PSE Pro Frank Noska on Bowhunting in Alaska
Editor’s Note: Frank Noska, a 28 year bowhunting veteran of Alaska, is an extreme bowhunter. Noska defines an extreme bowhunter as someone who hunts at least 200 days a year with a bow. He even moved to Alaska, just so he could bowhunt. Noska has shot PSE bows for 12 years. Today, he often shoots an X-Force Axe 6 bow but says, “I can’t get away from using my original X-Force bow, because it still shoots straight.”
Frank Noska Takes a Big Alaskan Ram with His PSE Bow
Frank, what made you fall in love with the PSE X-Force bows?
I like the way the bows shoot. I’ve never had any problems with the bows, and they never have let me down for speed, dependability or accuracy. I’ve never had any issues or mechanical breakdowns with these bows.
Why did you upgrade to the PSE X-Force Axe 6?
The X-Force Axe 6 is a more compact bow and may be somewhat lighter and faster than other bows. However, I still haven’t retired my original and still shoot both bows.
How do you decide which bow you’ll take to use on a specific hunt?
I shoot them both in the backyard, and which ever bow I feel the most comfortable with just before a hunt will be the bow I take.
Frank, how long is your practice range?
About 80 yards, but most of my shots are made at 20 to 30 yards. I try to take very few animals at a 40 or a 50 yard range, even when I’m hunting sheep. My preferred distance is between 18 to 30 yards.
Tell us about a sheep you took last year.
I was hunting for Dall sheep in the Brooks Range of Alaska. I spent two days trying to get into position to take a particular sheep. I’d scouted this area before and had my eye on a particular sheep that was bedded down where four rams were together. At first, this sheep was about 3 or 4 miles away, so I used my binoculars to get a better look at him. Because it was so late in the day, I thought I would have to wait and hunt the sheep the next morning. However, the closer I got as I worked my way over to the rams, the more I pushed myself to keep going. I kept thinking that I would run out of daylight and time. Then finally I saw that I might have a chance to take one of the rams that were now up and feeding. I started walking a side hill to get up to them. I got in the right spot to take the shot at this specific ram I wanted to take. That particular ram moved to within 25 yards and was so close I knew he’d see me if I moved. Then he did see me and spooked and ran about 72 yards. I stood and came to full draw. The ram was straight across from me but on the opposite side of the hill. Initially, I had ranged the ram at 50 yards, but when he finally got to the place where I could shoot, I had to guess the range before I could take the shot. I had ranged some of the areas where the ram was before, so I knew about where 50 yards should hit. I also knew how to aim if I needed to add an additional 20 yards to meet the target. When the ram stopped, he was quartered to me. I put the pin on him, concentrated on the shot I wanted to make and squeezed the trigger on my mechanical release. The arrow hit where I’d aimed, going through his shoulder and penetrating both lungs, which meant the ram only moved a short distance after I hit him.
Since I’d taken the ram a long way from where our camp was located, I had to take him back to camp one piece at a time. Finally, after transporting the entire ram to my spike camp, I still had to make more hauls to get the ram and the spike camp itself to where I was supposed to meet an airplane. I took this ram that scored in the 150s on Pope & Young with my original X-Force bow. I still have a lot of confidence in that bow, because I’ve taken 28 Pope & Young animals with it in the last 4 years.
PSE Pro Frank Noska Takes His First Dall Sheep after 3 Years of Hunting
Frank, tell us about one of the most memorable Alaska bowhunt you’ve ever experienced.
I guess one of my most memorable hunts was when I took my first Dall sheep with my PSE bow. You could say I was “snake bit” for the first couple of years that I hunted Dall sheep. Sheep and goat hunts, for me, are the most rewarding, because I believe they’re the most difficult. For me, when you pay the price to hunt hard, the trophy has far more meaning. When I finally take a sheep or a goat, I feel like it’s the prize for all the effort I’ve put out to try and take one of these animals. What made this first Dall sheep so rewarding was that I’d been hunting Dall sheep for 3 years before I ever scored. I could never get in close enough to get a good shot.
On this particular hunt, I’d been backpacking and hunting for a week, before I finally got close enough to make a shot. I was hunting in the Brooks Range in Alaska at about 4,500 feet of elevation. Each day, I was looking for animals to take, while living out of a tent. I’d seen a lot of sheep but hadn’t spotted a ram that was legally big enough to shoot. I finally saw two rams that looked like twins bedded down away from me up a ridgeline. I knew I wanted to take either of them, if I could get a shot. When I decided to make the stalk, I took off my boots. While stalking, I prefer to stalk in my woolen sock feet to move quietly. I know that you can buy covers to place over your boots to muffle the sounds you make when you stalk, but I still prefer to wear my wool socks. On many hunts, I’ve had to go back and get my boots where I’ve taken them off, perhaps 300 to 400 yards from where I’ve taken an animal. I always carry an extra pair of boots when I’m hunting. Then if I have to stalk through water or snow, once the stalk ends, I can put on dry socks and boots. Another interesting thing about wearing only socks to stalk is that you’ll move more slowly. With each step, you’re feeling what’s on the ground beneath your feet. If you step on rocks or sticks that hurt your feet, you’ll slow down even more. Of course, the slower you stalk, the greater your odds for getting in really close to the animal you want to take.
