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Each month the Huntin'Fool magazine sponsors a story contest. I sent in the story of my brown bear hunt and it is currently in 2nd place. Here is the link to the story. http://www.huntinfool.com/stories/story.asp?SID=5060
If you belong to the Huntin'Fool then please vote for my story so I can win a rifle, bow, or pack.
Here is the article w/o pictures if the link doesn't work.
The Cessna 206 took off from the unnamed lake in the middle of prime habitat for Alaska Brown bears. On the flight in we had spotted numerous bears along the several rivers we had crossed. My good friend and fellow Huntiní Fool member, Brad Lewis, had flown up from Utah to help me finally get my bear. We had hunted hard on two previous bear hunts, but ultimately we didnít kill a bear. There were fresh bear tracks and scat around the lake, and we searched for an hour to find a semi lumpy campsite on a ridge above the lake.
Shooting a large Alaskan Brown bear had always been on my hunting bucket list ever since moving to the Last Frontier after college. Dall sheep and Mountain goats dominated my first few years of hunting since I had dreamed of hunting sheep from a young age. I had helped friends harvest bears on the Kodiak and even helped my non-resident brother get his Brown bear on the Alaska Peninsula in the fall of 2007. On that hunt he killed his bear 50 yards from our tent, and we knew more bears would claim the carcass. We called the air taxi and got picked up early, since I had a spring bear permit on the Kodiak in 2008, and we didnít like the idea of a dead bear so close to our tent.
Over the years I had drawn four spring permits for Kodiak bears. I had several opportunities on each of those hunts, but in the end I came home without a bear. Weather was a major factor 1 year, and waiting too long to judge a bear to be a shooter cost me a chance at a big bear. I had several close encounters on blown stalks due to shifting winds or the bear moving at the wrong time. Before I left on this hunt a good friend told me, ďOne of these years you just have to quit looking for the world record and shoot a bear!Ē
I emailed the air taxi in January to make a reservation for flying out the day before the season opened on October 1st. The Alaskan Peninsula offers one advantage over hunting Kodiak Island in that you get to hunt bears earlier as the fall bear season on the Kodiak opens on October 25th. I believe the earlier season offers hunters the advantage of hunting bears on salmon streams.
I used air miles to fly from home in Anchorage to King Salmon, Alaska. I brought two four season mountaineering tents on this hunt as the Peninsula is famous for high winds, rain, and bad weather. We spent a lot of time securing the tents using parachute cord and 12" stakes to hold the tent down in the spongy tundra. After a mountain house meal we got some sleep, waiting for opening day. The nights are long this time of year as Alaska loses 5-6 minutes of daylight every day.
The oatmeal satisfied our hunger as we got a quick start on the first day we could hunt. We hiked around the edge of the lake and were hoping to glass the main river and spot bears on some of the large gravel bars. At noon we realized that the air taxi had taken us to a lake that was several miles from the river we had hoped to hunt. After a quick check of our map we hiked 1 mile to a large oxbow bend in the river. After just 10 minutes I spotted a bear to our left, and Brad spotted a second bear to our right 5 minutes later. We saw six bears in the first two hours and were disappointed if we went more than 15 minutes without seeing a bear. The bears were jumping in the river, chasing salmon. This was fun! Brad said, ďThere is another bear coming up the river. I think he is a shooter bear.Ē This dark chocolate bear wasnít jumping in the river, he was walking up the main channel like he owned it. At 500 yards he had all the characteristics of a large boar. He had a large, blocky head with a stove pipe for a nose, and his whole body moved as he walked, almost like a dinosaur. We had already planned how and where I would shoot a bear, depending on which side of the river he was on. If the bear stayed on the other side of the river we would drop off our spotting hill and shoot from our side of the river. Bears on our side would be shot from our spotting hill due to thick brush blocking a closer shot.
As I watched the shooter bear Brad said, ďThere is another bear in the river to our right, but he is smaller.Ē I watched this new bear exit the river, heading downstream, and quickly realized this was also a large bear. We had been in our location for just over 2 hours, and we had two large Brown bears on the same gravel bar just a few hundred yards apart. The second bear was a very unusual tan and grey color. The head wasnít as blocky as the other bear, and it reminded me of a huge sow we had observed on a fall Mountain goat hunt on Kodiak Island where her belly was practically dragging on the ground. We went back and forth between the bears and finally decided to watch and see what would happen when they came together.
