Video: Way too Close to a Grizzly

Tyler Freel Avatar

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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