After taking two great bears in two days, we sure thought we were on a roll. However, as is often the case, we weren’t going to get off without having to pay our dues. As our focus went toward getting Steve’s bear, things slowed down for the next couple days. Gary and I spent the days fleshing our hides, then we would head out in the early evening.
It wasn’t for a lack of glassing, but we just weren’t seeing much. The bears we did see were either too small, or had bad hides. One bear we ended up nicknaming “Patches” was about a 9-foot boar that had rubbed almost all of the hair off his hide with the exception of his neck and a few random splotches here and there. The first time we saw him, we watched him travel along the beaches, up onto a bluff, then down a cliff. He realized he had gotten himself in a bad spot, but had no choice but to shimmy down a 15-foot ice fall to the beach. We saw him a few times, and every time he was up to something goofy.
It was becoming frustrating, as we would hunt one area, only to spot bears at last light in another area. One night, while I was at camp working on my hide, Steve and Gary were off trying to locate a big bear we’d seen in an area a mile and a half away, a really nice boar came out on the beach about 800 yards from camp and stayed there until dark. The third day after we got Gary’s bear, Steve and I snuck around the cliffs at low tide, as we had been seeing bears on that beach every day. As luck would have it, that was the day we saw nothing. The weather took a turn for the worse, and we ended up curled up against the rocks getting blasted with snow and salt spray until about 2:30 in the morning when the tide went back out far enough to wade around to the beach our camp was on. I remember crawling into my sleeping bag soaking wet and exhausted, then remembered I had one oatmeal cream pie left. So, obviously, I crawled out of the sleeping bag to get it! It’s amazing how many calories your body will burn just trying to stay warm. I lost about 10 pounds in 10 days, and didn’t do nearly as much hiking as I do on sheep hunts.
Finally, though, our efforts paid off. The next evening, as we sat in the spot where I’d ended up shooting my bear from, things began to pick up. First we had a lone caribou trot out right in front of us, and a few minutes later a beautiful wolverine came charging in to feed on the meager remains of my bear’s carcass. Right about then, we also spotted a large boar working his way across the rocky mountainside above our camp. He acted as if he was looking for something, then all of a sudden charged down into the alders and chased out an absolutely enormous bear. They walked up the ridge and out of sight snapping back and forth at each other. About 45 minutes later, the smaller bear came back and bedded down in the snow. With our hunt drawing to a close, Steve knew he had to get it done, and we took off up the mountain. With not a minute to spare, Steve spotted the bear at 280 yards, and with the last glimpse of light fading away, dropped him with his .416. The wind and rain were too severe to do much in the dark up there, so the following morning we hiked back up to skin the bear. Even though he was the smaller of the two, he was still over 9½ feet.
He had no ears left and was covered in scars, and the fresh gashes in his head and lips indicated that the bigger bear finally had enough of him and taught him a lesson. With that last shot, it was the end of an unbelievable hunt filled with highs and lows. From the boredom of sitting out storms in the tent to the adrenaline pumping excitement of stalking the bears, it was a hunt I will never forget and consider myself very lucky to have been a part of.