During the past several months I have spent time on the west side of Cook Inlet and as far south as Brown Mountain studying and hunting the bears of Alaska. I have learned more about black bears this summer and fall than I have in my entire life. Black bears can be very territorial providing they have plenty of food, water and cover to support them in their immediate area. They can become creatures of habit and fairly easy to follow if they have everything they need somewhat close together. If a bear has a nice berry patch to feed on you may find the same bear in the same spot day after day. He may also choose to use the same watering hole day after day. If the watering hole, food supply and cover are scarce or spread out then you can find Mr. Bear a whole lot harder to find and his behavior a bit more unpredictable.
Brown bears are a whole lot more unpredictable and harder to find, as they are more apt to stay away from our road systems than the ever-curious black bear. Brown bears also seem to be more in a hurry when you do spot one than the black bear. Often times it is just a flash as they dart past you on a road where a black bear will be more apt to stop and look before ambling off.
Bears (both black and brown) often times will use the same trails daily to feed or travel to their watering holes. Many times I find that they will use one trail to arrive on and choose another one to leave on. If you want to figure out which trail is which simply place a piece of thread on the trails and watch which way they are laying when you return to determine which way the bears are traveling on the trails. Of course in areas where the ground leaves a track the thread is unnecessary.
The greatest fear of a bear is not of humans but being eaten by a bigger bear. In some remote areas of Alaska some bears hardly ever see humans but are constantly in contact with other bears. Until they reach the status as the biggest bear in that area they live in constant fear of being on a bigger bear’s dinner table.
I have observed black bears this fall and summer digging and eating roots and various other things they find under down trees or under roots of live trees. Sometimes they will have their whole head out of site in a hole but a well placed rock thrown in the bushes behind them will have them quickly on their back feet and looking in the direction of the nose. If you think you will hear a bear your sadly mistaken as a bear is as quiet in the woods as any creature. Their padded feet almost absorb any sound they might make which in most cases is none.
I have watched bears feeding on blueberry bushes in the Brown Mountain area while others chose to dine entirely on salmon. It has to be a much faster method of filling the belly by grabbing a fish compared to eating one berry at a time. But yet for some reason many bears simply prefer berries to fish. The pink salmon runs in the areas near Seldovia this fall were simply unbelievable. The fish were so thick that in many places they were stacked in there side by side. Thousands and thousands of fish trying to spawn in creeks that in places was no more then a few feet wide.
While near the top of Brown Mountain we spotted several different bears and even shot a couple “berry bears” there and took some meat back to camp and ate it. To say the least it was excellent, as good as any wild game I ever ate if not better!
The whole area was also covered with high- bush blueberries but they were still about a week or so from being ripe as they were very bitter yet. The higher we were in the mountains however the sweeter they seemed to taste.
The last time I hunted in this area we ate a lot of salmonberries, however this year they were not nearly as plentiful, a whole lot smaller and way over ripe. The blueberry crop however was the most plentiful I have ever seen in my life. I also found a lot of nice watermelon berries, which seemed to like to grow best along a spring or stream. Those found closer to water generally yielded about eight berries on the underside of each leaf. Some of the plants that were further from water had only three berries per leaf.
No matter what you choose for your outdoors adventure invest in a good bug net and take along some spray. The bugs at times can make any outdoor outing miserable without the proper equipment to protect you. If your friend buys the typical camo bug net maybe as a joke you can paint some little blue dots on it making it look like a blueberry bush and send him off to look for berries........If he comes back it might be safe for you to go in too! See you next week!
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