After killing a monster 8-foot black bear with a rifle a few years back, I sort of lost interest in black bear hunting. After all, how could I ever top that one? Especially in interior Alaska where the average black bear squares out at 5 ½ feet?

This year, doing Live Hunt, I decide to give black bears another try, but only if I upped the ante a bit.

Although I make no claim of being a talented archer, I have shot bows since I was a kid. I’m certified for bowhunting-only areas in Alaska. Still, until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t shot a single big game animal with a bow. So I made it a goal this spring bear season to fill at least two of my tags with a bow. Taking a step farther, I wanted to get at least one bear with my compound and one with a maple long bow I had made a few years back in Oregon.

Traditional archery gear presents an added challenge and some added history. I can pull my compound out of the closet after not touching it for months and be zeroed in a few shots, but it’s not that simple with a traditional bow. I had to practice for an hour every day for a couple months before I was feeling comfortable with my shot placement. There’s no sights, no let off, no mechanical triggers to give an identical release every time, you have to build and condition consistency into your body and mind. You must practice to keep it.

Shooting Easton Legacy XX75 aluminum arrows at a 60-pound draw weight I slowly got more comfortable. I went with aluminums because I don’t really have the time or expertise, or patience to sort, spine, and build a consistent set of wood arrows. And the aluminums flew really well out of my bow.

Then it all hit the fan.

Three days before my first day of hunting, my bow snapped while I was practicing. This didn’t really surprise me as self-made bows just don’t last as long as commercial models, and I had put hundreds of arrows through it. Luckily, my dad had a Martin 50-pound longbow on standby and it shot very close to mine. The results, I think, speak for themselves. I arrowed a Pope & Young bear on the first night in the woods.