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Arts Bear Story




May 1999 Southeast, Alaska

As with most stories this one began a few months ago. Since coming to Juneau from Ketchikan in the early 90’s my hunting career had been rather sporadic with a new job, house, kids in school, etc. Late in ’95 I started hunting with my 11-year-old son. For the next 4.5 years he and sometimes some of his friends were my only hunting partners. I did all of the planning, logistics, camp selection and set up and naturally my hunting partner/s were always a little light in the checkbook. Great times were had by all. In late ’98 a very good friend at work asked me if I would like to go on a spring Brown Bear hunt with him and another fellow. I immediately said yes and then he told me that he would do all of the planning and logistics and this hunt was for me alone, not my son. A great friend and some very unfamiliar ground for myself. Mark did allow me to bring some prepared meals and some ole snake bite medicine. (By the way we don’t have many snakes in Alaska) He actually gave me a list of what he was providing and a recommended list of what to bring. We changed boots about 8 times a day. Hip boots to short rubber boots to deck shoes and back again.

Time to leave. The other fellow cannot make it. Mark and I are ready to head out. Another friend and co-worker had asked Mark if he could deliver some stuff to his cabin in Tenakee Springs. So Ron, the co-worker, Mark and I set out in Mark’s 42foot fishing boat for Tenakee Inlet. Friday night the water was a little rough but not too bad. Commercial fishing boats are not fast. Spirits are high and after we dock in Tenakee they are also flowing. Sat am we deliver Ron and his stuff to his cabin and start the hunt. But first we cross the bay and drop some dungeness crab pots. Now we are hunting. We cruise into the first small inlet and I spot our first bear. We ease in for a closer look and while the damn thing looks huge to me Mark says that it is just a little one. The bear was very intent on following a land otter down the beach. We anchor the big boat and launch the 17-foot aluminum skiff. This a very heavy-duty skiff with a built in 50 gallon fuel tank, electric start battery and 48 horse Evinrude. We go ashore and glass and scout a huge meadow. Some snow is left in shady pockets but no bear. Mark is watching the tides and explains that his skiff is too heavy for the two of us to move if the tide drops out from under the boat. We had also brought along my 8 ½ foot rubber inflatable. Can’t have too many boat is Southeast Alaska. We cruise the shore in this inlet and see some deer but no more bear today. Great day & night, water clear, flat and cold. Springtime in SE is beautiful beyond belief. Bald eagles, and gulls floating in the clear blue air, forests of evergreens and we are the only two people on this side of the bay today. Next day we move the big boat to another inlet with another huge meadow. We hike to the back of this meadow and notice some eagles feeding on something. As we get closer we find a bear carcass. A little errie, how much they resemble a man. We cruise the shoreline and see a couple of more bears which Mark says are also small. This early in the season all of the bears that we have seen have good coats, not rubbed yet. Wake us the next day to another beautiful day with skim ice on the bay. We see two other boats this day. We have now seen 6-8 bears but according to Mark nothing too big yet. I spot a dark object on the shore and we cruise in closer. This is a coastal brown bear but it is coal black and the sun is reflecting off on his coat making it glow. I am about to go nuts when Mark says that this one is too small also. We sit in the boat with the motor shut down and just watch this magnificent creature he is aware of us but undisturbed. Eventually he goes back into the trees and we head back to the big boat for dinner. About half way back to the big boat Mark spots a bear on the beach. We stop and glass and he looks good enough for a closer look. We beach the skiff and stalk closer. At about 150 yards we notice another bear farther down the beach nearer the water. We move a little closer and the upper bear gives us a full display of his magnificent hide, Left side, front, back and full profile right side. Then he lies down to gnaw on something on the beach. Mark says that this is the best one that we have seen but the choice is mine to make. We discuss this one and the other one near the water. The lower one in black with a white patches what looks for all the world like a necklace. Mark says that the upper bear is the largest and that he is aware that we are there. I decide to try for him and I tell Mark that I am going to crawl forward a few more yards and take a rest over a down tree, but he is to keep a good eye on both bears, especially the lower one that is rummaging around. I really don’t want to crawl on my belly up to this next tree and peak over to be met by 500++ pounds of bruin looking back at me. I reach the tree, look back at Mark and he gives me the thumbs up. I rest me .338 win mag on the log and estimate the distance at 90-100 yards. I sight on the upper bears left shoulder. The bear is still laying down facing the beach with the dark forest approximately 40 feet behind him. I try to control my breathing and slowly squeeze off a round. I send a 250 grain Nosler Partition on its way. At the shot my bear jumps straight up in the air, does a 180 degree turn and sprints to the woods. Mark looks at me like how on earth can you miss something like that. I feel good about the rifle and the shot but there is no brown bear on the beach. I top off my rifle before we start don the beach. The Damn black bear with the necklace is still on the beach looking toward the woods. We shout, pick up rocks and sticks and throw them at the black one, wave our arms and finally the bear takes off for the woods. Mark finally asked me about the shot and I tell him I thought that is was good but had no explanation why I didn’t break the shoulder. The thought of going into the very dark woods after a possible wounded brown bear was not very pleasant to either one of us. We moved very slowly to where the bear was laying chewing on what appeared to be a