“One Round. One Rifle. One Alaska Hunting Season.” I set out with Winchester’s 300WSM XPR and Expedition Big Game Long Range across Alaska over the 2017-2018 hunting season. Moose, Sheep, Mountain Goat, Blacktail Deer, Black Bear, and Caribou all fall to this lethal combination. Alaska tested, Alaska tough. Here’s a link to my review on Winchester’s Expedition Big Game and EXBGLR ammunition. ->READ MORE
Here is part 1/2 from a 2016 late season sitka blacktail hunt on Kodiak Island, AK
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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….
…..Stay tuned for the rest of this three part spring bear hunting adventure….
This picture is from August’s and my 2009 spring bear brother hunt. August and I, (as well as videographer Jon D) took to the spring hunt as if it was our last. We hunted six hard days, deep in the Alaska wilderness and managed to harvest this beautiful black bruin on film. Bears taste better during the spring, as they have yet to change their diets to the salmon runs of summer through fall. August and I would eat plentifully off of bear backstrap after this harvest as we were nearing the end of our food supplies.
This is a photo of me cutting bear back strap (in preparation of our beast feast over open flame) on a moose antler found during this 2009 spring bear hunt
I’ll be partaking in the traditional Alaska spring bear hunt again during this 2012 season. To some hunters in Alaska, bear hunting is part of their culture. I am proud to say that this tradition of spring bear hunting in Alaska has shaped my culture and parts of who I am as an Alaskan. Every year since the sixth grade (12 years ago), I have been gifted the ability to hunt bears in Alaska. This is a blessing to be apart of such an awesome outdoor culture.
Hopefully after this spring I will be able to secure valuable bear meat to add to my 2012 collection of wild game fare. I can see it now……Smokey bear jerky….. Bear stew…..Bacon wrapped bear sizzled on the grill w/ avacado…. You get my drift…
I can’t wait to head to the field.
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If you have been reading missionak or following at all, then you would know that MA is all about the next generation and spreading the word on how “cool” the outdoors is. I have been talking with every person I know personally and contacting all of the youth I have met over my lifetime of friendships, in attempt to spread the good word of the outdoors.
I want to thank all of the readers and followers of Missionak, since summer of 2011 MA has grown greatly and viewer numbers are through the roof! I want to thank you again for following and reading my personal message to the woodsmen in all us. If you have or feel like you want to be more involved on missionak.com, please feel free to do so, in fact please help me!
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Ever since my father took me trout fishing in a local stream after my first day as a kindergartner at Pioneer Peak Elementry School, I was hooked for life. I had recieved a new telescopic (totally BA) trout fishing rod set up and I could not wait to test my new implements of attack upon the majestic rainbow trout. My dad picked me up after school and we headed to Wasilla Creek. It wasn’t too long before we found ourselves 50 yards from the road, in a perfect trout hole. My Dad rigged me up with a small spoon lure and told me to cast in the dark, deep hole behind the log…. I did so expertly, as if I had been a bass master my entire 5 year old life, after my third of fourth perfect cast I felt my pole tip jerk directly toward my line..
What happened next was almost unexplainable, to this day I still have a hard time finding words for it. My tiny stomach lurched forward and downward at the same time, and for a split second I swore I was levitating. For a brief moment, my body seemed to have defied gravity. I did not know what was happening but I knew I had a trout or something on my line and I did not want it to get away. After landing the trout my dad and I shared a moment of silence and awe at that little trout flopping on the bank. My body let me feel the ground once I got a hold of my very first self caught trout. My body experienced one of my first adrenal highs. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but if fishing could give me that knee shaking experience….then I would catch more fish!!!! At a very young age I knew I was a thrill seeker, and believe it or not fishing gave me that thrill. It was only later that I experience hunting for the very first time, which brought the thrill to a completely different level.
Everyday after school, between sports and home work, I would head to the woods or the streams carrying my fishing pole on my mountain bike. Later that bike would become an ATV.. Yeah sure I had video games, but getting to the next level was not gratifying for me because I knew the next level would always be there and I would always be able to beat the game. There wasn’t too much fun in video games for me, deep down when I played them, I knew there would be a monster trout sitting under that log that I wasn’t fishing. The outdoors was a challenge for me, every time I left the house I knew I would have to be clever enough to outsmart a fish or a squirrel. My next personal metaphoric “video game level” would be my next small animal target, or my next dream hunt for Moose or Dall sheep. After many years of small game hunting, I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to to start hunting big game animals.
I will not tell a lie, the outdoors gratifies me beyond words. The only way to break the experience with nature down such as catching a fish, harvesting an animal, or even seeing an animal, is the chemical response in the brain linked to adrenal release. Adrenaline so to speak is what I chase, this chemical is released when your “rod tip jerks” or when you spot a grey squirrel and you’re hunting for dinner, or when you’re hunting for bull moose and a trophy 60 plus incher walks out with a rack thats wider than a door frame. Your body’s natural instinct is to release this super human chemical giving you seemingless power, you must seek a thrill to experience it. The harvesting of an animal is not the thrill, I get just as much satisfaction releasing a 26 inch rainbow trout as I would harvesting and eating the fish. The kill is not as important as outsmarting the game animal, for instance letting a legal but small antlered animal walk by you instead of needlessly taking a life just because you can. The taker of a life involves maturity and respect for the animals as well, close relationships are formed with the animals we pursue. A last second buzzer beater, a half court 3 pointer shot with no time left to beat the other team, that feeling as the ball goes in the hoop is a similar feeling to the experience of catching or harvesting an animal.
