Mission Alaska Third Leg: Bridgers Birth Into the World of Hunting

alaska, bears, big game hunting, Camera, camping, DIY hunting

Mission Alaska Part 3: Bridger’s Birth Into the World of Hunting

After fueling up at the boat dock and heading face first into Prince William Sound, within minutes we were off on yet another hunting adventure. Hunting several years previously in Valdez with Jason Semler, I knew it would be a matter of no time before we saw bears feeding on seaside mountain slopes.  Motoring out to one of Jason’s secret Valdez hunting locations called “Bearadise Bay” we came to a coasting slide in the boat.  Jason scuttled to the back of the boat, grabbed his monstrous fish gaff threw that hook over board and nabbed up a buoy.  Think Deadliest Catch, with out the crabs and on a smaller boat.  His 25 foot aluminum boat had a rope pulling rig on it that did quick work of the shrimp pots.  He hauled up three shrimp pots while discussing the hunting game plan with Bridger and I.   He said “we are going to motor towards these bays, and slowly scan the mountain side.”   Mean while, the pots he pulled up had enough banana size shrimp in it to make one “heckuva” meal, as Jason put it.  Taking his advice I pulled one shrimp out and cracked it open, pealed his shell then ate that little guy raw.

Banana sized shrimp

Banana sized shrimp

taste just as good like this

Taste just as good like this…

as they do like this. : Shrimp in salsa and butter

as they do like this: shrimp in salsa and butter

The salt water and the taste is similar to shrimp cocktail at a party, no cocktail sauce was needed.  Jason said hold off on eating them raw as he had an idea for these little buggers.  On a mini Coleman stove he crammed a boat load of shrimp with butter and salsa.   We proceeded to house those for a quick meal, before continuing to hunt the seaside mountain faces for our bear friends.  The shrimp was an excellent alternative to the standard protocol of Top Ramen noodles and water from a camel pack.  Jason fired up the boat and continued to motor on.  Bridger Vaness the Videographer of the trip was now in the driver seat and hunting big game for the very first time.  I would be lending a hand and going on the stalk with him as his second set of eyes.

“Bear, Bear, Bear” Jason points to a bear on the cliff side as I am taking a quick nap.  He startled me, but Bridger was so wide eyed and excited he was already standing.  After watching the bear for an hour or so and deciding this was a sole mature bear, we made the call to go after it.  Jason quickly motored over to the cliff side rocky shore and said “follow the tracks to the top of trail and shoot from one of the trees at the top of the rock face.”   Bridger nodded, and I agreed to come along for the stalk while Jason captained the boat.  Jason kicked the boat into reverse right before hitting the rocky edge of the boulder laden sea bank.  Bridger and I bailed out on the rocky bank and military crawled up the 6-8 foot snow base to the set of “human/bear tracks” we could see.

We got to the tracks and followed them near the top of the hill, they led directly to three small cottonwood trees.  Bridger and I had not located the bear yet, Bridger picked the tree he was comfortable shooting from and laid down.  He was shooting off of a shooting stick buried into the snow bank.   I located the bear, which was very close around 130-150 yards directly above us feeding on a cliff side.

He found the bear but was not steady to take the shot.  I told him to “lay prone off of the snow bank.” He dropped down off of the shooting stick using the snow bank to shoot from.

He said “Oh yeah, I got him!” to which I replied “ aim low center mass and roll him when it turns broad side.” As I ended that sentence “buuuhhhhdooooom!”  Ringing out and echoing off the cliffs, Bridger’s shot conducted a hunters orchestra with a “fuuwhaap” finale signaling the sound of a fatal hit.

The bear immediately tumbled off the skunk cabbage cliff, scrambling to catch itself before falling into an avalanche snow chute.   Falling 60 yards strait down, the bear expired on top of an alder covered avalanche chute.   With no movement from the bear, we grabbed our packs and headed to retrieve the animal.  A 30-minute hike nearly strait up, and Bridger found his very first big game animal.  We used the snow slide to drag the bear down near the boat to begin the next steps of the process.  The next step Bridger learned was validating his harvest card immediately before processing any of the animal.    We snapped several pictures together to commemorate the camaraderie shared on this hunting adventure.   After a short round of picture taking, we then processed and salvaged the entire bear.

Making quick work before the falling sunset on Valdez, we motored back to harbor before dark.  Who would have thought in three days we could harvest two beautiful black bears and make lifelong lasting memories.   Idling back to the boat launch in Valdez, we parted ways with Jason and thanked him for his friendship and camaraderie. Driving 8 hours back home to Palmer would go by fast.  Bridger and I both grinning ear to ear with success, the drive was filled with laughter and stories. The next steps would be processing both the bear’s meat into delectable packages of meat, and “officially sealing” the bear with Wildlife officials.   All was completed successfully and everyone who took part in the adventure could not have been happier.