While on this particular stalk, I had to move through quite a bit of snow – sometimes up to 1-1/2 feet deep. My feet became wet and cold. But because I was zoned in on this animal I’d been trying to take for a long time, I barely noticed the discomfort. Also during the stalk, two or three small rocks had rubbed against each other, and in that clean, clear air, the smallest sound can travel a great distance. When I finally reached a spot I thought I could take a shot from, I peeked over the ridge and could see the sheep’s horns. I also could see that their heads were positioned to be looking straight at me, although their bodies were in a position for me to take a shot. I eased back down, came to full draw and then slowly rose back up to take the shot. Luckily, the wind was in my favor. Although the rams had heard me approaching, when I came up to take the shot, they couldn’t really decide what I was. I was wearing a white suit. One of the rams was a little more broadside to me than the other one was, so I aimed at the ram that offered me the best shot. The arrow made a complete pass through both lungs. The ram went down, got back up and only traveled about 100 yards before he expired.
How did you feel when you went to find your ram?
The feeling I had was almost like a religious experience. On sheep hunts, I’m usually by myself. When I saw that I’d finally taken my ram, I remembered everything I’d endured, the trials and tribulations I’d gone through, like the weather, the cold, rain, snow, wind, how far I’d had to walk and all the work I’d put forth over 3 years. As I approached that ram, I felt so rewarded by this animal that I was overcome with emotion. Getting that ram out required 2 days and several miles of hiking. My camp was several miles in one direction, and my plane was several miles in the opposite direction. I took all of the sheep’s meat and the trophy to the airplane first, and then I hiked back to my camp and packed out the camp. Because Alaska doesn’t have much nighttime at certain parts of the year, I was able to spend over 24 hours getting the sheep and the camp back to the plane. I took this ram with my old PSE Primos Bow.
PSE Pro Frank Noska Takes an Alaskan Grizzly Bear at 15 Yards
Frank, tell us about another memorable hunt you’ve had with your PSE bow.
I’ve taken four mule deer, two brown bears and many black bears with my bow. However, one of my most memorable hunts was for a grizzly that scored in the top 10 ever taken with a bow in the Boone and Crockett record book. This spring hunt took place on the coast, outside of Nome, Alaska, where the weather is still really cold in the spring. In May and June, there is still a lot of ice on the ocean near there, and the bears come down from out of the mountains to feed along the coastline. I was suited up for wintertime conditions and was wearing chest waders. Since the ocean was quite rough, just getting out of the boat was a real adventure. This hunt for the grizzly bear was another very challenging hunt, because the first battle was with Mother Nature. Once I reached the shore, I had to go around several big sheets of ice, just to get to some places where I could look for bears.
This grizzly bear hunt was spot and stalk. Although I spent plenty of time covering ground, I also had to sit and wait a lot, watching the beach for long hours and hoping to see a bear come down from the mountains. Finally, I spotted a big bear heading towards the beach. I got out of the boat, went to the beach and started my stalk. I was positioned behind the bear and was trying to catch up to him. As luck would have it, the wind was in my face. The bear was traveling, eating and moving faster than me, even though I’d begun to run. Finally, the bear decided to turn around and come back toward me. I got into a little cave about 15 yards from the ocean that completely hid me from the bear. I let the bear walk just a little past me, so he couldn’t see me draw. I also knew I’d have a better shot angle with the bear quartering away from me. I took the shot, and the arrow passed all the way through the bear but landed in the ocean. The waves from the ocean brought the arrow back to me, and I recovered it. The bear ran about 150 yards down the beach, before he piled up. This bear squared over 8 feet, scored 24-15/16 inches for his skull measurement and weighed around 500 or 600 pounds.
What kind of feeling did you have when you saw that bear at 15 yards, and you knew you were about to put an arrow in him?
