ALASKA: Frog Morton Hunts Brown Bear

Frog Morton

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Since I joined the ranks at AH, I've been a bit remiss in posting hunt reports, and as it happens, this is the first report I've shared with the forum. I hope everyone who might read it finds it enjoyable!

* * *
Frog Morton Hunts Alaskan Brown Bear:

TWO BEERS, A COOKIE, AND A CIGARETTE

I stirred and checked the time. It was just after two o’clock in the morning on May 30th.

With sunset the previous day at 11:11 pm and sunrise at 4:50 am, it was squarely the darkest time of the night. I could just make out the indistinct shadow of the bait barrel at the base of a grouping of black spruce trees thirty yards in front of me. The trails to the right and left led through hummocks and into thick spruce stands and were swathed in shadow—I wouldn’t see a bear approaching until it entered the clearing between the stand and the bait.

I listened and watched, my hearing taking precedence as my vision was rendered moot. The birds were still awake at this late hour and their subdued chortles and churrs sounded from all directions.

I pulled out my phone and texted Mac Baren in his stand opposite the tree from me. ‘It should be getting lighter from here on out.’ We hadn’t spoken since we settled into our stands the previous afternoon, but we kept in contact throughout the night in an effort to keep our spirits high and each other awake. I waited for a minute, but received no response. He must have drifted off to sleep.

Even though we couldn’t speak, I was glad to have Mac Baren in the tree with me. The outfitter had sounded surprised when I’d asked if there was room for an observer. Not everyone would sign up to sit in a stand for forty-some hours, consigned to a diet of aging sandwiches and cheese while waiting for a bear. In Alaska, non-resident hunters are required to have a guide when hunting brown bear, so the outfitter had set up this double-stand with the intent of accommodating a non-resident client.

Swatting at a mosquito, I reached for the energy shot I had prepped on the seat beside me. I cautiously tipped the bottle back and forth a few times, careful not to make a sound, then opened the cap and took several sips. I swallowed quietly then set the bottle back on the bench.

Still no reply from Mac Baren, so I was on my own this watch. I pulled the sleeping bag tight around my shoulders, leaned back against the tree, and listened in the night.

* * *
It had been not more than a week ago that I was sat at my writing desk with a pad of paper and a red pen. It was a Saturday morning and spring in Alaska was in full swing, the sun shining brightly outside and the leaves on the trees still vibrant with the newness of their opening.

I looked down at the notepad. The top sheet of paper was blank but for the upper righthand corner where a narrow column of writing was scrawled none too neatly in red ink.

Dates?
Observer?
Time of day?
Size of bears?


The list was terse and incomprehensive, the questions skewed towards an eventuality that I was uncertain would occur.

In light of the coronavirus situation, Alaska non-resident bear hunting for the spring of 2020 had been suspended to minimize out-of-state travel into small rural communities with limited health infrastructure. Many bear guides and outfitters had lost most of their bookings for the spring, and as their client base dwindled to Alaska residents only, last minute availabilities for resident hunters were appearing.

The previous evening, an ad in the classifieds had caught my eye: ATTENTION . . . single slot open for a Kenai Peninsula brown bear hunt. . . week of May 25th thru May 31st 2020. . . 5-day hunt. . . price-reduced due to coronavirus. . . call for trail cam footage and references.

Pursuing a coastal brown bear had been in the back of my mind for some time, but circumstance hadn’t allowed for it in years past and no definite plan had coalesced in my mind for where and when I would hunt one in the future. Although visions of the Alaska Peninsula or Kodiak Island likely spring to mind when thinking of Alaskan brown bears, the Kenai Peninsula on the mainland of southcentral Alaska was home to a healthy population of large bears.

I mused. Brown bear season ended in 8 days, so I would really be up against the wire as far as time. Work was busy so I would likely only be able to take one day off. Assuming I took the coming Friday off, I would have a three-day weekend, but those would be the last three days of season. I sighed. Perhaps I was being absurd to even consider such a short-notice hunt so close to the end of season. Then again, though, this wasn’t the sort of opportunity that came up every day—I might be foolish to discount it. This might be the opportunity that I’d been waiting for.

I hesitated then uncapped the pen, picked up my phone, and dialed. Maybe my trigger finger was just itchy.

* * *
After sixteen hours in the tree stand, my legs were stiffening and sore.

I had watched through the night and as the sun set and the sun rose, but no bears had come in. Through the long night and the many hours I agonized more and more over every swish of the sleeping bag and every other audible movement Mac or I made.

