View Full Version : Alaskan Brown Bear Hunt ANSWERS

10-23-2009, 11:25 AM
Thanks to all for your comments on my recent "Alaskan Brown Bear Hunt" Report. Here are my answers to a few of the questions that were asked in those comments.

GlennGTR postulated about caliber choice, writing, “OK maybe I wouldn’t want to attempt shooting that particular bear with and 30-06 Improved.” No, my friend, I wouldn’t personally go armed with a .30-06 anything if after a really big Brown Bear. I know it's been done, but something significantly larger (provided you could shoot it accurately) sure is more comforting. I had briefly considered using a .338 Winchester Magnum on the hunt. I have one in a synthetic stock that’s ultra-accurate and I used it to take a big Yukon grizzly several years ago. But in the end, I opted for a .375 H&H for this hunt, and I’ve very glad I did. It’s the classic Brown Bear round and it really felt right when the brush closed in and the bear stood facing me. In fact, it felt none too large. I believe a new .375 Ruger would also be a fine choice and I’d not quibble with anyone who wanted to use an accurate .416.

Bulldog asked, “Did you recover any of those TSX's?” The performance of those bullets was exceptional on my Brown Bear. With my first shot the bear was apparently slightly angling away as that TSX entered tight behind the onside shoulder and then centered and broke the offside shoulder. All four shots could be covered by my hand on his chest. Two of the bullets were complete pass-throughs and not recovered. Two were found up against the hide of the far shoulder. Here are photos of the two recovered bullets.



As you can see, both mushroomed perfectly and both retained 100% of their original weight. The bases are so perfect on each that they slip right into an empty shell casing like they’re ready to go again.

I’ve now shot pronghorn antelope, mule deer, elk, caribou, moose and brown bear with Barnes TSX bullets, utilizing a variety of rifles chambered in .270 Winchester, 300 Winchester Magnum, 300 WSM and .375 H&H Magnum. In each case, the Barnes TSX bullets have proven wonderfully accurate in my rifles and simply devastating on game. The few that I have recovered have been perfectly mushroomed.

These bullets do leave a bit more copper residue in my barrels than do conventional bullets. But I’ve learned to live with that because they shoot so well and perform so outstandingly on game.

Bushcraft asked two questions. “1) How comfortable were those Cabela’s Bog Buster Ankle-Fit hip boots? All day walking comfort? Heavy wool socks?” I’ve long used LaCrosse Big Chief ankle-fit hips boots for similar marshy hunts (big game and ducks), but decided to try these because the outfitter recommended them. I found them very comfortable and wonderfully light in weight. The stretch in the neoprene also made them great for climbing, and they were perfectly silent on the brush. I liked that. The only downside I could see was that they are maybe a wee bit warm on mild days. I wore a light synthetic liner sock under a heavy wool sock in them, and that worked well for me. Most hip boots will never be as comfortable nor as supportive as good hiking boots, but these seemed pretty good to me for hip boots.

2) Did you have a heater of some sort in the tent to dry clothes?” A two-burner gas Coleman stove. We cooked on that stove and occasionally used it to take the damp chill out of the air. Even a little bit of heat like that makes a world of difference on a wet hunt.

Mark asked, “Can you share the other gear that you brought with you? I have never been on any type of a guided hunt and I interested in the other gear you brought and how you pack it.” Most good outfitters will provide a recommended gear list. The big problem on such a fly-in hunts is bulk and weight. You’re not allowed much of either. I arrived in Alaska with two fairly tidy checked bags – a tough Eagle Creek duffle bag (no wheels) that weighed 47 pounds loaded and my hard AmeriCase single-gun case that weighed 28 pounds loaded. I also utilized my Kifaru Late Season G2 pack as my carry-on bag. It weighed about 15 pounds and held my optics, cameras, paperwork, jacket, etc.. At base camp, I shed the hard gun case and trimmed items from the duffle bag considerably for the trip to the actual hunting area.

Both Scoutin’ Wyo and Lab-Roamer asked for a gear-performance review. Tall order, there was a lot of gear. Here are a couple of standouts and a couple of things that disappointed.

Leica Geovid 10x42 Binoculars/Rangefinder – expensive but truly exceptional gear. Superb optics in the binoculars. Perfect for long-range glassing. Accurate laser rangefinder integrated into the unit, making this an ultra-versatile and convenient piece of hunting gear.

