Gearing Up for Big Bears

posted on May 16, 2015

Editor's Note: Bryce Towsley discusses the gear he used on his Alaskan brown bear hunt, detailed here.

I absolutely guarantee that no small-cartridge, “it’s all about shot placement” advocate ever experienced a 9-foot brown bear charging him from 20 yards.

I believe what Ruark said posthumously: “Use Enough Gun.” This is never truer than when hunting critters that can bite, stomp, claw or gore you.

I shot a Dakota Model 76 rifle in .375 H&H. Dakota rifles are well-crafted Model 70 clones and represent some of the finest hunting rifles available today. The controlled-round-feed design is preferred by most experienced dangerous game hunters for its reliability and idiot-proof design. My rifle was stainless steel that had been coated with a bulletproof process to look blued and, when combined with a synthetic stock, it was a great choice for a saltwater hunt. The action was extremely smooth and the gun ran like what it was, a precision-made machine.

Ammo was Barnes VOR-TX with the 300-grain Triple-Shock X bullet. I have used Barnes bullets on a wide range of game across the globe, and I trust them implicitly when hunting critters that can make Mrs. Towsley a widow. The TSX bullets stopped this giant bear on the spot.

The game plan is to spend hours and hours every day glassing the coastline looking for bears, so optics are critical on a brown bear hunt. Of course, I picked Swarovski. I can’t count the hours I spent with my eyes glued to the 10x42 SLC binocular. Its crisp, clear view will let you hunt all day when cheap optics induce eye strain and limit the time you can glass.

One huge mistake I made was jettisoning the Swarovski 20X-60X spotting scope and carbon-fiber tripod. I was trying to reduce weight for the float plane, but a high-quality spotting scope would have been very useful, as we were often glassing miles of coastline.

I mounted a Swarovski Z6(i) 1.7X-10X scope on the rifle. While I am not typically a fan of an illuminated reticle for hunting, here it was all but a necessity. Hunting was in the afternoon, and twilight lingered for hours. With an illuminated dot, I had an aiming point in any light.

All that rain? Defeated by my Cabela’s Extreme-Weather 7-in-1 parka. This versatile system has a zip-out liner and a waterproof shell. I have used it now during dozens of hunts from below zero to pounding rain. Very pleased. I also used Cabela’s waist-high, Premium Dry-Plus, Breathable Stockingfoot waders with lace-up boots. As backup, I packed my Tundra hip boots, which are out of production but are coming back to Cabela’s in 2016.

Although outfitter Chris Erickson retired following my hunt, his former head guide, Lucas Clark, continues to offer brown bear hunts. Contact him at Game Creek Guides, [email protected], 907-957-0045.



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