Alaska Black Bear Hunts Success

Alaska Private Guide Service

Smokey Don Duncan,
Master Guide #136

Alaska Private Guide Service Black Bear Hunts

2017 Spring Black Bear

Our 2017 Spring black bear season was a great success this year with 17 hunters shooting 22 bear and everyone having quality opportunities. Weather was good this spring and we were able to get on the river May 9th to prepare for our first hunter on May 20. Our first trail cam pics came on May 12 and activity steadily increased throughout the season.

A few of the hunters took bear on the first night of the hunt, with the majority choosing to wait until the second or third night to let the hammer fall. Two hunters made the most of their hunts by connecting on the last night, each pulling off last second victories on big bears, but I don't recommend that plan as a rule.

Our 2 largest potential bear are still in the woods proving to be worthy challenges, hopefully passing on those 7+ foot genes to next Spring's cubs.

We saw a great representation of color phase bear this season with hunters taking 4 (2 cinnamon and 2 chocolate) and at least 3 more that were on the trail cameras not taken. Several bear came in squaring 6'8" 6'10" and we easily maintained our average of 6'6"+ for the season.

It was great to have several father/son groups as well as one three generation( grandfather, 2 sons, one grandson) and even a 6 member (father in law, father 2 sons 2 daughters) family plan at the lodge this year! The accommodations that we are able to offer at the Tolovana Roadhouse have elevated this already incredible Alaska experience to a level far beyond a tent camp by the river. The historical significance of the Roadhouse to early 20th century pre statehood days of Alaska as well as its role in the Nome Serum Run culminating in the modern day Iditarod Sled Dog Race make your visit to " Bear Camp" and adventure that rivals any in the state! The Roadhouse is actually on the old telegraph line and dog sled trail to Nome. There is no actual road any where close.

This spring we had 7 confirmed Grizzlies on 4 of our sites as evidenced by trail cam pics. We lost 2 cameras to Grizzlies which is further fueling our desire to spend more time and effort pursuing these magnificent animals. Most were the Toklat color phase ( reddish blonde heads & bodies with near black legs. A few hunters bought Grizzly tags on the chance that one would show at the site while they were there, but none were fortunate enough to have that take place. The Grizzlies seem to visit the sites once or twice and then move along unlike the black bear who often camp at the sites for days. My inclination is that the grizzly hunt needs to be more intentional than incidental and hunters wanting to pursue grizzlies spend the extra money to dedicate the time and effort accordingly.

Probably the greatest surprise of the season (besides the noticeable absence of mosquitoes)came with the discovery of the Tanana Carnivorous Red Squirrels. These wily vermin would wait until we were sleeping, or just not watching, then silently sneak over to the meat pole and chew through our nice game bags and feast upon recently harvested bear meat. In addition to this was the incessant assault upon our dog food stash and finally brought to a climax by one of the bold beasts charging guide Frank Myers in the doorway of the lodge, sending him screaming like a baby through the guest quarters and into the far end of the guide room! As a result of this vicious, unwarranted behavior, it is our pleasure to offer for the 2018 Spring season a combo Black Bear/Trophy Alaskan Red Squirrel hunt for the introductory low price of $6250! One bear, no squirrel limit.

We already have repeat customers from this past season booking trips to join us on the river again in 2018 and we anticipate yet another great season!

2015 Black Bear

Well this is the third time in 25 years that after 2 consecutive successful seasons (2013 and 2014) we got no hunters. It is like they think we killed all the good bears the 2 previous seasons and no one books a hunt. We never even went down the river this year. We did put out some baits along our remote cabin trail system. Lots of black bears were there and at least 3 grizzlies, 2 of which were big. It was an early spring with the first bears hitting the baits April 29. The fall moose hunters in the area encountered 5 grizzlies there. We will be doing the combination black and grizzly hunt there in 2016. We will do the river hunts primarily for black bears with a smaller chance for grizzly if people book. 2016 should be a good year on the river since they had a year to grown older unmolested but unfed by me.