The trail cams from the previous weeks had picked up bear activity nearly every night, so this absence of animals had me worried.

Were we being too loud? I went over the previous hours in my mind. We had eaten a hasty sandwich under cover of thunder and a bit of rain the previous evening, then had settled in with books until nearly midnight when the light petered out. After that, we limited our activities to only those required to maintain a semblance of comfort – slight predetermined and calculated adjustments of shoulder or foot. The mosquitos were a problem, but we had headnets and gloves, so although not immune to their attacks, we were but infrequently tempted to swift movements that could result in sound.

Had the 10 plus foot bear that the trail cam picked up two days previously ‘blown’ the bait station? Perhaps the presence of a large bear in the area had spooked the smaller bears away, or at very least made them much more cautious to approach the bait.

I was fairly confident that any approaching bears hadn’t winded us. Following the recommendations of our outfitter, we had gone to great length to minimize and mitigate scent. We had washed our clothing with scent-free detergent and line-dried it upwind of the house and yard. Packs, raingear, hats, and boots were sprayed down heavily, and before leaving the hotel the previous morning, we had showered and applied a scent blocker to our skin.

I stifled a yawn. Regardless, at 6:19 am, it was evident to me that our luck had run out and we should prepare for a full day and another night in the stand. Brown bears are cagey enough that leaving the stand during the day wasn’t advised.

I didn’t relish the thought of another thirty hours in cramped quarters, but as the morning sun flooded over the spruce canopy in front of me, my spirits couldn’t help but lift as I looked forward to the day ahead.

Suddenly overcome with tiredness, I zipped my sleeping bag up to my chin, set my rifle down in the corner, and curled up on the seat of the stand.

* * *
‘Frog! There’s a bear!’

I awoke with a start. Not long had passed since I had settled in to sleep, but Mac Baren’s emphatic whisper brought me awake like a bucket of cold water being tipped over my head.

Still trussed in my sleeping bag, I swung my legs off the bench and grabbed for my rifle. As I peered over the edge of the stand at the bait site, I saw a large brown bear sat on his haunches in front of the bait barrel, like a dog at its food dish. The morning sun was just coming over the tops of the spruce trees behind the bear, catching his coat in a golden halo of light.

The bear’s head was swiveling in the direction of the tree stand and he was sniffing, small piggy eyes scanning suspiciously. Dammit, he heard me! I froze. The bear began to huff, his great body jiggling with each outbreath of air, making a sound like a rasp on a piece of softwood. I had an impression of squirrel-like ears set on a great round head, a distinct v-notch between the muscles on his forehead, and short stocky legs. With the bait barrel as reference, I could tell he was big.

The bear ducked his head, grabbing a mouthful of dog food scattered in front of him. He was on high alert, but he hadn’t caught my scent yet.

I slid my rifle up on the frame of the stand and flicked off the safety. With my scope set at between 2 and 3 power, the bear nearly filled my field of view but I could still follow his movements easily. Chewing greedily and quickly, the bear rose to all four feet, snatching at bits of dog food yet scattered on the ground. He knew the jig was up, but he didn’t know that the jig was Frog.

The bear began to move, head still at the base of the bait barrel but legs shifting, rotating his body clockwise. He was lining himself up for a perfect broadside shot. I knew I wouldn’t have much time before he ran. My heartrate lagged as I moderated my breathing. Thump, thump-thump. I breathed in then out, and my breath caught as the bear paused, the crease behind his left shoulder showing as a dark slash along his side. Thump, thump-thump. The crosshairs of my scope were settled just behind his shoulder, a third of the way from the top of his back. Time slowed as I squeezed the trigger.

* * *
Mac Baren passed a lighter to me and I lit my cigarette, drawing in the warm sweet tones of Turkish tobacco. We could smoke now that I’d taken a shot and we were no longer concerned about the bears smelling us. I exhaled into the soft air, closing my eyes as I felt the sun warm my face. Every detail was still fresh in my mind.

The shot had rang out loudly in the still morning air, but I was less conscious of the actual noise than the sudden silence that fell like a dull hammer blow to my head.

The bear spun, thrown sideways by the impact of the bullet. Time, which had seemed to slow as I took the shot, sped up now, as if to make up for its lag. Recovering from its spin in the blink of an eye, the bear made directly away from me, racing madly along a small game trail leading into the deep spruce forest. Heart pounding heavily, I unconsciously held my breath, every muscle tensed as I watched him run. How far would he go? At a distance of some thirty yards from the bait he veered suddenly to the left, towards the river, away from the open sparsely treed hillside and down into the thick black spruce standing dark and close against the rising sun.

