Imagine yourself in the land of Chitwin. Heavily forested, with a moderate climate, it rises from cobbled beaches to 2,000-foot mountains. For the last 150 years, only local tribesmen have hunted it. Its rivers are rich with salmon and steelhead trout, and berries and tubers abound.
In short, the land of Chitwin is a land made for bears. And it grows some very big bears!
Now picture yourself as one of less than 100 bear hunters permitted to hunt there. Sound like an exotic safari, far beyond the price range of the average guy? Not really.
Barring transportation costs, the cost of hunting the land of Chitwin is less than the cost of a weekend in Reno or season tickets to your favorite sports team. And you'll likely bring home a trophy black bear because, so far, black bear hunter success in the land of Chitwin is 100 percent!
Welcome To QIN
Chitwin exists. It is located on the southwest corner of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. On the map it is called the Quinault Indian Nation. Chitwin is the Quinault word for black bear.
This year, for only the second time, the Quinault people will invite non-tribal hunters into their lands to hunt black bears.
The result is a black bear population that rivals British Columbia or Southwest Alaska in density and quality. Grover Oakerman, a professional wildlife biologist for 32 years, has spent years studying the black bear population on the QIN.
"Bear densities on the QIN are as high as I've seen," Oakerman says. "Our estimates indicate about 2-1/2 bears per square mile. With over 300 square miles of habitat, it doesn't take much math to see we have a lot of bears."
Grows Enormous Bears
Because of the rich habitat and the low level of hunting, Oakerman says, many of the bears grow to enormous size.
"In 2003, we did a track survey using baited stations," he explains. "Adult black bear forepaw pad widths in excess of 4-1/2 inches were common. The largest we found measured between 5-3/4 and 6-1/2 inches. Those are big bears!
"The next spring and summer," he continues, "we captured 30 bears as part of an ongoing black bear population study. We measured nine adult boars. Their lengths varied between 5-1/2 feet and 7 feet, nose to tail. Their forepad measurements were between 4-1/2 inches and 5-3/4 inches."
Traditionally, Washington's largest black bears have been taken in areas near the QIN. Local hunters target those areas in hopes of tagging a big bear that has wandered out of the reservation. Oakerman thinks the potential exists to take record-setting bears during the QIN hunt.
"Last year, we had our first non-tribal hunt," Oakerman says. "The largest bears harvested were 6-1/2 to 6-7/8 feet, head to tail, and ran in excess of 350 pounds. Head measurements ran to 19 points. I know there are bigger bears still walking around the QIN."
Some Striking Trophies
Oakerman says the Quinault bears are also good candidates for display.
The hunt is designed to reduce bear-caused timber damage. When bear populations reach high levels, large bears claim prime feeding areas, forcing smaller bears into uplands where they often turn to stripping bark from evergreen trees to feed on the rich cambium layers beneath. This girdling causes millions of dollars in timber damage each year. Because the QIN depends heavily on its timber revenues to fund programs critical to the health of its people, this is a severe impact. Oakerman hopes removing some of the biggest bears will decrease the amount of timber damage.
Hunters must purchase a $250 permit from the QIN and to hire and hunt with one of eight licensed QIN guides on one of four hunting concessions. Each of the guides is also a licensed salmon and steelhead guide. One hundred tags will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Hunting will be done from treestands over bait stations to encourage selection of large dominant bears. No hound hunting or stalking will be allowed. A second tag is available for $150. Hunters who are unsuccessful during the March 1-April 30 spring hunt can return for the September 1-November 30 fall hunt to fill their unused tags.
Making The Hunt
For more information on making this hunt, contact: the Quinault Indian Nation, Attn: Bear Tag Application, P.O. Box 189, Taholah, WA 98587, for details, application forms, and guide contact information. The central Quinault Indian Nation phone number is 360-276-8215. Also, check out www.quinaultindiannation.com for more information.
The Quinault Reservation was divided up into four bear guide concession areas based on observed bear abundance. Guides were assigned a consignment area based on a lottery draw.
Guide rates are set by each guide. Guiding cost of bear hunts may vary based on services provided (lodging, meals, meat and trophy processing, fishing trips and transportation), length of hunt, and quality of animal taken. Prospective hunters are encouraged to contact the guides. Let the guide know specifically what services you need and the type of hunt you are expecting. Communication is important to ensure a successful rewarding hunt.
Camping by non-tribal hunters is not allowed on the Quinault Indian Nation Reservation.
Quinault Indian Nation Tribal Guides Include:
For a fine selection of Big Game Hunting gear, click here.