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A Day-by-Day Prince of Wales Island
Black Bear Hunt Journal
with Johnnie Laird of
Muskeg Excursions
Ketchikan, AK

May 5, 1999
Temperature: 36 degrees (in early AM).
Weather: mixed rain and SNOW and windy.
Forecast: rain HEAVY at times, HIGH wind advisory, winds to 60mph possible.


Yesterday morning I meet Arnold and Fay over in Klawock at the Fireweed Lodge and then we went on onto Craig to the Log Cabin Sports where we got Fay’s auto rental and Arnold picked up a pair of Lacrosse hip waders (fly-lite, ankle fit, air-bob sole). Then we got Fay back to the Fireweed and Arnold and I drove across the island to my Hollis cabin. After getting Arnold settled in to the cabin we loaded up the Lund and headed for 12-mile Arm. There was mixed rain; snow; hail squalls moving through. We set out the crab pots and started looking for that big blackie. When the squalls moved through we would have to run to the shore and hide because the wind kicked up big water fast. We did spot one bear but we decided to pass on that one being the first day out. It wasn’t a jumbo. We did see a few fresh tracks and some fresh grazing of beach grass. It was a good afternoon/evening of scouting. Back to the cabin (cold and wet) where the wood stove and Annette’s excellent dinner (left for us to microwave) was well earned.
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May 6, 1999
Temperature: 42 (in AM).
Weather: breezy; showers; (some sun).
Forecast: wind ADVISORY; continued rain showers.


Yesterday was a VERY nasty day. (Even by southeast Alaska standards). With heavy rain, snow showers and strong winds building into the afternoon/evening. Arnold and I took a hike up the Indian Creek with some more bait for the bait site. There had been a bear there. We gave the deer bleat call with no response. The bear was not in the area. He had a snack and just moved on. We worked or way back, seeing no fresh bear activity. I checked the beaver sets with no action. Back to the cabin and a warm fire and a change of clothes. You know it was a wet cold one because Arnold needed a shot of his Jagermeister to warm up. We decided, because of the bad weather, it would be a good plan to take a drive and look over some clear cuts. We did see a set of fresh tracks and where it had been digging skunk cabbage. Many logging sour roads are still closed by snow. We worked our way over to the Polk Inlet. The Polk pass has 4 or 5 ft of snow still. We stopped for a Kodak moment. For the last hour and a half of light we took a stand at the Dog Salmon Creek tidal flats. The winds howled and the rains were horizontal. The bears we holed up. Back to the cabin, the wood stove and Annette’s cooking was superb again (shrimp caccatori over rice).

May 7, 1999
Temperature: 36 degrees (in AM).
Weather: showers and breezy.
Forecast: continued showers 90% and breezy.


Yesterday we thought there was a break in the weather (actually there was for a couple of hours) so we headed out in 12-mile Arm. We cruised the beaches for a while looking for a bear. We had a little sunny spell but by the time we got to the crab pots we could see a wall of rain (squall) coming down the Arm. We headed for the dock wide open. Waves got 3ft before we got inside the Hollis anchorage. We decided we would go upland again for the afternoon. Back to the cabin; drop the Lund off; put on some dry clothes and out to 12-mile Arm Creek with some more bait for site #2. There had been no action at the site. We continued on over to Polk Inlet checking a few clear-cuts on the way. We settled in at the Dog Salmon tide flats again. Showers moved down the Inlet. I spotted a Jumbo Blackie across the bay. We watched him feed on the beach grass and move up into the woods. It gives me thoughts of trailering the Lund across to Polk Inlet. No bears came out on our side of the bay. Back to the wood stove and a killer plate of Pork Ribs in Baked Beans (that Annette had left in the Crock-Pot) and Corn Bread. Arnold went for 2 good shots of his Jagermiester tonight plus a Beck’s to wash down the beans!

May 8, 1999
Temperature: 38 degrees (in am).
Weather: cloudy.
Forecast: showers (80%) decreasing on Monday.


Yesterday was a rest day. Arnold woke up felling tired and sore. He decided to head over to the Fireweed and take some R&R. I went into town and ran a few errands and then went out to the 12-Mile Arm Creek bait site. There was no action so I pulled the bait site. Back to the cabin and called Arnold. He will be over today early afternoon ready to get after it.

May 9, 1999
Temperature: 38 (in AM).
Weather: cloudy.
Forecast: slight chance of rain becoming mostly SUNNY.