My head was still ringing from the blast, but I shifted all my effort into listening, straining to catch the faintest sound of crashing brush continuing through the trees, or a huffing breath or gurgle which might signal a dying bear. I listened. Nothing. My stomach clenched and my heartbeat sounded in my ears, a frantic pounding growing louder, seemingly trying to beat out the ringing in my head.

I flicked ash over the edge of the stand and took a sip from my beer. I hadn’t eaten since the evening before, and had drank very little throughout the night. I knew my body was tired and dehydrated, but the dregs of adrenaline still burned away inside of me, rendering me immune to the tentative fingers of thirst and weariness I suspected must be creeping over me. The beer and cigarette we were having in celebration were helping to steady my nerves. I just hoped the celebration wasn’t premature.

I turned to Mac Baren. My blood was pounding like a jackhammer in my ears, and I could see he was pumped as well. Sixteen hours of silence was broken in a flash.

‘He ran into the trees!’ I said, pointing. ‘I listened but didn’t hear any brush or a death moan.’

‘You don’t see him now?’ Mac Baren asked to verify.

‘No, but I watched him as he ran. Could you see him?’

‘Frog, I couldn’t.’ Mac Baren’s voice sounded with frustration. From his position at the back of the tree, he had been unable to follow the bear as it ran.

‘He’s in those thick spruce.’ I repeated, gesturing and describing the path the bear had taken. ‘I didn’t hear any sound of movement through the brush. He was running hard when he left my sight, though!’

Turning back to look Mac Baren in the eye, I said, ‘Did you see the bear when I shot him, Mac?’

Mac Baren nodded. ‘I did.’

‘I hit him hard. Did you see how he spun? I think he’s dead!’ My voice nearly shook. ‘I mean, he’s got to be dead, what with a 300 gr. Partition through the vitals at that range!’

I finished off my beer and then my cigarette, dropping the butt into the empty can. The smoke had helped some with the mosquitos, but they were back now in full force as the sun gained strength in its ascent.

Not thirty minutes had passed since I shot the bear. We were waiting for our outfitter to drive in with 4 wheelers and their ‘recovery’ kit consisting of a 10’ long UHMW sled and a chainsaw winch. Due to liability concerns (and common sense), they had asked us to wait until they arrived so we could follow up the bear together. Peering down at the dense dark spruce into which the bear had ran, I figured I didn’t mind waiting for them or a bit more light.

Mac Baren leaned around the tree, holding up a plastic bag of soft, crumbly oatmeal cookies. ‘Would you like a cookie, Frog?’

* * *
We found the bear piled up under the boughs of a ragged black spruce tree.

He’d fallen just ten yards beyond where I’d lost sight of him and was stone dead. He appeared comfortably sprawled in the deep moss, on his stomach with his head uphill. His coat was a dark chocolaty colour, nearly black on the legs, but gold flecked along the hump, neck, and head. Two light rub spots showed on his back legs. Behind both shoulders the bear’s fur was wet and matted with blood.

I knelt down to part the thick fur at his side and found the exit wound – a clean shapely hole through his thin white skin. My shot had entered just behind the shoulder and passed through both lungs. His coat was so thick and long that the blood had absorbed into the fur, leaving not a trace of a blood trail.

The bear’s arm lay extended in front of me. He was beginning to stiffen with rigor mortis, and I lifted his paw with no little effort. The claws were polished and mostly dark, a few slashed with ivory along the top of the claw, denoting his age. Each claw stuck out from his paw like the beak of a nectar-feeding bird, curved and fully four inches in length. As I laid the paw back down, the claws touched, making a sharp clattering sound.

The bear’s nose was pressed hard against the rotten stump of a tree, twisting his great dog-like snout to one side. Blood had drained from his nose, turning his chin red. A few strands of vine from the forest floor and a small spruce branch stuck out of his mouth.

Gingerly, I lifted his soft pink lips. His teeth were yellowed but not rotten, the canines larger around than my thumb. A great lump of moss, vegetation, and dirt was clenched tightly between his jaws. As he died, he must have lashed out, likely unconsciously, biting savagely at anything within reach. I repressed a shudder and let go of his lips.

* * *
I leaned back against the side-by-side tiredly and took a sip of beer, surveying our work.

