The 2014 fall season started Sept. 15 with a Brown Bear Hunt.
The Whale Bears.
The 2014 fall season started Sept. 15 with a Brown Bear Hunt. After a rather wet summer and a stormy finish during the commercial king salmon troll fishery we were ready to trade salmon spoons and hootchies for bear guns and binoculars. Our Hunter Dave Andrus arrived Sept. 14 in Juneau and was ready to try his luck for Alaskan Brown Bear. With blue skies and sparkling sunshine we departed the morning of the 15th cruising down Gastineau Channel turning north into Stephens Passage and after rounding Pt. Retreat south down Chatham Straits in our 50 foot vessel "Northern Star". Rumor had it that there was a dead humpback whale stranded on the beach in one of my guide use areas where we conduct our brown bear hunts. The story was the whale got hit and killed by a cruise ship and ended up being towed by a NOAA ship to the nearest beach which fortunately happened to be in my hunting area about two month before.
We stopped along the way and went to shore to test fire Daves rifle at a target to make sure it was still shooting properly after air travel to Alaska. We arrived in the area in the early afternoon and anchored the boat in a sheltered bay about three miles from where the whale was supposed to be. Cruising slowly down the beach in our 18 foot Lund. We soon spotted what was left of the whale with a couple of young bears sitting on top of it. They were stuffing themselves to their hearts delight tearing off big chunks of blubber of the huge carcass. We anchored the skiff about a quarter mile downwind on the steep rocky shore and got nestled in amongst the rocks with our spotting scope about a 160 yards from several tons of badly reeking whale blubber. Even at this distance the smell was still powerful . Early evening came when the two young bears all of a sudden left. A nice looking boar stepped out of the trees and went straight to the whale and started feeding. We could tell he must have been feeding on the whale for a while since he looked extremely fat as were all the other bears we started seeing during the evening. Amongst them were two big boars which got into a roaring match
and a little paw slapping with themselves. Nothing serious though. Soon there were a dozen bears interacting and feeding around the whale. All of them were boars of various sizes with a couple of nine footers showing up late in the evening. You could tell all the other bears backed off immediately when they got close. We stayed in our hiding spot until it got too dark to see.
Got up early next morning, had a quick cup of coffee and set out in the skiff. It was pitch black dark. Had to use the Gps to find our hiding spot back on our rocky cliff. Dark shapes of bears looming everywhere in the dark grey dawn. Most of them by the whale, several bears were laying spread out on the beach in a comatose sleep, some where even in the water having a good time splashing around. A couple of big bears were just standing there panting with their tongue hanging out so full of whale blubber seemingly unable to walk another step. One bear swam along the shore and decided to climb up on our rock. We had to back up a bit to make room for him as he got out of the water and waddled a few yards from us toward the woods. As it got lighter we recognized individual Bruins from the night before but also some new ones. We decided just to watch for the time being. We wanted to make sure to meet all the larger bears and then make our selection. As it got lighter most of the bigger Bruins faded away into the dense forest to rest after a nightlong feast. Soon we went back to the boat for our big breakfast and a nab afterward. The weather was still good but a storm force low was forecasted for the next few days starting tomorrow. Not good because it would be impossible to anchor the skiff along the unprotected rocky shoreline. With that in mind we set out for the evening hunt. A few bears were already there and as it got later more bears started to show up like the previous day. We were starting to get to know all the "boys" hanging out and had named some of the prominent ones. There was "SilverEar","Scarback"and "Dark Boy" just to name a few. The big question was not whether we were going to get a bear during our trip it was more like which one are we going to shoot.
Right before dark a large new bear slid straight out of the woods right to the best section of the whale without paying the least attention to
the other boars. They were definitely making room for him and we decided to stalk closer to the whale bears for a closer look before pulling the trigger. We found a perfect ambush place less than a 100 yards from the bears with a good rest for Dave's rifle. We made the decision to take the large newcomer but had to wait because he was partly obscured by the whale carcass. Light was really fading fast by the time he stepped on top of the whale showing us his broadside silhouette. That's all Dave needed. The shot went out with a significant amount of muzzle flash and the big bruin fell behind the whale out of side. By the time our eyes adjusted back to the dim light all the bears had scattered back into the woods. We made our way over to the deserted whale. We had to use our headlamps because it gotten dark by now. As we got close to the whale, the rocks were coated with grease from the whale blubber. Sneaking cautiously over the slippery rocks we peeked around the carcass and there was our guy laying on his side nice and dead. He was a solid nine footer of old age and sporting many scars from lifelong battles.
We were happy with our choice. We got one of the big whale boys and beat the storm to boot with.