Alaska Prince of Wales Black Bear Hunt Report
This hunting and fishing trip in Alaska could surely be considered a trip of a lifetime for me.
I flew out of Seattle to Wrangell, Alaska where I met my cousins Monte Downing and Ed Miller, and Dave Hurley the owner of Americraft Cookware where we took a jet boat across the sound to Prince of Wales Island. We were met by Mike at Whale Pass for transportation to the lodge. On the way, Mike stopped to visit with some locals who had information about some bears they had seen the week before. When we arrived, we met Gary our fishing guide and boat captain, Swede the cook and Bazell the assistant guide. Accommodations were not 5-star but were adequate. We all had individual rooms separate from the lodge (good thing because we all snore like hogs) and we settled in just in time for supper. We soon discovered that this is what an outdoor adventure should be like. That supper was as fine of food as I have ever eaten and remember I am a Chef. My glass never went empty and anything we needed, these guys were jumping. I went to bed thinking this is going to be a really cool trip!
Black Bears on the Salmon Stream – Day One
The next morning we were up about an hour before sunrise and had a wonderful made to order breakfast (I had bacon, eggs, country fried potatoes and hotcakes) and began planning our day. Monte and I were going out to hunt black bears on a nearby stream loaded with pink salmon while Ed and Dave went halibut fishing. Just about daylight Monte and I got to the stream we were looking for and settled in on a pile of pink salmon that a bear had been eating the night before, and it didn’t take long. A big 400 pound black bear soon emerged from the tree line looking for a salmon snack. Monte ranged him at 35 yards, nocked an arrow and took the shot. His arrow hit the mark and the bear scampered back into the trees. Even though we knew it was a good shot we like to wait about 45 minutes before we begin the recovery which seemed to work out just right. After about 30 minutes another 400 pound bear pooped out about 150 yards down river so I decided to take a shot with my Sako 300 WSSM. The Winchester Supreme 180 grain bullet hit its mark on the bears left front shoulder. He spun twice and dropped. What a morning of hunting on Prince of Wales Island, two 400 pound Bruins on the ground within an hour of sunrise. By 2 p.m. the bears were skinned, fleshed and ready for the taxidermist. Now we just sit back, smoke a couple of celebratory cigars and waited for Ed and Dave to show up from their day of halibut fishing.
About 4 that afternoon, Ed and Dave came motoring in on the New 40 foot catamaran aluminum boat loaded with fish. Ed had caught a beautiful 80 pound halibut and Dave had a nice 40 pounder along with a boat load of rock fish. That afternoon we settled in for another one of Swede’s incredible meals, enjoyed some adult beverages and went to bet dreaming of one of the most enjoyable days of our life.
Halibut Fishing and a Bad Luck Bear – Day Two
On day two Ed left at daylight and headed towards the river to catch another bear feeding on salmon. He planned on being back around 9 a.m., so we could all go fishing. While waiting for Ed to return we all had one of Swede’s custom breakfasts. When Ed returned he had seen two more bears but didn’t get a shot, so while Ed wolfed down his breakfast we loaded the boat and soon we were all fishing. We all caught a bunch of rockfish and everyone but me caught a nice halibut. Monte was the big winner with his 115 pound halibut. We made it back in by 5:00 that afternoon and Ed was soon in his camo and headed to the river after those two bears while Monte, Dave and I settled in for another one of Swede’s wonderful meals. Just so you know, I normally lose 10 to 12 pounds on a trip like this and I actually gained 10 pounds from this incredible food.
Ed returned about dark with one of those good news, bad news stories. The good news was he saw his bear and got a shot. The bad news was his bullet hit a limb just in front of his rifle and sent the bear scampering back into the woods untouched. Ed did have a good excuse, he was really buried up into the timber to conceal himself and he was using an unfamiliar rifle. Ed went to bed that night dreaming of the one that got away.
More Incredible Fishing – Day Three
Day three went pretty much like day two with Ed leaving early to try to get a bear and returning at 9 to go fishing. Dave only came along to go fishing but with all the bears we were seeing he was starting to think about taking a bear himself, but decided to see how Ed would do on day three. Ed returned about 9 that morning without seeing anything. So after another hearty breakfast to the fishing hole we went. This was Daves day for fishing. He was hot, and after catching his halibut and mine along with a bunch of delicious rockfish we headed back to the lodge so Ed could give the bears another shot. No bears that evening either and we all went to bed stuffed with another one of those famous meals.
Halibut and Killer Whales – Day Four
Day four was a carbon copy of day two with one exception. Doak finally caught a halibut!!! My first ever and he weighed a whopping 18 pounds. I am not complaining because it was my first ever. We all caught lots of fish and Monte caught another 100 pounder. We even saw a pod of killer whales… have I mentioned the Prince of Wales Island is incredible? Ed spent the whole day pursuing bears but with no success. He took a big tumble on day four and hurt his back so he decided to just go fishing on the last day.
Our Last Day Was Amazing – Day Five
Day five was our last day, and what a day it was. Dave started out the day catching a nice 40 pound halibut soon followed by Ed with a 35 pounder and several rockfish. Then about noon we drifted from 200 foot of water to 65 foot of water when Monte and I thought we had gotten hung up on the same rock, but we soon realized that rocks don’t spool your reel. We both had hooked a couple of monsters. We fought these monsters for about 15 minutes when they decided to run together and triple twisted our lines together. Our quick thinking captain Gary grabbed my pole and quickly untwisted our impending disaster. We both got our fish to the boat at the same time and realized we had a problem. These are really big fish and we can only land one at a time. Monte was at the back of the boat so captain Gary decided to land Monte’s fish first. Fish this large have to be shot in the head with a .410 shotgun before landing because they are so powerful and their flopping could injure someone. So Monte’s fish was shot, gaffed, double hooked and brought on board. What no one else was aware of was when Gary shot Monte’s fish he spooked mine and he went back to the bottom. 15 minutes later my fish was back to the top and when he saw the boat he went to the bottom again but continued to spool my reel. I was quickly running out of line so captain Gary had to back the boat down on my monster to get back some line. After 50 minutes we finally had this big bruiser in the boat with 5 guys doing the happy dance. When we got back to the lodge my fish measured 76 inches and weighed 206 pounds. Monte’s fish measured 761/2 inches and weighed 212 pounds. We brought back from Alaska 437 pounds of fish and two 400 pound bear. What a trip!
I want to thank the staff at the Lodge for the hunting and fishing trip of a lifetime and to Gary for being one of the best boat captains I have ever gone fishing with, to Swede for the humor he brought to the camp as well as his fabulous cooking skills, to Bazzell for his Tasmanian wit and commitment, and especially Mike who made me feel like a brother in Christ. God Bless you all.
p.s. Thanks Cory of Outdoors International for helping with this wonderful trip to Prince of Wales Island, wish you had been there, and thanks to my cousins, Monte and Ed who are always in my heart and special thanks to Dave Hurley who sacrificed his valuable time to spend with a friend. I am blessed.
By Doak Worley
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