The breeze off of Shelikoff Strait was sharp with the smell of salt and tundra. Huge storm beaten Sitka spruce logs litter the beach and stick out of the drift wood tangle at the high tide line. Unlike many beaches this one is 100 yards wide due to the 20+ foot tides that ebb and flow here. Although the sand is scoured twice each day it is still littered with tracks of three of the most dramatic predators on the continent.
The fresh wolf tracks are bigger than the palm of my hand. Their claws mark the sand a full inch in front of the pad. The wolverine tracks show that he was hunting. They weave in and out of the driftwood looking for a dead seals or sea otters. His tracks are unique in their double canted angle. These too have claws showing in the fine yellow sand. I always enjoy seeing the trail of a wolverine because I know that I am truly in the wilderness.
The amount of brown bear tracks ion this beach is intimidating at best. On a similar beach just north of here, the wacky bear activist, Timothy Treadwell and his girl friend Amy were eaten by brown bears. They have been featured in a phony special on Discovery called “The Grizzly Man”.
Like the others, the last set of tracks on this beach is less than 12 hours old. These cause me to pause and look behind me. I get out my binocs and look a mile or more in both directions. The brown bear track in front of me is considerably bigger than a yellow note pad. In contrast to the wolf tracks these claws reach 4 inches in front of the pad. This is a 9-10 foot bear and he lives close by.
Brown Bears here have salmon to eat for all but about 40 days of the entire time they are out of hibernation. Protein builds big bears. This bear was one of 14 that were feeding on silver salmon in a creek that empties into Wide Bay.
This beach on the Alaska Peninsula is my favorite wilderness place. I camped here in a tent for over 20 days in 1987. We saw more than 15 different brown bears on some of those days. That number becomes more significant when you consider that we were walking out to glass from the tent each day. This Bay, known as Wide Bay, is home to some of the biggest brown bears in the world. The bear density here is unparalleled in Alaska. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game says there are 1.5 bears per square mile here.
The drainage of Wide Bay is rich in bears. The head of the main valley that feeds Wide Bay is the glacier laden granite buttress of the Alaska Range, which makes up the spine of the Alaska Peninsula.
The bear density combined with the remote nature of this place plus the salmon streams that are choked with protein each summer fall are a few of the factors that allow these bears to grow into the world’s most awesome bears. I’m here filming these bears but one hunter, a bowhunter, made this beach famous. His name was Bear, Fred Bear. In 1960 when I was shooting a 15# fiberglass bow and flinging arrows at a cardboard box, Fred set up on this same beach behind a big boulder that had fallen from a cliff. He shot a single arrow into what turned out to be a giant among giant bears. His brown bear scored 28-00/16 and stood as the biggest bear taken with a bow in the world for 25 years.
I’ve walked the same beach where he shot that bear and there are fresh tracks in that sand every day from May to October. Just last September I returned again to the beach and streams of Wide Bay to capture the big bears on tape.
Filming bears is one of the most exciting things I am privileged to do. I have filmed over 150 grizzlies and Browns from Kodiak to the Arctic, each of them special.
I’ve been treated to the World Record bear story both from the lips of Fred Bear and by an old tracker/packer who was on the hunt with Fred back in 1960.
If you look just above the prop on the Super Cub you’ll notice a dark spot on the distant cliff. That is the exact location where the rock is that Fred Bear shot his world record brown bear from.
Since then my friend, Master Guide Brent Jones, www.aaaalalakanoutfitters.com has guided other bow hunters to within spitting distance of these monsters.
Brent Jones (camo) and bush pilot Gary Bishop (red) and I (Green) at base camp on the Dog Salmon River. Brent has guided over 200 brown bears in all and may be the best bow guide for browns on the continent.
Chuck Adams and Archie Nesbitt’s bears came out of Wide Bay and are in the top 11 in the world. At one time 4 of the top 5 brown bears in the world were from Wide Bay. It’s a special and scary place.
The same care and research that Fred Bear put into his line of recurves has been translated into the hi-tech bows made by Bear in 2008.
Fred Bear poured his life into his company and into bowhunting. He inspired some of us veteran bowhunters and the good news is that after a few complex years for Bear Archery?the Bear is back. Operating under the committed management of Escalade Sports, Bear Archery www.beararcheryproducts.com is operating with all the passion that Fred brought to the battle years ago. The one factor that the new Bear has retained from the old is that they are busy designing cutting edge bows that most bowhunters can afford. Bows made for the hunt.
Ross Rinehart and engineer Ben Blosser examine a new Truth 2.
I just took a new Truth 2 with me to Africa and I couldn’t have been more impressed. Not designed with just one marketing factor in mind, the new Truth bow is fast, forgiving and affordable. Fred would have put his stamp of approval on that concept.
This camp on the Dog Salmon River above Wide Bay is not fancy but it is clearly brown bear central. It was the site of Fred’s last adventure in Alaska
During the last months of his life Fred Bear made a journey back one of the places he loved the most. It’s a little hunting camp still in use on the Dog Salmon River above Wide Bay. My buddy Brent Jones has owned it for 20 years. I’ve stayed there a lot. It’s not fancy, although it is in a dramatically beautiful setting. Sitting at that old table having a cup of coffee with grounds lurking in the bottom of my cup I’ve daydreamed about the past. Many a bear story has been shared around that table. I actually got a miserable bear story of my own last fall that was first shared around that table. I can’t describe to you why that time in bear camp is so special, but it is. I think some places are made for memories.