Bear Hunting: The Hunt for a Kodiak Island Brown Bear

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What’s Your Dream Hunt?

A Journey Begins

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1 | A Journey Begins

Like road trips? This trip wasn’t one. Alaska is more than a drive away. It takes several planes and boats to get where you’re going.  And check out that view. The view from above is an incredible one.

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By Sea

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2 | By Sea

Much of the travel in Alaska is conducted by boat. Needless to say, there are a lot of them. This is a shot of a port that Hunsucker and company came across during their travels.

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Civilization

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3 | Civilization

Unless you’re in Anchorage, big cities are scarce in Alaska. Most are small townships and communities along coastal areas, as shown here.

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America

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4 | America

Pride. Country. Ol’ Glory. This flag, and all those who’ve served and died to protect it, have secured our freedom to do the things we love. Such as a Kodiak Island brown bear hunt.

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Getting Licenses and Tags

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5 | Getting Licenses and Tags

Pictured here is Hunsucker getting the appropriate paperwork and supplies needed to go on his hunt. The grin says it all. He was ready to embark on the journey that lay ahead.

“This was absolutely a bucket-list hunt for me,” Hunsucker said. “Because tags are so limited, the opportunity doesn’t come around often.”

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Friends for Life

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6 | Friends for Life

One of the best things about traveling to hunt? The friendships you make along the way. Many of them will last a lifetime. It’s not all about killing an animal. Nor is it all about the hunt, either.

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The Last Leg

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7 | The Last Leg

The final leg to camp is a ride in a float plane. That’s how people get in and out of the backwoods in the desolate reaches of Alaska.

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Home Away from Home

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8 | Home Away from Home

This was home for Hunsucker until the hunt was over. Can’t say that he, or any real hunters, would complain, though. The ultimate hunt for the ultimate predator and a view like that to wake up to every day.

“The hunt is a fairly slow hunt,” Hunsucker said. “Patience is a must. With the bears sense of smell being so keen, hiking all over would negatively affect our hunt. We played it safe and spent most of our time on a knob glassing not far from the tents. From that knob, we could see several miles in all directions.”

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The Right Gear

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9 | The Right Gear

This is dangerous country to go hunting in. One misstep and things go array in a hurry. It’s very important to have the right gear with you. Make a checklist, bring all essentials, and then some.

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Checking Sights

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10 | Checking Sights

Sights have the uncanny ability to be off upon arrival when traveling to hunt. Always bring a small, portable target to check your bow (or gun) when traveling to hunt. The last thing you want is to be presented with the shot of a lifetime and botch it up because you didn’t check your gear.

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Scent Management

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11 | Scent Management

Bears aren’t known for their eyesight. Their hearing isn’t overly impressive, either. But their nose? Well, that’s a different story. A firm scent-management plan is needed when heading into the backcountry to pursue bears.

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The Playing Field

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12 | The Playing Field

This view. Words can’t describe it. A little piece of heaven, if you ask me. This was the territory where Hunsucker was to match wits with a brown bear.

“We patiently watched and glassed bears just waiting for the right one to make an appearance,” Hunsucker said. “It took 12 days for that opportunity, but it did finally happen.”

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The Wildlife

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13 | The Wildlife

This part of the world is rich with wildlife. The different species that live there are beautiful, unique, and captivating. There’s just something about this region of the world. It’s one of the last true wild places.

“Alaska is an incredibly beautiful place to hunt,” Hunsucker said. “Camping on the river was about as picturesque as you could get. It’s a special feeling to be out there living with all the different animals. Deer, mountain goats, fox, eagles and even some caribou. No shortage of wildlife.”

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A Warm Drink

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14 | A Warm Drink

There’s nothing better than a warm drink on a cool day. This can be all it takes to give you the extra steam you need to keep pushing forward during a long, hard hunt.

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Resuming the Hunt

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15 | Resuming the Hunt

After a short break, it was back to the hunt. The hunting party spent almost two weeks looking for the right bear. A hunt of this kind is taxing on both the body and mind. It’s important to be in shape both physically and mentally before embarking on such a hunt.

