Developing a premium bear hunting location in Alaska: The aftermath of the 2009-2011 season

alaska, bears, big game hunting, camping, guns, hunting, nature, Uncategorized, wildlife

Beaches and Blondies- 5/25/11

Here we go again, yet another spring bear season has come upon the eagerly waiting outdoorsmen.  The blossoming green leaves and the winter now melt, once again giving hunters the chance to explode out of  our winter dens (the couch) and into another beasts den.

The introduction of the my mission to complete the Black bear tri-fecta(Longbow, Muzzle Loader, and Rifle): First stage complete with self-made archery equipment(I made bow and arrows myself); Fred Bear Style…

This year I chose non-proven hunting grounds in an attempt to correct a previous strikeout in the same hunting area exactly one year prior.  I would be returning to a hunting location Jon Dykes and I had researched and found prior to the 2010 fall hunting season, a location containing both black and grizzly bears.  The focus this year was a black bear with a muzzle loader and a grizzly bear with a longbow, a quest that will follow me through out my able hunting life.  This hunt was a non-guided, public land do-it-yourself, over the counter tag successful spot and stalk style adventure.   This article will outline the success and failures of this style of hunt, a hunt within budget reach of millions of American outdoorsmen nation wide.

After  three years of hard work and research, the goal of developing a premium bear hunting location in Alaska seemed within reach.  The spring hunt ended with a succesful black bear harvest but unsuccesful grizzly bear harvest.  The 2010 spring hunting season ended abruptly after having blown not one but two stalks on grizzly and black bears respectively.   Spending 6 months searching for a location, contacting fish and game biologist, asking about and studying features of topographic maps helped to locate bears.  Harvesting one of these bears with stick and string is a completely different story.

First vantage point of our 2009 bear hunting location

Jon Dykes and I once again began discussing hunt details of our upcoming Alaska bear hunt, during the final semester of our Penn State University student career.  We decided we must find a new location that will consitantly produce huntable bears, year after year.  The goal was simple, but hardwork and research would be the determinants of our objective.  Once the objectives were settled, the mission began, Jon and I left Penn State and headed to Alaska to begin the quest set out before us.

The Mission: Develop a premium public land bear hunting destination in Alaska.

The objectives:

-Harvest  a mature black bear with a muzzle loader completeing my longbow, rifle, muzzleoader tri-vector.

-Harvest a grizzly bear with selfmade archery equipment, via longbow and wood arrows.

-Personal mission:  outdoorsmen goal to harvest a black bear with longbow, muzzleloader, and rifle weaponry.

The tactics to hunting these blackbears in areas such as Alaska during spring break up(winter melt of snow), the best tactic to find bears is to research firstly, Alaska department of fish and game.   Secondly you must find public areas versus private versus permit, this is easily done with ADF&G Hunting regulations.  Thirdly one must know I‘m a resident and have the unique opportunity to hunt Alaska as a Resident and do not need a guide to hunt Grizzly/brown bear, Mountain goats, or Dall sheep.  All non-residents must have a guide for those species however do not need a guide for  black bear; meaning non-residents still may come to Alaska and develop premium black bear hunting locations without a guide.

Captain August Manelick joins the hunt to find a “hot bear spot in Alaska”..  Also a Penn State graduate and Alaska resident.

The next step finding a map, in today’s day and age the internet offers endless resources to research your hunting locations via birds eye view of the planet(take google earth for example.)  Search for South facing cliffs that are exposed to the most amount of sunlight, south facing mountain slopes provide more food to bears via photosynthesis with peak sunlight.   Finding the food of these creatures is the key to success this time of year.  With the minor details of figuring out where to go, Jon and I headed out as a two man sniper team.

Antler shed fighting, on our first mission in May 2009.  On the road to developing a premium bear location, takes a little bit of a humor…

The Mission began after our tedious Alaska research finished and completion of our impending senior finals for Penn State University.   We caught a flight to Alaska and headed back to my home town of Palmer Alaska where the real adventure would launch from.  After hunting hard for a month, literally 30 days in the field without civilization we had succumbed to a very sober reality….No bears, and two blown stalks, both on film.  With that in mind, John and I ended the 2010 season with a failed mission and failed objectives.  That meant we needed to start researching for the start of the 2011 hunting season in plan for a more successful mission.   Several questions came to mind, firstly where would we hunt if we want to develop a premium bear hunting location?  We struck out the season before, but had found and hunted two locations that had never been seen to our eyes before and only visited via topographic map.