Bushnell Field Tripod – 99.9% of all the photos I take with me in the image are taken utilizing my camera’s self timer and a Bushnell Field Tripod. ( http://www.opticsplanet.net/busfieltabto.html )
In this case, all of the bear trophy photos, the fish photos, the ptarmigan photos and the me-glassing photos were all taken using a self-timer and this tripod. I carry this lightweight and inexpensive tripod all the time. It’s the best lightweight photographic tripod I’ve ever found. I won’t leave home without it. It’s perfect for most digital photography.

Kifaru Late Season G2 Pack – The Kifaru Late Season Pack has long been my favorite rifle-season hunting pack. Great pack. Rides like it’s not there, yet expands to carry a surprising amount of gear, extra clothing, etc. When game is down, it’s no problem to load it up with meat, hide and horns and head out. Extremely versatile. The new G2 version is even better. I especially like the improved G2 suspension system with the taller stays and thicker torso and lumbar pads. I also really like the new Foliage color. For this particularly rugged hunt, I stripped off the pack’s DoubleQuiet Fleece Panels to reduce weight. Top and bottom zippered access to gear proved ideal on this hunt, where extra clothing layers were added and deleted as the days cooled or warmed. Just an exceptional pack. It also proved to be the ideal carry-on for the plane flights up to and around Alaska. (By the way, I added the additional Kifaru logo patch to the pack’s big-slot outside pocket. It’s a good logo, and it looks cool hand-sewn there.)


Sitka Stormfront Raingear – This is good raingear. It’s tough, performs extremely well in wet weather, lightweight and durable. It’s cut fairly trim, though, so be sure to buy it large enough to fit over all of your other layers if that’s how you’ll wear it. It could be improved. The main front zipper is wonderfully waterproof but it’s also quite small and sometimes difficult to start and to operate with cold, wet hands. I wish the hood was larger. When you put a pack on over the raingear, the smallish hood is pulled down a bit too tightly around your head.. A roomier hood would solve that.

Kifaru Packlock Parka – The more I use this unique parka in the field, the more I love it. On many late season hunts, there are times when I really need another extra-warm clothing layer. But carrying another bulky, heavy jacket is out of the question. The Kifaru Packlock Parka has solved that problem for me. This amazing parka stuffs down to a small buddle in my pack, weighs almost nothing and yet puffs out into a super-warm insulating layer. I typically wear it as an outer layer or just under my raingear. It’s great when the temperature drops, the wind blows or in camp at night. Love it.


Cabela’s Microtex Pants and Shirt – Microtex is great stuff and ideal for serious hunting. Its soft, very quiet, comfortable, seems to wear like iron and dries quicker than any fabric I’ve ever seen. On tough, wet hunts that’s wonderful. I do wish it were also available in non-camo colors. A dull tan or green would be great. I will also add that some of the even newer “stretchy” fabrics work great in pants as they offer less leg restriction when climbing. A good example is the Sporthill Expedition pants with 15% spandex. (http://www.sporthill.com/product.php?TypeID=1655&gender=u )

Crocs – ideal lightweight, easy-on-and-off camp shoes. Most of the guides wore them around camp.

Under Armor-type Base Layer – I know this stuff is all the rage, but I’m getting to the point where I hate it. I find its tight, clingy fit overly restrictive and its warming qualities doubtful. Seems highly over-rated to me. After this trip, I gave my set away.

Fleece Balaclava – Lightweight, packable and very warm…until the wind blows. I thought this would work well while glassing on cold, wet days. The wind went right through it, though, and greatly diminished its effectiveness. It needs a wind-stop layer to be truly useful.

CCH, Pointshoot, William Clunie and others all made comments about handguns and brown bears. Pointshoot wrote, “kinda puts all our bear-defense pistola chats in perspective.” After taking my bear I had a fair amount of time to sit around in base camp during the evenings discussing a wide variety of topics with a variety of Alaskan hunting and fishing guides. One particular evening we really got into handguns for bear protection. Five guides happened to be in camp and between hunts that evening. These were all guys who spend between 6 and 12 months a year living and working in big-bear country. Most in this group were, a bit surprisingly, gun nuts well familiar with a wide variety of rifles, shotguns, handguns, cartridges, bullets and reloading. That’s not always the case with guides, but it was with this experienced crew. Maybe the fact that they all guided for Brown Bears had something to do with their firearms familiarity.

