Gear for an Alaska hunt
A Client's Perspective
In defense of clients, we do not spend as many days hunting in Alaska as our guides do. We spend the majority of our year working in an office, store, factory, or at a jobsite trying to make enough money to satisfy the needs of our family, while saving for our Alaska dream hunt. We may hunt Whitetail deer and sit in a duck/goose blind at home, but it's not the same as hunting in Alaska. Another factor that is different is that we do not tolerate the conditions as easily as our guides. They seem to be more tolerant of the cold, the wind, the rain, and the snow than we are. They can sit all day in a pair of blue jeans and an open shirt, without a hat or gloves, while we try to bury ourselves in a Gore-Tex, Thinsulate parka.
Outfitters faithfully send us equipment lists, but their perspective on gear is from that of a field hardened professional. What I am going to try and do is to suggest gear for Alaska hunting from the perspective of a CLIENT, while keeping the amount and weight to a reasonable total.
I should start out with a disclaimer. I have no equity in any equipment or gear store. I receive no discounts or freebies from any manufacturer whose gear I may mention or recommend. I have come to my conclusions through trial and error, mostly error, and by paying retail. I have purchased enough gear over the past 15 years to outfit a dozen hunters. Just ask my wife! I will also be as specific as possible about where you can buy the equipment, including phone numbers, web site addresses, and the quantity to take on the hunt. Even though I mention Manufacturer A or Store A, you may be able to find an equivalent piece of equipment at Manufacturer B or Store B. Finally, I will limit my equipment recommendations to the type of Alaska hunts I have personally been on - Wrangell Mountain Dall's Sheep and Alaska Peninsula Spring Brown Bear.
There are three keys to the equipment for hunting the beautiful white sheep that inhabit the Wrangell mountains; 1) lightweight, 2) layering, and 3) plastic boots.
Synthetic materials make for a happy, comfortable sheep hunter. Starting with underwear, Cabela's - (800) 237-4444 -
- sells Thermax briefs - 6 pair, over which a pair of light or medium weight polyester long underwear - 2 pair, should be the hunter's foundation. Don't buy polypropylene. Polypropylene cannot be washed in warm water and it gathers and retains odors. Polyester is a superior replacement for polypro.
For pants you'll need SportHill 3SP Mountain pants - 2 pair. They are available from Barney's Sport Chalet in Anchorage - (907) 561-5242. These pants are made from a lightweight, stretch synthetic that does a great job of stopping the wind. These rugged pants are about 20% of the weight of a pair of wool pants, and you won't freeze in them like you will with a pair of wet blue jeans. They are form fitting and have ankle zippers that make taking them on and off a breeze. The only thing that you will want to add to these pants is a fly zipper. I had my sister-in-law sew a zipper in my two pair.
For a shirt I would recommend a Mircotex (polyester) shirt from Cabela's - 2. This shirt is a lightweight, button front shirt that is warm, soft, and quiet, and it's available in regular and tall sizes.
Over the shirt I layer with a Chinook Windbloc fleece jacket from L.L. Bean - (800) 221-4221 - www.llbean.com Also available in regular and tall sizes, this jacket is lightweight. It furnished me with a quiet layer of insulation, and more importantly, it stopped the wind, which made my long underwear and MircroTex shirt even more effective.
My final layer for sheep hunting was my Helly-Hansen Impertech rain gear. This is available from Barney's Sport Chalet or
Cabela's. I used the bib pants with a parka. Impertech rain gear is compact, rugged, lightweight, and it will keep you dry in situations where Gore-Tex fails. Because it's not a breathable fabric like Gore-Tex, you will have to be careful about ventilating while hiking or climbing.
Next comes foot ware. As a client on a mountain hunt your feet will take a beating. The rocks, boulders, glacial moraine, and side hilling that you will encounter everyday can cripple you without the right boots. If you want to last for more than two or three days while you are hiking and climbing in the Wrangells you need to invest in some plastic boots. I used a pair of ASOLO Guide boots that I purchased from Cabela's. You should also consider Koflach plastic boots that are available from Barneys. Either of these boots will enable you to fully participate in the hunt. They will prevent the foot bruising and ankle twisting that the use of leather boots would subject you to. Take some time before the hunt and get the fit of the plastic boots worked out. They will feel clumsy on the flat land around where most of us live, but once you are in the mountains they will feel great, and they will be worth their weight in gold.
preparation for an Alaska Dall sheep hunt is covered
in Sheep Hunting in Alaska by Alaska guiide Tony Russ
Under these boots you need to use a lightweight Thermax liner sock - 6 pair, and a medium weight wool sock - 2 pair. The Thermax socks will transport your perspiration to the wool socks, while keeping your skin dry and blister free. The last item of foot ware is a pair of Gore-Tex gaiters. Don't buy urethane coated nylon or fleece gaiters. They will get you wet from your own perspiration. The gaiters are put over your plastic boots to keep water and debris from getting inside. I didn't have a pair on my '97 sheep hunt and water from my rain pants ran into my boots.
Some other important items to bring include:
All of these items should fit into a medium/large soft-sided duffel bag for the Super Cub trip into your spike camp.
Alaska Peninsula Spring Brown Bear hunting is made up of endless days of glassing, interspersed with short periods of stalking. The typical Brown Bear hunt is made up of 10 to 12 hours a day of sitting on a hill or knob glassing the surrounding mountainsides and valleys looking for shootable boars. The reason you do so much sitting is to keep your scent from "blowing the valley" and scaring the bears away.
