I posted a picture in the photo gallery, so I suppose a story should follow.
We took off from the Merrill ski strip Friday afternoon and headed west, into 16B. Twenty-five minutes in the cub and we were in Alaska! We flew further, towards some likely denning areas. We spotted one den, but the tracks led down the mountain and into the creek bottom. We flew to a bear that was hanging out at his den that my partner had spotted earlier in the week. We expected that the bear had headed down in search of moose. We circled the den from a far, but could not spot the bear. There were no tracks leading off the mountain, so he must be down the hole. The closest place to land was about one and a half miles down the mountain. My partner made a flawless landing, circled back onto his tracks, and cut power. I unfolded my six and a half foot frame from the back seat and proceeded to sink to my crotch. Snowshoes were a must. We proceeded to set up the camp and prepare for the next morning.
We were like two little kids on Christmas Eve. We lay awake until after midnight talking. Ptarmigan woke us up at 6:30. We had a few slices of cheese and caribou sausage, pounded some water, and strapped on the snowshoes. We had about a mile and a half climb up to the den. Through out the climb I had been thinking about a hunt out in Prince William Sound that I took my father on several years before. My dad took his first black bear. I have shot several black bears with a rifle and took one on this hunt, too. I do not think my heart rate even changed. It was special because it was with my father, but at the same time kind of anticlimactic. I now chase the black bear with a bow, but that is another story. I was packing my 375 this time and hoped that that adrenalin rush would be there.
After about an hour and a half we made it to the top. The den was on the north side of the hill. Before cresting the ridge top we traversed to the right a couple of hundred yards so that the wind was directly in our face. We slipped over the ridge and headed into the slight breeze.
The north face of the hill had multiple little ravines and hills running down it. Perfect for a den. We scanned the north face and planned our stalk. We both agreed on where we thought the hole was and headed into the wind. We were nearing the site when my partner stopped and thought to himself “Huh. There’s the den.” He turned to tell me and we both saw him at the same time and he was CLOSE! My heart was pounding in my throat. No lack of adrenalin here! We backed up out of sight and took off our packs. We both agreed that he was a good bear I chambered a round and crept to the top of the little ridge. He was moving slowly, moving his head from side to side. He looked pretty out of it. It was a quartering shot. I had a solid rest off my knee. I put the cross hairs on the front shoulder and took a couple of deep breaths to calm my nerves. The 375 barked and the chocolate boar bit at his shoulder and spun to his left. I jacked another round into the chamber just as he bolted down into gulley straight at us. Here he comes! I ran up the ridge about ten yards, but could not see or hear him. I went a few more feet and saw that the gulley was a little deeper than we had thought. He had rolled down the ravine and ended up into one of his day beds. I put another round through his shoulders for good measure and took a knee. The rush was back!
Here is a picture of my hunting partner in the den.
The pack back to the plane.
A candy bar break. Life is good!