Bridger’s first big game harvest with Austin Manelick and Jason Semler

I must say that helping another person with their first big game hunting experience is pretty magical.  I know that going on an adventure like this and harvesting an animal as Bridger did, will leave a lasting trait engrained in his gene code forever.  Sharing my passion with someone in my opinion is one sure fire method to keep hunting around for generations to come.  I receive just as much if not more pleasure, when someone else deserving harvests an animal that I know will be used in the capacity nature intended.  I was so happy for Bridger harvesting his first bear, it put as much of a smile on my face as it did on his.  What a cool memory shared together, the pictures will be enjoyed for years to come and the meat for many months.   Thanks to everyone who was involved in the bear hunting this year, it could not have been done with out you.

Austin and Bridger

Stay tuned for the  2012 Alaska fishing season!!

Gear List

-Photon 10X40 Russian made Binoculars

-Barneys Pinnacle Pack

-Hidden Antler Jersey

-350 Remington Mag.

-Mendhl Boots

-Mamut Champ Pants

-MSR Snow Shoes

Mission Alaska: Spring Bear 2012 Second Leg

alaska, alaska hunting expedition, bears, big game hunting, Uncategorized

-Journey to Valdez

As any hunter does, after missing a shot on their quarry, I felt a sense of desperation come over me and the instinctual crave for another shot opportunity.  This feeling would cloud my agenda over the next four days of this spring Alaska bear hunt.  After missing a large black bear while hunting with Vince Pokryfki, I felt the need to redeem myself.  The feeling of redemption would be the clarity needed to help me succeed on the next leg of my two week bear hunting journey .  Only stopping at the home base of operations in Palmer Alaska to do a confidence shot (sight in) with my 350 Remington Magnum.  An eight hour drive to Valdez, gave me plenty of time to meditate and concentrate on the days past events.

Fireside contemplation

Thinking deeply on developing a new game plan on how to harvest a black bear, I had one tactic in mind.  Talking with the locals proved to be the most crucial piece of advice for the entire hunt.  During the drive I called and contacted several locals and asked them if they had seen any bears in the Valdez area.  The most popular reply I received was “the bears are everywhere down here.”  The odds seemed to be in my favor and the phone conversations sparked my imagination; my thoughts became crawling with bears.

The drive to Valdez is full of breath taking views of mountains so big and vertical, they seemed to reach out and punch you in the face.  An interesting place to hunt black bears for sure, the area looked to hold more mountain goats than black bears.   Working off of previous knowledge and tips from the locals, I knew of two hunting locations near town that held big bears.  These two areas provided great hunting, at a very steep price.  The black bears littered the mountains, however getting up in a shooting position would not be a simple task.

Typical Alaskan view

After deciding via coin toss which of the two locations would be first, the hunt began from the parking lot.  After only five minutes of glassing, we had already spotted four bears – one sow with two cubs and one promising boar.  I proceeded to throw on my snow shoes and Barneys Pinnacle Pack frame and trekked a mile and a half to the base of the mountain.  I kept my eye on the bear as I hiked up the 6000 foot nearly vertical mountain.  Everything looked a lot different once I was on the steep mountain face hiking toward the last location of the boar.   Re-locating the animal as you get closer to them is a crucial technique in hunting big game animals in Alaska.  Finding the game is a small fraction of the battle, judging their size, closing the final distance for the shot, packing the animal out, and filling out your tag correctly are all parts of the journey.

As I proceeded to close the distance on the boar, I lost sight of him around 600 yards as he fed through an overgrown jungle of alder bushes.   With a good vantage point on a protruding mountain shelf, I hunkered down on an alder stand waiting for the animal to show himself.  I knew, if I gave him enough time, the bear would unknowingly walk right by me.  He was completely unaware of my existence on the mountainside as I laid like a frozen predator in silence.  Wearing “whites” (white jacket camouflage) to disguise myself on the snow shelf, the bear revealed himself around 300 hundreds yards.   The only way to explain my vantage point was like Mark Whalberg in the movie Shooter.  Yeah, the last scene in the movie up in the mountains (you know what I’m talking about), when Marky Mark Whalberg looks likes a chunk of snow.  The bear walked directly towards my position. I waited like a patient spider on my web of snow. I had just enough time to judge the size and the sex of the bear.

