here is my story.
I followed my fathers footsteps in life by going to the same college in Arizona, then moving to AK almost at random and enjoying the outdoors. Everything i know i learned from him. He has always been the one to take me hunting, footing the bill, showing me how, and often times proving successful. Well i'm 26 and he is turning 69 in a couple weeks. Figured it was time to turn the tables. I told him to buy a plane ticket and i'd take care of the rest.
He flew into ANC and we headed home to homer. the next day was filled with stories of recent life, got re-acquainted with my husky and cat, and of course taking over the entire house with gear bags, MTN houses, and guns. then it was off in my 68 dodge pickup with two heavy packs, a .300wm and a ruger no. 1 in .375h&h. first stop was a buddies house to jump in a rhino for a easy ride down some steep switchbacks and save my pops ankles some hurt. and off we went. in search of Brown bear. Knowing there isn't many brownies where we were going we vaguely talked about bagging a black bear while we were there if it wasn't to much of a pain, but it wasn't priority as after this week long brown bear hunt, we were to rest up a day and head out searching for blackies across the bay. the rhino came to a stop where the road became endless mud pit and we set off to walking. pops gimped along for a min as one leg is messed up from an airplane wreck 27 years ago, and the other was run over by a tractor just a couple years back. not but 50 yards into the mud jungle he takes a spill and goes down hard. I started thinking maybe this was too much for my father at his age and physical condition, but he insisted we go on. and things got easier as one foot stepped in front of the other. We arrived at the abandoned 1950's cabin and immediately saw a black bear within 200 yrds of our to be home with shot out windows and a door that was half missing. so i put the stalk on, but he soon went out of sight, and being just hours into the first day of a hunt not intended for blackies i figured it would be for the best. after days and days of spotting and waking over deadfalls, across creeks, ridge lines and devils club, we had yet to find anything more than that one lone black bear and a sow and cub a few canyons over. so I said one am i'm gonna go kill that black bear, give us a pep to the hunt, so i gathered my stuff and for some reason i opened my bag with my licenses and to my surprise, i had forgotten my black bear tag, well that ended that.... so we hunted that day and said lets go home and prep for black bears. As you would expect on our way out we spot a big ol brown bear track, not but a day old. yet again we change our plans and throw out a tarp and i start following the tracks as they lead to a canyon without much people traffic. so i find a ridge and sit. waiting for the bear to stumbled in the meadow below. Never saw a thing for a full day and a half. so we opt to actually go home. Brown bear tag in hand, but fun times and good memories to last a life time.
We spent a day and a night cleaning gear, washing clothes, loosing some things we didn't use, grabbing things we wished we had the first time, and sleeping in a real bed then jumped on a friends boat for a black bear adventure across the bay. I ditched one rifle and i opted to take the .375 because i hadn't killed anything with it yet. and the 300 has had plenty of action. Not knowing quite where to go we set off on a trail and four miles later came to a beautiful lake, right where we had planned, but it was exactly wrong from spotting a bear. way way to thick. so i took a day and scoured every trail looking at every hill and mtn i could see with my eyes or bino's and then made a wrong turn and started the steep climb to what seemed like the moon. about the time i figured out i was on the wrong trail i glass way off in the distance and see a BIG black spot. and over a couple min, it moves. Ok now we have a plan. so after looking at the topo maps and trail maps we think we found our route to the mtn side. 5 miles of ups and downs, moss covered rocks, more deadfalls and devils club, we arrive at another 50's trappers cabin and take shelter of the ever ending blue skies that hovered above us for the entire hunt (to good to be true but it was). two days of walking and spotting hill sides i had nothing more than some clawed trees and a few week old tracks. Then one am, as i'm heading out the door i tell my pops, if you hear a boom grab my pack empty it and start walking the trail, youll either find me or something i will leave at the trail and i'll meet you.
