of the Arctic Circle here in Alaska. Targeting caribou, wolves and brown bear. Based out of Kotzebue, we would shuttle hunters out into the tundra with a Cessna 180, 206 and a Super Cub. Often times hunters were flown out to gravel bar staging areas where the larger planes had enough room to land and then shuttled one at a time with their gear into tighter locations where only the cub could get into.

Most of the time camp is going to be set up adjacent to a river in which thrive arctic char and grayling. Never do you have to travel far to find a water source for drinking and cooking.

When looking out in any direction, it is an endless view of tundra, hills, mountains and valleys filled with water braids, brush and gravel bars. Waders are a necessity. No matter where we are heading to glass for animals or make a move to intercept, there is going to be water to navigate through.

Caribou are the main objective for most hunters, although many also purchase a wolf tag and/or brown bear tag in case the opportunity presents itself. Predator control is just as important in managing populations as is the limit placed on game animals. Wolves and brown bears have a huge impact on caribou herds – it is important to manage both. In this particular hunt unit, a hunter could take as many as twenty wolves and two brown bears in a season.

My first day out with the first two hunters we had in camp was a huge success. Early morning we started hiking out across the gravel bars and through brush to gain an advantageous high point to glass from. Upon cresting the hill, caribou were spotted running away on the other side of the valley and stopping to look back. That is when the guide spotted the two wolves working their way down the valley toward us. We all laid down to stay out of site and crawled to the edge where the hunters got ready for a shot. There was a big male black wolf and a female gray. With rangefinder out, I was giving yardages as the animals trotted closer. The female laid down over 300 yards away. The black male continued closer and dropped into a trough at about 220 yards. I informed the hunter as the wolf comes out the other side that it would be just under 200 yards. As it came up out of the trough into the open it stopped and stood there and the hunter wasted no time in making the shot. The black wolf was down.

The female jumped up and started running away. Attempting to keep up with the yardages (it was approaching near where I first ranged it) I stated it was over 400 yards. Blowing on a distress call, the guide managed to stop her on a dime. Immediately the second hunter made the shot at 460 yards with his .300 Win Mag and both wolves were down. It was quite an eventful morning and we were just getting started.

While we were getting busy with caping out the wolves, the hunters glassed a small group of caribou making their way down the valley. Once it appeared they were bearing down upon us we stopped everything we were working on and laid down ready to shoot again. The caribou began trickling down the edge of the hill directly in front of us less than 100 yards away. Patiently waiting for the larger bull of the group to come over the ridge, we held still as the others were making their way close by. The bull appeared and the hunter made an ‘easy’ 80 yard shot.

With three animals on the ground, we kept ourselves busy for the rest of the day with caping, quartering, and packing them back to camp.

Our second day hunting the same two hunters started off much the same, early morning glassing from our vantage point. We kept our eyes on different groups of caribou feeding and moving along off in the distance, waiting for a decent bull to show up some place near enough for us to make a move and intercept.

After a short while, I spotted a group that came over the top of the mountain right behind our camp. As they were making their way down the side of the mountain toward the river valley I could clearly see a large bull in the group, visible even without binoculars. Once they reached the bottom and began crossing the river and making their way through the brush, we hustled about a half mile into position – another high vantage point close to where we anticipated the caribou to start filtering out the other side of the brush.

No sooner did we get setup and already they were showing up, we spotted the bull but I was only able to range to the edge of the water which was about 350 yards away. The bull was still further. Once he stepped clear for a shot and no other caribou were standing near or behind him, the hunter made the shot. We watched as the bull stood there, then staggered and dropped. After running down the hill, across the tundra and through the water to where he lay, I ranged back to the hill – 460 yards.

This father and son duo exceeded expectations and began their trek home the following day with grand memories of some amazing hunts that I was privileged to be a part of.