The body of the bear lay in front of me on last year’s grass, skinned and with the head and paws removed. I shook my head at the size of its neck and shoulders. The bear had squared at 9 foot with the hide unfleshed, and weighed an estimated nine hundred pounds.

After finishing skinning, we had cracked beers then folded the hide. Laying paw against paw, with a fold along the back, we folded in the arms and rolled up the hide from tail to nose and lifted it into the sled. The hide alone required two people to shift and weighed over a hundred pounds.

The recovery and skinning had taken most the day, and the long night was beginning to catch up with both Mac Baren and I. I felt tired and wan.

With a sigh I turned to the cab and carefully placed my camera and the knives in my pack, then trudged to the rear of the side-by-side to stow it in the box.

As I began to shut the lid of the box, my eyes lit on the cooler bag, nestled in the corner of the box with the rest of our sandwiches inside. I hesitated. I checked the time – it was nearly 4:30 pm. My eyes back on the cooler bag, I called to Mac Baren. ‘Mac, do you know what time it is?’ He was behind me, strapping his gear to his 4-wheeler. ‘It’s almost 4:30.’

I let the lid down on the box, grabbed my beer, and turned around with a grin. ‘And all we’ve had today is two beers, a cookie, and a cigarette.’

. . . Finis

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CBH Australia

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Congratulations on the Bear! Good write up.
Bear look cool, I would like a bear skin rug, and the opportunity to hunt one.
 

cpr0312

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Thanks for sharing and Congrats!!!
 

PHOENIX PHIL

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Well done, congrats!
 

gillettehunter

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Very nicely written and a great bear. Congrats!
Bruce
 

Bullthrower338

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Great report! I like the story line with two of my favorite things, bears and beers!
 

Frog Morton

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Thanks, all! Glad you enjoyed it.
 

Mort Hill

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Congrats on your dream. What a marvelous tale you spin. Worthy of any outdoor publication I’ve read!
 

Frog Morton

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Congrats on your dream. What a marvelous tale you spin. Worthy of any outdoor publication I’ve read!
Thank you for the kind words, Mort! I'm glad you enjoyed my hunt report.
 

Chukar

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Congratulations and well documented hunt!

With names like Frog Morton and Mac Baren I'm a little surprised that you lit up a cigarette instead of setting fire to the briar.
 

Frog Morton

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Congratulations and well documented hunt!

With names like Frog Morton and Mac Baren I'm a little surprised that you lit up a cigarette instead of setting fire to the briar.

You raise an excellent point there, Chukar! We'll make sure to live up to our pseudonyms on the next adventure.
 

Shootist43

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Frog, your writing skills are finely honed, who were you trying to kid?? Great story BTW. What's next?
 

Frog Morton

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Frog, your writing skills are finely honed, who were you trying to kid?? Great story BTW. What's next?
Thank you, Shootist43! As for what's next, I was fortunate enough to draw a spring 2021 muskox tag for Nunivak Island here in Alaska. That's an adventure that will be quite new to me, and I sure am looking forward to it. In the meantime I'd like to work on putting to words a few of my other hunts, including a few from my 2018 safari in South Africa.
 

John Havard

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Since I joined the ranks at AH, I've been a bit remiss in posting hunt reports, and as it happens, this is the first report I've shared with the forum. I hope everyone who might read it finds it enjoyable!

* * *
Frog Morton Hunts Alaskan Brown Bear:

TWO BEERS, A COOKIE, AND A CIGARETTE

I stirred and checked the time. It was just after two o’clock in the morning on May 30th.

With sunset the previous day at 11:11 pm and sunrise at 4:50 am, it was squarely the darkest time of the night. I could just make out the indistinct shadow of the bait barrel at the base of a grouping of black spruce trees thirty yards in front of me. The trails to the right and left led through hummocks and into thick spruce stands and were swathed in shadow—I wouldn’t see a bear approaching until it entered the clearing between the stand and the bait.

I listened and watched, my hearing taking precedence as my vision was rendered moot. The birds were still awake at this late hour and their subdued chortles and churrs sounded from all directions.

I pulled out my phone and texted Mac Baren in his stand opposite the tree from me. ‘It should be getting lighter from here on out.’ We hadn’t spoken since we settled into our stands the previous afternoon, but we kept in contact throughout the night in an effort to keep our spirits high and each other awake. I waited for a minute, but received no response. He must have drifted off to sleep.