Spring Black Bear 2014

2014 was a good year with 21 hunters taking 27 bears and one "Kodiak Black" that made the Pope and Young record books. We had the lodge again and had at least one good grizzly hitting one of the baits and probably 2 others during the season at other baits. We explored some new country and established some bait sites there for the future. We went through over 4 tons of bait and lots of gas. We are now covering over 200 miles of rivers plus some more off the rivers. Everyone is asking what is a "Kodiak Black". Well, I coined the term several years ago. It means "BIG BLACK BEAR". Usually a Kodiak Black is close to or over 8 foot. The average size Kodiak Brown bear being taken these days is 8 1/2 foot. These bears would whip a brown bear that big with one paw tied behind his back. We usually take several bears that big every year. 8 foot 3 inches with a 20 3/16ths skull is the biggest we have taken so far. We had a big black bear that put the run on an 8 foot grizzly this year. The bow hunter did not shoot him (the black bear). We deployed cameras this year and got about 10,000+ bear pictures. The bears did not like being flashed and several cameras took their last picture. The weather was good all the way until mid June when the rains started. The river was extremely low for most of the hunts but tolerable. By June 21 the river had so much debris that when they held the Yukon 800 boat race, 14 boats left Fairbanks, 6 made it 120 miles down river to the lodge but only 2 made it back to Fairbanks. We started hunting a lot earlier this year than last year. The ice went out in late April and some late booking clients took advantage of the situation and came up for the first slot. So it was just the opposite of last year when we had a late break up and had to postpone the first group. We are looking forward to baiting grizzlies along with the black bear in both areas in 2015.

Spring Black Bear 2013

We got 18 black bears in 16 days with 18 hunters. 4 bears were over 7 foot. The average bear squared out at 6 foot 6 inches. The 2 biggest skulls that hunters reported were a 20 1/8 inch skull and a bow hunters skull that scored 19-5/8, which will go in the all time Pope and Young record books. 4 hunters did not shoot bears. 2 hunters turned down 5+ bears/ night hunting at the cabin using 4 wheelers from the road. One bow hunter drew back twice but never took a shot. And one father let his son do all the shooting saying he would come back next year alone. 4 bears were wounded by 3 hunters. One hunter wounded 2 with a bow before taking one with a rifle. One near each was wounded with a rifle and pistol. We saw one grizzly walking the river bank near some baits. No one had a grizzly tag. Guides work 2.3 days per one day of actually guiding a hunter.

2013 was far from normal. The river ice began to move May 20th, which is the latest in over 100 years. April 28- May 8 is about normal for the ice to move. It was the 3rd coldest spring on record with the most snow in May and April ever. The first four hunters were rescheduled for 7-10 days later in the season. May 26th we took 2 hunters, 4 guides and 4 boats and headed out covering over 100 miles down river and stringing baits. Now it is record hot. 85 degrees and we are hitting ice in the river. May 29th we hunted and took our first bear. After that it was long days and nights hunting and skinning. This year we were fortunate to be able to rent a large historic lodge on the river from the new owners. We had a good bears skinning area, sauna, shower, electricity when the generator was running the freezers, propane cook stove and oven. So it was very nice and appreciated. Although for awhile, with the heavy snows melting all at once and now the glaciers melting also, there was a possibility that the cabin grounds may go under. We were fortunate, other places down river were not. The weather put us behind and bunched up the hunters but it all worked. We never got to try our grizzly baiting but we learned something, It will not be easy and the pricing structure to hunt for grizzly on the black bear hunt will change. The chances of a grizzly being on our current river baits is very slim. To reach other areas will be time consuming and be costly. The one grizzly bait we did put out by 4 wheeler got hit but it took 2 guides nine hours to go pull it out near the end of June when it finally dried up. Any earlier, it probably would have been impossible just to check it.

