I was anxious to get out of Halibut Bay and try some new spots along the canal. John Rommen and Tom decided to hike up high and check for brown bears in the slide chutes, Johnnie and I took the skiff to Sandfly and the Harrison River. The forecast was calling for a storm but for now, conditions were calm. We knew we'd need to keep an eye on the seas and pull the hunt at the first sign of bad weather.
We glassed Sandly from the water and continued down to Harrison. There we watched two black bear including a nice cinnimon. They were paired up and were either siblings or two males with an exceptional fondness for each other. Strange behavior for this time of year. We went a little further down the canal to another beach but the seas were gettting rough. Johnnie held the boat as I checked for brown bear sign.
Bad weather was kicking up. It was time to get back home. We had a difficult time getting the boat off the beach. The wind kept pushing us back into the shallows and each time we'd make headway, a wave would spin the boat perpindicular to the wind. Johnnie and I grabbed an oar. The cold wind whipped against my face as my oar pushed the bow into the wind. I yelled to Johnnie to start the engine and with one last push we had the prop deep enough to get us out of there. Drenched from saltwater spray we arrived back to the bay, beat up from our floating bronco ride. We stayed one step ahead of the storm the entire time - luckily.
As we got back to Halibut bay the wind was kicking it up harder. We tied down gas cans, boats.. anything lose on the decks. For two hours the little float house rocked in the surf.
The afternoon stretched into early evening and the storm blew by. Johnnie and Tom headed out to the hole. John Rommen and I checked out a new area near the back end of the grass flats. We found a great hiding spot next to a funnel. For four hours we watched the flats. Three bears came out - but they were all black.
At 9:30 PM it was time to head home. But before we got our gear together, a big black bear appeared in front of us - blocking our route back to the skiff. No problem, we thought. John and I put on our packs and began to walk toward the bear, thirty yards away. "Hey Bear" John yelled. But the bear just stood there. "Go on Bear" I yelled. But he moved closer and began to turn sideways - showing us his size. The .375 muzzle came down and the safety clicked off. We walked a few yards toward the bear. The bear held his ground. By now he was just a dark hole before us. I moved out and stood next to John. We yelled one more time and the bear figured it was time to back down. He slowly walked off in one of those sideways "pissed-off" gaits before disappearing into the jungle.
Our boat was high and dry. The tide had gone out leaving the skiff on the rocks. "This is going to be fun" I said to John. We threw our gear into the boat and began the arduous task of rocking it along the barnacle-covered stones. You never realize how much a 16 foot aluminum skiff, with a 35 HP motor weighs until you need to move it. Pushing, rocking, was my job. Pulling and directing the bow was John's. After forty yards of muscling, the boat was bouyant. I stayed at the stern, John was at the bow. The boat started to gain momentum and I tried to hold it back in the current. John was still holding tightly onto the bow but the boat began to drag him into deeper water. I yelled to John "jump onto the bow" but he got pushed down into deep water and over his waders. I was afraid that he'd go all the way under into the freezing water but he managed to keep his grip. the boat pulled him past the deep hole into shallower waters. He regained a footing. Wet and cold from his belly down he was uncomfortable but toughed it out till we got back to the float house. Tom and Johnnie had a similar evening hunt with a few black bears but no brown bears.
It was tonight that we became aware of Johnnie's hand. He had developed a bad case of bearfinger. His hand was deteriorating. We'll have to keep an eye on it.