About 9am on my routine glassing spots i spy the first black bear. and boy did he look good. so i dropped my pack and noticed a deadfall i could use as a rifle rest. i perch my rifle up. grab my digital camera and snap a picture. then range him at 212 yards up hill. perfect for the 375 nozler. as i bring my breathing under control i put the rifle to my shoulder and find the black blob in the scope. and he took two steps and was gone. so i setup on a close by clearing in hopes he will appear there but with no luck. so i quick think and game plan to hike over and try to get ahead of him and maybe through an alder patch spot him. well that was a waste of effort. he was not to be found. At this point i knew i had to gain elevation to make a call to my captain and tell him we need one more day of hunting in a last ditch to bag a bear before my dad goes home and i move to Colorado and my life goal of killing an AK bear diminishes. so i see some goats at the top of a waterfall and say, why not lets climb. about 20% of the way up as i'm grasping to 1in alder branches as a life line i look down to see nothing but rocks and rushing water hundreds of feet straight down i think, maybe this wasn't a good idea. but i'm kinda committed now. and i continue, attempting three points of contact i made it to the top. rested for a few, waved across the mtn at the goats and made the call with cell battery at 5%. Now what? i figure lets stay on top and see if i can spot a bear from above. Then things started to go wrong. with every zig i realize i should have zagged, if i should have went left, i went right, if a branch was stepped on, it broke. Frustration was peaking and to make it worse i left my pack on the trail so i had nothing to eat (usually helps the stress and frustration). Next thing i know i'm on a game trail next to a rock cliff on the up hill side and i can't seem to keep quiet. sneezes, ripping clothe, cracked branches sliding rocks you name it. so i find a spruce tree that grew awkwardly off the step mtn side and turned vertical and it looked like a good place to cool down and reorganize my hunting plans for the day. Nearing 3pm now i gather my breath and think should i go straight down and attempt to be quiet and try again this evening, or follow this short game trail awhile and find a clearing. As my mind works towards a solution i hear a smash of leaves followed by a crack of a branch or three and immediately my heart tripled its pace. I knew it wasn't a squirrel this time around. I assess the area and know it has to be over the hill and on my game trail. but what was it, and what direction was it going. i check the wind and its everywhere. i tried to think of everything from checking for cubs, to flicking the safety off quietly, to aiming appropriately for the distance. ****, what was the distance? it was too late, i started to see black coming over the hill and i remember seeing the bright brown on the black bears muzzle and how he threw his shoulders as he walked, telling me he was going down. in a flash i brought the rifle up, flicked the safety off (loudly i expect) and BOOM went the no. 1. Instantly he turned the only direction he could, down hill and i couldn't see anything but crashes and branches breaking. then silence. after 5 min i walked to the last step he took before i shot as it was close and range back to my spruce tree. 13.5 yrds. no way i could miss right? well there was no blood at all. I waited him out for an eternity (30min) and the whole time looked under trees and dark spots looking for a dead bear, nothing. then i spot some color and that color was red. As i focused my bino's clearer the little bit of red looks like a murder sight, i follow from blood to blood putting in markers in my gps and finally i find a black bear at rest in a sticker bush.
To shorten my novel, I ran back down the trail and my pops was hiking my way, he joked and said you must have missed because i only heard one shot? and I tell him we have work to do and show him the blood on my hands. He hobbled up the trail and crawled up the alder thicket covered mtn and we got the knifes dirty, then down came the meat and hide and back to camp for some cleaning. we gathered our camping gear and started the journey to the dock. 4+ rigorous miles and half way through pops looses his footing and takes a tumble. As i run to him he says hes fine. and soon i realize he is hurting good and won't admit to it, so i give him the other trekking pole. tell him to drop his pack and i hotfooted it to the dock to drop my 80+lb ILBE gen 2 pack at the cabin at the dock. turn around and meet him on the trail to check on him, with him saying he is ok we split ways and i retrieve his pack and catch back up to him and we finish the hike to the cabin around midnight. luckily we packed the backstraps out so we cooked down some fat and ate the most satisfying meal of my life. slept for a few hours and knew i had a lot of work to do the next day. 7am i woke from my drooling sleep and 715 i was out the door water bottle and empty pack. hour and 15min later i was at the cabin packing shoulders and hind quarters, then surprisingly enough, an hour and 15 min later i was back at the dock. had lunch and relived some stress knowing we would make our boat after all! another hour and 15 i was at the cabin loading the hide into the pack and then back to the cabin for the ride home. victorious! the next day was beer pizza and butchering. luckily for me the carport kept us from the rain which started as we set foot on the boat from the hunt. perfect timing. after all was said and cut and measured. I bagged my first black bear, my first AK big game. a 6.5ft boar. with an 18in skull. The first black bear of 2014 for homer, and my dad was more excited than even i was. He later got on a plane and sent me a txt saying it was the best gift a father could have ever gotten. I helped him relive his AK adventures but through my planning and footsteps and without the worry.
Oh and he is walking well and says he hasn't walked this well in years. Now i'm pushing to find a brown bear to achieve my ultimate goal before i leave to Colorado and possibly not have a chance at the big brown beast again in my life. Now for the pictures. I'll post more soon, these are what i have on my phone and most are "selfies" as my father isn't much of a photographer