In any case, all agreed that a handgun was, as one guide put it, “BTN.” Better Than Nothing! All owned and routinely carried a bear-defense handgun whenever not actually carrying a rifle or shotgun. The clear preference was for Smith & Wesson double-action revolvers in .44 Magnum with custom hard-cast loads. A few had tried bigger chamberings, like .454 Casull and .460 and .500 S&W, but while interesting had found them unpleasant and slow to shoot and had gone back to the more conventional .44 Magnum. The 4” and 5” Model 629s were favorites, as was the newer and much lighter Model 329. One of the guides had a 329 in camp and all the other guides lusted after it because of its weight. All admitted that carrying a heavy handgun was a problem. “I find myself wanting to just stuff it in my backpack, and that’s not good,” said one. Most either strapped their handgun holster to their pack’s hipbelt or utilized some sort of a shoulder holster when not using a pack (such as when fishing). None carried a handgun when carrying a rifle or shotgun.

None used particularly hot/fast handloads in their .44 Magnums, preferring instead to use heavier hardcast bullets (often up to 300 grains) and slower speeds to obtain penetration. “Big and slow is better than light, fast and heavy recoiling,” seemed to be the sentiment.

I did specifically ask about semi-auto handguns and bear defense. Half of the guys allowed as how a well-tuned and loaded 45 ACP had merit as did a 10mm…for black bears and maybe grizzly, but not for really big brown bears. Two of the guys owned and often carried Glock 20s in 10mm in black bear/grizzly country. “Light, compact, especially easy to carry with lots of firepower.”

None hoped to ever have to shoot a bear of any size with a handgun. One guide offered this conclusion. “Stopping a bear with handgun is kinda like trying to land a 50-pound King (salmon) on 2-pound test line. I can be done, but the odds aren’t great.”

10-23-2009, 11:33 AM
Thanks for the breakdown. Here is another vote for the S&W 329PD.

Scoutin' Wyo
10-23-2009, 01:07 PM
Thank you Sir!

10-23-2009, 01:17 PM
Timberline you are a master at making even a gear review entertaining. I am steadily working all of my hunting loads over to Barnes TSXs now, they work as your pictures show. Thanks.

10-23-2009, 06:22 PM

Thanks for the reviews. I hate to continue to be a nagging pain, but when time permits, could we get a further review on the Packlock Parka. I'm thinking about asking Mrs. Santa for the Packlock Vest for Christmas.:D

I've had the same experience w/under armor. Besides having the same problems you mentioned, I cannot wash the "stink" out of it. I'm switching to wool.

Thanks again

10-23-2009, 09:10 PM
I enjoy the review almost as much as the main event - well, almost. ;)
Nice to hear the pistol debate from these folks.
BTN - exactly my thoughts this fall. I just know that I got much peace of mind from having the Glock 20 along on my early archery hunt.
Thanks again!

10-23-2009, 09:28 PM
Many thanks Timberline for sharing your magnificent hunt with us, and for sharing your knowledge.

I wonder what you and others here would think about the 9.3x62 as a bear rifle? Almost the bullet diameter as the 375 but, I guess, about 200 fps slower (286's vs 300's).

10-23-2009, 10:10 PM
Ok nuff said about my lack of Brown Bear hunting experience lol. Hmmmm how about 35 whelen.

10-24-2009, 04:02 AM
Timberline, great hunt and review. I always look farward to your post hunt writeups.

Concerning your Under Armour problems. Do you have something in mind to replace it already? I have had mostly positive experiences with UA but am always on the lookout for the something better. I actually think one of the best things about UA is the compression fit since you never have to worry about it coming un tucked.

10-24-2009, 05:37 AM
Long tails keep you neatly tucked. A lot of guys seem to be returning to natural fibers. Smartwool is favored but I find that brand very expensive. I recently got a set of Terramar silk and another set or Terramar merino wool at about half the price of Smartwool. The Terramar stuff seems nicely made with good detailing and, although still expensive compared to some synthetics, reasonably priced. I'll be wearing this stuff a lot this winter.

The GI wool-cotton blend is also good as well as cheap and the original Duofold two layer wool-cotton was a standard for many years and has a lot to recommend it. For mid-layers, watch caps and balaclavas ragg wool was likewise a standard for a very long time.

William Clunie
10-24-2009, 06:36 AM
Thanks for the follow-up Timberline,
I have felt VERY under-gunned holding a .357 Mag, filled with hardcast lead bullets over a stout load of powder -- while a 300+pound black bear sow (protecting her three cubs) placed a front paw on the ladder rung and started climbing up toward me.

