Most people think Alaska when you mention brown bear hunting, but there is good hunting in Europe as well for the Eurasian brown bear. In Alaska, timing isn’t such a factor as you can hunt in the spring or the fall. We prefer the fall hunts in most circumstances, but the spring hunts are still great. *Be sure to ask us about our luxury vessel-based hunting camps. They book well in advance, but they are worth the wait.
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Excellent trip. Everyone was very friendly and helpful. I had a great time. This hunt isn’t physically demanding, but you need to be prepared to sit on stands for a long time. Aaron was very nice, knowledgeable, and always willing to help. It was a really good hunt, and I wouldn’t mind going back.
Trophy Expectations and Scoring
Field Judging Brown Bears
You will know when you see a truly big brown bear, an honest nine footer will be one of the most impressive things you’ve ever seen, and a ten footer will shock you. but there are subtle differences regionally. Here are some other things to look at:
- A big bear will look long with short legs. A round bear is a small bear. A long-legged bear is a small bear.
- Big boars will look like they have small heads in proportion to the size of their bodies.
- Ears will be on the sides of the head and appear small.
- Body language is a dead giveaway. A mature boar will have a slow, deliberate swagger. Everything is calm and understated.
- When a big brown bear faces you, there should be lots of shoulder protruding out from both sides of his head.
- Trophy sized boars don’t have wrists. Their forearm is muscular and runs straight down to the toes.
- On Kodiak Island, guides look at color. Generally speaking, the darker the bear the older it is. A “black” bear will always warrant a closer look.
- One suggestion that we have is don’t overlook a “good” bear with a gorgeous coat.
How to Square a Bear Hide
Most hunters are more interested in what a bear squares than how big it’s official score is. This measurement is determined by simply taking two measurements of the flat, unstretched hide. Measure the length from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, then measure the width from the end of the claws, across the shoulders. Add these two numbers together, then divide by two. That’s it!
*Take your measurements after fleshing, but prior to salting.
How to Score a Brown Bear
Boone and Crockett judges measure the length plus the width of a cleaned and dried bear’s skull (regardless of species) and add the two measurements. It is posted in inches and 16ths of an inch and not simplified- example: 29 12/16″ instead of 29 3/4″. The score is taken only after 60 days has elapsed after the kill. Any prior measurement is considered “green”- or unofficial.
A brown bear must measure at least 26 inches to make the Boone and Crockett records. To be an official score, your bear must be measured by an official Boone and Crockett Club measurer. See the Boone and Crockett Scoring Tool.
The Best Places to Hunt Brown Bears
There are currently eight different subspecies of brown bear that are recognized by Safari Club International.
Brown bears are fascinating animals and one of my favorite big game species. There are currently eight different subspecies of brown bear that are recognized by Safari Club International. They can be found in the most remote parts of North America, Eastern Europe, Asia and Russia. Four different subspecies occur in Russia alone: Amur Brown Bear; Siberian Brown Bear; Kamchatka Brown Bear; and the Eurasian brown bear.
Brown Bear Subspecies
- Siberian Brown Bears range right between the Eurasian and Kamchatka Brown Bear in size. They have larger skulls and are more bold around people than some of the other brown bear varieties.
- Eurasian Brown Bears have a wide range of coloration from brown to blonde to reddish brown and even almost black. There have also been reported cases of albinism . They have round heads, small ears and wide skulls.
- Amur Brown Bears, also known as Ussuri Brown Bears, are hard to tell apart from the Kamchatka Brown Bear. They can be identified by their elongated skull, smaller forehead, and much darker color. Some call them the black grizzly.
- Kamchatka Brown Bears are the largest bears in Eurasia. With a much wider skull than the Alaska Peninsula Brown Bears, they can can grow nearly as large, from 7 feet- 9 feet in length.