Even though we couldn’t speak, I was glad to have Mac Baren in the tree with me. The outfitter had sounded surprised when I’d asked if there was room for an observer. Not everyone would sign up to sit in a stand for forty-some hours, consigned to a diet of aging sandwiches and cheese while waiting for a bear. In Alaska, non-resident hunters are required to have a guide when hunting brown bear, so the outfitter had set up this double-stand with the intent of accommodating a non-resident client.

Swatting at a mosquito, I reached for the energy shot I had prepped on the seat beside me. I cautiously tipped the bottle back and forth a few times, careful not to make a sound, then opened the cap and took several sips. I swallowed quietly then set the bottle back on the bench.

Still no reply from Mac Baren, so I was on my own this watch. I pulled the sleeping bag tight around my shoulders, leaned back against the tree, and listened in the night.

* * *
It had been not more than a week ago that I was sat at my writing desk with a pad of paper and a red pen. It was a Saturday morning and spring in Alaska was in full swing, the sun shining brightly outside and the leaves on the trees still vibrant with the newness of their opening.

I looked down at the notepad. The top sheet of paper was blank but for the upper righthand corner where a narrow column of writing was scrawled none too neatly in red ink.

Dates?
Observer?
Time of day?
Size of bears?


The list was terse and incomprehensive, the questions skewed towards an eventuality that I was uncertain would occur.

In light of the coronavirus situation, Alaska non-resident bear hunting for the spring of 2020 had been suspended to minimize out-of-state travel into small rural communities with limited health infrastructure. Many bear guides and outfitters had lost most of their bookings for the spring, and as their client base dwindled to Alaska residents only, last minute availabilities for resident hunters were appearing.

The previous evening, an ad in the classifieds had caught my eye: ATTENTION . . . single slot open for a Kenai Peninsula brown bear hunt. . . week of May 25th thru May 31st 2020. . . 5-day hunt. . . price-reduced due to coronavirus. . . call for trail cam footage and references.

Pursuing a coastal brown bear had been in the back of my mind for some time, but circumstance hadn’t allowed for it in years past and no definite plan had coalesced in my mind for where and when I would hunt one in the future. Although visions of the Alaska Peninsula or Kodiak Island likely spring to mind when thinking of Alaskan brown bears, the Kenai Peninsula on the mainland of southcentral Alaska was home to a healthy population of large bears.

I mused. Brown bear season ended in 8 days, so I would really be up against the wire as far as time. Work was busy so I would likely only be able to take one day off. Assuming I took the coming Friday off, I would have a three-day weekend, but those would be the last three days of season. I sighed. Perhaps I was being absurd to even consider such a short-notice hunt so close to the end of season. Then again, though, this wasn’t the sort of opportunity that came up every day—I might be foolish to discount it. This might be the opportunity that I’d been waiting for.

I hesitated then uncapped the pen, picked up my phone, and dialed. Maybe my trigger finger was just itchy.

* * *
After sixteen hours in the tree stand, my legs were stiffening and sore.

I had watched through the night and as the sun set and the sun rose, but no bears had come in. Through the long night and the many hours I agonized more and more over every swish of the sleeping bag and every other audible movement Mac or I made.

The trail cams from the previous weeks had picked up bear activity nearly every night, so this absence of animals had me worried.

Were we being too loud? I went over the previous hours in my mind. We had eaten a hasty sandwich under cover of thunder and a bit of rain the previous evening, then had settled in with books until nearly midnight when the light petered out. After that, we limited our activities to only those required to maintain a semblance of comfort – slight predetermined and calculated adjustments of shoulder or foot. The mosquitos were a problem, but we had headnets and gloves, so although not immune to their attacks, we were but infrequently tempted to swift movements that could result in sound.

Had the 10 plus foot bear that the trail cam picked up two days previously ‘blown’ the bait station? Perhaps the presence of a large bear in the area had spooked the smaller bears away, or at very least made them much more cautious to approach the bait.

I was fairly confident that any approaching bears hadn’t winded us. Following the recommendations of our outfitter, we had gone to great length to minimize and mitigate scent. We had washed our clothing with scent-free detergent and line-dried it upwind of the house and yard. Packs, raingear, hats, and boots were sprayed down heavily, and before leaving the hotel the previous morning, we had showered and applied a scent blocker to our skin.

I stifled a yawn. Regardless, at 6:19 am, it was evident to me that our luck had run out and we should prepare for a full day and another night in the stand. Brown bears are cagey enough that leaving the stand during the day wasn’t advised.

