After spending all but a few hours of the first three days on the Alaska Peninsula stuck in the tent hiding from terrible weather, we finally had a sunny afternoon on opening day of the season. After all of the anticipation, we prepped our gear and headed down the beach to glass for bears that we could finally chase.
We had been glassing for an hour from some grassy sand dunes that separate a big tidal flat from the beach and had spotted one pretty bear high up on a mountain about 2 miles away. As I swept my binoculars over the grassy flats and alder-choked draws, I caught a dark patch out of the corner of my eye about 200 yards away. “That’s a bear….that’s a big bear!” I loudly whispered to my hunting partners Steve and Gary. The bear was rounding the end of the long line of sand dunes and headed our way. He was walking along the edge of the grass, in the tidal flat sand, and I knew he would follow that path right to where we were. When he went out of sight behind the near hill, we ran down and set up in a gully that would give me about a 15-yard shot with my recurve bow. We waited…and waited, but the bear didn’t come. As Steve and I poked forward to see if the bear was still headed our way, Gary frantically waved to get our attention. The bear had made a turn toward the beach side of the hills away from us!
Things went from zero to 100 mph in a matter of seconds, and it was decision time. We sprinted 100 yards back up to the spot where we were originally glassing from, and saw the bear walking the other way at 160 yards, almost out of sight. I told Gary, “Gimme that rifle,” and I laid down, and put a round through his lungs at 173 yards. Gary had just gotten the camera turned on, was huffing and puffing, and on top of that, the sun was right on the viewfinder, so he had a heck of a time trying to keep it on the bear. After the first shot, the bear looked around then ran back the way he came. I put another round through his lungs on the run, then another one when he stopped. Although the first shot was a fatal shot, it’s always a good idea to keep pumping them with lead until they are down to ensure a quick and safe recovery.
Things happened so fast, and my adrenaline was pumping as hard as it ever has in my life. I was almost shaking with excitement as it set in that I had just taken a really big bear, and my first-ever brown bear. We cut its tracks as we were making our way toward him and measuring them we knew he would square at least 9 feet. I can’t even describe the feeling of awe and excitement as we finally walked up on him. I couldn’t believe how massive he was! It took all three of us to roll him over. After all the months of planning and preparation, my hunt was over. I stood there looking at my first brown bear, soaking up every second. It was one of the coolest moments in my life and I will remember it for many years.