Dream Hunt Brown Bear
My excitement was hard to contain as I was headed to Alaska for my first brown bear hunt. This is a hunt I’ve dreamed of my entire life, and have been planning for years. The day finally arrived, and I was headed to the peninsula for some of the best brown bear hunting in the world!
The plan for this trip was to fly into Anchorage, then get on another small plane to the town of Illiamna, and then head out in a Super Cub to our new home on the tundra. We were staying in tents that we had positioned in the alders on the side of a big hill for extra protection. We would be living out there for 12-days with 10-days of solid hunting in the complete wilderness. This is the type of hunt I love, but it’s not for everybody. The weather gets nasty, there are no showers, we eat freeze-dried food everyday, but that’s the price you pay for hunting in the complete wilderness. In my opinion, it’s one of the best adventures a hunter can have.
I could hardly believe the beautiful weather we were experiencing – it was very windy, but the sun was shining and that’s always a huge bonus in Alaska. I’ve jumped out of plane on numerous occasions where the rain is pouring and the trip begins by getting soaking wet. So, anytime the sun is shining it’s a great day! In Alaska you can’t hunt the same day as you fly. So the first day we simply setup camp and I made sure my Model 70 Winchester .375 H&H was still shooting great, and had not been knocked around too bad by travel. Everything was on, and we found a high point near camp that we would use as our main glassing location.
The winds were brutal and the forecast had called for high winds all week so we decided to take our time and build a stonewall out of all the rocks lying around the tundra for added protection when glassing. This turned out to be an incredible decision and really made our long hours sitting up high much more enjoyable and comfortable.
Glassing for hours and hours is sometimes long and arduous. However, we spotted bear almost everyday. Even a beautiful fox come up close to us while we were glassing. It may have been one of the most beautiful coats I had seen on a fox in awhile, and we sat back and watched him hunt. I decided not to shoot him as my .375 H&H wouldn’t leave much behind, and it would be a shame not to make something out of his fur; so we just let him go and I filmed him instead.
The one thing we were quickly finding out is just because we spotted bear, it doesn’t mean they would come into range. Most of the animals we were seeing were between 2-3 miles out, and sometimes we were even spotting them at 5 miles. That’s a great testament to our Swarovski optics and spotting scope but there were other considerations to take into account. For example, Alaska and the tundra can be a very dangerous place late season so we didn’t go out on any long stalk after 3pm in case something would happen and we didn’t want to risk having to stay out there at night without a tent and sleeping bag. As much as I wanted a bear, it wasn’t something I was willing to foolishly risk my life for, In Alaska a small mistake can become fatal in a matter of hours if one’s not careful. With that said we did numerous stalks. The hunt really ended up being an incredible physical undertaking. It was a lot of sitting around and waiting until a bear was spotted. Then it was go time and we were literally running and walking, running and walking for miles trying to catch up to bear. Unfortunately, we weren’t catching any breaks either. Almost all the bear we had spotted were going the opposite direction, and even though we tried our best we couldn’t catch up to them in time.
Finally toward the end of the hunt we spotted an extremely blonde bear feeding on a big patch of berries on the tundra that looked to be staying in the same area simply feeding away. We took off with the least amount of gear possible in order to get there as quickly as we could, and after about 45 minutes of non-stop run/walking, we finally got in range. I got down on my sticks and ranged him at just under 80-yards.
The bear was quartering to me hard and I was working on getting my breathing under control from the long run. I figured we had plenty of time, but I was wrong. The bear looked up and instantly turned to bolt. As it was turning I took a quartering away shot and made a good hit. The bear was still on his feet, so I took another shot around 300-yards and dropped him in his tracks. I was shooting a 300-grain bullet which I had sighted in for 100-yards so the drop at 300-yards was right around 27-inches. I had made all the right calculations in my head as the action went down, and was extremely proud of the shooting and bullet performance as well as the bear. As we walked up to him, we couldn’t help but notice the absolutely beautiful blonde coat and ragged old teeth. All our hard work and hours of glassing had finally paid off and I was taking home a bear of a lifetime.
Melissa Bachman is an incredibly hardcore and intense hunter – perhaps one of the more passionate hunters you will ever meet.