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First hunt leads to big bear

Sterling man shoots biggest Kenai bear since 1960s

Posted: October 17, 2013 - 7:53pm  |  Updated: October 21, 2013 - 12:30pm
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Neil Strausbaugh and his brother wore chest waders and walked midstream of a small creek looking for a big brown bear near Sterling in late September.

“It was an odd way to hunt,” he said.

Moving through dense brush and up a creek choked with spawning silver salmon, two miles of underbrush, huge tracks and plenty of bear sign passed slowly by before they crossed the animal they were after — a half-ton bear 12 yards away standing with its giant head tilted skyward more than 10 feet up and sniffing at the wind.

“He stood up beside us,” said Strausbaugh. “His head was just huge.”

The bear was indeed huge, said Kenai Area Biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Jeff Selinger. Strausbaugh’s kill is one of the biggest to ever come from the Kenai Peninsula, he said.

Measure by its skull, the bear is up there with the big Kodiak Island brown bears — the biggest brown bears in the world, he said.

“It’s defiantly a trophy,” Sellinger said.

Three days into the hunt, on Sept. 28, Strausbaugh dropped the big standing boar with one 450 marlin round to the neck.

“He was out instantly,” Strausbaugh said of the bear he shot and killed.

On its shoulders was the second largest head of any brown bear recorded by the state on the Kenai Peninsula. Under the “green skull” measurement of Fish and Game Strausbaugh’s bear was 29 inches around the skull. The biggest Kenai bear on record with the state is 29 4/16ths inches. Selinger said the state archives hold records for 811 bears killed since the early 1960s, when record keeping started.

Nothing says there are not bigger bears out there; they’ve just not been killed. Last May, Selingers crew darted and collared an 868-pound male fresh from the den. There was no fat on him yet, he could have put on 400 or 500 pounds over the summer, he said.

Strausbaugh’s bear could have easily exceeded 1,000 pounds, he said.

Sixty days must pass before the Boone and Crocket Club would consider measuring the bear skull for their record book.

The skull and hide weighed more than 200 pounds, creating one of the heaviest packs Strausbaugh has ever hauled. Both items must be carried out from the kill site and seen by someone from fish and game as part of the hunting process.

Of the 1,189 brown bear permits issued on the peninsula for this hunting season, 37 or 38 have seen harvested bears. One kill remains a rumor and Selinger is looking into it the truth of it.

Last year 666 permits led to 27 bears being harvested during the season, he said.

Strausbaugh said was looking for a big bear in the hunting area, during his first brown hunt based on information from his family. Many bears were in the specific area and at least one was big. His first chance to hunt bears locally; Strausbaugh said that much of the success belonged to his brother who noticed the specific hunting area’s bear density.

“I just happened to be in the shooters seat,” he said. “It’s probably the biggest brown bear I will ever see.”

Strausbaugh is having the mammoth hide made into a rug.

Reach Greg Skinner at

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jojo 10/19/13 - 09:18 pm
big bear

I sure as heck hope that this big bear was shot to eat! Otherwise shooting it was and act of egotistical selfishness. You, and only you except for a maybe a few individuals will be able to enjoy that he even existed. Nothing, wildlife or trees or anything else should be terminated unless there is a need for sustenance of some sort. To end the life of an animal because of it's size is incomprehensible. You got to shoot the big brute, now how many people will get to say they had the pleasure of seeing him. I would love to spot him, watch him. Now it's all your own joy and no one else. That is why I deem your actions selfish. My husband and I used to hunt moose. We no longer do unless our income pays for groceries at the store.

Shylanne 10/19/13 - 11:00 pm
Really!?! Congratulations

Congratulations Neil!! Enjoy every minute of your big kill that's very exciting. Don't let the jealous people cut you down. Brag your ass off you deserve it.

Norseman 10/20/13 - 07:53 am
Congrats to the hunters!

Congrats to the hunters! That must have been one heck of a hunt!

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