Tom Claycomb

T he most dangerous animal in North America is the brown bear. Some would classify it right up there with the African dangerous game animals. There’s a reason. They’re bad customers and have a perpetual bad attitude.

But first, let’s clarify a brown bear versus a grizzly — they’re the same bear. It’s just not fair to classify a bear that ekes out a living eating berries and rodents in the interior in the same class as a bear on the coast that gorges on salmon. So, if a bear is within 75 miles of the coast, it’s a brown bear. Further inland, it’s classified as a grizzly. (Let me clarify that rule though. Now Boone and Crockett have identified definite points inland as the separation line).

To hunt brown bears/grizzlies, you’ll want a larger caliber rifle with some high performance ammo.

Yes, you can kill one with a .270 or 30-06, but they’re by no means large enough. For example: the first pheasant I ever killed was with a low base 8. But that’s not a pheasant load. You need high base 6’s or 4’s.

Next is what ammo you choose. You don’t want a normal deer round. You need a bullet that is going to hold together and break through hide, muscle and bones, and expand when it reaches the vitals.

My buddy Ron Spomer and I booked a brown bear and moose hunt with Alaska Expedition Co. For the hunt I used a Mossberg Patriot .338 Win. Mag and Federal 250 Nosler Partition bullets. If you’ve read many of my articles, you know that I love bear hunting, but I’ve never gotten to hunt for brown bear. So I was excited.

After months of planning, we finally jumped on a plane to Alaska, eventually flying into the AEC lodge and landing on a sand flat. When we unloaded there was a young lady loading that had just shot a 9-foot brown bear.

A few weeks earlier, the bears had been down on the sand flats and sand hills feeding on salmon near the mouths of the rivers. By the time we got there, however, they had moved upstream following the salmon run. They like it back up there anyway. Alder thickets ran within feet of the river banks, allowing bears to fish and jump into a thicket in two bounds. Bear trails were all along the same rivers, and fresh salmon carcasses littered the banks, showing evidence of bears feeding.

The first few mornings where we were fishing, there’d be fresh bear tracks showing they’d been in the same spot as us only hours earlier. Master guide Charles Allen and Austin Wiersma were tied up guiding a moose hunter the first few days. They shot one Wednesday so we helped him process and pack it out

Austin Wiersma were tied up guiding a moose hunter the first few days. They shot one Wednesday, so we helped him process and pack it out and then started bear hunting.

We jumped in a flat bottom boat and went upstream through an endless maze of flooded creeks and alder thickets. Going up we passed quite a few sows — with cubs fishing. Realize, these aren’t cute little teddy bears. The cubs weighed a good 300 pounds and could make mincemeat out of you. One day, we saw 15 bears.

The second day we found a decent boar on a moose kill. As I was squeezing the trigger, another bear came out and then another, repeat, repeat, repeat until there were six bears. Later, after studying Ron’s film, it appeared that in one group a mature boar was traveling with a sow and two 3 ½-year-old bears and another big sow and cub came in from the other side.

Four of them must have winded us because they started coming our way. Charles told everyone to jump up a tree. Ron had presence of mind to hit the record button before he jumped up the tree, so he has some cool video of that.

For most of our hunts, we’d set up on the side of a river in the brush and wait to catch a bear fishing.

We did this for days, and finally on the last day a big boar came out of the alders and started fishing towards us, presenting a perfect broadside shot.

At the shot, he blasted off into the super thick alders. We gave him a couple of hours and then started tracking and found him about 80 yards in the thicket. After snapping pictures we whipped out our Diamond Blade knives and made fast work of him. DB’s are amazing knives. Even after skinning a huge brown bear, I could still shave hair off of my arm. That’s scary sharp. They’ve come up with new technology and are able to produce them for nearly half the original price. You ought to check them out.

They’re the sharpest knife on the market, as well as the most functionally designed.

Well, we’re out of room, but not out of bear stories. For an expanded article, check out the story in an upcoming issue of Bear Hunting Magazine or RonSpomerOutdoors website/Facebook/Instagram.

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