The Alaskan brown bear is among the biggest of the big, one of the largest — and most dangerous — big game animals to plod across the North American continent each year.
Just ask E. Donnall Thomas, Jr., the Lewistown, Mont. resident who penned the long running “The Adventuresome Bowman” column in Bowhunter magazine for many years.
A traditional bowhunter who has lived, hunted, and fly fished for many years all over the state of Alaska, Thomas wrote this about the species in his excellent book penned back in 2010, Have Bow, Will Travel.
Consider Thomas’ words concerning the Alaskan brown bear: "Which brings us to North America, where I think only one big game species (other than the seldom hunted polar bear) really qualifies as dangerous game. Sure, black bears, cougars and wild hogs are all potentially dangerous but none triggers screaming alarms in my brain, and I’ve hunted all three for decades armed with nothing but a bow. Ursus arctosis another matter. Whether classified as a coastal brown bear or an interior grizzly, these animals are large, aggressive, and unpredictable.”
With that serving as a backdrop, consider the magnitude of bowhunting news announced just a few days ago as the Pope and Young Club confirmed a new world record Alaskan brown bear by bow, a giant boar taken last spring.
The September 24, 2018 special scoring session — a P&Y Special Panel of Judges convened in Windsor, Colo. — confirmed a skull measurement of 29 4/16-inches for the Alaskan Peninsula brown bear taken in May 2018 by Chris Cammack.
The panel’s three measurers – a group which included Barry Smith, Lee Kline, and Ed Fanchin — confirmed the bear’s original entry score. After that 60-day score was confirmed, the Cammack brown bear was declared as a new P&Y Club world record bowkill for the species.
"It is still so surreal to me, the thought that I would have ever had the opportunity to hunt an Alaskan brown bear with my bow, let alone (be) honored enough to harvest the new P&Y World Record," said Cammack in a Pope and Young Club news release.
"Thank you to everyone that helped make this dream a reality,” he added. “Special thanks to my friend and guide Cole Kramer, and especially my wife, Felicia for supporting me and allowing me to chase my dreams. Usually, Felicia is right beside me with her bow in hand, but this trip she stayed home and took care of our baby girl, Davoni. Coming home to them is a true blessing. Getting to spend two weeks with my friends in the bush of Alaska was the greatest adventure of my life, harvesting a new World Record brown bear was a bonus."
The Cammack brown bear ascends to the Pope and Young Club’s throne by the slimmest of margins, only 1/16 of an inch. That allows it to barely overtake the P&Y Club’s previous world record, a 29 3/16-inch brown bear taken in 2004 at Lake Iliamna, Alaska by Jack Brittingham.
Entered into the Pope and Young Club’s 31st Recording Period (Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2018) the Cammack brown bear becomes king of a very small and exclusive bowhunting club. For P&Y, only 231 animals scoring 20 inches or greater were listed in the 2017 published Bowhunting Big Game Records of North America (8th Edition).
"Chris is a very excited and humble man," stated Fanchin, the Records Chair for P&Y, in the news release. "Chris's bear skull will be at the Pope and Young convention (next spring) and I recommend that everyone come see this fantastic bear in Omaha, Nebraska April 10th-13th, 2019.
“Congratulations to Chris and the Alaskan Department of Game and Fish for doing outstanding conservation work,” Fanchin also added.
The official P&Y score of Cammack’s huge brown bear should also bring entry into the Boone and Crockett Club’s record book since the bruin surpasses the B&C Club’s minimum score of 28 inches.
Incidentally, the current B&C world record for the Alaskan brown bear is a bruin from Kodiak Island taken by a 180-grain bullet fired from a 30.06 rifle wielded by Roy Lindsey back in 1952. That brown bear’s skull — taken on a scientific expedition by Lindsey, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee — measured 30 12/16 inches and is displayed by the Los Angeles County Museum.
All of which leads to the questions of what exactly is an Alaskan brown bear and how does it differ from a grizzly bear?
Technically, the two animals are classified as the same species, Ursos arctos. But because of geographical influences like a protein-rich dietary staple of salmon, coastal Alaskan brown bears are generally much larger — weighing up to 1,500-pounds in some instances — leading to the separation of the two bears in the record books.
According to the B&C Club in a description of bear boundaries in the 13th edition of Records of North American Big Game, “The big brown bears are found on Kodiak and Afognak Islands, the Alaskan Peninsula, and southeastward along the coast of Alaska. The smaller interior grizzly is found in the remaining parts of the continent.”
Originally defined as an imaginary line extending 75 miles inland from the coast of Alaska, the boundary line is now more precisely defined by B&C and P&Y. Bears taken south and west of that line are classified as Alaskan brown bears while bears taken to the north and east of that line are declared as grizzly bears.