Spring Black Bear 2012

What a year. We went through 2 and tons of bait on 8 baits. Bears were everywhere crawling all over one another like maggots on a gut pile. The first hunter intentionally missed 2 big bears in the first 2 nights. Missed the second one by 10 feet. Sounds crazy? I agree. But true. Next guy asks to leave after 30 minutes on day one. He said he never should have come. Things back home. Nothing to do with the hunt. Next were 2 hunters. One shot a bear the first night. The other wounded 2; one big one with a bow the first night and one with a rifle before killing one the last night. Next hunter comes with an elephant gun and drops 2 good bears dead in their tracks. No tracking needed. I was glad. The last hunter was a late comer. Drives to town, spends the night and refuses to sign the contract because he "just can't do it", can't have fun or enjoy the hunt. No signed contract then no hunt. Hit the road.

Lessons learned. Sometimes we have to learn a lesson several times especially if the situation occurs infrequent. Don't book them if they sound like a nut. Second, don't move until you have a signed contract with a full deposit in your hand. We will have new and more baits and a new area in 2013. We did see the biggest sow 3 times that I have ever seen. She had 3 cubs of the year. She was very aggressive; in fact we had trouble with her when we pulled the bait. It was close. I kid you not; she was pushing 8 feet and weighed every bit of 400 pounds, maybe 500. Very black with a black face.

Spring Black Bear 2011

The first hunter came way early. We chased the ice down the river. What is normally a 4 hour boat ride to camp took 3 days due to ice jams in the river. The water temperature was 35 degrees and night time temps were below 20. We called in a pack of wolves and got one shot but missed. He got a 6-1/2 foot cinnamon boar. The next 2 hunters got 2 boars just over 6 foot on the same night at the same bait. The last 2 hunters on the river only had 3 days. They got a six foot sow and 2 seven foot boars. All the bears had beautiful thick hides. The water temp was up to 60 and we had 3 record breaking hot days in the 80 degree range. We did not fish but one afternoon. The river was very high and choked with debris on the ride back. After the river hunt was over; we took 2 hunters out to the cabin. This was the last 10 days in June. The first hunter shot a 7 foot bear with in 10 minutes of getting in the stand. He turned the first one down and saw a bear chase and fight. The second hunter was at the same bait and pretty much the same thing happened only it took a little longer. Also a 7 footer. Both had good thick hides, which was somewhat unusal for that late in the season.

Spring Black Bear 2010

We got 3 bears 7 foot or better. We found pout the extent of the 2009 fire damage. Most of it was on the south side of the main river where we had several good productive baits in years past. While the fire only burned right to the waters edge in a few places it was close enough most every where to screwed up all of our bait sites on that side. We made a couple of new ones that we got a bear or 2 off of but the area will be done for a while. Some of the bears from the burned up side may have moved to the other side but not in the numbers we had hope for. We did alright on the river with everyone taking bears except for one guy and he saw about 5. Ironically the bait he hunted most was one we knew from scat had a monster black bear at it when we first started hunting. No one ever saw the bear until we went to pull the bait. Brad got there first and walked towards the bait and was pushed back into the boat. From a mile down river I could see the bear standing on the bank and I could see the silver Honda outboard motor. The bear was coming into the boat when Brad fired a warning shot and I saw the bear run off. 25 yards then stopped and watched my big boat approach. I parked and Brad said that was what made him finally leave. Then when we were at the baite untieing the barrels, Don finally came up river and parked and walked in from the river. Half way in he spotted the stalking us at the bait and gave us a warning. The bear followed us back to the boats and was standing near the bank when we left. I have filed a formal complaint with the organization of baited bears.

