It pays to be bear aware while hunting

Posted: Sunday, August 01, 2004

As eager hunters hike up to the alpine early in the season searching for deer, they must first make their way through thick brush or over heavily trafficked game trails, always being aware of their surroundings. Some of them are treading straight through the heart of brown bear country.

"What we tell people all the time, if you're in bear country make noise and make sure the bear knows you're around," said Alaska Department of Fish & Game Area Wildlife Biologist Neil Barten.

"Well, if you're deer hunting you can't tend to do both things at once, so you really have to pay attention. And then to make matters worse, you go out and shoot a deer, now you have a bloody carcass hanging on the back of your backpack. So you're doing literally everything you can do wrong in bear country when you're deer hunting," he said.

Many brown bears are now concentrating on feeding at the salmon streams said Barten, but there is always the chance of running into one.

"You certainly don't want to come off the mountain and follow a trail back along a salmon stream cause you're really asking for it then," he said. "You've just got to be smart about it and be a little lucky and keep your eyes and ears open."

Many Juneau area residents prefer to hunt Douglas Island early in the season because of the lack of brown bears, as opposed to Admiralty Island which supports a large population of brown bears.

"That makes Douglas Island very attractive," said Barten.

"Black bears are really a whole different animal when it comes to being concerned about bumping into one when you're carrying a deer out," he said.

Barten said it is important to know what you will do with a deer before you pull the trigger so you can field dress the animal and carry it out safely and effectively.

"I certainly don't run around worried about bears ... but I certainly am aware of them," he said.

• Eric Morrison can be reached at

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