Jon and I, even though unsuccessful in the 2010 season had confidence in our new hunting locations.  We also decided that we must hit the bear season earlier and hunt the bears where they were more concentrated on food sources.   The key to the 2011 year would be hunting the bears in our Hidden Lake location earlier, on the South facing mountains receiving the most amount of sunlight.  We went back to the drawing board and found a different Mountain with exposed mountain faces to sunlight.  Hidden Lake, Hidden Mountain was the destination we chose, which in al reality was one mountain away from our a 2010 hunting season location.

Our first success on a bear location scout trip, the first 2009 Spring bear hunt: Second Stage rifle complete

The 2011 spring bear season begins:  Starting this year with Slednecks Jason Semler

The adventure began meeting up with Jason Semler, a professional back country snow machining bad boy.  Jason  Semler a backcountry sledneck, began the backflipping revolution of freestyle snowmachines.  Check out this youtube video of him if your not familiar with backcountry snow machining.

Being a family friend Jason decided he wanted to accompany the Mission Alaska team and provide the hard ware.  He was captain and master of the Atv, Jon and I would be the masters of the mountain and stalks on bears.  Jason would be providing video commentary from the beach while Jon and I would go on stalks and give the birds eye view of the stalk with helmet cams, sticks cams, and SD HD Cams.  Why not…..  We arrived to the destination after a long drive from our headquaters of Palmer Alaska.   We began with a 50 mile atv ride with swamp bogs, tundra bogs, frozen creeks, etcs… We finally arrived to our hunting location after a longwinded atv crawl.

After setting up camp a base camp, we crawled into our sleeping bags and called it a night.    The next morning brought immediate action as we spotted a large bull moose in velvet running across the mountain side.  Not long after the moose was spotted, we found out why he was running.  A large black bear stepped out in line with the moose upon the mountain side, he was waddling around and was no threat to the moose.    We decided to continue to glass the mountain for a couple of hours until we had spotted and noted the area of bears.  We spotted a total of four bears across the mountain, two black black bears, and two cinnamon looking bears.   We picked the biggest mature looking bear and headed up the mountain after him on a sprint through beetle blow down spruce trees.  We slipped up past tree line and were now in the sheep and goat domain.  Jon was filming and I was attempting to harvest the bear set out in front of me with either my longbow or muzzle loader.  Both legal means of harvest and both deadly.

We were stalking across the cliffs that we previously saw a band of dall sheep rams napping and chewing cud.  The sheep paid no attention to the bears but were very curious of our dealings and seemingly moved up and over the mountain, leaving us to deal the bears their impending doom.  We ended up far above tree line looking down in search for the bear.  With the wind in our favor the bear was no where in site, so we sat and waited for him to appear.   After several hours of waiting we figured the bear had winded us and had slipped down into the trees.  We returned back to base camp, to eat food and countinue glassing for the cinnamonster we stalked earlier.  After galssing and meeting up with Jason Semler, he told us we were very close to the bear and he hadn’t moved……………..  We had better understanding of where we needed to be to see the bear and started back up after him. We only had time to eat a Baby Ruth candy bar before we were sprinting up the mountain once again to stalk the bear we had mad an attempt on earlier.

Black Bear harvest in 2011 with a TC 50CAL muzzle loader: Third stage a personal mission completed.

This time the bear was not so lucky and the second dangerous stalk across the cliffs brought success.  The bear was harvested at 50 yards with the muzzle loader after we came face to face with him on a goat cliff.  The shot for the TC 50 Cal was fast and effective, smooth and purposeful.  The mission was successful,  the conclusion was a cinnamon color black bear with a muzzleloader, the tri-fecta was complete.  I had completed a life goal to harvest a bear with longbow, rifle, and muzzleloader.   After the completion of the black bear tri-vector I still had one objective left, harvesting a grizzly bear with a longbow the beginning of a new chapter. Was this mission a success?  My answer is yes, I kept my life, Jon and I captured the harvest on film, and I had my first muzzle loader harvest ever.  The only failed objective was to harvest a grizzly or brown bear with my longbow.  However, I don’t see the objective as failed, I see the objective as ………….

