On the last morning of a ten-day bear hunt in Kiliuda Bay on Kodiak Island, my dad and I were feeling fairly spent, as well as dehydrated, sunburnt and a bit dejected about not having gotten close to a big bear.
We had started the hunt nine days earlier seeing bears up high but that hadn’t proven true for the last few days. We were tired and the view at the head of the bay was amazing, so I suggested that instead of hiking back in and up high we should hang out on the beach down low and just see what might happen.
At 8 p.m. a younger looking boar appeared directly across the bay on the beach. We estimated him to be maybe eight feet so with the wind in our face we decided to put a stalk on him. We had about a mile to close the distance and halfway there we stopped to glass and get a better look. When I panned to the right I noticed a huge, very dark spot at the head of the bay. The spot was moving and as it cleared the bush I could see it was a trophy class boar.
The big bruin worked his way along the water’s edge heading towards the younger bear. At a range of about 400 yards the giant boar saw the younger bear and took off on a dead run for it. I was amazed at how fast this creature covered the distance and when the younger bear saw him coming he exited the bay with equal speed. The big boy chased the younger lad up into the brush and both went out of sight. My heart sank as both bears seemed to be gone.
My dad and I just stood there for maybe five minutes trying to decide what to do when the very large dark spot reappeared from out of the tag alders back out onto the beach. My dad ranged the bear at about 700 yards. With adrenaline starting to build we continued the stalk.
Dropping down into creek beds and washouts to stay low we filled our hip boots and never even noticed. We popped up and ranged again, 270 yards. I spotted a small knob ahead and thought it would be a good spot to setup for the shot. The bear had moved out into the bay towards us and was feeding in a clockwise circle. When we were looking at his rear end we made for the knob. Laying down, prone position, I steadied my Ruger M77 .300 Win Mag at 103 yards and looked over my shoulder at my dad.
“You ready,” I whispered?
His eyes were locked onto the giant bear and his Ruger .375 Alaskan was pulled tight against his shoulder. He gave me a slight nod and I prepared to shoot. The bear was head-on to me but slowly turning to the right. I waited what seemed like hours but was just a few seconds for him to show me his left shoulder. A few more seconds and I had a quartering-away shoulder shot. I placed the cross hairs between his elbow and shoulder blade and squeezed, sending a 200-grain bullet down-range. The beast was set back on his haunches and his left side raised up off the ground. When he tried to come down on the shoulder it gave out and he did a complete somersault, landing on hisback with all fours flailing in the air.
I could not believe what I was seeing, for a split-second I was taken by the moment and was almost out of body. The bear was rocking in an effort to get to all fours. Dad took notice of my pause and gently but sternly suggested that I continue to shoot, so shoot I did.
The bear was back up on all fours and headed towards the tag alders and I was emptying my gun. In the scope I could see the bullet welts and I knew I was finding my mark but the monster just growled, looked over his shoulder at us and kept going like he’d been stung by a bee. All together we shot 12 times. He made it to the tag alders and was now out of sight.
I hadn’t experienced any nervousness until this point. My legs went weak and I had to take a knee for a few minutes and get myself collected. Dad had by this time found the blood trail and like a man possessed he was on it. The blood trail was two feet wide and every six feet or so there was a blood spray about 4 feet long; this was encouraging as it meant I had gotten into the boiler room with my first shot.
We tracked him to the tag alders and by this time it was approaching 10 p.m. I stepped into the bush about 20 yards and realized that it was too dark in there to see much and reluctantly came back out. After a night with absolutely zero sleep we resumed tracking at 4:30 a.m. We had the good fortune of enlisting the help of two gentlemen who we had befriended at the lodge and were adamant that we weren’t going after this creature alone. It went like clockwork; no one even had to talk, as we all knew what to do. Dad circled ahead a little looking for blood, while John and I stayed on the trail and Hugh kept the last blood marked.
We all agreed that the bear made it around 300 yards after reaching the tag alders. Dad saw him first, about 30 feet away laying sprawled out with his head up and STILL ALIVE! It was obvious that he was too weak to get up and we quickly finished the job with three more shots with the .375. It proved to be a good decision not to push him the night before.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game green-scored this bear with a hide square of 9 feet, 8 inches, and the skull squared at 29 14/16 inches.
It was a mad scramble from there. We had to rush in order to get back to the lodge, skin out the skull and pack to meet the plane back to Kodiak but Larry Carroll, his wife Shelly, and the boys James and Samuel of Kodiak Adventures Lodge, did a great job of getting us on our way. Larry and Shelly do an outstanding job with their lodge. The food is miraculous. The cabins are warm, dry, clean and cozy. There’s plenty of hot water, firewood and a WiFi signal to check in with home from time to time. And of course, you just can’t beat the views.