Alaska 2018 in Review

Mat-Su Valley

Deshka River King Salmon
Deshka River King Salmon in early May

The 2018 season started off early May in Southcentral Alaska guiding on the Little Susitna and Deshka Rivers for iFishAlaska. The boat was a 24′ flat bottom with an outboard tiller jet seating up to 6 clients at a time. King salmon were the target and numbers were low. Catch-and-release fishing on the Deshka River was good, but mostly because so few people were fishing considering you could not keep or technically even remove fish from the water. Even so, people were still happy to be catching fish.

Matanuska-Susitna Valley is an area in Southcentral Alaska south of the Alaska Range about 35 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska. It includes the valleys of the Matanuska, Knik, and Susitna Rivers.
Little Susitna River King Salmon
Little Susitna River Kings

The Little Susitna River was regulated to harvesting fish only on weekends. With low numbers and high, turbid water which made fish counting difficult, it went to all catch-and-release and shortly after closed completely to king salmon fishing.

Deshka River King Salmon
Deshka River King Salmon
Deshka River King Salmon
Deshka River King Salmon
Deshka River King Salmon
Deshka River King Salmon with Trevor Smith of TSFLYCO

The Deshka River soon after closed to fishing for king salmon as well as pretty much everywhere else in Southcentral Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula.

Deshka River King Salmon
Deshka River King Salmon

Someone must have been looking out for me because shortly after the closures, one thing led to another and I was offered a position guiding halibut and salmon in Lower Cook Inlet for King of Kings Guide Service and Lodge. We fished out of 20′ Bayrunners with a center console and 4 passengers at a time.

Beach launching Lower Cook Inlet
Launching and landing on the beach requires a special 1980’s “beach rig” suburban with deflated tires
Feeding Eagles in Alaska
Early in the summer, eagles are plentiful along the beach and willing to eat from your hand. Once the salmon start moving into the rivers, the birds follow.
Alaska Range Lower Cook Inlet
Late night sunsets were spectacular.
Mount Iliamna Volcano Lower Cook Inlet Alaska
Mount Iliamna looking approximately 35 miles across the inlet from the lodge.
Mount Iliamna Volcano Lower Cook Inlet Alaska
Mount Iliamna
Halibut Fishing Lower Cook Inlet Alaska
Mount Iliamna on the left, Mount Redoubt on the right. Halibut in the middle.

King of Kings Lodge is a family run service located on the Kenai Peninsula. Our halibut and salmon charters are very unique when compared to most of the other Alaska fishing charters. If you’ve ever experienced a halibut or salmon charter where it felt like they were herding cattle, you will enjoy the refreshing difference of our personalized service.

Halibut Fishing Lower Cook Inlet Alaska

We Fish Near Shore – No long boats rides, wasting time, and being beat up by rough seas. We Fish Shallow Water – No tired arms and back, or reeling up 300 feet of line with a 5# weight.

Halibut Fishing Lower Cook Inlet Alaska
Halibut Fishing Lower Cook Inlet Alaska
Halibut and Salmon Fishing Lower Cook Inlet Alaska
King Salmon Fishing Lower Cook Inlet
King Salmon Fishing Lower Cook Inlet
Fly Fishing Silver Salmon Kenai River Alaska
Once in a week I had a day off to do some fishing myself. This day I did some fly fishing for silvers on the Kenai River.
Fly Fishing Silver Salmon Lower Cook Inlet
Fly Fishing silver salmon on a local stream down the beach.
Fishing Ling Cod and Tiger Yellow Eye Rock Fish Alaska
Later in September we squeezed one last trip in to chase after ling cod with a bonus tiger rockfish.

I will be returning to King of Kings and looking forward to 2019.

Wilderness Trout Fishing in Northern Minnesota

The reason we travel to Northern Minnesota to fish stream trout through the ice is for the experience and the solitude. Although we could have easily kept limits of trout, we only kept a few rainbows around 20″ and let everything else go. The lakes were empty of people and we really felt alone out there. Some lakes were completely untouched and we were the first to break trail. Sure, you could go to some other ‘trouty’ destinations where you have chances at much larger fish with cityscapes in the background or on the horizon – but you just can’t beat the wild scenery of the North and having an entire lake to yourself, wondering what might come swimming through your hole in the ice.