An Arctic Grizzly Adventure

Guest post written by Mike Stoff, host of Savage Outdoors. Watch Mike and the crew on Wednesdays at 1 am, Thursdays at 1 pm and 8:30 pm ET.

My annual trip to Alaska had us going with a new outfitter. We previously hunted for Caribou in the Brooks Range, but this year we were going with Glacier Mountain Outfitters and Greg Jennan. We’d been planning this trip for the last two years and I’ve always wanted to go on an inland Grizzly Hunt.  After talking with Greg off and on, he had told me the area we would be hunting is one of the best areas for Grizzly in the world! I couldn’t wait to get there.

Stroff’s Hunting Grounds

We arrived in camp two days before the season started and were ready to get into the field. However, the weather was so bad when we arrived, we ended up spending the next three and half days in their base camp of operation (Kavik).  We were disappointed, but our guides were doing the right thing by waiting for the weather so we could safely fly into our hunting area.  We were told previous hunters on this same trip took their bears the first or second day!

The Campsite

We hunted hard for about three days and didn’t see anything. We saw a few passing caribou, but they were even very spotty at best. We still had plenty of hunting time, but we were all dying to just see that first bear. Our guide, Randy, took us up to a great look-out point the day before and on the third day, we headed straight up there again. Unfortunately, I had gotten wet crossing the river. So while I was tending to my soaking feet, our guide Randy said, “I think I see something that looks like a bear.” He pulled the spotting scope out and sure enough, it was!  You have never seen someone put wet socks and boots on as fast as I did!

Searching for that bear

The bear was about four miles away walking down a creek bank that led into the river. We picked a hill out about two miles out to try to relocate the bear. About an hour later, we got to our hill and glassed the entire bottom and couldn’t find him. Then we looked up the super steep hill leading out of the creek bed and we watched the bear as he topped the hill and headed out of site. We sat around for a little while and decided that we had given him enough time to get over the hill and gone. We took off across the flat to climb the hill and started to glass again to see if we could spot him. It took us about 30 minutes after moving to a second glassing spot to see the bear again. It had crossed the tundra about two miles and was working along another creek bed.  It truly is amazing how fast and how much country these animals can cover in a short time. We had to make a decision: did we want to take off after this bear or did we want to set up to try to find another bear? Even though it was going to take us about five miles away from camp and we had already walked about seven miles, we didn’t think about it long and we were off to the races. One thing was for sure; we did not want this bear to get any further ahead of us. To close the distance we had to double-time it across that terrible tundra.

Stroff with his Grizzly

Once we got to where we expected the bear to be, we set up and realized that we had to be patient and wait until the bear showed itself – so we didn’t spook it.  We knew the bear had to be close. Our guide slipped around behind us to take a quick look down the river. I turned around and saw him chamber a round. I knew then he had found our bear.  He said the bear was just below us coming up the riverbank.  We got into position and sure enough the bear walked right up the bank to us about 80 yards away.  I took the shot and he only ran about 30 yards before falling down the steep hill going back down into the river.

We had done it after walking more than 12 miles through some rough terrain! This was a true wilderness hunt and a trip of a lifetime. I had dreamed of a Grizzly hunt since I was a boy and I had just accomplished that. I just sat there on the side of that hill looking at the Arctic Ocean off in the distance and reflected on one of the most challenging an rewarding hunts I had ever done!

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