Nin Ridge Guides

Karl Braendel 
Alaska Registered Guide
Kodiak Brown Bear Hunting

Kodiak Brown Bear   (taquka’aq )

 

I hunt Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge Lands in the Dog Salmon / Zachar River country. This is some of the best - and up the river some of the most remote - brown bear habitat on the Island. Most Kodiak residents call the island “The Rock” and it’s been home to the Kodiak Bear and the Alutiit people for thousands of years. The Alutiit found and incredibly rich environment in the Kodiak Archipelago and evidence of their village sites are found in every bay. They built sod houses called ciqluaq around a drift wood or whale bone framework which is still about the most practical structure for Kodiak’s ferocious weather where winds can get over 100 m.p.h. And when gusts start throwing the qiteq (rain) around life in a tent can get real focused. In likely deference to the great bear, whom the Alutiit called taquka’aq, village sites were situated some distance from the mouths of salmon streams, an early mechanism to avoid dangerous interactions. Taquka’aq still makes our mouths go dry and causes us to lick our lips with nervousness. And I suspect we do about the same for them.

I have three spring permits and one fall permit. Spring hunts (hunt # DB149) run 15 days beginning on April 15th. We normally run two hunts May 1 to May15. The fall hunt (hunt # 119) is a 15 day brown bear sitka blacktail deer combination hunt which begins October 25th and runs through November 8th. I also offer 10 day mountain goat hunts (drawing permit # DG475) in October and 7 day blacktail deer hunts in November. A goat/deer combination hunt is sometimes possible.

Brown bear hunting is – in my opinion – the greatest hunting adventure in the northern hemisphere. These animals are the Kings and Queens of the bush. No one enters their land without thinking about them or taking precautions because of them. The bear reminds us of our mortality.

A huge, male Kodiak bear is a dominating animal. He comes walking pigeon toed, swaying side to side in a slow, powerfull rhythm, his keg sized head rocking, hard eyes shining and all creatures run from his path. The female, smaller, but the more dangerous to humans, and wickedly quick to protect her cubs from the male, will by habit protect them from anything and everything else. Simply put, for hunter and non- hunter alike, these bears make our hearts race faster. And beyond this physical stature is their intelligence which puts them in a class of their own.

Bear hunting is a passion of mine. Many of our hunts are expeditions into remote areas using light weight spike camps. We use external frame backpacks and carry our sleeping bags, food, and shelter with us. This allows us to hunt seldom hunted areas and to set up camps near lookouts so that we can hunt close to dark, which is the best time. We also hunt some coastal areas with an inflatable boat where little or no backpacking is required. In recent years we have taken several large boars near the coast. We can tailor a hunt for just about anyone. Irregardless of the hunt we base camp out of our 18X24 foot cabin in Zachar Bay which makes for a comfortable start.

I have hunted Kodiak Island for 39 years and guided there for 37. I hunt for big bear. A big bear is one that squares out 9 foot or larger without stretching the hide. Females normally top out size wise at about 8½ foot, so that means we are looking for male bears. Studies have shown that some females are much better mothers, raising litter after litter to adulthood, while others lose most of their cubs to various catastrophes – mostly infanticide inflicted by large, dominate males. The killing of a productive female when she’s between cub groups can have a negative affect on the future, so we try not to kill female bear.

I’m not a fanatic on big caliber rifles for bear. They are fine IF you can shoot them ACCURATELY. Bears are very strong and have tremendous heart, or will, but they are still flesh and blood. Accuracy and deep penetration kills, so irregardless of caliber you should use strong soft point bullets like the Nosler Partition or Partition Gold, Win. Fail Safe, Trophy Bonded Bear Claw, Swift A Frame, or Barnes X. If you are recoil sensitive the 270, 7mm, and 280 are okay with 150 to 175 grain premium bullets. They are not okay when used with lesser bullets. The 30/06 and 300’s are better using 180, 200, and 220 grain bullets. The 338 and 375 are ideal IF you are accurate with them, otherwise you’re better off with a 30/06 or the like. It’s worth keeping in mind that the three largest brown bears of all time were killed with the 30/06, which fifty-sixty years ago was considered “big medicine”.


Kodiak Brown Bear Hunts

As a client you will fly commercially to the town of Kodiak from Anchorage. From there I will have arranged for Air Taxi transport out to my Dog Salmon hunt area. You will pay my flying service a round trip transportation fee of $1600.00 which covers approximately 1/2 of my flying costs to run your hunt . Your return trip from Dog Salmon back to town is included in the transportation fee so long as you take one of our scheduled flights?, however, if you are in a hurry and we have to call in a special charter flight you will have to pay for the charter which can cost upwards of $1100.00. Whenever my air service can piggy back a pick up as part of another flight (they call this a "water stop") the charter cost would be less.

The Dog Salmon River and Olga Bay lay near the South end of the island and drain to the South and West which, incidentally, is part of the dry side of Kodiak and experiences only about half the rainfall as the east side - something to keep in mind when planning your hunt.

All of our Dog Salmon hunts are based out of tents. Most goat hunts are flown directly from town to a high alpine lake. Your return flight might require multiple light load relays of gear and people down to a larger body of water for a full load take off.

We use Achilles inflatable boats on Zachar Bay for transportation. They aren't the driest ride, but they are especially seaworthy in rough seas, and they make a quiet landing on a rocky beach during a stalk. We do very little actual hunting from a boat, preferring to glass from terra firma and use the boat to travel from point A to a predetermined destination, or to launch a stalk.

On bear hunts we normally use Teepee shaped Kifaru tents without floors. These tents will hold a little heat and are very light for the amount of shelter provided. The four man version is roomy for two and adequate for three. The six man is perfect for three people and big enough to handle four on a two week trip. These shelters can handle a strong wind when sheltered by trees and brush.

For foot gear on bear hunts we recommend using a comfortable water proof boot anything from a leather Danner type, or a rubber bottomed shoe pack, to a rubber knee boot in conjunction with sourdough slippers which are hip length over boots that slip on and off easily leaving you with comfortable and dry feet while getting into and out of the boat or while wading rivers.

For goat hunting above the brush line we rely on high altitude mountaineering tents which can handle very strong winds with minimal protection. Specialty equipment highly recommended on goat hunts are an ice ax and crampons for your climbing boots. Your boots should be strong and no lighter than a Danner type with Vibron sole. A very strong, and comfortable boot (when broken in) that I can highly recommend is the Scarpa Liskamm GTX.

A high quality back pack, sleeping bag, and pad should be part of every hunt including deer hunts. In addition to the above would be your personal hunting gear, licenses, permits, and tags etc. Once a hunt is Booked I send out my gear list which includes some suggestions for what, where and why.