Glassing in “Whites”

From two miles away I predicted the bear to be a large boar black bear approximately 5-6 ft squared.  I noticed the bear was not behaving like a large boar at all, a large boar usually takes his time during travel.  This bear was moving quickly, and before long this large bear from far away, was actually a very small bear when up close.  Judging the size of bears is very difficult, knowing the behavior of the animals helps.  Small bears generally move much faster than larger bears, bigger bears take their time with no rush.  Also, ear size, leg length, belly drag, skull/nose size, are factors that play into judging a bears size.

Another great bear hunting vantage point

The bear walked within two hundreds yards of me before turning back up the mountain feeding back into the nasty tangles of alders.  The bear was about two years old and about 4.5-5ft squared in size.  This was not the type of bear I wanted to harvest, so he fed away from my position unknowingly that I had tapped cou on his head.  It was awesome to watch the bear in his own element unaffected by human presence.  Bears are the ultimate land predator and there is something to be said about viewing them in their natural element.  Finding the four resident bears in the first hunting spot in Valdez, I decided this area only contained a small boar and a female with cubs.  If a big boar lived in that area, I never found him and he lives on for the next outdoor enthusiast to enjoy.  I decided to come down from my high vantage point and change locations to my second area in Valdez.

Sleeping straight up and down in the seat of a truck was an excellent alternative to sleeping on the 8ft of snow base in the Valdez area.  Not to mention the frozen rain, now starting to pour as I neared the base of the mountain and the truck’s location.  I arrived at the truck and made a Top Ramen package accompanied by a camel pack of water. An excellent meal and some much needed hydration was necessary for a great night’s sleep.  I drove to my new location, which was just outside of Valdez, parked the truck and fell into a deep slumber. Waking up in the morning to more frozen rain, I knew it would be a great day of hunting.  Already in position to glass for bears, I was confident I would find an early morning monster bear.

Breafast consisted on four gulps of water, and a peanut butter Oreo tortilla snack (a family hunting snack).  After an hour or so of glassing with no bears in sight, we relocated.   The mountains in Valdez are a site to behold.  From sea level to 5000 feet, these mountains are nearly vertical.   Avalanche danger would also be a preventative matter and precautionary step taken into account on any stalk or game plan.  During the adventure, several “avies” avalanches made themselves known by a thunderous mega phone of power.   Knowing the “avies” could sweep me into the white abyss, venturing above tree line would be the last resort to harvesting a bear.  With a record snow fall in Alaska for the 2011-2012 winter, the snow was a critical factor in the spring 2012 hunt.  Sticking to the roads would be one of the only options for this hunt.

After a two mile drive, the dirt road changed abruptly. We were coming across potholes so big they could swallow an ATV.  Driving slowly to dodge the potholes allowed me to “bare eye” the mountainside.   “Is that a bush bear?” I said to Bridger the Videographer, thinking I was fooled by a dark colored piece of vegetation.   Stopping to verify what appeared to be a bear, the binos clarified that this was no bush bear.  In fact, this was the mature black bear that I was looking for.  Pulling the truck safely off the gravel pit roadway and finding a good parking spot was the immediate next order of business.  Coming to a halt and coordinating a filmed stalk with Bridger, the bear was 1000 yards and feeding on a hill side. A large cottonwood tree grove separated the bear and the fiddle head fern hill side between the gravel pit and truck.   The long stalk would take us far from the road side and deep into the cottonwood jungle, the bear was unaware of the impending inevitable.  Closing the distance using gigantic trees to shield my movements from the bear was the key to taking an ethical shot.

Bear crawling was the only option

Two hundred yards away, the crunchy snow gave the bear a direction to look at.  The bear was now aware something was close, losing interest it went back to feeding.    “If only I can get within 170 yards, I could take a shot,” I thought to myself. The crunch of the snow under our feet was too loud. Bear crawling to spread my weight out would be my only option.  I slung my rifle over my back, a 30 yard bear crawl would prove its stealth like effectiveness.  Using a move out of my Pennsylvania hunting career for whitetails, I popped up from behind the cottonwood and posted the rifle on the tree mass.   Jacking a round into the 350’s chamber, the crosshairs found center  mass on the bear in the blink of an eye.  I aimed low on the chest of the bear to account for the extreme angle and to prevent shooting over the bear.  I took a deep breath in and exhaled a thunderous breath from the rifle.  The shot rang across the mountainside.  The bear was struck by the final blow and fell 30 yards into a tangle of alders.

