Three days before we left my buddy flipped a coin over a phone call on who would get the first on a bear. I was fortunate enough to call heads and won. (Honor System at its best!) A day later I got a text from him saying, “Let's go check the bait tonight and set up camp so we can hunt all day tomorrow.” The plan was to leave tomorrow to be right with the tide and go check, and how can I say no? I called my wife to let her know that the plan had changed, and I worked until our safety brief for the four-day weekend (soldiers can do some dumb things when unsupervised!). I rushed home but obeyed all the speed limits and started packing, as I was way behind. I ended up finishing packing when my buddy arrived and we got the boat out. It's 1700 (5PM) at this time, and we had a little over an hour drive followed by a roughly two hour boat ride ahead of us. I grabbed my Tribe bow and we got the boat hooked up and left. We stopped once to grab a bite and I grabbed a celebration drink in the event we got one.
We finally got to the river and had to finagle the boat into the water, as it was low tide. I knew I was going to be dragging it for a little ways on our 5 mile journey up the river. We than loaded it up with packs, bows, and some more food for the site and got it all evened out. The river was low, and from running the river before, I knew that there was a small waterfall we would have to get out and drag the boat up. It never gets any easier. The river has a lot of lefts and rights to get to our spot, and a few times I had to get out and help the boat along the way on the shallow river. We eventually got off the river at the calm point and landed the boat. It was about 2000 hours at this point, and we set up camp and got back on the boat and went to the base of the mountain.
We noticed that a new site was set up less than 800 yards from our spot, and it was kind of upsetting seeing that we put in all this hard work and someone else had the same spot (roughly) as we did. We began hiking up the mountain to our spot, as ours was at a higher elevation, and then we saw a boat coming in. Sure as heck it dropped someone off and then dropped someone else off in another spot on the river close to our spot as well. Well we said the heck with it and continued up and saw our spot had been messed up. Trail camera ripped from the tree, our sign was ripped down, and wait … some of the bait had been eaten! I grabbed the trail camera and swapped memory cards and holy smokes it had 9 pictures on it and the culprit was a nice lone bear.
We were pumped, so we went up the ground. Once inside the blind I realized that no matter how I angled my bow I could not get a shot to the site (longbow problems). I decided to sit on the side of the ground blind, and with my buddy inside working on his shot angles, we chatted about the other people we saw and how it could potentially ruin all the hard work we put in. Then it happened … We heard a BANG, followed by another BANG. Well that’s it, the anger that I had was unbelievable, but than a calm came over me and I said a little prayer. I told my buddy it’s still quiet where we were, let’s sit for a little while longer. I kept checking behind me as my backside was exposed, and I saw a patch of fur! I grabbed my buddy and told him, and he said it’s a bear. I waited for his head to go behind a tree, and I reached for my longbow. I was facing the other way and had to turn and get on a knee. Every opportunity I had to move I took it as I was feeling this bear might wind us. The bear is moving closer, 15 yards, 10 yards. His head disappeared behind a big tree, and I STOOD UP AND DREW BACK MY Tribe Halo. He stepped out at 5 yards when I released the string, and he took off in a run. Seconds later I heard it scream. A blood-curdling scream that made my hair stand up, and even though I know I hunt for food, it made me think of what I had just done. I looked at my buddy and said I just smoked a bear at 5 yards and he was as stunned as I was, because for a moment we both thought he was going to walk straight into the blind. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking as we waited for 30 minutes. I knew it was a perfect shot, but still, as a bowhunter there is always a "what if" factor. I got up and found my arrow laying on the ground full of bright red blood and immediately knew it was a great shot, but I didn’t see much blood. We began the search, and with the Alaskan sun going down finally at midnight, we made a decision to head back down and come up early in the morning.
Sleeping out in the middle of nowhere should have calmed my nerves, but I had a bear down and didn’t have it back at camp and couldn’t sleep at all that night. After tossing and turning throughout the night, I crashed and woke up about 7 AM. We got dressed and hit the mountain. First we checked the spot where we found the arrow and started looking for blood and ground that had been torn up from him charging through the brush. A little blood here, a little blood there, and some knocked down alders. I walked up and holy smokes a little bit of pitch black piled up beside a stump that we walked by at least twice the night prior. I gave him one push and he rolled to a flat spot. I was in awe running my hands through his hair and just feeling the honor and blessing that had been upon me taking this bear. My buddy grabbed the camera and we took some photos to pass down the generations of family and to always remember this hunt. After a few photos he went for his pack and I quickly made way of gutting the bear out and getting it ready for travel back to the boat. The bear was pretty heavy, and in order to get the bear back as fast as possible, I picked it up and shoulder-carried it down to the boat, taking a few breaks to not fall with the bear down the side of the mountain.
Thanks to everyone for helping me get my first bear and doing it with my Tribe Halo Longbow!