I didn’t relish the thought of another thirty hours in cramped quarters, but as the morning sun flooded over the spruce canopy in front of me, my spirits couldn’t help but lift as I looked forward to the day ahead.

Suddenly overcome with tiredness, I zipped my sleeping bag up to my chin, set my rifle down in the corner, and curled up on the seat of the stand.

* * *
‘Frog! There’s a bear!’

I awoke with a start. Not long had passed since I had settled in to sleep, but Mac Baren’s emphatic whisper brought me awake like a bucket of cold water being tipped over my head.

Still trussed in my sleeping bag, I swung my legs off the bench and grabbed for my rifle. As I peered over the edge of the stand at the bait site, I saw a large brown bear sat on his haunches in front of the bait barrel, like a dog at its food dish. The morning sun was just coming over the tops of the spruce trees behind the bear, catching his coat in a golden halo of light.

The bear’s head was swiveling in the direction of the tree stand and he was sniffing, small piggy eyes scanning suspiciously. Dammit, he heard me! I froze. The bear began to huff, his great body jiggling with each outbreath of air, making a sound like a rasp on a piece of softwood. I had an impression of squirrel-like ears set on a great round head, a distinct v-notch between the muscles on his forehead, and short stocky legs. With the bait barrel as reference, I could tell he was big.

The bear ducked his head, grabbing a mouthful of dog food scattered in front of him. He was on high alert, but he hadn’t caught my scent yet.

I slid my rifle up on the frame of the stand and flicked off the safety. With my scope set at between 2 and 3 power, the bear nearly filled my field of view but I could still follow his movements easily. Chewing greedily and quickly, the bear rose to all four feet, snatching at bits of dog food yet scattered on the ground. He knew the jig was up, but he didn’t know that the jig was Frog.

The bear began to move, head still at the base of the bait barrel but legs shifting, rotating his body clockwise. He was lining himself up for a perfect broadside shot. I knew I wouldn’t have much time before he ran. My heartrate lagged as I moderated my breathing. Thump, thump-thump. I breathed in then out, and my breath caught as the bear paused, the crease behind his left shoulder showing as a dark slash along his side. Thump, thump-thump. The crosshairs of my scope were settled just behind his shoulder, a third of the way from the top of his back. Time slowed as I squeezed the trigger.

* * *
Mac Baren passed a lighter to me and I lit my cigarette, drawing in the warm sweet tones of Turkish tobacco. We could smoke now that I’d taken a shot and we were no longer concerned about the bears smelling us. I exhaled into the soft air, closing my eyes as I felt the sun warm my face. Every detail was still fresh in my mind.

The shot had rang out loudly in the still morning air, but I was less conscious of the actual noise than the sudden silence that fell like a dull hammer blow to my head.

The bear spun, thrown sideways by the impact of the bullet. Time, which had seemed to slow as I took the shot, sped up now, as if to make up for its lag. Recovering from its spin in the blink of an eye, the bear made directly away from me, racing madly along a small game trail leading into the deep spruce forest. Heart pounding heavily, I unconsciously held my breath, every muscle tensed as I watched him run. How far would he go? At a distance of some thirty yards from the bait he veered suddenly to the left, towards the river, away from the open sparsely treed hillside and down into the thick black spruce standing dark and close against the rising sun.

My head was still ringing from the blast, but I shifted all my effort into listening, straining to catch the faintest sound of crashing brush continuing through the trees, or a huffing breath or gurgle which might signal a dying bear. I listened. Nothing. My stomach clenched and my heartbeat sounded in my ears, a frantic pounding growing louder, seemingly trying to beat out the ringing in my head.


I flicked ash over the edge of the stand and took a sip from my beer. I hadn’t eaten since the evening before, and had drank very little throughout the night. I knew my body was tired and dehydrated, but the dregs of adrenaline still burned away inside of me, rendering me immune to the tentative fingers of thirst and weariness I suspected must be creeping over me. The beer and cigarette we were having in celebration were helping to steady my nerves. I just hoped the celebration wasn’t premature.

I turned to Mac Baren. My blood was pounding like a jackhammer in my ears, and I could see he was pumped as well. Sixteen hours of silence was broken in a flash.

‘He ran into the trees!’ I said, pointing. ‘I listened but didn’t hear any brush or a death moan.’

‘You don’t see him now?’ Mac Baren asked to verify.

‘No, but I watched him as he ran. Could you see him?’

