"I think we should try across the creek" Bryan said. I replied, "Sure, lets go." We both putzed a little more than usual, I dried some clothes and had two breakfasts, Bryan spent some more time glassing the mountain. There were no bears visible from camp - that was not good - but we decided to give it a try (blind) anyway. Besides, the hike was probably the easiest out of all the hikes we'd had so far and that was fine by me.
Bryan and I crossed the river and headed up the gradual incline, through some trees and bogs, until we were "in the zone." Yesterday's snows had laid a 2 inch foundation. On our way out of the trees we ran into some moose. I filmed Bryan as he tried to call in a bull. Glancing at my watch, it was already 3:30 PM and things seemed pointless, but I kept moving forward up the mountain.
Bryan stopped ahead of me and pointed out the tracks of a huge grizzly. The pad was about 7.5" with claws the seemed to extend 5 inches. But it was made yesterday afternoon judging by their condition. Bryan and I continued higher into the hilltops. Then, Bryan's now famous "thumbs up" went in the air, and he motioned with his arms that he could see a "shooter." I couldn't believe it! Would I have another chance?
I moved quickly into position and we took out the binocs. "No Question... he is huge - almost as big as the Booner we stalked on day one. Look at his ears, the belly dragging along the ground, and the way he acts. This is it, you're last chance." Bryan said to me. I strapped on my shooting glove and armguard. The situation looked really good, the wind was consistent from the North, and the bear was unconcerned. We figured out the stalk and he wished me good luck.
I moved down into a draw. "the bear should be just above me" I thought. As I crested the hill, the bear wasn't there. I carefully inched my way around the top. Bryan was 20 yards behind me - carrying the video camera. We had both gotten a little cocky about the bears. During our first stalk (7 days ago) the gun was ready and we would use the tripod for the video camera.
As I inched my way upwind, the bear appeared. He was below me, thirty yards away. He looked much bigger than the other bears I had stalked and I began to get a bit of 'the nerves'. "This is it, three years of grizzly hunts and now I'm moving in on an absolute monster" I thought. The bear was completely unaware of my presence, I glanced back one final time at Bryan who was behind me some 15-20 yards with the camera. "This is it!"
I watched the bears' reaction with each step. I was Now within 20 yards. The bear was facing away. He turned, and I drew my bow. He walked behind some branches. I let my bow down.
I moved two yards closer. Now at 18 yards the bear's rump was facing me. Then he turned. I was nervous. Not because of any danger - I was nervous about missing the shot, or worse. The mental pressure was mounting...I was over thinking. There was just so much riding on this shot.
The bear turned broadside at 18 yards. I drew and shot harmlessly over his back. The bear did a complete 180 then stopped. I froze.
He had no idea what happened, after a moment. he went right back to feeding.
"Ok, you Jerk", I said to myself, "pick a spot this time and control your nerves." The bear now broadside at 18 yards was in a perfect position. I slowly drew my 70 lb black widow recurve until I was at full anchor. The shot picture came together and I released.
The bear reacted violently to the shot, he snapped off the arrow and then our eyes made contact. His ears laid back, in a split second he charged.
At that moment, everything went into slow motion.
The first 3 seconds are blank. As if I had awakened from a dream I woke up to find myself at full draw - bearing down on the charging grizzly. I don't remember nocking a 3rd arrow - I don't remember drawing my bow - I just remember being at full draw, picking a spot then shooting when the bear was 4 yards away.
Despite the frontal shot, my arrow buried up to the fletchings in his chest.
His head turned to bite at my arrow and his loss of focused caused him to run by me - by only a few feet. I spun in time to see Bryan, who had dropped the video camera and was just getting his rifle shouldered, bearing down on my fatally hit bear. I yelled "Don't shoot, the arrow is perfect" out of instinct. But Bryan's shot was necessary - in self-defense. The bear had turned on him. The 375 H&H round hit him square at 2 yards, the bear spun around and bryan put a 2nd round in him before he ran between the us and headed downhill to die.
I don't think that either of us fully comprehended what had happened. This all happened so fast that that neither of us were particularly scared. In fact, Bryan humbly apologized for putting a round into my bear. After our heads cleared, we gave each other an embrace and let our nerves calm down. I don't think Bryan had realized, at first, that I had shot the charging bear, but later he remarked: "I can't believe you made that shot!" I was equally impressed with his ability to keep his head under pressure. "We looked at each other and I remarked.."That was off the charts."
My entire reaction was void of all reason. All I know is that my shot refocused him off of his charge. Given how close I was to the bear, Bryan did not have enough time to stop the bear from hitting me. We laughed about it and did a few high-fives. But in hindsight, it wasn't funny, or macho. It was dangerously close to being tragic.
When I walked up to the bear I had all sorts of emotions. I was relieved nobody got hurt, I was thrilled about the bear, I was somewhat bummed that it had been shot. But the most important emotion was that I had lived a dream, one that was born the day I watched Fred Bear shoot a Kodiak Brown Bear 25 years ago. I also faced my worst fear - being charged, and handling it in a way that I would have never expected. Nothing about this trip was easy, right to the bitter end. It had been a long hard 9 days, heck it had been a long and hard 3 years, but finally I was running my fingers through the chocolate coat of my grizzly.
It took Brian and I three hours to cape the bear. As we finished cleaning up and finally had the cape loaded for the downhill hike to camp, I sat down and looked over our valley in Northern British Columbia. And I thought; "I earned this one"....
...But next year, I'm booking a rabbit hunt.
|Our grizzly hunt takes place in Northern British Columbia with Bryan Martin of Canadian Mountain Outfitters.|