My hunter whispered ” I DON’T think I want to get any closer. ” ………… It was October 1st, opening day of the 2015 Alaska Peninsula brown bear season and the four of us had high hopes for the next 12 days. With me was my son, Dalton Harbula, acting as packer and videographer, hunters Jeff Lingren from Minnesota, and Scott Barry from Michigan. Jeff won the coin toss and the plan was to try to locate a 9′- 9.5 footer for him with Scott having the 2nd option should Jeff pass on an opportunity.
Our little entourage followed my lead as I painstakingly edged forward while glassing the mix of tundra and mountains that formed the endless “grid”. We were shadowing the shoreline of Kukaklek Lake to afford us a view of both the beach as well as the higher elevations with me constantly looking back from whence we came. Game has an uncanny ability to just materialize and the Alaska bush is the master of magicians with that regard and it is for that reason I ALWAYS look behind when scanning the “grid”………and there he was ! A great grizzly was walking the beach and approaching our flanks. Now, I’ve seen Chinese fire drills and even participated in a few and this seemed like a great idea to get the adrenaline flowing….NOT ! We four hurriedly sorted out the ambush location and it was decided by Jeff that Scott was going to get his opportunity…..and fast !
I was able to get Scott’s heart rate down to 200 bpm and as if on cue the grizzly turned inland to a stand of 7′ willows. Jeff stayed behind on a small rise while Dalton, Scott, and I began to close the distance. Regardless of how many stalks you’ve been on the grizzly evokes emotions of the highest level. They generally dislike you, your presence, and the invasion of you on their turf. Trust me !
We were now 120 yards away with the bear feeding at the opposite edge of a willow stand and I began to “coach” my hunter on the finer points of walking with Indian stealth. having only hunted deer in his home state of Michigan, Alaska was as surreal a place to him as the moon. He was excited and yes, NERVOUS ! I said ” if he stands up, don’t panic. (Yeah right ! ) Just put the crosshairs on his chest……..” and with that the bear stood up and burned a hole thru us. Twice he repeated the stare and finally satisfied we three were nothing more than anorexic spruce trees he resumed feeding on what berries remained. For 40 minutes we watched this willow stand fully expecting the bear to instantly appear from one of the half dozen blind spots that existed. My hunter whispered ” I DON’T think I want to get any closer. ” Having extremely selective hearing when it matters I grabbed Scott by the forearm as we inched forward in a manner he must have thought was Kamikazee inspired. With a firmer grip I “coaxed” my now fearless hunter unknowingly to within 60 yards of Ursus. He was there. At the edge of the brush and facing away, but to get a clear shot i needed to step out 5 yards and expose us both…….$#!+…. As if possessed Scott had already seen his opportunity, stepped out further than I had hoped, and as he brought the .375 to his shoulder the grizzly stood up and faced us. I can only speak for myself because I’ve been there. I’ve witnessed what I assume is the moment of truth in an outdoorsman’s life. Whether it be a sketchy bush flight, 100 mph winds, shear cliffs , or the surrealness of a charging bear, it’s at that moment when all is still…..devoid of sound…..or smells, that defines a hunter. It’s what he came for; right ? It’s that next story to be told; yes? With great composure Scott’s shot was true when it counted most and our quarry, mortally wounded, ran 20 yards and expired. We relived and re-enacted that hunt over the next 11 days and celebrated the birth of yet another bear hunter. I’m happy to say that the bruising to Scott’s forearm, after a month of healing, is all but a memory ! smile emoticon
Great job Scott !
By Derek Harbula.