Concerning UnderArmor: I haven't tried their new "Non-Stinky" longjohns yet. What I do is wear SmartWool next to my body, and then put the UnderArmor quarter-zip top over that. This stops the stink factor, and I can still zip in, or vent, my body heat with the convenient quarter zipper on the neck (I love that feature). I'm looking forward to their non-stink stuff. I really do hate the way the compression bottoms slide down all day long. I have tossed them, and stick with the SmartWool bottoms. I'm sure any merino wool longjohns would work just as well. One thing for sure, SmartWool socks RULE the woods year round. I wear the hiking weight socks in the summer and switch to the heavy weight socks for winter. I've never had a better sock -- EVER.

Thanks again,

William Clunie

10-24-2009, 08:08 AM
William, I've never noticed the bottoms of my UA creeping down. I do tuck my top under the bottoms. Could that help?

I also wear SmartWools year around. I just tried the new Phd. Wool on Wool socks and I think they're the best yet. Highly recommend trying them for cool/cold weather. I usually wear the Adrenaline Light Crew in the summer months.

I'll have to give the Merino Wool baselayers a try.

William Clunie
10-24-2009, 08:26 AM
William, I've never noticed the bottoms of my UA creeping down. I do tuck my top under the bottoms. Could that help?

I also wear SmartWools year around. I just tried the new Phd. Wool on Wool socks and I think they're the best yet. Highly recommend trying them for cool/cold weather. I usually wear the Adrenaline Light Crew in the summer months.

I'll have to give the Merino Wool baselayers a try.

I'm sure my bulging midsection and sagging butt don't help matters. Age, and too many twinkies, have increased the gravitational pull on my old hide. I'll burn some of that off this winter -- maybe they'll fit better then? I'll also check out the new socks from SW.


10-24-2009, 09:27 AM
I gave away all of my UA stuff and went back to merino. So far smartwool is the best that Evan and I have tried between us. He was not impressed with his Terramar and I prefer the smart wool to filson. The cabelas silk was a pos and waste of money.

10-25-2009, 12:02 AM
I gave away all of my UA stuff and went back to merino. So far smartwool is the best that Evan and I have tried between us. He was not impressed with his Terramar and I prefer the smart wool to filson. The cabelas silk was a pos and waste of money.
Ibexwear is right up there with Smartwool. Smartwool socks do seem to wear out quickly at the heeel but maybe that's just the nature of wool. Maybe a tad more nylon in the socks would help prolong life.

10-25-2009, 09:13 AM
Smartwool socks do seem to wear out quickly at the heeel but maybe that's just the nature of wool. Maybe a tad more nylon in the socks would help prolong life.

I've got two pair I've been trying to wear out for the last three years, haven't gotten there yet. I use 'em when I walk the dog, probably 8-10 miles/week off the trail. These aren't the thick "hunting" socks, they're denser weave hiking socks, and they wear like iron.

Maybe your heals are just too big?

Steve O
12-25-2010, 03:41 AM
This thread and more so the original entitled "Alaskan Brown Bear Hunt!" found here (which is locked):


would be excellent to have in the "Timberline Archives"

12-25-2010, 09:36 PM
Steve, Great thread and thanks for posting! Bill - Timberline was a true outdoorsman willing to share his thoughts and knowledge with all! His great pics always caught my attention and admired his ability to describe every detail with perfection! You can tell he enjoyed writing about his experiences and sharing with others! Although his Alaskan bear and firearm pictures were my favorite, and I seem to enjoy everything the outdoors has to offer, I was never that interested in hunting for antelope until reading about his hunts in Wyoming which I found very encouraging! His antelope pics and DIY photography tips were the best! Maybe there are many others who feel the same, but I can't believe how much I shared his philosophy, appreciation and agreed with his personal choice for firearms, calibers and equipment! I sure wish we all had the chance to meet him in person! His professional contribution as a hunter and writer on this message board revealed his honesty and integrity and confident he will always be remember as one of the finest!

I think this quote says it all....

I was fortunate to meet Bill when he came up to hunt brown bear a couple of years ago.I was not his guide but spent time with him around camp after he was successful.He was a very nice man and extemely knowledgable about hunting and nature.You could tell Bill wasn't there to just add another animal to the list but for the whole experiance.Don't get many like Bill in camp anymore.