Waiting 45 minutes with no movement from the bear, I took a mental note of the bear’s final resting place.  A short hike up an avalanche shoot to the bear’s location was exciting to say the least.  Turning the power down on the scope to approach the bear proved unnecessary, however I was ready.  The beautiful mature black bear had a jet black healthy coat.  I was proud.   Validating game tags, salvaging all of the meat from the bear, skinning the bears hide and skull were some of the final steps.  Packing all the meat, hide, and skull back out to the truck wasn’t too difficult.  Before long we were rambling down the road with grins from ear to ear.  “Ring Ring”… My cell phone just getting into cell reception had five missed calls and five voicemail messages.  Jason Semler called my phone and had a very important message.  He said “I am in Valdez at the boat launch, you up to go hunting?”   I called him back and said “I already tagged out and cannot hunt any more bears in Valdez this year.  However Bridger has a bear tag, would you mind taking him out”?  All of us being Colony High School graduates at some time or another, Jason didn’t mind going out and splitting the costs for this evening buddy hunt. He replied “right on, get down here to the boat ramp, we will fuel up and head out”.

Beautiful Valdez Black Bear

Driving to the boat launch, Bridger had his black bear tags and hunting license already purchased.   Having a premonition that Bridger would get his first shot opportunity at a big game animal, I told Bridger to get his tags at Sportsmens Warehouse before we left.  Bridger having his black bear tags and his hunting license in his pocket would be hunting big game for the very first time.   We met with Jason Semler at his boat, jumped in and motored off towards the majestic Prince William Sound.


Snippet Preview of next article.

Driving 8 hours back home to Palmer Alaska would go by fast.  Bridger and I both grinning ear to ear with success, the drive was filled with laughter and stories. The next steps would be processing both the bear’s meat into delectable packages of edible goodness, and “officially sealing” the bears with Wildlife officials.   All was completed successfully and everyone who took part in the adventure could not have been happier.

Stay tuned for the  2012 Alaska fishing season!!

Gear List

-Photon 10X40 Russian made Binoculars

-Barneys Pinnacle Pack

-Hidden Antler Jersey

-350 Remington Mag.

-Mendhl Boots

-Mamut Champ Pants

-MSR Snow Shoes

King Salmon


The beauty of living in Alaska goes far beyond the spring bear hunts, fall moose hunts and big game predators walking into Anchorage’s High Schools.Whether it is hooking a 8″ Northern Pike or catching a 24″ King Salmon, fishing is one of the most exciting adventures you can take on when in Alaska. The excitement you get when you get a bite on your line seems to never fade away no matter how big the fish is or how long you have been fishing. The most recent adventure undertaken was a trip out to Loren Rupe’s “Secret Fishing Spot” where getting a bite from a King comes just as quickly as you can put your line out.  Special thanks to Loren Rupe for inviting me into his outdoor world and showing me a truly great spot to fish in The Last Frontier! Stay tuned for the next article “Northern Pike Invasion in the Mat-Su” and be sure to like http://www.missionak.com and follow David Austin on Facebook.

Alaskan King Salmon

Bear Wanders Into Alaskan High School


Found this interesting article about a black bear walking into Bartlett High School, BHS is an Anchorage High School located near Elmendorf Airforce Base and Fort Richardson Army Base.


There are two awesome videos that accompany this link.  The videos are the actual security camera footage of the bear walking into the High School.  So wild!  What is it with bears in Alaska these days?


Biologists Target Bear that Wandered into School for Radio Collar Study

by Outdoor Hub Reporters on June 18, 2012

submitted by: Agnieszka Spieszny

A bear that wandered into an Alaskan high school is the target of a study to determine bear movement patterns, with hopes of predicting their movements so that dangerous human interaction is minimized.

A young black bear roamed into an open door of Bartlett High School in East Anchorage last Wednesday, June 13. The door was open because the school was partially under construction. Word the bear spread and the school was evacuated as police arrived.

“She was shopping. Any trash can that had any food in it was knocked over,” Officer Chris Mueller said to Anchorage Daily News. “She peed in the hall at one point. Another teenage ne’er-do-well, just a different species.”

When officers banged on the doors, the bear ran out of the building scared. It headed to a wooded area at the corner of a parking lot.

View a security tape of the bear inside the school embedded below.

Click the this link to find the videos (http://www.outdoorhub.com/news/biologists-target-bear-that-wandered-into-school-for-radio-collar-study/?utm_source=iContact&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Outdoor%20Hub%20News&utm_content=June+19%2C+2012+Post-Apocalypse+TV)

Within an hour, state biologists Dave Battle and Sean Farley arrived on the scene with a dart gun and a radio collar they hoped to attach to the bear but they were too late – the bear had already fled. Their intention was to monitor the bear for a study meant to better understand bear movement in urban environments.

“The intent of the study is to look at movement patterns of the bears that are causing problems within town,” Farley said to Anchorage Daily News. “The urban bears are the ones that cause all the interest with people, and they’re the ones that are most likely to have interactions with people.”