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The One

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16 | The One

And then, there it was. The bear Hunsucker had been waiting for. Would the bear make it within bow range?

“Calling this bear in was about as intense as it gets,” Hunsucker said. “When [it] emerged out of the brush at 60 yards, my heart started racing. I got in the zone.”

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Preparing for the Shot

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17 | Preparing for the Shot

Years of practice. Months of preparation. It all boiled down to this one moment.

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A Little Closer

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18 | A Little Closer

This big carnivore spotted Hunsucker and his crew. But the bear, living in such a remote territory, was unsure of what they were and continued marching toward them.

“After 12 days of waiting for this moment, I wasn’t going to let it slip between my fingers,” Hunsucker said. “[It] was approaching us, appearing as if [it] would walk by at about 20 yards and give us a broadside shot. But as [the bear] got closer, [it] saw us and came directly toward us.”

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Slow and Steady Breaths

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19 | Slow and Steady Breaths

Once the bear was within range, Hunsucker drew his bow and cleared his mind for the shot he’d been waiting for.

“Bears have poor vision, so [it] didn’t know what we were, but could see a blob of four guys in the bushes,” Hunsucker said. “Myself, two camera guys and a guide (with a gun).”

Check your regulations, but where legal, the guide (or someone) should always carry a gun for protection. You never know when a bear might charge. In that situation, a bow may become useless.

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Pure Adrenaline

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20 | Pure Adrenaline

Twelve days of blood and sweat led to this moment. Eye-to-eye with one of the world’s largest and most formidable animals.

“[The bear] continued directly at us, not offering me a shot until [it] got to 12 yards where [it] put [its] front paws on this mound and propped itself up exposing the chest,” Hunsucker said. “I knew this was my opportunity and I had to make the shot count.”

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A Well-Placed Shot

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21 | A Well-Placed Shot

His shot connected and penetrated the vitals. A well-placed shot.

“Initially, as I watched my arrow fly, I thought I hit a little further to the right than where I was aiming,” Hunsucker said. “I instantly knew it was a good shot, though, as I watched blood pour from [its] chest as [it] turned and ran. [The bear] crashed down the side of the mountain doing a front flip and expired almost instantly. That is when the adrenaline really kicked in for me.”

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A Formidable Predator

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22 | A Formidable Predator

These are the teeth of a predator. Going up against an Alaska brown bear is no easy task. These are dangerous animals. The size of these teeth support that fact.

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The Paw of a Killer

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23 | The Paw of a Killer

The sheer power that lies within the paws of a brown bear is shocking. Prey stands little chance against the bear's paw, which is the size of a grown man’s head and with daggers for claws.

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The Homeward March

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24 | The Homeward March

The end of a successful hunt. Hunsucker tagged his dream brown bear. It’s a memory he won’t ever forget.

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A Dream Fulfilled

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25 | A Dream Fulfilled

Again, words can’t explain the drive that fuels hunters to embrace the hunting heritage. And the mountains are beyond description. You just have to feel it. It’s often said that the mountains call to us. Maybe it’s the desire for adventure. Or, maybe it’s the need to be reminded just how small we really are. Because one thing is for sure, the outdoors will humble you.

“All of the time spent out there for the one opportunity and we made it happen,” Hunsucker. “Twelve days’ worth of weight lifted off my shoulders. A once-in-a-lifetime trophy and experience that I will never forget.”

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For true hunters, the allure of the wilderness is beyond explanation. No words can adequately, or appropriately, describe the emotions that come from being in nature. I’m not talking about a walk in the park. And I’m not talking about just being in the outdoors, either. I’m talking about being a part of it. And the role that hunters play in nature is a sacred one.

Michael Hunsucker of Heartland Bowhunter recently experienced the epitome of the hunter-quarry relationship when he pursued an Alaska brown bear on Kodiak Island. His hunt was a legendary one. And we have the story of his recent pursuit right here on Realtree.com.

Follow along as we share with you his adventures in the Far North.