We were standing in low willow just inside the lip of a shallow creek. Forty-knot winds were blowing in our faces off the Bering Sea; the acrid sweet smell of alder combined with the moist salt sea air was invigorating. The wind and intermittent rain squalls had been the predominate weather pattern for the last four days, hardly optimum weather for a bow hunter, particularly one in pursuit of an Alaskan Brown Bear. Aaron momentarily raised his head over the rim of the creek ranging the feeding bear. “Sixty two yards, that direction, quartering away,” he reported. “That’s too far for me to take a shot, what do we do now, do you want to shoot this bear?” I peeked over the rim and checked on the bear, it was still feeding in the tundra. “Well the bear has been feeding around in that swale for about an hour and there is no reason to believe it will not continue to do the same. We can wait until the bear feeds back to this side and you will have your shot,” I replied. Phil, our guide, was videotaping the stalk and now joined us for an update. He then raised his head above the rim of the creek bank looking for the bear. After a few moments, “Oh Shit!” Not the words one most wants to hear from your bear guide. “It spotted me,” said Phil as he pulled his head down. Aaron stood “30 yards and coming” he announced.
Aaron, and I had booked this hunt about two years prior with Alaskan Outfitter Dave Lazer. I had been talking with Dave about his hunts for a couple of years at the annual I.S.E. show in Sacramento. Using a bit of caution, I awaited the result of the 2003 hunt taken by Lee and Ron before actually booking. Lee and Ron having been successful, Aaron and I took the plunge and booked for the fall 2005 season. (Note-the Alaskan peninsula bear season is only open every other fall and the following spring. Next fall opportunity; October 2007) We arrived on the Alaskan Peninsula a couple of days prior to the opening of season to be greeted by stormy weather conditions. The strong gusting winds prevented our bush pilot from landing adjacent to the camp, requiring us to backpack our supplies across the tundra to the cabin site from about a mile away. The cabin was little more than a standing frame with a floor due to the attentions paid it by the resident bears. Phil scrapped the structure back into the best shape possible with the pieces of salvage wood found scattered nearby, we then tarped the entire structure. The result was a small but weather tight cabin that would serve us well. Not exactly bear proof, but comfortable nonetheless. The number of bears (13) we had seen coming into the hunt area from King Salmon was encouraging, the three bears feeding near the cabin as we repaired the structure and moved into our temporary abode were a welcome if somewhat disconcerting sight.
We opened the Alaskan Brown Bear Season from a hilltop just east of our tiny makeshift cabin on the north coast of the Alaskan peninsula. It did not take Aaron long to spot a blonde bear feeding about in a green swale a bit over a mile west of our location. Time spent closely glassing the area confirmed the bear was alone. It was apparent from its actions that the bear was intently feeding moving slowly from time to time back and forth across the swale to locate new morsels of interest. Given the inherent disadvantages one has hunting with a bow, Aaron and I had agreed that he would have the first option to stalk, then take or pass any bear we found for his trophy. Deciding to stalk the bear and have a closer look, we dropped off the hill going down the east side thus keeping the hill between the bear and us. Taking advantage of a couple of creeks in the area we worked our way around to the position described above.
With the announcement “30 yards and coming” Aaron took a step to his left giving him a shooting lane clear of brush and weeds randomly protruding above the rim of the creek bank. I stepped two paces to my right so as not to be in line with either Aaron or the oncoming bear. As I shouldered the .338 I remembered Aaron’s request that there be no bullet holes in his bear unless absolutely necessary. The world around us became amazingly clear and calm. As the bear reached the edge of the creek I heard the release followed by a very loud ‘thwack’ as Aaron’s arrow buried itself in the bears chest. The bear jumped straight up and down, woofed, momentarily looked at me, then turned right and ran back out onto the tundra slowing as it went. The bear stopped about 200 yards out, looked back over its shoulder, then simply lay down on the tundra and expired. The adrenalin rush was intense to say the least; we were feeling euphoric, lighter than air. The beaming faces and huge smiles said it all. Checking with Phil, we learned that he had filmed the entire sequence from a position slightly to the left and rear of Aaron capturing the action through the shot. The subsequent sequence of tumbling grass and sky captured by the camera in free fall is understandable as Phil shouldered his .338 in preparation for whatever may have come next.
After the bear was obviously down for keeps we measured the distance from the shot to the spot on the tundra where the bear was hit, a distance of 8 yards! The shot proved to be perfectly placed entering the chest through the top of the sternum at the centerline where the hair meets from opposite directions. The arrow penetrated clear to the fletching cutting open the top of the bear’s heart, penetrating the diaphragm, and the liver. Aaron’s post kill commentary was an excellent summation of a terrific outdoor experience, “Sometimes you choose the bear, sometimes the bear chooses you. It may not be the biggest bear, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything else” A thrilling experience that neither of us has any desire to top soon.