Tom and Johnnie decided to hunt together today so John Rommen and I loaded up the Zodiac and headed for the hole. It was another spectacular day and I took advantage of it with my first shower since leaving Ketchikan. Since nobody had seen a brown bear yet in Halibut bay I brought all of my photographic equipment with the hopes of getting some quality photos of black bears, eagles and such.
Shortly after we arrived at the hole, Johnnie and Tom motored up to us. Tom had shot a beautiful black bear with the best rug I have ever seen. He was about the same size as mine, 6.5 feet and simply gorgeous. They had spotted him on a beach just off the canal. The bear walked right at them and Tom's rifle shot was fifteen yards!
Johnnie and John began to discuss the logistics of our brown bear hunt. Johnnie suggested that John take Tom to Tombstone, stay with Johnny K. and Lori, and hunt the big brownie. But John was uncomfortable about staying there, for obvious reasons. John was a quiet man who lived on Prince of Whales Island in Alaska. He was shy around people he didn't know and even remarked that Ketchikan Alaska was "too crowded."
After admiring Tom's bear and chatting some more about logistics, Johnnie and Tom headed back to begin the skinning chores. John and I stayed at the tide flat. Within a half hour after they left, I happened to glance the far bank and there he was...an enormous brown bear - by far the largest I had seen in my 7 trips to Alaska. John guessed that he'd go ten feet - possibly B&C, P&Y for sure.
The wind was perfect but the bear was on the other side of the river. We'd either have to motor to him with the boat, or try to cross the rapids. Neither scenario was good. Before long, the bear came across the rapids, heading our way. We watched as he crossed the river and headed up the opposite bank. It was then that I noticed a 6 foot black bear on the opposite hedgerow. Neither bear knew the other was there - it was eerie watching the situation develop. As the brown bear turned the corner the black bear spotted him and took off in a dead run for the brush. The brown bear's predatorial instincts kicked and in a flash was after him. I caught all of this on video. A few seconds later the brown bear came out of the brush and headed in our direction. It was time to put the camera away. I picked up my bow. We quickly sloshed our way across the tide flats, trying to stay out of sight. We lost the bear as we entered the trees. Without hesitation I clipped some shooting lanes on the outside of the point and burrowed into the edge. The tide was up, which narrowed the grassy bank. The brownie was going to be close, 5-8 yards at best. We still didn't know where the bear was at this moment. He could either be in the brush with us, or was going to follow along the edge of the tide flats. Adrenaline was high supply. John had the safety off watching our backtrail. I stayed glued to the edge.
After fifteen minutes the bluejays went berserk - typically behavior around a brown bear. We were on red alert. Watching this bear go after that black bear was not comforting. He was the king of the hole, and the reason that there was little activity here. It was then that I began to glass around the banks. I found diggings and then I spotted what was left of my bear carcass which had been drug several hundred yards and picked apart. This took it up a notch. I asked John if he thought the bear may have winded us and split, John laughed and said, "hell, that bear ain't worried about our scent - he's probably downwind sizing us up." I was sorry I asked.
We sat in that corner for several hours but the brown bear never showed. It was likely that he had moved off behind us in the brush when we heard the birds. Here in this jungle you can't see anything until it's just a few yards away. Given the size and demeanor of this brown bear, that could be hazardous to your health. At the last fifteen minutes of the day a large black bear appeared in the hole - we figured it was a safe bet that the brown bear was gone. Both John and I looked at our weapons. Like Chief Brody in the movie jaws, I remarked "I think we need a bigger bow." Our little tide flat at Halibut bay is now at a whole new level.