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My Son's First Bear!

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  • My Son's First Bear!

    This story really starts a year ago. At the start of last summer my son crushed multiple fingers on both hands due to an unfortunate accident involving playing on a rolling driveway gate. Kids, right? He almost lost his thumb and had to have pretty serious surgery on both hands. Needless to say, his dreams of summer adventures were dashed. We managed to salvage a bit of camping and fishing late in the summer, but I must admit it was very difficult to watch my child go through that ordeal. We weren't able to hunt together much last fall due to his ongoing recovery. Thankfully he has had nearly full recovery apart from some minor loss of range of motion, and I am so thankful for the care he received. The week that we just had would have been incredible regardless, but after what he endured last year, it was simply unreal.

    We headed out into the Sound on Monday with a bear tag in his pocket, but mostly with plans to play and have fun. His best friend since infancy was along, as was his father who has been a close friend of mine for years. We've never done a boys trip like this, so that alone made the excursion special. The fun started immediately, and it just kept on coming. We encountered orcas within 45 minutes of leaving the harbor, and as we drifted they approached us and put on a little show for the boys. 15 minutes later we were joined by porpoises, which the boys watched from the bow of the boat for a good 15 minutes. We saw one bear that evening as we motored, but he didn't stick around long enough for us to even consider launching the dingy. Still, it definitely got my boy's excitement up for the rest of the trip!



    We started the next morning with an excellent pull of the pots, did some jigging for rockfish, then went and explored a new-to-me bay. We hiked for a few hours in a ridiculously beautiful spot with surprisingly easy walking. About 10 minutes after pointing out wolverine tracks in the snow to the boys, my buddy spotted one down on the flats below us. Crazy! I've only seen a couple ever, and definitely never one in the Sound. Oh, and we saw an elephant seal that morning when setting the shrimp pots in a new location. We hardly believed our eyes at first, as this is well outside of their normal range, but there was absolutely no mistaking that it was a male elephant seal. That and a wolverine sighting in one day...clearly our luck had been spent and then some. We saw two bears walking along hillsides that day, but nothing that looked possible to stalk, so we just enjoyed the sight.

    The next day we decided to reposition the pots to a place we had previously done well, and thereafter to spend the early afternoon jigging for rockfish while watching some grassy beaches for bears. While pulling in an empty jig my buddy's rod bent over, but then something strange happened. Instead of diving like all of the other bottom fish we had caught, this fish started swimming away and towards the surface. We both looked at each other and said "Uh...that fish is swimming like a salmon.". Sure enough, 5 minutes later we had a ~25 pound white king on the deck. Crazy! Needless to say, we decided to switch from targeting rockfish to trolling for kings (while keeping an eye on the beaches, of course). It took us another hour and a half, but eventually we had another takedown. We lost that king at the net when the leader broke (and I missed getting it in the net), but 10 minutes later we got another strike. This one fought differently as well, but in the opposite way. Instead of fighting like a salmon, it repeatedly dove with the pulsing pulls of a halibut. Soon my son's friend had his first halibut on board, and at ~40 pounds it was nearly as long as he is tall! We later caught another king as well, which was such an unexpected treat.





    We then went to pull the pots one more time before anchoring up for the night, but 30 seconds before we hooked the buoy I noticed a black spot in the distance. Change of plans. We quickly motored over to an adjacent cove and my son and I paddled to shore while my buddy kept the boat idling offshore. We quickly climbed the short ridge separating us from where we had seen the bear, but he either heard us or caught our scent, as he was nowhere to be found. My son was still smiling from ear to ear, though. Simply having a bear to stalk was ridiculously fun. He definitely has a great perspective on the joy of the hunt rather than needing to be successful to feel satisfied.

    That night the boys and I stayed up until midnight playing hearts (for the second night in a row, actually), and as they went to bed they told us to not wake them until we had caught the first fish. Ha! My friend woke me early so that we could troll a bit more while we motored home. We took a quick look up into the bay for bears, then went to pull the pots one last time. For the second time in a row, though, as we were getting ready to pull the buoy aboard I noticed a black spot against a green background. We contemplated for a moment what to do - no bear we had seen thus far had stood still very long, and it would take at least 15 minutes to get over there and to paddle ashore. My kid is like his dad in that he's not a morning person, and they were pretty wiped from three days of fun. I was still going back and forth as to whether I should wake my son when my friend told me that the bear laid down. Done. Decision made.

    I quickly woke my son, and though it took him a few moments to emerge from his groggy state, soon we were paddling towards shore once again. As we did so, a humpback surfaced between us and the boat, the sound of it breathing breaking the still quiet of the cool morning air. We once again beached the raft and climbed over a short ridge. It was nearly impossible to see down to the beach where we hoped to find the bear, as the brush was impenetrable. Suddenly we saw a flash of black, followed by a clear look at feet moving towards cover. We couldn't get anything close to a clear look, but obviously the bear was moving away fast. There were two ways he could go - up a creek bottom where we would never see him, or possibly he would climb the opposite hillside and give us a good look. We moved into position in hopes of the latter, and sure enough, within a few moments he emerged from the timber. It worked perfectly - he walked into a clearing and stopped, standing perfectly broadside. I hate rushing other hunters to take a shot, but I made it clear to my son that this was his chance. We've talked at length about only taking shots that you're comfortable with, and I've had proud dad moments where he has passed shots in the past because he just wasn't ready. I felt comfortable putting this choice into his hands. But still, I was caught off guard when his rifle fired. I momentarily lost sight of the bear through my scope and for a second thought that he was gone, but then I saw him roll into a small hole right below where he was standing when my son fired. You could clearly see the air escaping his lungs from the perfectly placed shot that my son had made. Sure enough, he took out both lungs with a single shot from his 7mm-08.