The cabin hunt area was a bit of dissapointment. In 2009 we had identified 3 bears over 7 foot that we did not harrass. During the first unt an explosive fire erupted just north of the cabin area. Smoke inundated the area and many bears were dispolaced into the cabin hunting area. This is not good for bears or bear baiting. The bears frequenting a bait know each other. They usually work out times to avoid one another and take turns at the bait. New bears in the area thros everything out of kilter. 10 bears one night and none the next. The first 2 hunters were 7 foot or better hunters. They left having only fired one shot. We gave the area a 1 week rest and then opted for only one more hunter instead of the planned 2 hunters. I went on that hunt. The first night we saw 10 bears +/-. The next night was a sow with 3 cubs at the same bait. She was commanding the bait and running everything else off. Every bait we hunted had different bears every night we hunted it. We kept looking for the big one to no avail. Turning down bear after bear. The last night we were preparing to go out early and kill 2 bears of avearge 6+ size and we saw one run in front of the cabin. On the way to the first bait we saw on walking the trail towards a bait. Shot and found it. Then off to the bait we had seen the biggest bear but could not shoot,,, nothing. At 1 am we moved again and walked into another bait and shot one of the 2 bears there. All in all we had seen about 17 different bears. We had them standing in the 4 wheeler trailer underneath the treestand because we had to move the 4 wheeler underneath the stand to protect it. We had bears up trees next to us... bears all over but no big ones. We could not buy one. We saw their tracks but no fur. When we left riding out we saw fresh tracks of one big one leaving the stand where we had sewen 10 bears the first night. We had built a new treestand and ground blind to outsmart him but the big bastard must have busted us or stumbled in one lucky night when we were not there. Not sure.

2009 Alaska Black Bear Hunt Results

It was the worst year in 19 years for client recruitment. All we had were 2 hunters. A husband and wife team from TX. During the month of April w had record high temperatures that made spring river break up last 4 days and early to boot. It happened all over Alaska and destroyed many peoples livelihood and caused massive destruction particularly along the Yukon River. Then May turned record cold and so was early June. The Phillips arrived near the first of June and froze. Terry got an interesting color phase bear. Not really black and not fully cinnamon. The under fur was more of a silver. He is having it full mounted. No mosquitoes this year. Hell the bears still had on their long johns. They shot 2 bears in 2 nights, fished the third day and called in the plane for the fourth day.

In April with snow still deep, we drove out the road 130 miles and put baits out by snow machine off the road system to re-establish an old baiting area. One of my guides has a cabin and a big airstrip at the end of the main trail. Plus he has trails going out from there. We established 4 baits and all were hammered. Now get this. The one closest to the road was commanded by a rather large grizzly. And while black bear tracks walked the main trail, they would not go into the bait site. The other three baits had at least 3 bears over 7 foot and many smaller ones. The baits got hit earlier than the river baits (which took their sweet time getting going this year). This hilly area had always produced good bears hunting for us about 2 weeks earlier than the river area. I am sure it is because the sunny hillsides thaw and green up a little earlier than the river bottoms. Plus some of the bears start out there emerging from the dens. We are offering a limited number of hunts based out of the cabin and other nearby areas. Access will be by truck and 4 wheeler early on and then by plane once the ground hardens up on the runway.

I will be offering some proposals to the Board of Game that will benefit non-resident hunters if they pass. Also of note is that on the rivers where we hunt, there was a big fire that burned most of the summer covering over _ million acres. F&G thinks it will concentrate the bears along that side of the river or it moved them to the other side in which hunting there will be better than ever. And it was great already. 2010 will tell.

