Crossbow-Hunting Alaskan Bruins
By Scott Haugen
With the skiff anchored I wasted no time moving across the moss-covered forest floor. My goal was to quickly cover the 300-yard stretch of trees on this long, narrow little island and come out on the western shore, where moments prior I’d glassed a nice black bear feeding along the shoreline.
The wind was perfect, and given this was Prince of Wales Island, the going was quiet. Nearing the timber’s edge of the tiny island—a mile from the main island—I searched the flats where I’d last seen the bear, but he wasn’t in sight. There were low spots along the gravel beach, however, and knowing food thrives in such places during spring, I slowly moved toward them, hoping to locate the bear tucked away in one of the declivities.
I slowly worked through the forest, following a labyrinth of bear trails filled with grass, seaweed and small Dungeness crabs. With more than a 20-foot tide swing taking place, I wanted to find this bear and close the deal, fast, for navigation amid such tides can prove treacherous.
I was carrying an Excalibur crossbow, shooting a 100-grain titanium broadhead. My home state of Oregon doesn’t allow crossbow hunting, and given my addiction to bear hunting, I was more than eager to pursue bruins with a crossbow for the first time. The scoped Excalibur was shooting impressive groups and I felt confident out to 70 yards. Fortunately, my shot opportunity would come at less than half that distance.
Moving toward a depression, I stuck to the timber’s edge for cover. With the tide midway through an outgoing phase, I had 20 yards of beach to work with, much of it covered in green grass. The recent high tide had also washed up loads of kelp, crabs and other seafood.
The first low spot I approached proved empty. Moving toward the next depression, my heart pounded when the back of a bear materialized. I could tell by the way the top of its shoulders moved the bear was feeding intensely. When bears are in feed mode, they can be loud and focused, making for the perfect spot-and-stalk situation.
Wasting no time, I moved directly at the bear, a steady breeze caressing the side of my face. Stooping as low as I could, I closed the gap quickly. The biggest challenge was remaining quiet, as each step fell on the round rocks making up this section of beach. Fortunately, the bear was feeding in a low spot that allowed me to keep inching closer. From 70 to 50 yards, I had yet to see the bear’s head or lower half of its body. At 30 yards I was getting close. Finally, at 22 yards, I had my first glimpse of the entire bear.
Its long coat shimmered with each stab it made to pluck bites of grass. The bear was facing away, but now that I was exposed, I dared not move any closer. Bolt in place, scope on the bear, I waited for it to turn.
As the bear slowly turned to my left, facing the forest, I squeezed the trigger. It had no idea I was there. The sound of the crossbow didn’t surprise nearly as much as the broadhead hitting the mark, or the fact the bear made three lunges and collapsed, barely 10 yards from where it was hit.
Given the position of the bear’s body at the time of the shot, the bolt entered tight behind the near shoulder and passed through the center of the shoulder blade on the opposite side—impressive energy and performance, to say the least.
Loading the bear into the boat and making it back to the main island, I was elated to have finally taken a bear with a crossbow. The allure of hunting Alaska is something I never tire of, and my newfound passion of pursuing bears with a crossbow is something I hope to relive one day soon.
Note: For signed copies of Scott Haugen’s bestselling book, Hunting The Alaskan High Arctic, send a check for $38.00 (FREE S&H), to Haugen Enterprises, P.O. Box 275, Walterville, OR 97489, or order online at www.scotthaugen.com.