Today is the last day of brown bear season.
We got up in the dark and watched the tide flats at Tombstone. The bears never showed and a slight drizzle turned into a steady rain. Johnny K. invited us to stay but we needed to hunt hard - one last big push before my hunt ended. I said good-bye to the old fisherman and climbed into Johnnie's skiff.
It was cold, wet and miserable. The skiff raced up the calm waters at twenty knots. The rain stung the my eyes and nose - the only part of my face not covered by rainwear. We pushed northward, up the canal checking beach after beach. While racing by this beautiful green tide flat I saw what I thought was a bear while squinting to keep the rain out of my eyes. I yelled to Johnnie - "Isn't that a bear" The look on Johnnie's face was priceless. Feeding on the beach was a huge brown bear. "He's a jumbo" Johnnie whispered from behind his binoculars.
The bear fed along the beach before ducking into the trees. Now that the bear was in the jungle, our options were limited. Basically wait here in the canal until he shows again, or take a position and wait on the beach. We chose the latter.
As we motored closer to the beach I caught movement down a small stream on the side of the beach. The large brown bear had crossed a stream and was now feeding in a one-acre meadow adjacent to the jungle. We wasted no time. I lashed on my armguard and shooting glove, put on my shooting cap with the facemask and Johnnie placed a round up the chute. We checked the wind then dashed into the jungle.
The going at first was easy, for 50 yards we followed a bear highway. But then it became typical Southeast Alaska brush. Johnnie and I climbed high up into the rocks and peered down. No bear. We moved closer, carefully placing each step on the soft, moss-covered ground. I fought the brush, lifting my longbow above the wet green leaves. We got to the edge of the small meadow. No bear. Johnnie and I checked the wind - "Still good" I said. We switched positions and I took the lead. As I moved down closer to the meadow I froze. The bear was feeding in my direction - 60 yards away. Johnnie moved up behind me. We checked the wind again. "He'll go 9 feet easy" Johnnie said. All I knew was he was BIG!
The bear continued in our direction. I couldn't believe it - like last year everything was coming together on the final day. It was obvious where my shot would be. Five yards at best. I watched the bear's eyes as he came in like he was being pulled on a string.
He stopped and his nose tested the air. He slinked slowly back into the brush with us and completely vanished. I turned to Johnnie who puffed on his wind detector bottle. The puffy cloud of powder was heading right to the bear. He was gone.
We stayed there for several minutes. In some weird way I hoped the bear would be aggressive and possibly come in for a shot. But he was too old and smart for that. We never saw him again. Despite the wind spoiling everything at the final moments - we were both excited. It was a great stalk.
We still had time, we had spotted the bear at 9:20 AM and by 9:50 it was over. They say that brown bear hunting is days upon days of sheer boredom, interrupted by a few minutes of sheer terror - how true. The rain was really pounding now so Johnnie and I ducked into a small float house that had been washed ashore and destroyed by bears, and made a hot lunch. It was prudent to hunt close to home so we headed for Sandfly and the Harrison River for my last evening hunt.
We stayed there until 9:00 PM and watched black bears before heading back to our Halibut Bay basecamp. Once there we took one last spin around the bay. There was an eerie feeling about the place. No black bears anywhere. We checked the outside beaches, the flats and finally the hole - nothing. It was nearly black at this time but as we came from the hole a dark form caught my eye. Even with my light gathering Swarovski's it was tough to tell what it was. But it was big. A mist floated across the river but through it I could make out the form of an enormous brown bear slinking quietly down the stream and into the jungle. The monster we had seen last week was here all along. He was just smarter than us. With no human scent in the bay for two nights the king of the valley came down to claim his land. And the black bears knew better than to hang around. It became clear to Johnnie and me why the black bears were feeding in daylight, why we saw no brown bear activity here at all. It was a cool ending to a great hunt.
Thanks for coming along with us!