3 replies [Last post]
Joined: 08/29/2012
Posts: 1
Going to Alaska

I have always loved to hunt, but never really get a chance to get time off.I was a Recon Marine for 12 years, and I am currently in the army. Unfortunatly I have been deployed for the last few hunting seasons and I just got my orbers back to Afghanistan for 10 months. The light at theenfd of the tunnel is I have orders for alaska for 4 years when I get back, and yes it may be my time to retire if the wife can take the winters. Im hearing alot about Alaska, and that it is not a place to go out and figure it out on your own, so being the type of person I am, I will ask the locals first and get advise. First: Is it worth using a guid at first and how much does it ussally cost. Second: I have a 4X4 Mosberg 30-06 and I am being told that I need to go with something bigger, this is hard to choke that one down so here is the third question, what is good for a big game rifle in Alaska? Last but not least, I am being told that a good revolver, 44 Mag or bigger is good to carry because I am not at the top of the food chain. Is there truth to this or will a 357 work. Im the green horn here so be easy, but I am really looking forward to picking some brains from the alaskin locals for advise. I will be off and on with this forum while I am in Afghanistan, so understand if I cant respond in a timely fashion.


Location: CA Central Coast
Joined: 12/01/2005
Posts: 151
Hi, Straydog - I'm not a

Hi, Straydog -

I'm not a native, but I have been perusing the state's hunting pages (lots of good information there). You don't say what you're hunting, but they say the 30-06 is fine for moose, so it should be good on anything smaller. I wouldn't take it up against a brown bear, though.

I'm going moose hunting in Fairbanks in two weeks. I'm taking my .300 Weatherby, which I have no doubt will be more than adequate. I'm taking a Ruger revolver in .454 Casull for bear protection. The people in the know say a .44 magnum is adequate, but I'll feel better with something more.

Guides aren't cheap. Bear guides are REALLY expensive in Alaska, and required for all non-residents. I'm not sure what the residency status of military folks are; that's something for you to look into.

Hope this helps a little.


Don Fischer's picture
Location: Antelope, Ore
Joined: 03/24/2005
Posts: 3206
I've lived up there for a few

Welcome to BGH!

I've lived up there for a few years, year round. People up there  get used to the winter, if you dress properly it's just not all that bad. Not that much different than living in a hot climate, but in Alaska you can always put on more cloths. For some the harder part is the long period's of daylight and dark. Carrying a 44 mag when you have a 30-06 in your hands? If your 30-06 doesn't keep you out of trouble, the 44 mag sure isn't gonna. Maybe carry a decent 22 handgun for small game. 

expatriate's picture
Location: Arizona
Joined: 10/26/2002
Posts: 3206
Going to Alaska

I lived up there for five years.  Everybody thinks they have to buy a mega-magnum for Alaska, and that's not necessarily true.  You don't see the natives carrying cannons, largely because magnum ammo demands magnum prices, and they want to save as much meat as they can.  To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, when I was up there they had a polar bear find its way into the interior, where it showed up near Fort Yukon -- only 145 miles from Fairbanks.  The villagers went out looking for it, including the guy who eventually killed it.  His weapon of choice?  An AR-15.  I kid you not.  He went out looking for a polar bear carrying an AR-15 and had a dead bear on his hands several rounds later.  I knew an old guy up there who swore by that platform for bears, because if you hit 'em behind the ear it gets the job done and doesn't tear up meat.

That's not something I'd EVER do, and it's an extreme example.  But there's a whole lot of .30-06 up there and it'll get the job done.  If you want to go heavier, good choices would be .300 WM/WSM, .338 WM, or on the high end, .375 H&H.  Bear in mind that once you get outside of Fairbanks or the Anchorage area, you're in some small communities that don't offer a lot of choices for ammo.  If you go too exotic, it can be tough to get up there and, like all things in AK, will be expensive.

As far as bear protection goes, a lot of chechakos go up there and immediately buy a .44 magnum. What they don't understand is that a grizzly can cover 50 yards in three seconds.  But chances are that's not gonna happen because you're going to encounter them within ten yards due to brush or other cover.  I once had a close encounter involving a sow and cub within 10 yards and my buddy 20 feet away never saw them.  In those conditions, you've got almost no time to respond if the gun is in your hand...good luck drawing out of a holster and bringing it to bear (so to speak) in time.  And when you do, you've got to fire accurately enough to hit something lethal.  If you've ever examined a grizzly skull, you'd realize how tough that is to do.  That's why statistically, firearms are only successful at stopping bear attacks 60 percent of the time.  Bear spray is over 90 percent effective.  You don't have to be as accurate with spray, and it shuts down the bear's eyes and nose.  A bullet won't do that unless you're extremely good or extremely lucky.  Without his eyes or nose, a bear can't navigate and is on the defensive.  Moreover, by Alaska law if you shoot a bear out of defense, you have to turn in the hide and skull to Fish & Game.  I've skinned grizzlies, and it's not easy.  If you spray a bear, you don't have to worry about skinning it out with a Leatherman.

That said, if you still want to carry a firearm for bear defense, use a 12 gauge with heavy slugs or a fast-handling long gun like a .45-70...and keep it at the ready position when you get around brush where you may run into bears (like near berry patches, a dead animal, rivers when salmon are running, etc).  It pays to pay attention to your surroundings, because areas frequented by bears will show it.

Another word of advice: hunt with a partner.  That way if you put an animal down, one guy can skin/bone/dress it and the other can stand guard duty.  Nothing attracts bears like the smell of blood, and there are parts of the state where bears come to the sound of a gunshot because it's like ringing a dinner bell.  I've had bears come into camp while I was working on a hide, and my son and I once had to defend our kill from two bears that showed up as I was skinning.

Another thing to consider:  Alaska is tough on gear...especially if you hunt near the coast.  Stainless steel and composite stocks are your friends.  Chances are you'll be wet, and if you get near the coast the salt air will cause things to rust real quick.  Plan on wiping your rifle down with oil every day when you're in the field.

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