Despite the very unusual climactic challenges we faced this spring, our hunters did harvest two really nice bears (official B&C score of 28 5/16” that squared just at 11′ and 27 10/16” that squared 10′ 2″) !
We had a mere three days of actual spring-like weather during the spring brown bear hunts this year (May 20, 21 and 22 were the nice days) and then the wintry conditions returned. Overall the weather was horrible, cold, snowy and very “unspring like” – the worst winter and spring the locals in the area could remember in the last 40 or so years.
The other two hunters that did not harvest bears saw some 10′+ bears and could have shot smaller 9′ class bears but we do not even pursue a bear of that class as we focus only on the bigger, true trophy class bears.
Overall, due to the poor conditions, we saw only about 1/3 or so of the bears we typically see and due to the bad weather and Peninsula Airways not being able to get the hunters and all their gear to us on schedule we missed the first two days of the season; though in reality we didn’t really miss much by that delay as the weather was bad and the bear activity much lower than normal.
All in all the weather most definitely hurt us a lot this spring but I remain firmly committed to not letting our hunters shoot just any bear to say they killed a bear – there are plenty of places they can do that with less effort and money spent – but we continue to focus on harvesting big bears and continue to do so but were just two shy this spring; the bears will just be all that much bigger in the fall of 2013! We fared better than some guiding outfits and hunters on the Peninsula, as I heard some had to cancel their entire Peninsula spring season due to the poor weather conditions.
The two hunters that did not harvest bears with us this spring would like to return in the future and continue their quest for a true trophy class bear and we are looking forward to having them join us again!
During our August Trophy Dall sheep season, poor weather continued to severely hamper us this year with low clouds restricting our visibility for many days and we subsequently lost 50% to 60% of our available hunting time due to the clouds and no visibility at the higher elevations, where the rams are typically found (4,500 to 6,000 feet). We did harvest a few nice rams, one of which was a 12 year old, 44 4/8” x 14” ram with a rough B&C gross score of about 173 3/8” – a true old monarch of the mountains! We also had two hunters that missed shots at nice rams, in one case multiple shots at multiple rams, but overall the weather simply beat us this year. We did harvest three nice Arctic Grizzlies and two wolves during the sheep hunts as well.
Over the last 24 years, we have traditionally experienced a very high success rate on our Trophy Dall sheep hunts, often 90% to 100% so we view this year as an anomaly. All indicators, from other professional guides in the state, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and various trophy receiving agents within Alaska, indicate that the 2012 Dall sheep harvest rate appears to be down by as much as 80% possibly statewide so the poor success we experienced this fall was shared by many others throughout the state. We are looking forward to better weather next year and three of our hunters that did not harvest rams this year have already asked to come back again next year, which is the greatest compliment a guide can get.
The poor weather was unrelenting and continued to follow us right into September and our moose hunts. I don’t recall ever seeing the water level in the rivers that we hunt as high as they were this year and there was standing water in areas I have never seen any water in the past. The first few days of September we had some good weather and one of our hunters harvested a very large male wolf but then the rain and poor weather again descended upon us in earnest and it rained and/or snowed on us for the remainder of the month. We encouraged a few of our hunters to pass on some legal bull moose that were in the 50” range, thinking like any optimist would that the weather just had to improve, and so would the moose’s activity level but that did not come to pass and the wet, rainy and snowy pattern continued right until the end of the hunts. One of our hunters did miss about a 100 yard shot on a very nice grizzly and we saw quite a few other grizzlies this fall, though many did not meet our standards of a mature, harvestable boar.
If one measures the success of a hunt, or a season, as the number of animals harvested then, even having harvested two B&C animals (a brown bear and a Dall sheep), without question this was the worst season we have ever had. If one measures the success of a hunt, or season, as being a safe, exciting, rewarding adventure with a few missed opportunities despite overall horrible weather conditions than by all means we again had a good season. Sometimes the weather, one of the most significant factors in any hunt, simply is stacked against us and that was the case this year. We were also not willing to compromise on our high standards of what we consider a mature, harvestable, trophy class animal; if we had wanted to simply “pump up” our kill success rate this year we could have killed a number of other rams, moose and grizzly but that is not what a hunt is about to us; we want our hunters to harvest a true trophy class animal that they, and we, will be proud of.
2013 is another year full of new opportunities, and hopefully better weather, and we are already looking forward to it!