At approximately 75 yards the bears stopped, and if we would have had a second bear tag, we could have shot them both at the same time. The chocolate bear crossed the river to avoid the other one. This put him on our side, and I told Brad that I would shoot that bear when he got to the ambush point 160 yards below us. We were both sitting down with our guns on shooting sticks, waiting for the right moment. I fired, and the bear dropped. He moved, and I shot again. I saw movement, so I put a third bullet in him from my .338 win mag. We watched for a few minutes, and the bear didnít move. A wise man once said to keep shooting until the bear stops moving. We gave each other a high five and were both shaking from the excitement. This was one of the most exciting hunting days ever!
As we were loading our packs to go down to the bear I noticed a new bear coming up the river. This bear swam to our side and continued on the same bear trail that led directly to my bear. I didnít want this bear to chew on my bear, so I stood and yelled. The wind was in our favor, so the bear didnít know what we were. He stood to sniff and then started walking toward us. I continued yelling, and Brad was running the video camera. At 60 yards the bear was still coming, and I told Brad to stop filming and get his gun ready. At 50 yards I put a bullet between his front paws, and he stopped. We yelled, and he finally got the message and headed up the river. We approached my bear cautiously, but as we got closer we realized he was gone. The bear trail he was walking on was directly above the main channel of the river, and he had rolled off the embankment and floated away. We scanned downstream for anything resembling my bear. Not wanting to spread more of our scent around but having no other choice, we headed down river. A few hundred yards downstream we were crossing through a patch of alders when I spotted another bear at 30 yards. We had the wind, and despite our yelling, the curious bear continued in our direction. Not wanting to shoot another bear, we slowly backed out and retreated to our glassing spot. When this bear got to our last location in the alders he licked the branch that I had touched and immediately left for thick cover. We watched the river for any sign of my bear until we had to leave for a restless night at camp. This had been a day of extreme highs and lows.
Our spirits were low when we returned early the next day. We scanned the river, looking for anything unusual. Just where does an estimated 800+ pound bear with three holes in him go? I asked Brad if a couple of brown clumps just downstream from the alder patch bear encounter were there yesterday and he said, "Yes." We glassed and discussed what to do as we really didnít want to tromp our scent around, but we needed to find my bear. After a couple of hours a lone grey wolf appeared on the river bank about 500 yards away. The wolf sniffed around and left a few times before finally returning. Then he leaped and landed on the brown clumps out in the river and started biting them. We had found my bear!
The wolf was gone by the time we arrived, and I was excited that a magnificent trophy had been found. I waded almost to the top of my hip waders to tie a rope to my second chance Brown bear. We tried to pull him onto the riverbank, and as we did the current rolled him over and revealed that other bears had found him during the night and chewed a large hole in the hide. For the second time I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. We tied parachute chord to a log so we could both pull the bear toward the riverbank. The rope broke, and I was forced to skin the bear in the river. The hole in the hide was so large that I didnít know what, if anything, could be done with it. I cut the hide into two pieces, thinking that maybe a taxidermist could make a 3/4 mount coming out of the wall. Carrying the water logged front half of the bear with the head and paws still in the hide was a slow, miserable hike through the swamps and uneven tundra back to camp.
The next day I called the air taxi on the satellite phone, and they were able to pick us up that afternoon. The whole hide with the paws and head weighed 143 pounds on the scale at the air taxi. After spending way too much for the last hotel room in King Salmon we were able to return to Anchorage the following day. My second chance bear scored a solid 9' with a skull measuring 26 2/16" after the required 60 day drying period. The taxidermist was able to patch the hole, and the rug helps me tell a great story with a lot of highs and lows.
I would like to thank my friend, Brad Lewis, for taking time away from his family and business to help me on this hunt. Brad did everything I needed him to do and really made this trip possible. I also want to thank my wife, Marti, and our children who allow me to spend so much time and money hunting the Last Frontier.