A typical day for me on my May 2000 hunt was to walk about ¾ of a mile from our tent to a knob. Once on top of the knob my guide and I would break out our binoculars and spotting scopes and spend the next 10 to 12 hours taking the mountainsides apart with our optics. In order to be able to glass effectively for up to 16 days some very specialized equipment must be brought to bear. Let's go through the basic clothing, and then the more specialized gear.
Again, synthetic materials make for a happy, comfortable bear hunter. Our underwear is the same as we used for our sheep hunt. Start with Cabela's - (800) 237-4444 - www.cabelas.com - Thermax briefs - 8 pair, over which a pair of medium weight polyester long underwear - 2 pair, are the hunter's foundation. Don't buy polypropylene. Polypropylene cannot be washed in warm water and it gathers and retains odors. Polyester is a superior replacement for polypro.
Tales of Big
Bear Hunts: Last of the Great Brown Bear
available here on-line.
For pants you'll need SportHill 3SP Mountain pants - 2 pair. They are available from Barney's Sport Chalet in Anchorage - (907) 561-5242. These pants are made from a lightweight, stretch synthetic that does a great job of stopping the wind. These rugged pants are about 20% of the weight of a pair of wool pants, and you won't freeze in them like you will with a pair of wet blue jeans. They are form fitting and have ankle zippers that make taking them on and off a breeze. The form fitting design of the 3SP pants makes them perfect for wearing under hip boots. The only thing that you will want to add to these pants is a fly zipper. I had my sister-in-law sew a zipper in my two pair.
Over my long underwear top I wore a Windstopper fleece mock tee shirt available from Cabela's - 2. Because ventilation is so important, I had my sister-in-law install a 12 inch zipper in the front of the shirt. I have suggested this improvement to
For a shirt I would again recommend a MircoTex (polyester) shirt from Cabela's - 2. This shirt is a lightweight, button front shirt that is warm, soft, and quiet, and it's available in regular and tall sizes.
Over the Microtex shirt I layer a zip front Windstopper wool sweater from Cabela's. Also available in regular and tall sizes, this sweater is very warm. It furnished me with a quiet layer of highly effective insulation. And, just as the fleece Windbloc jacket did on my sheep hunt, it stopped the wind, which made my long underwear, fleece mock tee shirt, and MircroTex shirt even more effective. I only wore the sweater when we were on the knob glassing. During any walking it was stored in my daypack.
My final layer for bear hunting was my Helly-Hansen Impertech rain gear. This is available from Barney's Sport Chalet or Cabela's. I used the bib pants with a parka. I tried the ¾ length raincoat with my hip boots, but due to my height, I'm 6'3", the coat came above my hip boots, and I went with the parka and bibs instead. I also modified the bib pants. I cut the legs off 12 inches up from the bottom. This allowed me to don and wear the rain pants over my hip boots and gave good ventilation when the boots were rolled down. Impertech rain gear is compact, rugged, lightweight, and it will keep you dry in situations where Gore-Tex fails. Remember it's not a breathable fabric like Gore-Tex, so you will have to be careful about ventilating while hiking or climbing.
Next comes foot ware. As a client on an Alaska Peninsula Brown Bear hunt you will cross dozens of Salmon streams. Between the stream crossings and walking though Alder jungles, you will sit for endless hours glassing. The accepted foot ware for Brown Bear hunts is an insulated, Air Bob soled, ankle fit hip boot. These are available from Cabela's, Barney's, or LaCrosse - www.lacrosse-outdoors.com
The problem with hip boots is that they are rubber, hence, they don't breathe. Your feet are housed in a literal sauna. As was important with the plastic sheep boots, you must spend some time working out the fit and socks that you will wear with your hip boots. Special attention must be given to handling the moisture that your feet will generate as you walk. Here is the solution I worked out for my hunt:
I purchased Thinsulate, Cambrelle, felt insoles from Schnee's - (800) 922-1562 - 2 pair. These went into the bottom of the boots, and were swapped each day for a dry pair.
Because of the excessive amounts of moisture from perspiration I had to use two different pair of Thermax liner socks to keep my feet dry, warm, and free from blisters. The first pair of socks was a thin pair of Thermax liner socks from Cabela's - 8 pair. This was followed with a medium weight, calf high Thorlo Winter liner Thermax sock from Schnee's - 3 pair. Over the top of these two pair of socks I used a Thorlo Mountain Climbing wool sock from Schnee's - 3 pair. This combination of socks kept me warm, blister free, and dry during those cold, wet Alaska days. You will need to adjust your hip boot size to compensate for the extra layers of socks and liners. As an added step, every morning I would sprinkle some Dr. Scholl's foot powder into each boot.
is appropriate clothing for Alaska hunts and other outdoor activity?
Alaska Wear by guide and author Tony Russ tells how to select and use good clothing.
Some other items you will need:
That's the general stuff. Now let's look at the specialized equipment that will serve you well on this hunt:
All of these items should fit in a large soft-sided duffel bag for the Super Cub ride into spike camp.
There are three other things that you should take to camp with you:
I hope this list help you to enjoy your hunts in Alaska as much as I have enjoyed mine. Good Hunting !
Jim Riley lives in Michigan.
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