sea lion hide that had washed up on the shore. No blood, no hair, no sign. The time is after 9 PM but still good light, on the beach if not in the woods. Directly behind where the bear was laying and where we thought that he charged into the woods is an indent in the forest line approximately 12’X12’. As we approach the entrance we can see a large brown lump just in the edge of the forest. As Mark readies his .416 Rem mag I throw a baseball sized limb onto the lump. My bear is as dead as he will ever be and we both sigh with relief that we don’t have to go in the woods after all. A careful poke or two or three with both rifles and high fives are passed around. I recall as we are looking over my bear, that he looks rather small. Mark and I have the same thought, he sure looked bigger out on the beach. Mark then starts to roll him over as he is just kinda balled up facing away from us and mark turns around and smiles. He grabs one front paw and holds it us and measures it against his hand, wow he sure doesn’t look small now. We manage to roll him over and turn him around for some photos. I stop and give a little prayer of thanks for the bear, for my friend doing this for me and a big one for not having to go into the woods after this guy. We were only able to drag him about 3-4 feet away from the edge of the trees. We were still surrounded on three sides by this little inset the edge of the woods. Well we rolled him over on his back and Mark makes the initial leg cuts and we start skinning. We are each working on a side, me with my backside in the bushes. After we have a fair start Mark looks at his watch and says that the tide is dropping and if we don’t want to wait for the next high tide he had better go and get the skiff off the beach and pull it up closer to where we are. I say great that I am having a ball with my Randall and my bear. I work for 10 to 15 minutes and Mark returns. I can see that he has brought the skiff closer. Well we skin for a few more minutes laughing and having a good time spirits higher that the stars. This is not a record book bear but he has an absolutely gorgeous hide with the back and side hair being as long as my fingers. Well Mark stands up to take a break form bending over as his laughter stops and he asked me where my rifle is and is it loaded. I said that it was right there about 10 feet away, yes it was loaded and why. He says that we have company. Did you know that with one reach my arms will stretch 10 feet. Sure enough the necklace bear is back on the beach and wandering toward us. We both shout and wave our arms. The bear is now between us and the boat. It is not acting aggressive just kind of curious. Mark throws some rocks to no avail. I asked Mark where his rifle is and he says it is in the boat, oh boy! After a few more rocks and sticks the bear retreats back into the woods a little ways up the beach. Mark smokes a second or third cigarette on the way back from the boat with his rifle. We start cutting again and as I get up to stretch, our friend is back.. This times we both pick our rifles and I fire a round about five feet in front of the bear. The bear takes off back into the woods again. We Mark looks at me and I look back at him form my position of butt in the bushes and we decide that if that bear wanted to walk right up to us from the trees that it would be there before we would even know it. I tagged the bear, put my tee shirt over the bears head and made some more human sent around the carcass and we headed for the skiff. Tomorrow in the daylight will be enough to finish the skinning when we would be sure on who or what was doing the skinning. It was after 1 am when we got back aboard the big boat. We had one drink, no dinner and crashed. At first light Mark moved the big boat to a cove nearer to the kill site and we jumped into the skiff to go after my bear hide. No sign of the other bear and no damage done by any varmints. We start skinning again with work a little more difficult after the carcass had stiffened. About 15 minutes into the skinning I stepped out of the little indent and what do I see but our black friend laying down on the beach about 40 years away. Still not aggressive but much too close for comfort. Mark and I took turns checking the black bear and skinning the brown one. We were almost finished when I peeked out to find blackie angling toward us. At 20-25 yards I put a .45 round about 2 feet in front of the bears nose throwing gravel in its face. It took off again, Mark tied the head and hide on my backpack and we skedattled. Do you have any idea how much a green bear hide weights? Enuf bears for a while We cruised some more but Mark did not see anything that he wanted to take. We pulled the crab pots and shared a victory feast and a few stories with Ron before heading home. My bear measured about 8.5 feet squared green and now rest proudly on my lining room wall. I cannot give too many thanks to my go friend Mark for the adventure of a lifetime. He wouldn’t even let me pay for the fuel.

After discussing this story with some other knowledgeable hunters we believe that the black bear was a female that they had already started pairing up. I think that if she had really realized that we had taken her lover she might have gotten a little meaner. In addition to the other wildlife that we saw we had a huge sea lion swim by the boat with what looked to be a 30 ++ pound king salmon in its mouth.
Thanks Art for sending the story! great story and great adventure!!!!!! With any luck I will be hunting bears with thumper in 2002 in Alaska. I have another hunt to do around Seldatna, the same fall so it will be fun. Maybe we can hook up while we are there!!!! Loved the story Art. bcat

If you aint the lead dog the scenery never changes


What a awesome adventure.Just reading that
story gave me writers cramp. Thats a hunt
you'll remember forever.Thanks for sharing!

art, excellent story and sound like a super bear any pics to go with the story???? bet it was kind of an uneasy feeling to always have to look over your shoulder, gives a little different perspective of bears and what they really fear and are curious about!!!

Genesis 27:3 Now therefore take, I pray thee, thy weapons, thy quiver and thy bow, and go out to the field, and take me some venison