The Horseback Hunt, That Wasn’t 

Each time that I convince Master Guide Terry Overly to actually sit down and write “something” to share with you all, I can hear the cheers from here. This time, Terry was pretty easy to convince! Spring Grizzly Bear & Black Bear hunting is about the coolest hunt, in my own opinion, that we offer! Our Horseback Hunt during the Springtime is a total blast.

Horseback Hunt
Master Guide Terry Overly and Gail Page
with a gorgeous Grizzly Bear taken in
Chisana, Alaska with Pioneer Outfitters.

Without further ado, I’ll turn the attention over to the Boss and let him share one of his memories of a past Spring Grizzly & Black Bear Hunt.

The Horseback Hunt, That Wasn’t

One of the most memorable Spring Grizzly hunts I have ever had was one Spring long ago almost in another land and it seems, at times, in another galaxy far, far away.

But any way it was a late Spring, like this one we are having now, where the snow was 3 feet to 4 feet deep in drifts and in the bottoms of most of the creeks.

With an altitude of 4,000 feet, which you must remember that our ground elevation here at my house in Chisana is 3,200 feet.

So we are talking about only 800 feet higher than the grass that grows in my front yard.

Spring Grizzly Bear & Black Bear Hunt, late April, way back when… This was, as I remember, a 14 day hunt for Grizzly and Black Bear, which in our area is a good combo.

Now to back up just a little to when this hunt was booked, which was several months prior to the actual hunting date.

We had estimated, (going on decades of experience living here in our actual hunting area,) that the snow would be mostly gone by May first in the river bottoms and only the drifts would be left, which sometimes are 6 feet or more deep but usually can be maneuvered around and do not present any problems.

However this was not the case that Spring.

So we decided that the horses would not be able to do their job in the snow conditions we were stuck with.

We moved then, to plan “B”, which in fact we really never had a plan “B”, but we had to move on. Plan “B” was to use our snow machines to do scouting on a day to day basis.

We fully expected the snow to be melting and mushing down more and more every day, and then we would go get the horses and finish up our Grizzly hunt on horseback.

So we saddled up our snow machines of 1985 vintage, Okelbo, built in Sweden and exported for sale in Alaska, with a mighty 440 Rotex engine. A 1972 Scorpion with a 399 ccw engine and another Okelbo with a 377 cc fan cooled engine.

“Ya,  we had the good old sleds”!

Anyway, we started out scouting for bear tracks on our snow machines.

The end of April and beginning of May in Chisana is absolutely, fantastically, beautiful.

Usually very warm, as in 55 to 65 in the day with the lowest night time temps of + 25 to + 40, which is petty much the same as our mid-September temps for our Fall Big Game hunts.

We were on the go and no was stopping us now, WE THOUGHT!

Across the river we went, through the Willows, buck brush, and Arctic Birch, and snow drifts. Lots and lots of snow drifts, 4 feet  and 5 feet deep and yes, it was the very end of April and the first part of May, 50 degrees to 60 degrees in the sun.

We got some real sunburns on our faces while the rest of our bodies looked like we were “albinos”.

The biggest bummer was that just a few inches under the snow the rest of the sub surface snow temps were still -10 and probably colder than that in some places.

So what does this mean? It means that your snow machine track is running on top of wet melting snow which is ok, but when your track sinks into sub 0 temps with wet slushy snow between your track and rails and the colder snow turns the slushy snow into ice and your track seizes up every 100 feet to the point you cannot even spin the track.

Then, it takes you 30 minutes to dig all that frozen snow out of your track tunnel before your track would even spin enough to get you moving again.

This becomes a real pain in the butt and slows all forward progression down, just a little.

Well, we had two days of this and we were getting kinda depressed with what we had thought, was a real good plan.

The positive side of what we had done, was to have made it to one of my cabins 14 miles away from my main camp (and home ~ we call home “The Lodge”) where we had a wood stove, bunks and sleeping bags, so this was good.

But! The snow was 3 to 4 feet deep and we had no snow shovels.☹

But! We had our trail broken out to our cabin!☺

So we just decided to see how much further up the creek we could go before we started back home.

Well, we DID NOT get much further up the creek, but we DID see several good sized Grizzly tracks on the side hills. Crisp and fresh; this was good.

So back to Chisana we came, spent the night, got together some sleeping bags and a little grub. We were up early, loaded, geared up, and ready to go.

We ate a good breakfast, gassed up and were off and on our way back to the cabin.

We arrived at the cabin around 9:30 AM, left the snow machines there and started on our snowshoe walk-about. We had walked about 2 hours and saw a beautiful Grizzly laying down in the snow about 800 yards up a steep hill. There was quite a few big willow bushes, no leaves of course, but still gave us a little cover.

I really don’t know why that Grizzly let us get as close as we did without waking up, but he did. The snow was 2.5 feet deep on that side of the hill.

There were three of us, the hunter the assistant guide and myself.

The hunter had the all-time best all-around rifle. A 300 Win Mag using a 180 gr. bullet. I don’t remember rifle model, but most are close to the same quality as the other.

It was an uphill shot at 150 yards, a well placed shot, in the shoulder and into the chest cavity. I don’t think that bear ever woke up, which in itself, was a little strange.

This was a good sized boar  Grizzly. Not quite a Toklat, but just a little darker than blonde. He was a 7’6″, well furred Mountain Grizzly, a very fine trophy in any one’s book.

We always do our best for our clients because “THIS IS WHAT WE DO”.

Being a Master Guide or Registered Guide in Alaska is a big deal. Along with that title comes a lot of responsibility, as well as moral values and ethics to uphold.

It was a fiercely demanding hunt, in a very unique area, more sheep country than what one may expect to be Grizzly country. The hunter, our client, had an adventure of his life as well as a hunting trip. We all had fun. It was hard work, a hard hunt and a successful hunt as well.

It was a challenge. Now, of course we did get a Grizzly, but I do believe this hunter would have still been satisfied, had he not harvested his trophy.

We all had a very good time and a great adventure for us all.


~ Master Guide Terry Overly

Wow! Good thing I enjoy snowshoes, eh? I haven’t not been able to use my horses yet, to conduct a Spring Grizzly Bear hunt, but this sounds like a true (and typical!) Pioneer Outfitters Adventure!

Some of Master Guide Terry Overly’s other interviews and posts may interest you as well.

If you are thinking that you would like to experience one of Pioneer Outfitters various Adventures or Big Game Hunts, please just click the “Book It”button below and we will chat soon!

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4 Responses to The Horseback Hunt, That Wasn’t 

    • Aww, Thank you, Bianca!
      I had a chat with one of my younger charges last evening. Told him it would be easier to feature a pic of him if he’d quit flippin’ off the camera! LOL, also had a follow up with the various photographers that cute and funny and pure guy is all good… but I sure would like some pics OTHER than the ones that may offend!
      You take care and I will keep you posted!
      ~ Amber-Lee

  1. Loved it..felt like I was sittn’ round the campfire listening to a tale..Ummm.. more “tales” please Terry!!!

    *Snort..Boyzzzzz…LOL…send the pic to their Mom..LOL

    As Always ~*~

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