‘Frog, I couldn’t.’ Mac Baren’s voice sounded with frustration. From his position at the back of the tree, he had been unable to follow the bear as it ran.

‘He’s in those thick spruce.’ I repeated, gesturing and describing the path the bear had taken. ‘I didn’t hear any sound of movement through the brush. He was running hard when he left my sight, though!’

Turning back to look Mac Baren in the eye, I said, ‘Did you see the bear when I shot him, Mac?’

Mac Baren nodded. ‘I did.’

‘I hit him hard. Did you see how he spun? I think he’s dead!’ My voice nearly shook. ‘I mean, he’s got to be dead, what with a 300 gr. Partition through the vitals at that range!’


I finished off my beer and then my cigarette, dropping the butt into the empty can. The smoke had helped some with the mosquitos, but they were back now in full force as the sun gained strength in its ascent.

Not thirty minutes had passed since I shot the bear. We were waiting for our outfitter to drive in with 4 wheelers and their ‘recovery’ kit consisting of a 10’ long UHMW sled and a chainsaw winch. Due to liability concerns (and common sense), they had asked us to wait until they arrived so we could follow up the bear together. Peering down at the dense dark spruce into which the bear had ran, I figured I didn’t mind waiting for them or a bit more light.

Mac Baren leaned around the tree, holding up a plastic bag of soft, crumbly oatmeal cookies. ‘Would you like a cookie, Frog?’

* * *
We found the bear piled up under the boughs of a ragged black spruce tree.

He’d fallen just ten yards beyond where I’d lost sight of him and was stone dead. He appeared comfortably sprawled in the deep moss, on his stomach with his head uphill. His coat was a dark chocolaty colour, nearly black on the legs, but gold flecked along the hump, neck, and head. Two light rub spots showed on his back legs. Behind both shoulders the bear’s fur was wet and matted with blood.

I knelt down to part the thick fur at his side and found the exit wound – a clean shapely hole through his thin white skin. My shot had entered just behind the shoulder and passed through both lungs. His coat was so thick and long that the blood had absorbed into the fur, leaving not a trace of a blood trail.

The bear’s arm lay extended in front of me. He was beginning to stiffen with rigor mortis, and I lifted his paw with no little effort. The claws were polished and mostly dark, a few slashed with ivory along the top of the claw, denoting his age. Each claw stuck out from his paw like the beak of a nectar-feeding bird, curved and fully four inches in length. As I laid the paw back down, the claws touched, making a sharp clattering sound.

The bear’s nose was pressed hard against the rotten stump of a tree, twisting his great dog-like snout to one side. Blood had drained from his nose, turning his chin red. A few strands of vine from the forest floor and a small spruce branch stuck out of his mouth.

Gingerly, I lifted his soft pink lips. His teeth were yellowed but not rotten, the canines larger around than my thumb. A great lump of moss, vegetation, and dirt was clenched tightly between his jaws. As he died, he must have lashed out, likely unconsciously, biting savagely at anything within reach. I repressed a shudder and let go of his lips.

* * *
I leaned back against the side-by-side tiredly and took a sip of beer, surveying our work.

The body of the bear lay in front of me on last year’s grass, skinned and with the head and paws removed. I shook my head at the size of its neck and shoulders. The bear had squared at 9 foot with the hide unfleshed, and weighed an estimated nine hundred pounds.

After finishing skinning, we had cracked beers then folded the hide. Laying paw against paw, with a fold along the back, we folded in the arms and rolled up the hide from tail to nose and lifted it into the sled. The hide alone required two people to shift and weighed over a hundred pounds.

The recovery and skinning had taken most the day, and the long night was beginning to catch up with both Mac Baren and I. I felt tired and wan.

With a sigh I turned to the cab and carefully placed my camera and the knives in my pack, then trudged to the rear of the side-by-side to stow it in the box.

As I began to shut the lid of the box, my eyes lit on the cooler bag, nestled in the corner of the box with the rest of our sandwiches inside. I hesitated. I checked the time – it was nearly 4:30 pm. My eyes back on the cooler bag, I called to Mac Baren. ‘Mac, do you know what time it is?’ He was behind me, strapping his gear to his 4-wheeler. ‘It’s almost 4:30.’

I let the lid down on the box, grabbed my beer, and turned around with a grin. ‘And all we’ve had today is two beers, a cookie, and a cigarette.’

