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Grizzlies, gear and Alaska

Alaska mountain scenery

Hunt dates: May 20 to June 1
Season dates: April 15 to June 1 (depending on hunting area)
Average temperatures: 0 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit
Location: Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska
Duration of a typical spring hunt: 7 to 10 days
 
Grizzly bear quote
Spring is coming to the North Country and the grizzlies of Alaska are stirring in their dens, which means that it is the start of the annual spring grizzly seasons across the state. This is a dream hunt for most of us and I was lucky enough to make it to Alaska last spring. 

Bear claw
 
During the hunt, we stayed in a small cabin deep in the Talkeetna Mountains. The Talkeetnas are an imposing range, but gentler in comparison to the Chugach or Alaska Ranges. The packing list below reflects the necessities for a cabin-based hunt. A backpack interior spring hunt, or a backpack based coastal brown bear hunt, will require some different packing considerations. 

Packing list for a cabin-based hunt

Category

Description

Backpack Eberlestock X2 Day Pack with Eberlestock rain cover
Clothing
Base layers top Under Armour 1.0 long-sleeve base layer x2
Under Armour short-sleeve HeatGear x4
Base layers bottom Under Armour Base 2.0 x4
Insulation layer top First Lite Chama QZ
Insulation layer mid layer KUIU Super Down Zip-T
Under Armour Hoodie
Outer shell First Lite Boundary Stormtight Jacket
Under Armour Softshell Jacket
Pant KUIU Attack pant
Rain jacket First Lite Boundary Stormtight Jacket
Rain pant Sitka Dewpoint Pant
Headwear Under Armour Beanie
Glove Under Armour ColdGear Glove Liner
Mechanix Winter Armor Glove
Boots Kenetrek Mountain Extreme Uninsulated
Kenetrek Gaiters
Weapon
Archery gear Elite Energy 32 set at 73 lbs
Easton Injextion 400 Arrows (eight broadheads, four w/field points)
Solid Broadheads
Primary and backup release
Emergency bow repair gear Assorted accessories (link to build your own kit)
Optics
Tripod Swarovski AT 101 Aluminum Tripod
DH 101 Tripod Head
Binocular/ rangefinder Swarovski EL 10x42
S4 Gear Bino Harness
Leupold Rangefinder
Spotting scope Leica Televid 62 mm Spotting Scope
Camera Nikon D90
Nikon CoolPix AW110
Accessories
Headlamp/ flashlights Black Diamond Headlamp
SureFire Flashlight
Sunscreen/ bug spray Bullfrog Mosquito Coast
Personal hygiene pack/ miscellaneous

Wet Wipes (30 pack x2)
Travel Toothbrush
Deodorant (optional)
Melatonin
Aspirin
Band Aids
Mole Skin
Neosporin
Chapstick
Sewing Kit


To get the gear listed above to Alaska, I packed in the following system: 

Hunt pack: Optics, tripod, personal effects, partial personal hygiene pack, flashlights, gloves, and rain gear.

Waterproof duffel bag: Clothing, remaining personal hygiene items, boots, emergency bow repair kit, and backup release

Bow case: Bow, arrows (field tip arrows stored in an arrow tube, broadheads in an arrow box), first change hunting clothing, and primary hunting release.
 
This is how I pack for any trip that requires air travel.

Hunting Methods

We spent most of the hunt posted up on one of two glassing points. On days with good weather, hours were spent on the glass. On days with poor weather, we spent much of the day in the cabin, sneaking out with any break in the weather to glass from the deck of the cabin.

Other Considerations

Alaska is notorious for bad weather. In my limited experience I can wholeheartedly confirm this. Whether it be rain, snow or, in our case, blinding smoke from a wild fire, be sure to pack some entertainment. Believe it or not, I read all the books shown below on our hunt last spring. There is such a thing as too much Louis L’Amour. In the future, I may consider a tablet or iPad loaded up with books and movies for trips to Alaska. All and all, during our 11 day trip, we spent seven cabin bound due to zero visibility. 
 
Books for camp reading


Notes on gear

I found my KUIU Super Down Zip-T to be the most useful article of clothing that I packed. The temperature ranged from between 10 to 60 degrees fahrenheit each day. Layers that are light and packable are a must for spring hunts. My Kenetrek gaiters were also extremely useful on this hunt. 

Soaking up the Akaska scenery
 
I ended up carrying my rain gear in my pack everyday. Two of the days we had precipitation of some form and the rain gear was needed. High quality rain gear and footwear is a must for this hunt.

Alaska scenery

As you can see from my packing list, I don’t have a ton of brand loyalty when it comes to hunting gear. I do lean towards Under Armour’s synthetic layering systems because my skin seems to be sensitive to wool. When picking gear for a trip like this, the most important thing you can do is rigorously prep and practice with your gear. Make sure you know how it functions and in what situations each piece is useful. Once you get into the mountains, you have what you brought and there is no turning back.

Glassing point

In hindsight, I would of packed some heavier optics. I went light thinking that we would be covering more country. We spent most of our time on two glassing points. This was some big country and I wish I had packed my Leica Geovid 15x56s for locating bears. I have always found glassing with two eyes open to be best. Alaska is big country and the looks can be extremely long. 

Bear through spotting scope

Once located, the spotting scope could then be used to identify sex and trophy quality.

Packing Hacks

Here are a couple tricks to pack for a trip like this:

  1. Waterproof luggage: As we discussed above, Alaska weather is brutal. Most hunting adventures in Alaska will start in Anchorage where other commercial flights are caught to other parts of the state or where you jump in a bush plain and head towards parts unknown. Life is simply easier when you pack your hunting gear in luggage that allows for the elements.
  2. Utilize your bow case/gun case: I always pack my primary set of hunting clothes in my bow case or gun case. This makes them readily available for when its time to catch your flight to wherever you are hunting. There is nothing worse than digging through your neatly packed hunting duffel looking for an item when the time finally comes to catch your bush flight to your hunting area.
  3. Every inch counts: Pre-hunt, I always take time to pack a few essential items in out of the way places. My favorite underutilized packing area is the legs of my tripod. Before I head out, I always wrap 3 ft of duct tape on one leg, 3 ft of electrical tape on another, and several spare boot laces on the third. Tape and rope are always useful. Take time to consider what items you already intend to take that can be used for alternative purposes. Another underutilized packing area is your binocular system. I always make sure I have a fresh optic cleaning system attached to my binocular harness. 

Lessons learned

From my Alaskan experience I learned several important lessons. The first lesson was the importance of taking the time to prepare for the physical challenges a hunt presents, Alaska requires a certain mental toughness that exceeded any hunt I have gone on in the lower 48. Alaska requires more gear prep than your average hunt. 

Grizzly bear harvest photo

Remember when packing that it is not necessarily high dollar gear that will make the hunt a success; it is the time preparing that makes all the difference. Alaska is full of unforeseen adversity and the more you prepare at home the better suited you will be for the rigors of the hunt.
 
Alaska river crossing

2 Comments

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Lucy S. - posted 4 years ago on 04-10-2015 02:40:23 pm

Another great article! Also good pictures of terrain. Looking forward to seeing more!

willtcooper
Will C. - posted 4 years ago on 04-09-2015 08:53:30 pm
Ponder, TX
goHUNT INSIDER

Great write up as always ! Never thought about wrapping tape on tripod legs.