The weather finally gave us a break yesterday. Fay brought Arnold over just after noon. It didn’t take us long to gear up and head for the Arm. There was a 2-ft chop on the water. We stopped by and rebaited the crab traps and headed up the 12-Mile Arm stopping at the beaches and grassy spots to look for fresh bear activity, taking our time. A ways up the Arm at about 4 PM we spotted a bear on the beach. A nice one. It was feeding in a rocky area and moving uprange. After beaching the Lund above the bear we put the stalk on. As we moved into position on a rocky point and peeked around the corner the bear wasn’t there. We waited for a while and it didn’t show. Back to the skiff. Another bear across the Arm. After motoring across and beaching the boat the stalk was on. Getting to within 50 yards we decided to pass this medium-sized sow. Back to the skiff. Across the Arm to put out the bait stand (I moved from 12-Mile Creek). As we eased into the beach a nice bear looking out of the beach fringe at us. No chance at this one he had us made. After setting up the bait back to the skiff. A bear across the Arm. A jumbo. We beached uprange and started the stalk. A light shower moved down the Arm bringing a little wind with it. Half way to the big boar wind at our backs (not good). The big boar eased off the beach into the jungle. We moved behind a big rootwad on the beach and waited. He didn’t come back out. Back to the boat. Another bear across the Arm. The small squall had moved through. The bay was like glass. We beached uprange and put the stalk on. It was the largest boar yet. We moved to about 100 yards from the jumbo. He sat down, then laid down. Jet black and not a rub. A close look at his face told me he was drowsy. Probably just out of den and asleep on his feet. There was no good rest for Arnold. We both took a sitting position with some brush for cover. Arnold squeezed one off. The big boar jumped up and loped away. Arnold just then noticed that his folding scope was not in the locked position. He had moved his scope to open sites on the last stalk and in the excitement of the moment didn’t lock it back down. His shot was way off the mark. I went and looked for blood on the beach and up in the brush. After a thorough check of the area I was convinced it was like I thought at the time of the shot, a clean miss. Arnold was very disgusted with himself. There is an old Alaska saying at time like this "defecation occurs". Back to the boat to spend the remaining light at the new bait. Another bear on the beach. This one spooked as we moved the skiff into position. No stalk. In the twilight we motored back to the Hollis dock. Stopping at the crab pots and making a nice haul. The wood stove, Annette’s delicious meal and a double shot of Jagermiester (chased with a St. Pauli Girl) for Arnold was the end to exciting day. Click here for more information about this product

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May 10, 1999
Temperature: 42 degrees (in AM).
Weather: cloudy
Forecast: showers and breezy decreasing into Tuesday.


Yesterday Arnold and I got an early start. After launching the Lund at the Hollis dock. We headed out to rebait the crab pots. Again there was about a 2-ft chop coming out of Kasaan Bay. The weather was partly cloudy with rainsqualls moving through. We motored up the Arm stopping by Ron’s float house just to say "waz up" and to see if Ron has seen any bears in his front yard yet. After a nice chat we continued up the Arm. No bear sightings but it was early in the afternoon. The wind began to lie down and some sun came through. We decided to take a run out toward Kasaan Bay. When we got out to the mouth of 12-mile Arm there was still about a 3-ft swell rolling out of Kasaan Bay. We headed over to the lee shore line and headed out a little farther scanning the beach for bear. We pulled in behind a small group of islands to fuel up. After fueling I walked up to see what sign was on a grassy beach. As I looked across the small bay I spotted a bear feeding on grass. We motored slowly across the bay and the stalk was on. As we got within 50 yards the bear moved into the brush. Back to the skiff and slowly around the corner. There it was walking in our direction. We decided to pass on this medium fur ball. Back up the Arm we went to where Arnold now calls "bear alley". It was becoming prime time. As we slowly motored up the Arm we spotted a sow and yearling. Slowly up the bay toward the bait site. On the beach just past the bait a nice boar walking and grazing his way uprange. There was a slight breeze in our face. We couldn’t get above the bear. We beached behind him and the stalk was on. I was surprised how fast Arnold moved this time. We caught up to the bear but he was still moving along at a clip. 150 yards wasn’t a good shot. He moved around the next corner. We put the sneak on expecting him to be feeding on the next grassy area. He was gone. We played the waiting game. He didn’t show. Probably had a bedding area just above the beach and it was time for a nap. Back to the boat. Slowly down the Arm. The breeze had died and the bay was like glass. As we neared the spot where Arnold missed the jumbo the night before we both were looking at that spot and replaying in our minds the stalk, the miss and the ‘what ifs’. I brought my binoculars up. There he was. He is big. The same bear Arnold missed in the same spot. But the bear had us made. He watched us with an eagle eye as we idled out of sight and over to the beach. We put the same stalk on only this time moving in a little closer and played the waiting game again. He didn’t show. I blew the deer bleat call. No action. Arnold says this bear is up in the brush giving us a certain finger gesture. Back to the boat. Slowly back toward Hollis picking up speed as the light fades. We motored on past the crab pots tonight because we have more than a meal waiting for us in the fridge. Annette’s king salmon dip and Chicken Alfredo and crab hit the spot. We toasted a few shots of Jagermiester and a couple of beers and talked of the hunt.

May 11, 1999
Temperature: 42 degrees (in AM)
Weather: showers and windy
Forecast: rain and windy (30 mph) diminishing into Wednesday.


Yesterday after getting up Arnold decided to head for Klawock and spend the rest of the day with Fay. Gift shopping, getting some smoked salmon shipped home, packing and relaxing.
Arnold had a great hunt and we are talking about future scheduling.
Arnold is 70 years young, a goldsmith by trade, from Berlin Germany, now calling Florida home, recently retired. He is a true SPORTSMAN. We passed on several medium sized bear. He feels the missed shot was his opportunity. He feels the whole adventure was a new learning experience for him. His attitude exemplifies big game hunting at its best. He came for an Alaska bush experience (after a trip through the area on a cruise ship sparked his interest). He got insight on our Southeast Alaska lifestyle that most people don’t get. We watched Eagles & Seal, among other wildlife. One of his many great moments was watching a mink moving along the beach right in front of us. He got tired, sore and wet. We talked, laughed, told jokes. We sighted bear 13 times. If he made the kill it would be just icing on the cake.
I have made a new friend.

Webmaster's note: Alaska hunting guide Johnnie Laird regularly updates his page with new information -- even when he is in the field.  This story appeared May 5 - 11, 1999 on his web page

 

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