December 9, 2022

2022 Season Report

Our 2022 season started with us again in my exclusive guide-use are within the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, on the tip of the southern Alaska Peninsula, for our spring Trophy Brown Bear hunt and it was an interesting brown bear season for us.  Spring seemed to arrive ten days to two weeks later than normal so initial bear sightings were a little slow, and low, but overall, we had reasonably good weather this spring with only a few days of hunting lost due to high winds and as the season progressed our bear sightings continued to increase, as is typical.

One hunter quit his hunt after only the second day of hunting, even though he had seen bears, ostensibly because he had to return home for urgent business matters but in fact, I believe a factor was that he just felt completely out of his element and overwhelmed by the remoteness of the area and the hunt.  Another of our hunters had to cancel his hunt a week early and depart the field because his father was in hospice and close to passing.  Understandably, he wanted to be with his father at the end and the weather cooperated enough to allow him to leave the field ahead of schedule with still half his hunt remaining.  He did see 41 bears during his week in the field with us, including two 10ft.+ class bears and he regretted having to leave early but I sincerely hope he will return and join us again in the future.

Our third hunter harvested another record book bear with us, taking a fantastic 10ft. 10in. boar with a 28 8/16” green skull.

The final hunter, who I was personally guiding, stayed for the entirety of the season, during which time we saw 47 different bears, including three different ones each in the 10 ft.+ class.  My hunter was hoping to harvest his bear with his large caliber pistol, and we got within 40 yards of a 10ft.+ boar but unfortunately he moved when the bear turned its head looking in our direction.  The bear didn’t like that, spooked and that was our best opportunity at a big bear during his hunt. Though that was understandably frustrating and disappointing, we overall had a great hunt and adventure and he was a pleasure to spend time with in the field.

My guides and I are looking forward to returning in October of 2023 with our hunters and hopefully all hunters will be able to stay in the field for the duration of their hunt; while the average is seven to eight days for us to harvest a true, 10ft.+ trophy brown bear it sometimes happens sooner and also later than that so having the full, available season to hunt can sometimes mean the difference between going home with a big bear and not.

 

Please don’t ever underestimate the significant impact Mother Nature and the weather can have on any hunt and the potential of going home with a nice animal and not. That, coupled with a hunter’s physical and mental stamina and fortitude, are two of the biggest factors governing the outcome of an Alaskan hunt.

 

As some may recall, in 2013/2014 we experienced an extreme winter weather event in much of Alaska, which brought with it rain in January, which then resulted in a thick layer of ice in the Brooks Range.  Dall Sheep can, and do, battle through frigid winter temperatures, snow and wind but thick layers of ice in the winter is not something they normally have to contend with.  Following that extreme weather event, we noticed a lower lamb recruitment the following year than normal, due to that event, and many of us suspected that potentially in 7 to 8 years there would be fewer 8 year old, or so, legal rams present because they did not survive the 2013/2014 period.  It would appear that suspicion has come to fruition the last two seasons as we have noticed a lower number of rams in that “missing” age class, including this past season.  Overall, we saw a lot of 7/8’s and 15/16th’s rams and the rams we harvested this season were all over 9 years old so that low recruitment cohort did seem to be missing the last two years but thankfully this time period is now behind us.

According to the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game, traditionally 600 to 800 Dall sheep rams are harvested throughout Alaska in any given year.  In the 2021 season the harvested number was just over 400 rams statewide, the lowest harvest level in over 20 years, and with four days left in the 2022 season, the ADF&G Biologist I conferred with said that they had not yet broken 400 for this year and he highly doubted they would so 2022 has become, statewide, the lowest harvest level for Dall rams in 20 to 25 years.  While that was, and has been, frustrating and challenging for the last two seasons, based upon what my guides and I saw overall this season the prospects for the future looks good in the areas we hunt and there is no cause for alarm; many of those 7/8th’s and 15/16th’s rams we saw this year will in fact be full curl or greater next year and another year older so our spirits are high and we are looking forward to, and optimistic about, the upcoming seasons.

During our first Dall Sheep hunt period this year we were plagued by seven days of relentless rain that severely hindered our hunting opportunities, made river crossings more perilous and generally made conditions extremely challenging.  All four of our hunters saw rams but as mentioned previously, many were 15/16ths, just barely shy of full curl legality and/or so close as to make it unadvisable to harvest them.  We have worked hard, and continue to do so, to maintain a greater average horn length on the rams we help our hunters harvest, which is about 37 ½”, well above the Statewide average of a “just legal” full curl ram so we don’t promote the taking of a ram until they are fully mature, older and bigger than “just barely”.  One of our hunters and his guide, during the first hunt period, found a beautiful ram that was over full curl and over 9 years old and they managed to harvest it after a great deal of work and toil.

During our second hunt period, Mother Nature continued to supply us with ample rain on a daily basis but not quite to the extreme extent she did during the first hunt period and two of hour hunters harvested beautiful rams, again both well over full curl and each over 9 years old and one of our hunters harvested an ancient Arctic Grizzly that squared over 8’ 2” and had a record book skull that green, rough scored over 24”.  In my 34 years as a professional guide in Alaska I have never seen a bear with such worn teeth and it appeared to be the oldest bear I have ever seen, based upon the condition of its teeth (what remained of them).

 

We had a returning hunter on his 6th hunt with us and accompanying him was his adult son.  Due to changes in their personal schedule, they were not able to hunt our Moose River area as originally planned as their available time would not allow them to do so.  As such, they joined us in my ANWR area and we had a great hunt together.  We passed on some respectable Caribou bulls on the first day of the hunt as we were more focused on targeting Arctic Grizzly and Moose.  We had seen some nice bull moose during the later part of the second sheep hunt but they had melted away by the time the moose season opened for us, so we did not harvest any moose but another monster, 8’ 2 1’2” Arctic Grizzly boar was harvested and great memories were made, as they always are when in the remote wilderness regions of Alaska accompanied by good friends!

My guides and I are anxious for the 2023 season to arrive so we may yet again be in the mountains amongst these majestic creatures forming new bonds and friendships with the hunters that will be joining us next year!