Spring black bear hunting has been at the top of my hunting list for a while. With winter coming to an end and the weather starting to warm up, I started making plans for a coastal hunt. After talking with a few guys that were very successful doing this type of hunt I had a general idea of what to be looking for. Hopefully we would find bears on the beach or cruising the tidal flats down low. If not they might be on the hill sides wherever the fresh green vegetation has started to come out. I knew that Prince William Sound (PWS) would be our best bet for finding a few black bears just coming out of their dens. I started doing my research using google earth and also another website done by NOAA called Alaska ShoreZone. I used these websites to scope out where potential camping spots would be and where the bears would possibly be feeding. Alaska Shorezone is a great tool for scoping out spots you haven’t been to before on Alaska’s coastline. They flew a helicopter around most of Alaska’s coastline at low tide in the spring snapping pictures the entire way allowing you to see what it looks like. Having our destination set and most of the planning done, all that was left to do was wait for the snow to melt, which could take a while after the record snowfall this year. Most of the coastal areas in PWS still had snow all the way down to shore in May!
With my first child due in April, my parents from Florida were planning a trip to Alaska sometime soon after to meet their grandson. After a few phone calls I convinced them it would in their best interest to wait a month before coming up so we could squeeze in some time for the bear hunt. Neither of my parents were to keen on the idea of waiting a month to see their newest grandson, but agreed to do it since they would both liked the idea of going on a hunt and experiencing another part of Alaska. After all the planning and packing gear not just for myself but for my parents, the day finally came for them to arrive. I made the quick drive into Anchorage airport and picked up my parents at midnight. The next morning Kyle and Nicole swung by the house and we started loading the gear. After a few quick stops in town for licenses/tags and salt for the hides, we hit the road with high expectations of a good adventure.
The sun was out and it made a perfect day for our road trip to Valdez. Luckily we have family that live in Valdez that are very active on the water and go out fishing, shrimping, and hunting all the time. Our uncle and his family are very hospitable and he agreed to let us crash at his house for the night and then trolley us out the next morning to our destination. This helped out tremendously after looking at all the gear we had piled up. Our plan was to camp on a small island right off shore from the mainland. We were taking 2 zodiacs so that we could cruise the shoreline and check out all the tidal flats and open hillsides in the area. We arrived in Valdez late that evening just in time for dinner. We swung by his house first to drop off the trailer and gear and asked for a place to grab some food. He recommended Mikes Palace Ristorante which is right in the harbor. If your ever in Valdez and looking for great pizza you have to go here. With our bellies full we started heading back to the house, but ran into his son riding his bike down the road looking for us. We followed him home to where he showed us not just 1 but 3 nice black bears right behind his house on the hill side. We took some pictures and then headed to bed with high anticipation after seeing the bears so close.
The next morning we were up at 5 am and headed to the dock to launch the zodiacs and load the boat full of gear. The morning was cool, but the wind was down and made for a smooth ride out to camp.
We finally arrived at our camp site and started to off load the gear. We hadn’t been there 5 minutes before we had our first bear spotted right from camp.
We quickly got all of our gear in order and put up the Cabela’s Alaskan Guide Model tent while we had good weather, just in case a storm rolled in.
We got in the zodiacs and started motoring over to the mainland keeping an eye on the lone black bear up on the hill side.
Check out Part 2 of this article written by my Father Jim Pennington on how we got the first bear of the trip.