2008 Alaska Black Bear Hunt Results

6 hunters shot 8 bears including one by a 13 year old young lady . The last 3 day hunter saw 4 bears the first night and shot one. 4 bears the second night including a big one travelling by. And 8 bears the last night and shot one but didn't shoot the monster of the year.
Avery with Alaska Black Bear Gilbreath Cinniman Black Bear 2008 Gilbreath 2nd black bear 2008 Joe White 3 Alaska Black Bears

2008 Alaska Black Bear Hunt Narrative

The weather was cool all spring. We even had a frost June 6. June 1 is suppose to be the last possible frost day. The first hunter, Joe White of LA, and he got 3 bears. The next was a father, Lyndon, and daughter, Avery hunt. She killed one the first night on video camera and he wounded one they couldn't find. The third week was Terry and Margaret Phillips of TX. She shot one and Terry turned down everything looking for one over 7 foot. Terry was the second hunter in 18 years who went home with nothing even though he saw lots of bears. I have been saying the following for years, and they are still true. On any given night at any bait, the monster may walk in; or not. If you turn down everything you see, you will go home with nothing. Terry and Margaret have re-booked for 2009 if that tells you anything. The last hunter, Reverand Sammy Gilbreath only had 3 days to hunt. He saw 4 bears the first night and shot one. 4 bears the second night including a big one travelling by. And 8 bears the last night and shot one but didn't shoot the monster, a cinnimon boar at least 7 1/2 foot with a skull pushing 20". He saw at least 4 different cinnimon bears.

2007 Alaska Black Bear Hunt Results

First hunter - 3 black bears. 2nd hunters (father and son) 2 black bears each Brandon 1 of 2 Black Bears. 3rd hunter 2 black bears with a bow in 2 days Nate's bow  Black Bear. Biggest Alaska black bear 7 foot 6 inch with 19 1/2 inch skull Jeff's large black bear.

2007 Alaska Black Bear Hunt Narrative

The first hunter, Richard Miller of TN took 3 bears with pistols, with the last one just hours before the plane came to pick him up. The second week was Jeff and Son Brandon from PA. They killed 2 bears each with the bigest being 7 1/2 foot with a 19 1/2 inch skull. We had to do some tracking on that one. We found him dead asleep so to speak but still breathing. We figured he was dieing and no use to shoot again as we stood close by waiting. He got shot again when all of a sudden he stood up next to us. The last hunters were Frank Stukel and son Nate from SD. Frank had just had surgery and opted to allow Nate to shoot 2 bears with his bow instead of shooting one each. Nate got one, bought another tag and got another. Good stick flinger, that young man. They run a quality pheasant hunting operation back home.

2006 Alaska Black Bear Hunt Results

10 hunters took 12 black bears. One of the first hunters had a 30+ black bear count on the first night. They figured about 10 different bears. The weather was cool and we had a hard frost during the first week of June. By the end, the baits were getting hammered and we left plenty bear including some big ones for 2007. For the first time, I got to fly over the area. What I saw convinced me that we need to be offering moose hunts in this area in Sept. SO... All black bear hunters are eligible for a discounted outfitted (camp, boat, etc) unguided moose hunt for 2-4 hunters. Sept 5-15. Any size bull + bear, wolf + fowl. -- top

2005 Alaska Black Bear Hunt Results

The weather was beautiful as is typical for spring black bear. We had 11 hunters shoot 22 bears. 2 hunters shot 2 bears each in one night. All but one hunter was done with 2 bears in 3 nights. The biggest was 7 foot nine inches square with a 19 1/2 inch skull. We found some more pike fishing spots and some bigger pike. -- top

2004 Alaska Black Bear Hunt Results

Who knows why but we didn't book many hunters. We had 2 father and sons hunts. All got bears. Chester Plesz and son Rich Warren hunted first. This was to be their last hunt together. Chester got a decent black bear and then a beautiful big cinnamon phase. Rich saw plenty of bears but held out until the last night and bagged a big black. Next were John and John (Jr.) Crangle. They shot two bears in one night. We had some afternoon time to kill this year so we went pike fish scouting. Near our camp we found some pike sloughs and were rewarded with some decent fishing with the pike averaging 18-24 inches. Not big like the trophy pike trip but good enough to pass the time. The weather was record highs temps. Smoke from the early fires drifted in and out. Eventually something like 5+ million acres burned during the course of the summer. The hot weather and smoke seemed to slow the bear activity down somewhat but it didn't matter with the few hunters we had. Chester and Rich had wanted to hunt elk in the fall but the doctors weren't sure he would be able. Chester passed on in the fall. -- top

