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Kurt Whitehead USCG Captain
Master Alaskan Hunting Guide and Outfitter Phone 907.738.5000
Email Kurt! Trina Nation USCG Captain & Hunting Guide
Licensed Assistant Guide
Beachcombing specialist
Phone 907.738.5000
Mailing address:
PO Box 388 Klawock, AK 99925
Treasure Hunter Lodge
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Prince of Wales Bears have the biggest average skull sizes in North America!

In regards to measuring bears, there have always been many numbers thrown around by hunters and guides. There are several categories for measuring a bear: Its Skull, Hide, Weight and Age. It is very difficult to weigh a bear on a remote beach in Alaska, especially when it is not a priority, so many hunters from the lower 48 that have the luxury of hunting from roads and hauling their recently harvested bear to a game check station to have it weighed will use this measurement. Also, many people do not know how to measure a bear hide or skull and thus the size of the hides are often inflated by hunters and guides. It is confusing to try to decide where to hunt and with whom, especially when some outfitters routinely state you will have a chance at an 8' black bear. I can assure you, the area we hunt has the biggest bears in Alaska and I have only seen one or two honest 8' black bears. We have been compiling harvest data since 2006 to help answer your questions.


The largest black bear we have guided, based on skull size and hide size, was shot by Al Noorda on Sept. 11, 2011. It had a skull of 22 2/16', a hide of 8' and was 15 years old.

The second largest black bear we have guided, based on skull size, was shot by Wynell Hardy on May 3, 2007. It had a skull of 21 9/16" a hide of 7'8" and was 12 years old.

The second largest black bear we have guided, based on hide size, was shot by Shane Mathill on April 14, 2006. It had a hide of 7'8", a skull of 21"and was 11 years old.

The third largest black bear we have guided, based on skull size, was shot by Doug Alexander on April 29, 2010. It had a skull of 21 5/16", a hide of 7'2" and was 13 years old.


The oldest bear we have guided was shot by Richard Leader on April 20, 2006. It was 19 years old, had a skull of 20 2/16” and a hide of 7’0”.

The correct hide measurement is taken when you stretch the hide out flat without the skull or paws and do not touch it again. Then you measure from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail and from the tip of the front paw to the tip of the other front paw. Add these two numbers and divide by two. Now you have the hide squared measurement that is talked about, so a 7' bear has 49 square feet of hide, while an 8' bear has 64 square feet of hide. It is easy to add an additional 6" to 12" to a hide by giving it the 'guide stretch', meaning you take the nose to tail measurement while pulling as tight as you can and then take the front paw to front paw measurement while pulling as tight as you can. This easily adds many inches to the measurement so if an outfitter claims to take 8' black bears, now you know how he does it. An unnamed Alaskan outfitter I worked for years ago was an expert at turning a 7.5' grizzly into a 9' grizzly so if you want we can easily turn your honest 7'6" bear into an 8'6" bear, but all the measurements you see below are honest measurements.

You can't stretch bone and this is why all the record books use a skull measurement. This is done by measuring the maximum length and the maximum width of the skull and adding them together. To qualify for the record books the skull size needs to be 18" for Pope & Young, 19" for Safari Club International and 20" for Boone and Crockett.

When it comes to the weight of the bears, I have personally weighed two bears by cutting them into pieces and using an accurate fish scale to weigh the chunks. The two bears I weighed were not overly large in comparison to jumbo bears, but were representative trophy bears. They were both taken in the spring and one weighed 326 pounds with a skull of 19 3/16", a hide of 7'1" and was 16 years old The other bear weighed 342 pounds with a skull of 20 4/16", a hide of 7'3",and was 10 years old. I wish we had the time to weigh all our bears. Biologists estimate they will gain 10-20% more weight, depending on the bear, prior to denning. The age is taken from a tooth, so after a bear is harvested in Southeast AK, it must be “sealed” which involves the biologist extracting a very small pre-molar tooth from the bear skull. It is then sent to a lab and they determine the exact age of the bear by cutting thin slices of the tooth and counting the rings, or annuli, much like aging a tree. Our data of harvested bears through the years backs up our claim to having the best trophy black bear hunting on the planet. It will only get better since the Alaska Board of Game enacted new rules to curtail unguided, non-resident hunting that was happening throughout Southeast, AK. Now those hunters have to draw a permit so the biologists are able to closely monitor the harvest levels. Luckily our area is very remote and very rarely have I ever seen another hunter in the field.

Treasure Hunter Lodge Trophy Coastal/Island Black Bear Harvest Data