My passion for hunting North American big game has taken me to some of the most remote places on the continent. Not many people head to the Sonoran Desert chasing trophy mule deer in Mexico, or hunt from Alaska to Newfoundland in pursuit of harvesting the 5 species of caribou. To me, traveling to these remote locations is almost as much of a thrill as the actual hunt. Exploring the coastline of Unalakleet, AK, I found a mastodon molar and walrus ivory that washed up to the shore; later that same week I found myself eating Eskimo salad made of bowhead and beluga whale, herring eggs and bearded seal. The more unique the experience, the more priceless the memory. Hunting grizzly with the proverbial stick and string in Unalakleet was just that – priceless!
I’ve always had a passion for adventure which is exactly why I chose to book a spring grizzly bear hunt in Alaska. The grizzly bear density off the coast of Unalakleet is probably one of the highest, if not the highest in the world. For a bow hunter, you want a target-rich environment, and this place did not disappoint! If you’re foolish enough and have the desire to hunt North America’s apex predator with a bow, you need to come to Unalakleet and hunt with Eric Umpenhour and John Wilson!
First off, I know sleeping in a tent 7ft above sea level in the bear infested wilds of Alaska isn’t for everyone. However, if it is for you, I couldn’t recommend this hunt more. Sleeping all day listening to the sound of the waves crash onto the shore and then hunting from 9PM – 6AM was an experience. Cruising the shoreline all night in search of bears and dodging sheets of ice is something totally unique in itself!
After a few days of passing bears and one missed opportunity, it all came together on day four. While we were making our nightly 30 mile voyage down the Norton Sound, my guide, John Wilson, spotted a boar up in the tundra. The bear was making his way down towards the ocean and closing the distance quickly. We slowly cruised into a small bay and beached the boat. The only thing separating us from this brute was a small creek which turned into a larger inlet. Which way was he going to travel was the big question?
After watching the boar for a while and studying his every move, we knew this was an animal we most definitely wanted to pursue. He slowed his paced and finally committed to walking down one side of the inlet, so we quickly got in to position to intercept him. Hiding behind a sand dune, it was a waiting game. Now the excitement of “this might actually happen” started to set in. It was time to calm the nerves and settle down. There’s not a lot of room for error while bow hunting!
The bear was both beautiful and intimidating as he walked towards us. He eventually disappeared behind a small hill. Unfortunately, when he reappeared he busted my guide trying to re-locate him. The bear immediately turned around and walked off at a brisk pace. We dropped back below the sand dune and ran up the beach about 50 yds, peeking over the top of the dune. Fortunately the boar was curious and came charging back in, intently looking for us and scouring our last location. Raising up on his hind legs, he looked and then came charging in. He repeated this process a couple times getting closer with every move. I waited until he was roughly 20 yds away, drew my bow and let my arrow fly. It was a successful shot, passing through both lungs.
He ran less than 80 yds, immediately started to sway and tipped over. The arrow did its job flawlessly! Unfortunately he rolled down the bank and into the large inlet. Completely submerged with just his back sticking out of the water, I reached in and tied a rope around his neck. After fishing him out and getting him on shore, I remember sitting there and just staring at him, soaking the moment in. This truly was a dream hunt and will be tough to beat. I stood less than 12 yards from a young boar and passed him, missed a monster and connected on a P&Y class boar all within 4 days! Doesn’t get much more actioned packed than this!
Our bear had an amazing spring coat, however he was soaking wet for the pictures. Regardless, I was ecstatic to say the least and lucky enough to capture the entire hunt on video! We’ll post a fully-edited video sometime this spring along with several other hunts. Stay tuned!