The biologists want to radio-collar four bears that dwell within city limits. They are not interested in bears that spend most of their time closer to Chugach State Park. If the first four collars work properly and the data is valuable, then the study could be expanded. So far, one bear has been collared.

“We just want to know where they’re going and see if there are any patterns that they have that might reflect overall what the bear population is doing,” Farley said.

Three brown bears have already been shot near Anchorage so far this year, while smaller black bears have been spotted in public, including two sightings in two hospitals and near several trash cans. The bear that actually wandered inside a building has not yet been witnessed before.

In the video below, a biologist explains more about the radio-collared bear study and exactly what information it will gather.

Image from Rick Cooper, RickC on flickr


Grizzly/Brown Bear Mauling of Anchorage Man


Here is an interesting article about a recent bear mauling in Alaska.   Bears do not play around.


ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A 30-year-old Alaska man mauled by a bear pleads for help in a recorded 911 call, telling the dispatcher he’s up a tree and can hear the animal huffing below him.

In the recording released by Alaska State Troopers, Ben Radakovich tells the dispatcher to send an ambulance, saying he is “bleeding bad.” At one point the two are disconnected and Radakovich calls back.

Radakovich climbed 30 feet up the tree after he was mauled Sunday morning by a female brown bear with a cub on the Penguin Creek Trail south of Anchorage.

“The damn thing was batting at me,” Radakovich tells the dispatcher.

It took rescuers almost two hours to reach him. Troopers say a helicopter was unable to land nearby, so rescuers used an all-terrain vehicle to carry Radakovich on a wheeled stretcher to transport him to the chopper one and a half miles away.

He was flown to an Anchorage hospital, and was released Monday morning, according to Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen.

Radakovich, who lives in the Anchorage suburb of Eagle River north of town, did not respond to phone messages left at a number listed under his name. He told ABC’s Good Morning America: “I’m just grateful that I got through it and that I’m here to enjoy another day basically.”

Several bear and moose attacks in recent weeks have raised concerns in the area; no one has died, but some of the animals have been killed.

Many calls are from people reporting bears raiding outdoor trash cans or crossing streets. Others are from people charged by moose with young offspring born in the spring calving season.

One problem: People getting too close to the animals with their cellphone cameras without the zoom power of regular cameras, said Dave Battle, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Such was the case of a young brown bear euthanized in late May after Fish and Game received numerous reports it was showing aggressive behaviour like charging toward people near a popular trail south of Anchorage. In some cases, people were trying to get as close to it as they could with the camera phones.

Battle believes the rationale behind this behaviour goes like this: “I want to get a picture, a close-up picture, so I can post it on Facebook and all my friends from all around the country can see what a neat place I live in.”

This year, many of those moose calls are coming from mountain bikers encountering ornery moose along new, narrow trails that run through prime calving grounds at the city’s expansive Kincaid Park.

Darcy Davis is among those to have a run in with a moose on the new trail system and has bruises on her arms and shoulders to show it. Davis — whose teenage daughter was badly mauled by a grizzly during a 24-hour bike race four years ago at another Anchorage park — was biking with two others last week when she encountered the moose and her calf as she rounded a corner.

“I just had time to get off my bike. I just crouched over, trying to get small. She kicked me,” Davis said Tuesday, adding the moose and her calf soon left the area.

Camera phones had nothing to do with three other high-profile bear encounters, including the weekend mauling, another bear attack in Eagle River north of Anchorage in May and a case involving a bear that was killed last week after it was feeding off a moose calf in an Anchorage neighbourhood.

Sunday’s attack occurred where the trail is narrow and winding, hemmed in by dense foliage. Radakovich later told rescuers he called out to warn bears of his presence as he hiked, but said his voice might have been drowned out by the rushing creek waters nearby.

He encountered the bear as he rounded a curve three miles into his hike. The animal was surprised as well, said trooper Tim Lewis, who was among rescuers to hike in to the site.

It happened so quickly and violently, Radakovich didn’t have time to use his bear-repellant spray, according to Lewis. He said none of Radakovich’s injuries were life-threatening, but required “a lot of stitches.”

Radakovich was still in the tree when the first responders arrived almost two hours after the attack, saying he heard the animal below him for another 20 or 30 minutes. Another trooper climbed up the thick pine tree and helped get the injured man down, Lewis said.

The victim was cold, bleeding and shivering.

“I can only imagine being mauled by a large brown bear would be very, very traumatic,” Lewis said. “He was in shock.”

Still, Radakovich was able to tell rescuers what happened. The bear sprung without warning, swatting at Radakovich and a ski pole the hiker was trying to use in self-defence. He figured the bear wasn’t going to go away, so he curled up into a fetal position.

