Over the last few years I have been very fortunate to have gone on some great hunting adventures. Some hunts have gone very well while others have left me rethinking my life as it flashed before my eyes.
In 2014, I had a near death experience on a remote river bank while hunting Grizzlies in British Columbia. I returned home to Nebraska quite shaken from the experience. While she didn't know what happened, my wife still sensed something was wrong. After contemplating a few days about telling my wife of my experience, I confessed.
I told her the story and she asked if I would ever hunt a Grizzly or Brown Bear again. Later that week she asked me again. I told her that I would indeed like to hunt big bears again. She told me I was sick in the head and should get some help. Not understanding my desire to pursue a grizzly again she asked, "WHY?!"
I tried to explain it was probably similar to a Nascar driver or Bull Rider cheating death and wanting to continue their pursuit. I promised to increase my life insurance if I ever went on a hunt of that nature again.
Eventually, I met a dedicated bow hunter and Alaskan Outfitter named Frank Sanders and made plans to hunt the Alaska Peninsula with him. Frank has a camp that is two miles up the Iniskin river from the ocean at the base of the mountain. He is able to conduct hunts every other year. Being booked with rifle clients for 2016 and 2018, Frank said that he would be taking an Australian friend rifle hunting after he was finished with his clients and would allow me to help cover the cost if I wanted to join them. I would be the first archery hunter to kill a bear in that camp if successful.
The days are long in the spring with good shooting light from 5 a.m. until almost midnight. Each morning I would leave camp and climb about 1,500 vertical feet to a rock and watch for bears that might appear along the river. If a big bear was located, I would try to determine it's route of travel and plan a stalk. Once a plan was made, which usually included crossing the river, the hunt was on.
In nine days of hunting only about two stalks per day were put into motion. Most resulted in not seeing a bear because they fed back into the alders.
On day four, I found myself and a young guide crossing the mountain horizontally trying to keep the wind in our favor and stay above a large boar that was sitting along the river in the wind seeking relief from the swarms of mosquitoes.
About a hour later, we were within 30 yards but the bear was in the alders. We knew this because we could hear him growling at a young sow that had just swam down the river towards him. I drew my bow on the sow and settled the sight pin at about 30 yards, but this was not the bear I had been dreaming of. I let my bow down and could hear both bears go through the cover and away from us.
On day nine at around noon, I located a big bear feeding on grass along the alders across the river. We scrambled to the river and crossed after heading upstream 500 yards. The large light colored bear was still feeding as we secured the raft. We began to sneak through a tide water slough towards the bear and after about 400 yards we peaked over the bank and...No Bear! After searching for several minutes in the last known area we had seen the bear, I finally saw just the top of his shoulders in a small depression near the alders. We needed to close the distance of 200 more yards quickly.
Running on swampy, marshy tundra in high knee boots is rough. At 100 yards I was able to put some shurbs between the bear and myself and close the distance to just 40 yards. Finally, as the boar began to enter the thicket the arrow hit quartering forward in the big bruin!
After watching and listening for a solid hour and not hearing any movement, we entered the thick alders in search of a, hopefully, dead bear. Fifty yards in and my bear was located! After pictures and skinning out my trophy for a life sized mount, I planted a traditional lucky Buckeye in the Alaska Peninsula tundra.
I can truly say that the training, including shooting and running, I had done before this hunt was a key ingredient in the outcome. If you're ever fortunate to get the opportunity be prepared and good luck!