I experienced quite an adrenaline rush, which is what makes bear hunting so much fun for me. When I can get in that close to dangerous game, and I know that the bear doesn’t smell or see me, my bowhunt becomes very exciting. But I do pay close attention to my surroundings and try to eliminate as much danger as I can, before I take the shot. However, even with taking precautions, before I took the shot, I knew that the bear still could make two or three leaps and be on me in the blink of an eye. Many times, I think the danger that is present is what draws hunters to hunt dangerous game with a bow. You’ve got to keep your wits about you, you have to know you can make the shot, and even though there’s danger involved, you have to control your emotions and eliminate as much danger as possible.
PSE Pro Frank Noska Takes an Alaskan Brown Bear at 20 Yards
Frank, you said you took a brown bear with your PSE bow. Tell us about that hunt.
I took a brown bear in the fall of 2009, with my PSE original X-Force bow. I was hunting on the Alaskan Peninsula, where I didn’t have to draw a tag. I didn’t take my own plane on that hunt but instead flew in a commercial bush plane to the hunting area; the pilot dropped me off at camp. I was supposed to have a backup hunter with me, but at the last minute, my back up hunter couldn’t go. I didn’t want to cancel the hunt, so I went by myself. I normally do a lot of hunting by myself, because then I don’t have to depend on anyone else. I knew this area homed numbers of bears, and I’d seen several of them from the air before I was dropped off into my hunting area. When I arrived at camp, I set up and the next morning, hiked up to a high mountain. I watched the wildlife, including the bears, to see how and where they were moving and bedding. I wanted to locate the biggest bear possible. That first day, I saw about six bears. I realized that getting to the place where I wanted to hunt would require some time. I decided my best chance to take the biggest bear would come in the afternoon. The next day, I went to the site where I planned to ambush the bear and waited. Bears feed all night and then go to bed in thick cover. They don’t come back out until just before dark.
As nighttime approached, I was hoping to get a shot at the bear before dark arrived. When I saw the bear beginning to move down the mountain, I positioned myself in a region near some grass where I thought he would come. The bear came down to within 20 yards of me and offered a broadside shot. I came to full draw while in tall grass and totally out of sight of the bear. I eased up over the top of the grass and aimed and released the arrow. The bear took the broadhead right behind the shoulder and went down within 5 feet of where the arrow had hit him. I was amazed, since most bears, no matter where they’re hit, will run 50 to 100 yards from the region where they’ve been hit. Since the bear was only 20 yards from me, I used my binoculars to watch, until he completely expired within a few minutes. Because darkness was falling, I little time to go and look at the bear before heading back to camp, 500 yards away. Early the next morning, I took some pictures and then started skinning the bear and hauling him back to camp. This 9 foot tall brown bear weighed about 850 pounds. The skull measurement on this bear was 24 3/16 inches. My original PSE X-Force had done its job in what I considered was a spectacular way.
The Big Alaskan Brown Bear That Sat Up and Looked at PSE Pro Frank Noska
Frank, you said you took another brown bear with your PSE bow. Tell us about that hunt.
I took a different brown bear with my PSE Primos bow on Admiralty Island in southeast Alaska, another coastal hunt. I was spotting and stalking, while hunting along the beach. I was trying to find brown bears coming down from the mountains to eat either grass or fish. To hunt bears along beaches and rivers, I prefer to get to a spot where I think the bear will come to and then wait on him to show up. Once I spotted the bear I wanted to take, I tried to get out in front of him as he was coming down the beach. He passed me at about 30 yards. But since he wouldn’t stop, I had to lead him before I released the arrow. But I misjudged my lead. Instead of hitting the bear behind the shoulder, I hit him at mid body, the arrow passed all the way through the bear, and the bear left a good blood trail.
I had a backup hunter with me who had a big rifle. We waited and gave the bear 30 minutes before we started stalking him. As we followed the blood trail, we came into some pretty thick brush. I was looking down with my back up hunter behind me with his gun. Not looking ahead due to my eyes being on the blood trail, I was also feeling anxious and excited, because this was my first brown bear. I had a walkie talkie and was talking to my back up hunter, saying, “I got blood… I got good blood… here’s some more blood… I found the bear.” Just as I said, “I found the bear,” the bear raised his head up. Over the walkie talkie I said, “Hey, he’s not dead yet.” I was only 30 yards from the bear that was in a sitting position. The bear looked straight at me, trying to decide whether to charge or to stay put. Although I didn’t think he had the energy to charge, I backed slowly away. I looked up and saw my back up hunter running toward me, putting me in a position between my friend with the rifle and the bear. Finally, my back up hunter and I got together, and the bear was about 100 yards from us. We decided to leave the bear overnight. We reached the bear the next morning, and it had expired. The bear was cold, so I knew he’d died not long after we’d left him the previous night. That bear was 8 1/2 feet squared, his skull measured 23 5/16 inches, and he weighed between 700 and 800 pounds. I always enjoy hunting with my dependable PSE bows.
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