The one that didn’t get away
Late last spring, two ranchers from North Dakota, David and Craig, came up to Admiralty Island to go on a Alaska guided hunt for brown bear with Hans and Charlie, Southeast Alaska Guiding’s other guide. The group was nearing the verge of coming away empty-handed, which, let’s face it, can happen from time-to-time when searching for that prize bear. Craig already had his trigger on the prize earlier in the week, but his shot never hit the vitals and the big brown bear escaped into the dense Alaska woods despite the group chasing the bear tooth and nail up the mountain side.
Fearing bad luck on the last Alaska brown bear hunt of the spring, Hans and the crew woke up on the last day to a rain that was coming down in buckets.
“It was like a cow pissing on a flat rock,” Hans recalled with a laugh.
Visibility was slim as the group gazed down the entire beach. On top of it, their binoculars and scopes were fogging up because of the heavy rain coming down.
“Looking through the rain was like a haze,” Hans said.
The crew set up on a small island at the mouth of the bay underneath a spruce, with Hans making a little roof with Beachwood he found nearby to try and keep the team dry. All they could do was wait, just wait for a bear to walk out of the woods to the water like one had a few days prior.
To say things looked bleak was an understatement.
Hans tried to stay positive.
“You know guys, when everything looks bad, by the end of the day we’ll come out smelling like a rose,” Hans recalled telling David, Craig and Charlie.
Craig, though, just about had enough and wanted to go back to the boat to warm up with some tea and, more importantly, get dry.
So as they headed back to the 50-foot “Northern Star” vessel on an 18-foot skiff, Hans spotted a large white beast moving on the beach out of the corner of his eye about a half mile out.
It was a bear. Not a polar bear, but a huge brown bear with a giant white mark on his back.
The white mark was a scar.
“If it never had that white scar we would’ve never seen it,” Hans said.
The chase was on.
The group headed back to the rocky beach in the driving rain. The key was to get down wind ahead of the bear, which was just cruising along the beach, so it wouldn’t smell the hunters.
Now, finding a bear is one thing, but making sure it’s male is another. Southeast Alaska Guiding only hunts male bears, and although this bear was more than large enough to be a male, there was no guarantee.
So when they finally got ahead of the bear, almost ready to take down the huge beast, Hans first needed to distinguish whether it was male or female as the bear was walking toward the group — who was set up a few hundred yards away. Hans had to hurry because the bear was quickly approaching.
This was no easy task though. With the driving rain and poor visibility already making things difficult for Hans to see if it was male or female, being spring time didn’t make things easier either.
But Hans concentrated through his spotting scope he had set up in a different spot than the other hunters. Finally, in the nick-of-time, Hans found his cue it was a male right before the bear was getting really close, and gave the thumbs up to David for his shot.
“I’m looking at this bear and you got to see him,” Hans said. “It looked like it was a male bear, but you have to be 100 percent sure. I finally spotted that thing and gave him the thumbs and he nailed that bear into the ground from 40 yards. A 9-foot brown bear with a big white scar on his back.”
David and Greg got their kill and the trip was a giant success, an Alaska brown bear hunt those two will never forget. But for Hans, this bear was one he thinks he saw before, especially after he examined that white scar on the bear.
“While we were skinning the bear we found the chuck of lead underneath it. This bear was hit,” Hans said.
The year before, a similar situation happened with one other hunter. A hunter had this big brown bear lined up about 50 yards out — in almost the exact same spot on the beach as David got his kill — but the one gentleman a year prior clipped the bear with his shot and they never found him again.
“Was it us or someone else? It’s hard to say,” Hans said. “I think we wanted to believe it was the same bear we seen the year before.”
The next hunting trip is set to begin in late August. Check back for more exciting hunts and first-hand accounts of exciting Alaska guided hunts from Hans and Southeast Alaska Guiding.