. . . Finis

View attachment 353843View attachment 353840 View attachment 353841 View attachment 353842 View attachment 353844 View attachment 353845 View attachment 353846
Drinking beer, smoking, and shooting over bait. Hunting?
 

gillettehunter

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@John Havard,
I'm going to reply as some others may be more abrasive. I think your post was out of line and inaccurate. Perhaps you missed where he spent close to 18 hrs in the stand with little to eat or drink as well as no smoking so a bear wouldn't sense him? I'd be ready for a drink after a kill shot on a bear. It wouldn't be a beer, but I don't drink alcohol. If it was before pulling the trigger then I'd agree thats not safe or smart.
Now about bears and bear hunting in stands with bait. Don't know where your from or how much knowledge you have. I'll try to give some basic facts so perhaps your attitude will change. I can safely say that most bears in the US and Canada are killed over bait where legal. It is legal where he was at so we as hunters should stand together in protecting that right. Some states it isn't. Bear harvests suffer as a result.
A bear on bait typically provides a much better look at the bear to determine if its one you want to kill. It provides the opportunity to wait for better shot angles for a cleaner kill. In some cases it can allow the hunter to make an educated guess at the sex of the bear allowing sows to be passed on and mostly boars taken. It allows some of us that are not as young as we used to be to hunt bears when the other options may not work for us.
This was end of the spring season. No salmon in the rivers at that time so bears aren't there. No berries so hunting berry patches is out. Maybe see one looking for food on a beach. Pretty tough to plan a 3 day hunt on that option. Walking around through the thickets isn't going to do you any good either.
I get the fact that you seem to not want to hunt over bait. Your choice. It was legal so why bash him over it? In many places its virtually the only way to have a successful bear hunt. Is sitting over a food plot for a whitetail buck any different? Same principal. Food is supplied to attract animals. Hunter selects an appropriate animal to kill. Waits for a good angle and makes a one shot kill. Sounds like how a bunch of deer are killed every year to me.
Rant and lesson over.
Bruce
 

MMAL

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Great job and report. By hands for sharing
 

Ridgewalker

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I missed this in June! Very enjoyable read! One fine brown bear! Oh am I envious!
 

John Havard

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@John Havard,
I'm going to reply as some others may be more abrasive. I think your post was out of line and inaccurate. Perhaps you missed where he spent close to 18 hrs in the stand with little to eat or drink as well as no smoking so a bear wouldn't sense him? I'd be ready for a drink after a kill shot on a bear. It wouldn't be a beer, but I don't drink alcohol. If it was before pulling the trigger then I'd agree thats not safe or smart.
Now about bears and bear hunting in stands with bait. Don't know where your from or how much knowledge you have. I'll try to give some basic facts so perhaps your attitude will change. I can safely say that most bears in the US and Canada are killed over bait where legal. It is legal where he was at so we as hunters should stand together in protecting that right. Some states it isn't. Bear harvests suffer as a result.
A bear on bait typically provides a much better look at the bear to determine if its one you want to kill. It provides the opportunity to wait for better shot angles for a cleaner kill. In some cases it can allow the hunter to make an educated guess at the sex of the bear allowing sows to be passed on and mostly boars taken. It allows some of us that are not as young as we used to be to hunt bears when the other options may not work for us.
This was end of the spring season. No salmon in the rivers at that time so bears aren't there. No berries so hunting berry patches is out. Maybe see one looking for food on a beach. Pretty tough to plan a 3 day hunt on that option. Walking around through the thickets isn't going to do you any good either.
I get the fact that you seem to not want to hunt over bait. Your choice. It was legal so why bash him over it? In many places its virtually the only way to have a successful bear hunt. Is sitting over a food plot for a whitetail buck any different? Same principal. Food is supplied to attract animals. Hunter selects an appropriate animal to kill. Waits for a good angle and makes a one shot kill. Sounds like how a bunch of deer are killed every year to me.
Rant and lesson over.
Bruce
First, I have called Alaska home since 1979.
Not sure where you live but it’s obviously not here.
Shooting brown bear over bait has only been legal here for a short time or only in a few areas.
I have killed many bears. Brown, Black, and inland Grizzly. None over bait, but if that’s your thing, fine. I don’t care. But in my opinion, it’s not hunting.
As far as others being abrasive, I don’t care about that either. It’s my opinion.
Believe it or not this is still America and since I am retired Military as well as being a retired Alaskan LEO I have earned the right to voice that opinion.
I won’t wast others time here debating Opinions.
If you are fortunate enough to have a family, go enjoy your Christmas with them.
 

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