Grizzly Longbow, to be continued.

-David Austin

Go-Pro Goes to the Last Frontier


I am sure most of you have seen those little, but amazing Go-Pro Cameras. They have been worn by snowboarders in the X-Games and crazy red bull athletes with wing suits. They are a miniature, ultra tough, HD camera that can be put in a waterproof case and taken anywhere. We recently took one out with us, on our most recent bear hunt in Alaska. We were playing around with it and seeing just how tough this little guy was. We attached it on tons of things like ATVs, Bush Planes, and even to a stick to get some cool wide shots. Here are a few clips that we were experimenting with. Pretty amazing little cameras and for a relatively good price!

There motto is “Be A Hero”, so take one on your next hunting or fishing adventure and see what cool shot you can get. Here is a link to their page:


The Prologue…2010 Bear Hunt

alaska, artic slope, bears, big game hunting, camping, caribou, guns, hunting, meat, moose, nature, Uncategorized, wildlife

Well after it seemed like the computers would never start working, we finally have some of the footage from our most recent bear hunt in Alaska. This bear hunt, like most hunts, tried us to the ends. This hunt actually started a year ago and needs some back story.

May 2010

We had heard of a good spot for bears in central Alaska, and as soon as college let out for the summer we were on the move. Our plan was to hunt a remote river bow and catch a big bear looking for food as he was waking up from hibernation. Well that was the plan but the bear never came….for TEN DAYS!

We were exhausted, but still determined to get on some bears. We were not going to give up like that, so we contacted the local biologist and set up a meeting. They were extremely helpful and pointed us towards the Denali Mountain Range. There was rumor of a caribou calving grown and wherever there are weak and helpless newborn caribou babies, there will definitely be bears looking to for an easy meal. We loading up the truck and were on the move once again, headed towards the mountains. When we got to 13 miles away, we loaded up our Frontier Gear Packs and ditched the truck. We traversed 13 miles across rivers, over mountains, and through mazes of beaver ponds. It is safe to say that it was a sold 13 miles! We eventually got back to the caribou heard, set up a basic bivy camp high above the valley in the mountain peaks As two predator, we began to lurk the valley waiting for a bear to make a move. Three days later we got our chance. We woke up to find a monster 9ft. grizzly bear making his way towards the heard. We packed up and booked it down the mountain. We crossed the frozen lake and moved towards him. Austin had planned to take a bear with a longbow, and the opportunity was looking to present itself on a Boone and Crocket size bear. The adrenaline was pumping as we closed the distance, and we made it 30 yards away…now we needed to get whisper close. He was taking a nap in a snow pile on the side of the mountain, and we made our move. As we were on the final stalk, the glacial winds began to swirl. At 15 years he raised his monstrous head and stared us dead in the eyes. He took one big sniff and turned to run away. The willows starting shacking and turmoil set in. We immediately took off after him, but chasing a grizzly bear is a loosing battle. He quickly left us in the dust and was at 1000 yards within 30 seconds. We could had taken him with a rifle easily but we were dead-set on a longbow and come hell or high water… we going in with the longbow. That being said we missed our opportunity.

We gathered ourselves and started the 13 miles back to truck. During that hike we decided that we had come to far to quit now. Heck, the packs were already packed and we were already out in the middle of nowhere, in Alaska…so lets go! We met back up with the same biologist and told them of our heartbreaking hunting story. Feeling pity on us they pointed us again towards a spot that was hot with bears. This time in southern Alaska. Once again we loaded the truck and were off. We were told we would have to cross a big lake and would need a boat. We are broke and don’t have a boat, so we borrowed a friends canoe and deiced we would have to tackle this mission old school. We paddled in to  the spot and set up a camp. We stayed there for 6 days and saw nothing! It looked like a good spot but the weather was hot and the snow was melting quickly. This means the bears are spreading out and getting harder to see. Running low on supplies, we began to paddle out. As we were paddling, we spotted a bear far away on the beach. By the time we got there, he was gone. We were perplexed by what species of bear this was. It was a lighter brown color, but looked like a black bear…hmmmm????

We stayed curious the whole next year and geared up to go back this year to figure out just what kind of bears were at this lake. And that is what lead us to our most recent footage. Look for the video coming soon.