At that the bear backed up, giving Radakovich a brief chance to scramble up the tree and dig his phone out of a pocket. His backpack fell off during the struggle.

“The good thing is that he had his cellphone with him,” Lewis said. “He didn’t have it in his backpack, which really made a big difference.”

© Copyright (c)

Read more: http://www.leaderpost.com/technology/Alaska+bear+mauling+victim+pleads+help+ambulance+recorded+calls/6777941/story.html#ixzz1xmTiG3KW

World Record Grizzly Taken June 1st With Muzzle Loader Pending 2012


Tuesday June 12th, 2012

World Record Griz Taken With CVA

Steve West, of Steve’s Outdoor Adventures TV, reported to the staff of CVA that he has taken what should be a new muzzleloader world record grizzly bear with his CVA Accura V2 muzzleloading rifle. Steve shot the bear in British Columbia on June 1st, but just reached civilization on June 9th where he was able to report the kill via an email.
“I booked and planned this hunt to specifically go after the muzzleloader world record. I had the right guide, right area, and, as it turns out, we found the right bear,” West reported in the email. Apparently, the right gun, bullet and propellant load also played a role. West had loaded his .50 caliber CVA with a 405 grain PowerBelt AeroTip bullet and 150 grains of IMR White Hots pelletized propellant, which dropped the bear in his tracks at a distance of 50 yards. The bruin green scored at 26 and 2/16ths inches, which easily eclipses the old world record of 23 and 2/16ths.

Dudley McGarity, CEO of Blackpowder Products, Inc., owner of the CVA and PowerBelt brands, stated that the entire BPI team was thrilled to hear of Steve’s great achievement. “For sure, it means a lot to all of us to see one of our guns used in a record kill – and especially on a grizzly bear. That he was also using a PowerBelt bullet just makes it that much sweeter.”


CVA, a division of Blackpowder Products, Inc. and America’s #1 selling muzzleloading brand, offers a wide array of innovative hunting products – all at unmatched values. The company’s USA headquarters is in Duluth, GA, which handles all distribution. The guns are made at BPI’s ultra-modern, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility located in Northern Spain, a region rich in European gun-making heritage. BPI is an industry leader in muzzleloading rifles and accessories, hunting rifles, hunting and shooting accessories and shooting components. BPI markets various trusted brand names including CVA®, PowerBelt Bullets®, Bergara Barrels®, Quake® Hunting Accessories and DuraSight® Scope Mounting Systems.

Chad Schearer (406) 799-7984
E-Mail: chad@bpiguns.com

Courtesy of The Outdoor Wire


Spring Bear Hunt 2012: The First Leg with Vince P

alaska, alaska hunting expedition, archery hunting, big game hunting, bow and arrows, camping, caribou, DIY hunting, grizzly bear, grizzly brown bear, Hunting with Camera, moose, public land, traditional archery

Alaska Spring Bears 2012

Alaskan adventures if survived, tend to leave individuals smarter than when they embarked.  That being said, the Alaskan learning curve is basically vertical, and surviving means adapting and learning very quickly.  Do it yourself adventures bring a whole new challenge and dimension to any hunt.  This year’s DIY spring Alaskan bear hunt proved just how difficult, yet rewarding these self-planned adventures can be.  The mission of this three-leg journey was to successfully harvest a black bear, a brown bear, or both.

Brown Bear

The first leg of the three part adventure across South Central Alaska was with fellow Sourdough (Alaska resident) Vince Pokryfki.   Vince and I headed north of Talkeetna, Alaska in his riverboat. We worked our way up a network of connected rivers to our destination; Game Management Unit 16A-16B.   Our objective was to thin out several bears from his moose hunting area. This would allow more moose fawns to live, meaning more trophy bull moose to chase in the fall.  For this hunt, Vince wanted to settle the score on his terms. Vince was equipped with his custom “Dan Ryan” primitive bamboo-back osage long bow and self-made port orford shafts and double bladed Eskimo Zwickey 125 grain broad heads.   Vince then proceeded to hook me up with 6 home made Grizzly Stick shafted arrows with Zwickey double bladed Death Wish broad heads.   I accompanied Vince with my own home-made longbow to settle the terms of our claw-to-stick fight.

Vince and Austin with flannels and bows

I named my home-made long bow “Hybex.” This bow was made back in my high school days in collaboration with Vince Pokryfki and Bowyer(bow maker) Dan Ryan.  I also brought my trusty 416 iron sighted Remington Magnum, a gun my Dad used back in his registered Alaskan guide career.   This massive caliber could do the trick if necessary to back Vince up if anything were to go wrong.   I kept the 416 shouldered across my back as means of back up.  All members including the videographer, were packing heat.  Vince also had a 454 Cassull on his hip, and I had a chest holster equipped with a 44 Magnum.  It’s safe to say that we had one small arsenal of weaponry that we planned to employ if necessary.

