Grizzly Experience - Wy Elk Hunt

MountainmanZ

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Jun 26, 2016
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First, let me just mention that I do often archery hunt solo in grizzly country, but I do not approach it recklessly. I have friends and family who don't get it, but they're the same ones who will always wonder why I ever bothered climbing Denali, Mt Rainier, etc. For me there is satisfaction and reward that is gained in doing certain things, and living life a certain way, so we will leave it at that.

Anyway, I thought I would share one awesome experience I had while elk hunting this past Sunday. Maybe it will give a shred of perspective of what it's actually like to come face to face with a full grown boar grizzly.

I had come very close to sealing the deal on a big 6 point bull earlier that morning. But, as things often go in the elk woods, is was not to be, so I soldiered on, and continued up the ridge. I had decided to hike to the top of this steep ridge, that I had stayed off of to this point, because I knew it was the bedding area for some of these great bulls I had been getting on in the lower meadows for the past two weekends. It would be my final trip to this area, so figured I would give it my all.

Once on top of the ridge I was surprised to hear an elk still bugling at 11:00 am. I quietly made my way toward the bull. Once within a good range I let out some soft cow call, and was surprised how fast the lone bull cut the distance in half. Eventually, I caught a glimpse of the bull through the trees. I dropped to my knees, and got ready. I threw one more cow call over my shoulder. The bull answered back, and closed the distance. I drew my bow, then out of the timber came one of the funnier sites I have ever seen in the elk woods. This rag-horn looked like an excited, drunk, horny, adolescent as he passed me at six yards, bucking, skipping, and bobbing his head around. I wondered, "What the hell is wrong with this guy? Is he injured?" I decided he was just goofy with the thought of there being a cow in his presence. I decided not to shoot, as I had been getting very close to closing the deal on some nicer bulls, much closer to the truck.

I let the bull pass, and as he walked behind a tree I let down my draw, and threw another cow call over my shoulder in the other direction. You could almost read the confusion on his face as he hit the brakes, and wondered how he'd missed seeing the cow. Back he came. He stood there awhile at about 15 yards while I got a little video of him, then he eventually started feeling a little unsure of things and walked away.

Feeling like I had already had a rewarding day in the woods, I decided to kick back, relax and wait for the wind to steady before I walked the ridge. I sat for about an hour, taking video, a few pictures, stripped off a layer of cloths, sent my wife a text on my Delorme, and just enjoyed myself.

It had been about an hour since I last saw the rag-horn, when I suddenly caught the very faint sound of footsteps. Something was coming my way. I thought, "Act fast, it might be a bull, and it's close!" I spun around on my knees, grabbed my bow, and while fumbling with my release I glanced up from under the brim of my hat. Time suddenly stood still...

There was a small pine tree ten feet behind me. In the four foot space between its branches and the ground I saw a massive, boar grizzly bear, walking toward me from fifteen yards away. What immediately went through my mind was, "$*!t, he has no idea I am here, and whatever I do next is going to startle him..." I have always thought the worst scenario would involve startling a bear, as their natural reaction would be more apt to attack the threat. At the same time, I was struck by the bear's sheer size, and could hardly believe this was happening.

As I hunt, and walk through the woods, I often run scenarios through my mind, especially scenarios that involve bears, and how I would react in different cases. I always carry two cans of spray on me - one on the right side of my chest, one in my left cargo pocket. Thankfully, today was no different. I had to act ASAP, before he got closer. In one motion, I switched hands with my bow, I reached for the spray in my left pocket, and pulled the safety as I stood. In a controlled, yet firm voice I said, "Hey bear." The grizzly immediately lunged forward, and came around the tree, about six or seven yards from me. He made a gesture toward me, and I could tell it was during that fraction of a second he was deciding what to do next. At that same moment I stopped myself from spraying the bear, thinking, "No, don't waste it, you need to be sure to hit him in the face." I waited a beat. Thank God the bear's next move was to the right, and away from me. He took a few strides, then with his ears laid back, and with aggressive body posture he glared at me through the corner of his eyes. I thought, "$*!t, this isn't over..." He then turned away. He did this a couple of more times as he walked away, ears back, glaring at me from the corner of his eyes. I continued to be vocal, hoping to distinguish myself as a human, "Bear, get the hell out of here". Even at forty yards I dared not take my eyes off of him, and tried to visualize the trees I had around me in my periphery.