I don’t discriminate. I follow each U.S. state Fish and Wildlife regulations and within law, pick several legal game animals to pursue whether it’s big game or small game the thrill is the same. I have been an accomplished big game hunter most of life, in part to a father who at one time was a Master Alaska Guide. We have hunted both big and small game together and to me the adrenaline rush is nearly the same. More exciting to me than hunting or fishing for myself, is sharing the sport with someone new, sharing the experience (the rush) of animal encounter with someone who is interested. This last winter I decided to take my best friend and high school sweetheart Jordan Pokryfki small game hunting.
In high school her father, Vince, would teach us how to make port orford cedar arrows and osage orange self made D-bows. We both had a love for the bow and making beautiful arrows, it was now time to put these arrows to action in the next challenge. Noticing that Jordan was deadly with a bow I suggested we purchase a hunting license together, she asked me if we could actually hunt legally if she had purchased the license. I told her yes we could hunt small game (Snow shoe hare, ptarmigan, red squirrel, and spruce hen)because thats the small game open this season and off we went.
Our first time out, we definitely looked deadly, however we spotted no bunnies during our snow shoe adventure. Un-deterred we decided we would head back out to a different bunny hunting location the following weekend, and this time we would use snow machines to get further from the road and deeper into bunny country.
Our new game plan, using snow machines to get further into bunny country worked! Jordan and I would succesfully harvest several bunnies this day, and had a blast doing it. Jordan liked it so much we decided to go the following weekend to the same place, this time we would bring her dad and have equal success.
Like I said, I don’t discriminate in the adventures I go on, the satisfaction I received would only be comparable to the happiness of Jordan and her first successful hunting experience. Seeing Jordan come to full draw with her home made refinished bow as bunnies zoomed through the willows, would bring me to a full draw smile and many awesome memories.
This year big game hunting is essentially coming to a close, and the populous of hunters are beginning to find themselves in a hybernation type pattern. This is the exact time when the hard yards are earned help you have succusfull 2012 hunting season. If you have ever dragged a deer from the woods or packed out a bull elk, or bossed up a 200+ pound moose hind quarter then you know that you must be in not the best, but a pretty good shape to safely bring your quarry from the field. It’s to often that you hear a hunter tell a story of how he busted his ankle, or threw his back out, pulled a hamstring, the list of injurys goes on and on. Being healthy and fit for the outdoors can only help to make you a more successful hunter, going further to help you get to that secret spot you only wish you get during the rut. No matter if your a tree stand whitetail hunter or a back country elk hunter, being in shape both mentally and physically are factors playing into a successful hunting season. Besting game this day an age takes hard work and perseverance, this is why I enter my hunting seasons as a professional athlete would enter his pre-season training camp.
I begin my pre-season hunting workouts during the winter, starting with an alternate cycle of a month of heavy weights with light conditioning such as non-weighted hikes or back country snow boarding hikes. The second alternating month is an anaerobic high intensity high repetition excercise which is a simliar variation of the popular work called CrossFit. Crossfit, focuses on a combination of different excersise in non-step repetition with little to no rest between exercises. I made up my own variation of cross fit and p 90x, I like to call my workouts Wilderness X because its a combination of the outdoors with functional workouts. The work out is similiar to what a hunter would go through during his time in the field(think spring bear on an Alaska hunt deep snow), I begin a snow shoeing hike with a weighted pack and enter one mile onto a pre-designated national forest trail in the middle of no-where Colorado. Once a mile up the trail I pulled out my 40 pound dumbbell and begin the work out doing a combination of 5- 10 exercises between 15-30 repetitions each. Once I finished this I would pack my weight away and hike back to the base of the hiking trail.
This work out mimics a spring bear hunt by placing the hunter in a game time situation such as a bear that is spotted, then stalked, then harvested. Long periods of heavy walking with a pack leading into several high intensity moments followed by another long period of walking.
-The Wilderness Work Out
One Mile Hike with weighted pack (I chose 40 pounds)
Standing Triceps extension-20
Push ups 20
lunges 15 X each leg
Push ups 20
Standing Triceps extension 20
One mile hike down with weighted pack
This one way I prepare myself for success, some would call it a little crazy but each hunter has there superstitions. How do you get ready for your hunting season? Do you work out or go through some other form of ritual? To each his own, what has helped you have you most successful year ever, and what will make you have the most successful 2012 season?
Stay tuned for the next post, the youtube video of the actual work out.
This picture was taken last August during the Dall Sheep portion of my 30 day hunting expedition. Who would have thought we would find mountain caribou at the summit of our Dall Sheep Mountain, apperently the mountain caribou are just as nimble as sheep or goats. We ended up spotting 70+ different sheep with only five rams among those numbers, none of the rams would be “full curl” and deemed legal to harvest thus we ended up striking out on this sheep hunt. However, we did get some awesome footage of animals and a grizzly bear charge on film, check out the grizzly charge on youtube.com at this link Grizzly Charge.
Stalking animals with primitive archery equipment takes stealth to a whole new level. An animal taken with any kind of archery equipment is, in my opinion, a true trophy. An animal taken with primitive equipment means dinner, not to much argument with food on the table. Any legal hunting means to ethically harvest an animal should never be discouraged, to each his own. Respect other hunters, fishers, and outdoorsmen methods as you would enjoy others to respect you. Compound archery, traditional archery, primitive archery, rifle hunting, muzzle loader hunting, or even spear hunting try to enjoy others successes regardless of take method.