Vince P Moose Hunting Picture

The reason we came so heavily prepared was due to the fact that Vince has much experience with the wildlife in that area.  Vince has taken many moose via longbow in this area over the years.  Most of these years he has came back the following morning to find brown bears on the moose carcass.  Not only have his hunting grounds been invaded, his fishing grounds have as well.  Last fall a bear charged Vince at his secret fishing hole in broad daylight.   In Alaska you have to learn to co-exist with wildlife in their habitat.  Vince has learned to do just this; he fishes during broad daylight hours and leaves mornings and evenings alone to let the bears have their turn at the fishing hole.  The charge occurred during a blue bird sunny afternoon.  Vince has never hunted brown bears until now. This is interesting because he has had the opportunity to take many bears in the past.   He has made the decision to finally hunt bears because.  He has over 20 years experience with not just the bears, but all of the wildlife in this area.  He takes family members to these areas, and he wants to make sure they are safe.  I want to help Vince in this area and do our part in bear management.  Taking our quota of bears in the big picture is minimal.  However, hunters such as Vince and I can make a difference in the population of a particular area.  Collective groups of hunters need to be successful in many regions across a GMU to make an effective difference on animal population.

Vince caught this “Chromer” salmon at his secret fishing hole.

In essence, Vince and I are attempting to do our part.  The adventure for this journey began at Fred Meyers, to get our hunting tags/licenses and secondly to get food for the trip.  We gathered our favorites, including Oreos and granola bars and off to the boat launch we went.  We got to the boat launch that Vince described as an “Alaskan boat launch.”  We arrived on a steep gravel road access to a boulder farm style riverbank.  The closer we got to the river, the worse the launch looked.   Vince was confident the whole time, I followed suite and was excited to finally start this bear hunt from the riverboat. Vince expertly flung the boat in the water as I held the rope tied to the front of the boat.  The boat swung to the side of the rocky riverbank, Vince parked the truck and we both jumped in and fired up the Evinrude.   There were a few moments of silence as Captain Vince pushed the throttle forward and threw that baby on step.  We were cruising up river and hunting bears in no time.

Boat in action, on step and moving up river.

At any given point you can see game animals or bears in Alaska and we were prepared.  We cruised up river to the point of attack, where last year Vince was charged by an aggressive bear.  We found a suitable flat spot where Vince has made moose hunting camps in the past and set up our camping site.   The tent and kitchen were up and running real quick.   After camp duties were taken care of, we grabbed our bows and off we went.  During spring time, bears are not usually concentrated to food sources such as salmon streams or berry patches. Bears can roam up to 50 miles per day in search of food.   Coming across one of these post hibernating bears is basically the combination of perfect timing and a great location.   Vince and I did not hunt over a bait station, but hunted via spot-and-stalk.

River beaches and endless miles to stalk.

We walked what seemed like endless miles of braided out river until we stopped to glass for meandering bears walking the river beaches.  We found many black and brown bear tracks, however we hadn’t spotted the owners of the tracks.  After two days of walking the river beaches with no luck, the game plan had to change.  Instead of walking the rivers silently, we cruised the river and searched for bears from the boat.  Not a bad game plan, the only down side would be the noise from the boat’s engine.   This noise would alert any predators of the dangers that our longbows poised.  Our bows would be rendered useless at this stage, as the element of surprise had flown out the back of the boat.  On the third and final day, I switched from my longbow to the iron sighted back up rifle.

Austin carrying Bridger across the creek. Team work is dream work.

With the new game plan in mind for the final day of the adventure, we ambled on up-river.  If a bear showed himself, we would have to park the boat, bail out of it and set up on the river-bank for a long shot.  Hopefully a bear would be tolerable of our presence and stand just long enough for an iron sighted shot.  Extending the distance of my “smoke bow” fumed new excitement into the air. A close encounter was long overdue.

Austin and Bridger near the boat landing ready for the stalk.

“Hey Vince, is that a boulder bear?”  I asked, thinking I had been fooled by a dark colored rock.  The rock started to move… “BEAR, BEAR, BEAR!” I whisper yelled to Vince.  He immediately steered the boat towards the rocky riverbank, and in a moments notice I flew out of the boat like I was storming the beaches of Normandy.   The videographer (Bridger VanNess) was in close pursuit and I sprinted along the rocky beach to an abstruse log, an excellent shooting bench.   The large sized black bear was around 170 yards away and was moving up a large embankment towards a thick, endless grove of crisscrossed spruce and alder trees.   The bear paused for a moment.  I aimed the front pin of the iron sited 416 Rem Mag toward the bear; covering much surface area of the black dot.  The black dot stopped near the top of the alder choked hill, I took a breath and slowly pulled the trigger doing my best to steady the steel bead.   “BUHHHDOOOOOM” said the 416 Rem Mag.  The bear paused another second looking stunned before bolting deep into the “peanut butter” like alders.