    Soon we were paddling back to the boat with a bear, a very satisfied young hunter, and an incredibly proud father. Of course we decided to troll a bit more while we worked on the meat, and wouldn't you know it, we hit a double just a little while later. Ha! Ridiculous.



    As my son and I discussed last night, there aren't many weeks that you can be certain that you'll remember and still talk about years from now, but this was definitely such a week. As an added bonus, his brother is turning 10 next month, is almost done with his hunter's ed course, and has a caribou tag for this coming fall. The fun is soon to continue!

  • #2
    Sounds like an unbelievable few days of adventure and memories you will have forever. Congrats to you and your son! <br/><br/>How old is your son? I canít wait until I can my daughters out on similar trips.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by AKFreezerFiller View Post
      How old is your son? I can't wait until I can my daughters out on similar trips.
      He's 12. He also shot a caribou and a moose when he was 10. We got started on hares and ptarmigan at 8 or so. It's a crazy fun adventure, for sure!

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      • #4
        Congrats Brian!!

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        • #5
          Congratulations and an awesome trip.

          Patriot Life Member NRA
          Life Member Veterans of Foreign Wars
          Life Member Disabled American Veterans


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          • #6
            Awesome story Brian! And just a little friendly advice from one father to another. Cherish those times with your kids when they are in that prime age for molding which is between 8-13 years of age in my opinion. My kids (and sons) are all grown up or teenagers now and it's a little bit harder to get them to do adventures with me like they used to. They used to think their old man could walk on water and they wanted to do everything with me. Now it's getting harder and harder to pull them away from their friends. But some of the happiest times of my life were taking my kids on their first moose hunts, caribou hunts, fishing trips etc. You couldn't trade all the money in the world for those moments. Cherish them buddy because they won't last forever, although we wish they could.

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            • #7
              Very cool Brian! Yes, the bounty of Alaska is something to behold...!!!

              Looks like momma couldn't make this trip? Being a hunter herself, she's probably bummed she missed out on that?!
              Last edited by 4merguide; 05-30-2020, 12:42.
              Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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              • #8
                Awesome story. Thanks for sharing. My boys are 8 and 11 and hope we have some more fun times like that ahead of us.
                Last edited by patrickL; 05-30-2020, 22:30.
                sigpic

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                • #9
                  Great story awesome photos.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Bushwhack Jack View Post
                    Awesome story Brian! And just a little friendly advice from one father to another. Cherish those times with your kids when they are in that prime age for molding which is between 8-13 years of age in my opinion. My kids (and sons) are all grown up or teenagers now and it's a little bit harder to get them to do adventures with me like they used to. They used to think their old man could walk on water and they wanted to do everything with me. Now it's getting harder and harder to pull them away from their friends. But some of the happiest times of my life were taking my kids on their first moose hunts, caribou hunts, fishing trips etc. You couldn't trade all the money in the world for those moments. Cherish them buddy because they won't last forever, although we wish they could.
                    Man, I hear you. I know that I don't yet have the perspective of a father whose kids are grown, but I know enough to recognize that time flies. I look back at pictures from only a few years ago and marvel at how quickly things change, and then I realize that my oldest will be in high school in two years....man, too fast. This is a pretty incredible time, though, and I'm doing everything I can to make the best of it and enjoy the time I have with them. I sometimes think about the signature line that member spoiled one had - "Spending my kids inheritance with them one adventure at a time." It's not that I need to blow a fortune to have a good time in the woods, but I definitely like the notion of prioritizing the time I have with them while they're still here.

                    Thanks for all the kind words, fellas! I'll pass the congratulations along to the young hunter.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 4merguide View Post
                      Looks like momma couldn't make this trip? Being a hunter herself, she's probably bummed she missed out on that?!
                      Yes, she was very jealous indeed - especially of the kings! She was working and my youngest was off on an adventure of his own with his cousin, so it worked out nicely for a father-son trip.

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                      • #12
                        Excellent job! When you texted me the pics it made me smile. Did you head to the area we talked about? I would like to echo some of the other's comments. Enjoy these times. I have two teenagers and both of them still love hanging with their parents. I have had some on going health issues that have had me questioning my own mortality. That being said, my youngest and I will be heading up to the Denali HWY in search of a brown fuzzy.
                        sigpicSpending my kids' inheritance with them, one adventure at a time.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by spoiled one View Post
                          Excellent job! When you texted me the pics it made me smile. Did you head to the area we talked about? I would like to echo some of the other's comments. Enjoy these times. I have two teenagers and both of them still love hanging with their parents. I have had some on going health issues that have had me questioning my own mortality. That being said, my youngest and I will be heading up to the Denali HWY in search of a brown fuzzy.
                          No, we ended up sticking to an area I'm more familiar with due to not having quite enough time to go that far. I definitely look forward to checking that area out soon, though!

                          Good luck on the grizzly hunt. Looking forward to hearing how it turns out!

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                          • #14
                            Outstanding adventure with your son. I'm sure he'll remember that trip forever <br/><br/><br/>Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                            Responsible Conservation > Political Allocation

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                            • #15
                              Great story! As one who has had a hand injury I'm really glad to hear that your son is recovering successfully! <br/><br/>Sent from my Pixel 3 using Tapatalk<br/><br/>

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