2003 Alaska Black Bear Hunt Results

The war with Iraq depressed the bookings but not the hunting. During a short time 7 hunters took 13 bears. 6 of the bears were over 7 foot! Several were just under 7 foot. The average hunt lasted less than 2 nights. Bruce Trapp and son Brian were the last hunters to arrive and they took 4 bears (3+1 respectively) in two nights. Then we took half the camp and went down river to the trophy Pike fishing camp. It wasn't long before they both had landed pike 45+ inches. Our biggest problem this year was keeping the baits baited in between hunters. We had more baits and bears than hunters. We used a record amount of bait to keep everything going. -- top

2002 Alaska Black Bear Hunt Results

13 hunters took 19 bears. We added new baits on another river and did great! The largest bear was taken by Mike Hawkins of Houston TX. It squared 8 foot 2 inches and had a skull size of 20 3/16 inches. We had 2 bears taken with a cross bow, 2 with a pistol, 2 with compound bows, 2 with cross bows and 1 with a spear! The rest were taken with a rifle. We expect 2003 to be even better, both in the number of bears available and an increase in the average size of the bears taken. The black bears' attitude in 2002 was similar to 2001. -- top

2001 Alaska Black Bear Results

10 hunters took 14 bears. One took three bears, three hunters took two bears and the others took 1 bear. The average shot was less than twenty yards. We used portable tree stands trees more than we have in recent years. The portability factor was much more effective than the permanent tree stands we had used in the past. Although the ground blinds still took more bears than any other method. The fur was exceptionally thick and long and no hides were rubbed. One bear bluff charged the boat three times and wouldn't let the 2 guides and 1 tagged out hunter re-supply a bait. Bears blatantly stalked the ground blinds with hunters and guides standing in the open. Every hunter left with a new appreciation and understanding of hunting bears over bait. We also saw an increase in the number of sows and sows with yearlings commandeering the bait sites. The rut was late probably due to their general poor condition (lack of fat) on the sows and a late green up. We ended up taking more sows than normal simply because they wouldn't let the boars and sometimes even other sows come in to the baits they were camped on. The big boars were their but weren't always allowed to get in range. One bait was abandoned because of three extremely aggressive sows; one black sow with 2 yearlings and one cinnamon sow with 3 yearlings (2 cinnamon and one black); that kept fighting and running up the trees around the tree stands 3-5 feet away and generally spooking everybody. One bow hunter at the bait, inspecting an arrow from missed bow shot 20 minutes before, stood up to face a large black bear less than 10 feet away staring at him.

He drew his pistol and fired one shot below the chin dropping the bear dead in his tracks. We established some new baits this year and they really paid off. After all the hunters were gone, we figured we still had 1 or more 7 foot plus boar(s) at almost every bait site. I received a 5-year camp permit and if the hunt continues to sell good; a cabin may not be far behind. -- top

Previous Years Results

15 bears were taken in both 1995 and 1996! The two largest measured 7ft 10 in., 450+ lbs. and 7ft 6 in., 400+ lbs. with 20 in. and 19 1/2 in. skulls respectively in 1995. The biggest of 1996 measured 8 foot across the front claws. In 1997, 5 of 11 bears were over 7 foot. In 1998, three hunters took 3 bears in 2 nights and all squared over 7 foot with skulls over 19." In 1999, we hunted a new area and 4 hunters took 6 bears with bows, a muzzle-loader and a pistol. In 2000, again 100% success. Again, SINCE 1991! -- top

Smokey Don Duncan, Owner, Master Guide #136 and P.H.
299 Alvin St. Fairbanks AK 99712
Landline: 907-457-8318     Verizon Cell: 435-890-8328

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