Finally, the grizzly disappeared, and I unleashed the emotions I had kept under control up until then. It was a surreal experience, and even thinking back now I am struck by how cool I seemed to be. I was in this state of hyper-awareness. It all happened so fast, but I was aware of every move I made. Confident, but a confident that came from knowing if I panicked I was going to be dead. Hard to describe I guess... I also consider what would have happened if I had shot that bull an hour earlier, and would have been working on it when the grizzly showed up.

I have had experiences with grizzlies four times previous to this, but never this close. I now visualize the sheer power and terror an elk calf must feel at the last moment. As a side-note, this was the fourth grizzly I have seen this hunting season. I really wonder how many are actually out there.
 

NCArchery

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Jul 21, 2011
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I've never bowhunted in Grizzly country, I will at some point. Great read, but dang that stay will continue to remind me that I need to be mentally prepared for when I do make the venture
 

Caseknife

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Jul 1, 2012
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NE Washington
Wow, quite the story, face to face with the apex predator of the woods and get him to leave without injury to either of you, well done. Hopefully you were far away from where I am headed in 2 weeks!
 

Devil Diver Down

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Chandler, Arizona
When you write: "Finally, the grizzly disappeared, and I unleashed the emotions I had kept under control up until then" , you really mean you crapped your drawers, right?

That is a cool story but I'll bet it is a high pucker factor moment. So far, I've been too much of a pansy to go hunt places that have big bears.
 

grizzly_

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Feb 18, 2013
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Wow. Awesome story, glad it turned out okay.

I know there was a hunter swatted by a grizzly around Jackson last weekend. Luckily it wasn't too bad.

I hear grizzlies are becoming a real problem. Good luck to all you guys who hunt with them this year.
 

HalfAce

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Jul 6, 2013
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That's a crazy experience. From what you wrote, it really doesn't sound like the bear gave two $hits that you were there. Probably kept looking back at you to see if you were running the opposite direction, and then he would follow... Good job staying composed!
 

Matt/VT

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Solid work on your part. Having hunted WY and encountered grizzly bears, though never that close, that scenario would make me crap my pants, or as you term it "I unleashed the emotions I had kept under control up until then".

 

shootbrownelk

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Wyoming
Wow. Awesome story, glad it turned out okay.

I know there was a hunter swatted by a grizzly around Jackson last weekend. Luckily it wasn't too bad.

I hear grizzlies are becoming a real problem. Good luck to all you guys who hunt with them this year.
That happened in the Skull creek drainage area according to the newspaper article. I hunted that area 20 years ago for Moose. There was plenty of Grizzly sign at that time. The hunter was alive & breathing. Another hunter got him out to a waiting ambulance.
 

mplane72

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Iowa
Great story. Thanks for sharing. Impressed by your ability to keep cool and happy it turned out well for both of you.
 

MT_elk

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What an experience. I hunt in grizz country and always carry bear spray. Thankfully I haven't had any close encounters. One year we had a grizzly come in and tear up our camp while we were out chasing elk. Glad everything turned out ok.
 

ElkHunter11

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TX
What an incredible story that was. I couldn't imagine what I would do in that scenario. Shows what mentally preparing and also having the necessary tools will do to build that confidence and action when the time comes. So, after that encounter, did you head to the truck or continue chasing elk? I think I would have called it a day after that...
 

SteveE

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Jan 25, 2016
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Montana
Amazed at the amount of griz encounters the last couple years.

I leave today for a goat hunt in the middle of griz central.

Your exact scenario has been played over and over in my mind.

That and my phobia of getting pounced on while locked into a mummy bag with a zipper that never wants to open.

Way to keep it together during crunch time!
 

Zootownelk

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Aug 26, 2016
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Glad you're ok! Can you give a somewhat detailed location of where you were? Were you near the park? I'm rifle hunting Wyoming in a month Southwest of Jackson about 50 miles. People say Grizzlies aren't where we hunt, but I don't believe them.
 

sbhooper

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North Platte, Nebraska
Great story.

There is no such thing anymore as an area in western Wyoming that is totally free of grizzlies. I know some people that had one behind their house in Rawlins awhile back. It was eventually caught by G&F. They roam a long ways and with expanding populations, you just never know where they may turn up.

I have hunted in their country, but usually late when most are in bed. It for sure adds a bit of adventure to your outing just knowing that they are there.
 
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