I’ve had several close calls while living and hunting here in Alaska—it kind of comes with the territory—but some of them stand out more than others. This particular incident occurred while I was sitting on one of my black bear baits in interior AK last month. The bait had been getting hit hard by a couple nice black bears, so I was excited to try and get a shot with my recurve bow.

After sitting for a few hours, I could hear sticks snapping in the woods—a sure sign that a bear was coming in. As it came closer, though, I could see through the brush the telltale blond hide of a grizzly. I quickly turned my cameras on and picked up my rifle, a little insurance in case the bear decided to stir up some trouble (which has been known to happen). When the bear finally came in, I was shocked by its size. It was pushing nine feet, whereas in that area the biggest grizzlies typically grow to eight and a half feet.

He ate a little bit of the bait, but mostly sniffed around the can, obviously smelling that I had been there. That’s when things got interesting. He walked to the left, following the trail I had walked in on. He was only about 12 yards away to begin with, and was now working his way closer, and into a more obstructed position. I knew he would eventually figure out I was there and either take off or become aggressive. I wanted to spook him before he got too close, but I didn’t have a clear shot until he was three feet off the end of my .375 Ruger. As quietly as I could I let him know I was there, and luckily he tore out of there quickly.

I didn’t shoot the bear for three reasons. First, until next year, shooting grizzlies over bait in that area is illegal unless it’s in defense of life. Second, I had already killed a brown bear this year, so I would not have been able to kill it even if baiting it was legal. And lastly, the bear wasn’t being aggressive. It obviously didn’t realize I was there, and didn’t give me any justification for shooting it in self defense. It’s a very fine line because they move extremely fast, but I was fairly confident that he wouldn’t become aggressive, and I was as prepared as I could be to deal with him if he did. Anyway, it was quite a cool and exciting encounter, and I hope you enjoy the video!

Music: “The Railyard” by Balto
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