HERE IS THE TRUE STORY
A lot of people have seen pictures and read a few different stories about this bear. I am writing this to set the record straight, out of respect for the animal and the people involved. This whole story started with myself and a very good friend and hunting partner who so graciously made this whole experience happen during May, 2007.
I had never been to Alaska but dreamed about it many times, and the next thing I knew I was flying into Kodiak with a brown bear tag in my hand. Out of all the hunts I had done before I don't think I had ever been more excited. We would have one more short flight to get to our final destination, Afognak Island.
From the time we got off the plane to the time we got on, everybody at Afognak Wilderness lodge (www.huntafognak.com) made you feel like life long friends and family. Before I knew it, I was barely unpacked and we were on a boat, glassing for bears. The next morning we would be on the water again cruising the shores, telling stories and of course looking for bears. With a few smaller bears spotted, we headed back to the lodge to let the high tide come down a little and grab some lunch.
As a lot of people know, hunting sometimes requires being in the right place at the right time. As we came through a small channel into a big cove, this bear was spotted almost immediately along with two others close by. We had about a mile in between us.
We took every precaution in our approach by covering the windows of the boat with our jackets to hide any reflection from the sun. We knew this bear was big, but didn't really know just how big he really was. All I know is that, at a mile away, you didn't need binos to see him.
Knowing we had to get around two other bears to get to where he was, we were just hoping he was still there. As we came off the hill to the beach where he was, he was gone but had left some pretty impressive tracks going right up into some of the thickest forest I had ever seen. We decided to go up a ridge to see if there was a chance we could spot him down below us. I will be honest, crawling through trees and brush so thick you can't see 30 feet is a little nerve-racking, knowing there is a giant bear very close by.
Some of the events that unfolded next are still a little blurry because it happened so fast, but I'll do my best. The next thing I know the bear was 20 yards to our left in a small opening. I do know this, he stood up on his hind feet behind a tree that was a little taller than me, (I'm 6'4) and I could see his whole chest above the top of the tree.
He popped his jaw a couple of times, and with a big woof he was on the run. As I said before, the trees were so think we could only get glimpses of him as we were trying to run after him. Anybody who has been to Alaska knows that trying to run through the forest is like trying to run on a sponge . . . to say the least, it feels like a bad dream where your running in slow motion.
Thinking we had lost him, Luke and I both dropped to our knees, and with a split-second clear line of sight below the tree branches I had a clear quartered-away shot as he made his way up a gully. I don't even remember the sound or recoil of that .330 Dakota; all I know is it stopped him in his tracks. The next shot was from Luke's .375 Ackley, If it wasn't for the concussion of his rifle right next to my head, I would have never known he pulled the trigger. One more shot from both of us would put this spectacular animal down for good. Like so many other hunts before, the emotions are so overwhelming to walk up on such a magnificent animal, but at the same time be sad that its all over, just wishing you could keep the hunt going on and on.
This bear was a true warrior. It's hard to imagine what this animal has seen or done in his lifetime. He had a broken jaw from a scrap with another bear and was badly arthritic in his knees. By pulling a tooth from the bear, the Alaska Fish & Game determined he was 18 years old. He squared out at 9' 11", but in his prime was probably much bigger. The official SCI score was 29 5/16" which ties him for #20 in the book. One of the most impressive things about this bear was probably his claws. Anywhere from 5 to 7 inch's, and the longest claws anybody at the Fish & Game had ever seen.
Thanks to Paul, Luke, Josh and everyone at Afognak Wilderness lodge, this bear is truly a trophy of a lifetime for anybody. The bear was mounted by Animal Artistry in Reno Nevada and was on display at the SCI convention in Reno more than once. He now resides in my house, where I get to remember this special story every day.
Thanks again to everyone who got to experience this amazing hunt with me.
San Luis Obispo, California
Afognak Wilderness Lodge,
P.O. Box SYB, Seal Bay,
Kodiak, Alaska 99697
www.afognaklodge.com & www.huntafognak.com
Special Thanks to Jim Grady for researching the truth and correcting my information.