- North American Brown Bear are also known as the grizzly bear. There are about 25,000 across Canada and the Northwest Territories; 30,000 in Alaska and about 1,500 in the lower 48. Here’s how to tell the difference between brown and grizzly bears.
- Kodiak Brown Bear is considered by many to be the largest subspecies of Brown Bear, They inhabit the islands of the Kodiak Archipelago. They are most active during the day and tend to go into hibernation in late October and leave their dens in early April.
- Alaska Peninsula Brown Bear are some of the biggest bears in the world. They can range from 750-1250 lbs and can reach over 10 ft. They rival even the Kodiak Brown Bear. They’ve reached weights up to 1,500 lbs.
- Sitka Brown Bear can be found in Southeast Alaska and Admiralty Island, Baranof Island and Chichagof Island (ABC Islands). They look a lot like the Alaskan Grizzly bear with a humped back and a nasty reputation.
Each of these subspecies is unique in its own way. They are one of the most interesting, powerful, awe inspiring animals on earth.
When You Should Hunt. Spring or Fall?
Spring and Fall hunts are two completely different hunts. Either can be amazing or a miserable experience. We’ll take a look at each, and you can decide when you want to hunt.
In the early spring, you will be looking for bears coming out of their dens. Often they will emerge, do some exploring and return again to the den, leaving tracks in the snow. Finding those tracks is fairly easy if you have good glass, but then it’s a long hike in the snowshoes and you hope the bear is still there. Later in the spring, you will be glassing for boars foraging on hillsides, near shorelines or roaming in search of a sow in heat. Expect to be tons of glassing…like A LOT of glassing. That’s the name of the game on a spring bear hunt.
- The bigger boars are usually the first to emerge from the dens, so hunting early can be an advantage.
- Bears are typically more active in the early spring, because they are hungry.
- Later in the spring, the rut starts, and boars can be seen all day long as they search for sows.
- Hides are at their peak in the spring as long as you catch them before they start to rub.
- Less foliage in the spring makes it easier to see.
Fall hunts are all about the food sources. You’ll be hunting near salmon streams or berry patches.
- You will typically see more bears per day in the Fall since they are more concentrated on food sources.
- Fall hunts are usually warmer than spring hunts.
- Bears aren’t quite as active. Hunting will be best in the early mornings and right before dark while they are fishing. You’ll need to move quickly once a shooter is spotted.
- There is more cover, making it more difficult to glass.
- In some units, baiting is an option in the spring.
Gear for Brown Bear Hunting
A spring brown bear hunt in Alaska takes place in May when the weather can range widely from rain, sleet, snow and wind to warm and sunny. In the fall, the weather in Alaska can be just about as extreme. Packing accordingly can be a challenge….we’ll try to help. By the way, here are our recommendations for the best calibers for brown bears.
Suggested Gear List for a Guided Hunt in Alaska
*The gear list is an important subject matter and does require personal contact with the outfitter prior to departing from your home for Alaska.
The following list is just a generic list that will suffice for most guided Alaska hunts.
- Good sleeping bag and sleeping pad (most outfitters will provide this)
- Hip boots or Waders (ask your outfitter which you should bring)
- Flashlight and/or headlamp
- Water bottle (with filter)
- Insect repellent (100% deet) (may not be needed on late hunts)
- Stocking hat and gloves
- Top quality rain gear
- Camp shoes
- Insulated leather boots
- 1 pair insulated hunting pants
- 1 pair top and bottom insulated underwear, med-heavy weight (DO NOT BRING COTTON)
- 2-3 hunting shirts
- Heavyweight wool socks (1 pair for each day)
- Heavy coat with Gore-Tex
- Personal toiletry items
- Handheld GPS unit (outfitter may have one in camp)
- Batteries for any electrical device. Keep your batteries in something warm (like a wool sock) while you are in the field. Cold will drain them.
REMINDER: EACH HUNTER IS TYPICALLY LIMITED TO 70 LBS. OF GEAR (does not usually include the weight of your rifle)