Vince backing me up with his custom long bow.

The bear looking unfazed by the 250 grained bullet, I didn’t feel confident with the shot and felt it was a 100% miss.  Although I wasn’t confident with my shot, I wanted to be the ethical sportsman and check the surrounding area for signs of a wounded animal.  After a short boat ride and a three-minute hike, I found myself standing in the bear’s footsteps.  After circling the area multiple times and conducting a thorough investigation for any signs of a wounded animal, Vince and I concluded the bullet never found its mark.   The bear was safe, however the bear learned to fear humans now more than ever.  I was extremely bummed, as any hunter would be, feeling like I let myself down as well as my hunting partner.  Missing an animal is a hard feeling to describe, only a hunter who has been there and done that can know the feeling.  A clean miss is better than a wounded bear, and any hunter who hasn’t missed hasn’t been in the woods long enough.   Knowing the animal was not wounded helped relieve the large burden I was carrying.  It was now the last day of the hunt and our focus turned to taking down camp and preparing the boat for our departure.

Tent and campsite.

Just before leaving, Vince and I took a few moments to reflect on the trip.   Even though there was no kill during this trip, Vince and I still had positive morale in the special memories we both made on that trip.   Hunting with an iron sighted rifle is difficult, and hunting with long bows is even more difficult.  Vince and I both believe that the kill of an animal is the physical representation of the memories made on a hunting trip.  However, in no way does the kill of an animal represent the endless laughs and fun times Vince and I spent together.   To say the very least, Vince, myself, and Bridger had an awesome time together. We made memories that will last a lifetime.  I want to personally thank Vince for taking several days away from his family and work to take me on an unforgettable journey.   I will never forget the delicious camp food, the authentic Alaskan stories, the real life facts, and the camaraderie that Vince shared with me.   I already asked Vince when our next hunting adventure would be. He said he is always game to go play in Alaska.

Coffee and laughs with Denali

With seven days left of my spring bear hunt, I set my sites to a new hunting area.  I drove eight hours to Valdez, stopping only at my home base in Palmer to exchange rifles.   I needed to switch from the iron sighted 416 to the 350 Remington Magnum with a 4-14x Leupold scope.   Now we were off to Valdez in search of beach combing monster black bears.   I had spoken with several locals in the area who all said “bears are literally everywhere down here, some of them live in the streets.”   With a scoped rifle to extend my shooting range, a new excitement came over me.  Venturing to Valdez was the second leg of this three-part journey….

Boat ready for launch.

…..Stay tuned for the rest of this three part spring bear hunting adventure….

Spring Bear Hunt 2012



When I asked Mr. Manelick for a job this summer, back in April, I was not really expecting that he would actually have an opening for me. But sure enough he told me he had a two week long internship for me in May, following him all around Alaska while he conducted his spring bear hunt. I was ecstatic to say the least. We talked on the phone several times before I arrived back in Alaska for my summer off from college. Not more than two days went by before he came to my house and our adventure started. The adventure of a lifetime I might add. We traveled as far north as Talkeetna (where we could see the tallest mountain in North America, Denali, clearly) and as far south as Valdez. While on the journey we encountered Black Bears, Grizzly Bears, Dall Sheep, Mountain Goats, Moose and of course the state bird: MOSQUITOES! Of course Alaska’s state bird is not a mosquito, but the joke goes that they are bigger than half the birds roaming the last frontier and more ubiquitous than the other half so they might as well be. From learning the ways of a true Alaskan Sourdough (Vince P) to learning everything there can be learned about hunting from a veteran hunter (Austin M) this internship was truly a once in a lifetime experience. Over the course of these two weeks we saw no less than 40 bears and in between 15-20 sheep and goats. From a life or death situation of a capsized boat in the glacier fed waters of an Unknown Alaskan Lake to getting Austins bear kill on video and then him getting my bear kill on video this adventure was a trip of a lifetime.

Bridger’s first big game harvest with Austin Manelick and Jason Semler

On a side note I would like to thank the fellow hunters on the Unknown Lake that came to our aid when our boat capsized in the frigid waters of the Alaskan Wilderness. Without them Austin and I would have undoubtedly had to “Siwash” that night.