Hunt For Alaskan Brown Bear – Part 1
By Roy Keefer
When I told my wife, Shelby, that I wanted to book a brown bear bowhunt she was a little surprised. “Why would you want to go after one of those things with a bow and arrow?” she asked. “I don’t know maybe it’s just something I’ve never done,” I replied. She dropped the Q&A session and called our insurance agent the next day to see about increasing my life insurance. It sure helps to have a supportive spouse.
Actually, I was telling the truth. I have hunted black bears many times and once even killed a grizzly but I had never pursued their coastal brethren which get a lot bigger in size. Since we like to go to different areas to hunt new species this seemed like a good idea to me. I’ve been fortunate to have taken 13 of the 28 North American species and hopefully this would be another one I could check off on my list of desired species. I have neither the desire nor the financial resources to try for the grand slam of sheep or polar bear but brown bear seemed like something I might be able to handle.
The brown bear is found only in Alaska in North America. It is referred to as a coastal grizzly.
Due to many centuries of hereditary changes and a much better food supply than the mountain grizzly they have grown much larger than the mountain strain. You hear tales of gargantuan size browns but a truly large trophy these days would square about 10 feet and maybe weigh 1,000 pounds. Some get larger but most are smaller. In my book a bear over eight feet is a decent bear and one I would be after on my trip.
How do you select an outfitter for the hunt?
This is probably the most critical part of the hunt. You have to get off on the right foot to begin with or you have to overcome a lot of shortfalls a bad outfitter can put you through. So selecting a good outfitter is critical.
If you’ve read any of my previous stories you know I am an active member of Safari Club International, which by the way is a great organization. They aggressively work to preserve the rights of hunters. I encourage you to join SCI. One of the benefits of being a member is being able to attend the annual SCI convention in Reno, Nevada. At the convention over 1,500 exhibitors offer hunts for anything your imagination may conjure. I decided to check out the outfitters at that year’s convention.
Of course, I asked each one the typical questions. What’s your success rate? What kind of accommodations do you have? What size bear can I expect to take? What method of hunting will we use? You get the idea.
Selecting an outfitter also involves the intangible aspect of how do you feel while you’re talking to the outfitter. Some seem aloof; some don’t like bowhunters; some you feel are more interested in your money than your success and some you think are just right. That was the case with the people at Afognak Wilderness Lodge. I liked what I heard when we talked. I got their references and checked them out. After talking to six of their former clients, I felt they were the one for me. Some of the references had not taken a bear but spoke very highly of Afognak and the Randall family which owns and runs the operation.
Part 2 is Next: