The Bear 2

April 16, 2011

The bear was dead. It had died on the trail where the horse had reared up. Nick had leaned forward as far as he could to keep from falling off. I, on the other hand, kept my rear on the back of the horse with a rush of adrenalin that clamped my knees and everything else, if you get my drift.

The previous night we had shot the bear when it came to close to camp. Because we were concerned about entering the trees in pursuit of a wounded meat eater, horses were posted next to the tent. Rifles, pistols and knives were kept within reach or maybe I should say finger cocked on hair trigger and teeth on sharpened steel.

At timberline, it would take a full day’s ride to return to a civilization but due to the law of the land, we had to return the claws and head to the Fish and Game.

Nick had the best understanding on how to skin a brown bear. Gutting and skinning didn’t take very long but the claws took some time to separate the bones from the pads and hide. The hide was a special prize that would look magnificent on the wall. Although my wife had second thoughts once it was home and had a whiff of the woods. We left the head and claws attached to the hide.

We had limited resources to get a bear back to Soldotna, Alaska. We were limited because a horse doesn’t relax and just walk along with a bear on its back. We tried several ideas that only had hoofs flying and horse’s heads twice the usual height. Finally, we pulled the noses and eyes of the pack animals into a small stands of trees and placed our coats over their heads. Our scent of several days in the woods without a bath distracted them from our task.

The bear hide was placed in canvas, wrapped and tied; then lifted up over the haunches and placed it on the pack saddle. Nick started back toward Soldotna with the bear hide in tow and I followed with my pack animal close behind. At timberline, trees are close together and small. Game trails were not of much use. We were heading down the mountain side while the game trails followed the contours. We had to enter groups of trees occasionally which rubbed against our legs, the horses and the pack animals.

Then it happened. As the pack animal tried to wiggle through a clump of trees, a branch caught the canvas. As the branch tugged on the canvas, the pack animal was pulled to the side and made a slight turn. At the same time, the canvas tore open and the bear’s head rolled out. The horse and bear came face to face.

As far as the pack animal was concerned, the bear was on his back and was not letting go. Nick was holding on to the halter rope. His gloves saved his hand as the pack animal bucked and kicked trying to get away. The rope ripped free from Nick but quickly rapped itself around branches and small trees. They were quickly extracted out of the ground until the halter was torn from the pack animal. The pack saddle, contents and ropes hooked on small trees and were torn off in a split second. The pack animal disappeared through the remaining trees then over a small rise and out of sight.

Now what? Nick volunteered to go look for the pack animal, which left me to pick up the mess. Thanks. I did the best under the circumstances. The canvas allowed me to drop pieces of the saddle, halter, straps and other torn and broken items as a dragged it behind me like a cotton sack.

Nick found the pack animal and got a rope around him but there was no way we were going to get the bear on its back even if we could repair the saddle. I was elected to walk so we could use my horse to carry the bear. We rigged up a pack saddle on my riding saddle, stuffed the horse into the trees like we did before and started off once more.

It was a long walk but we made it without any more big problems. When we arrived, Nick took the bear hide, head and claws to Fish and Game and they promised to return the hide when they were done. In a few days they called and were very anxious to talk to us. It appeared that the bear had a history.

A couple of years earlier the bear had enter a couple’s camp and mauled them. The bear that mauled the couple was missing a left canine tooth. Our bear was missing a left canine tooth. Before the couple was mauled, Fish and Game ranger was in the same area and was mauled by a bear; again, that bear had was missing a left canine tooth. The Fish and Game was sure that our bear was the rouge.

We were lucky.

The Bear

October 24, 2009

When we were living in Anchorage around 1980, I took the opportunity to go moose hunting with Nicky Hanson.

Nicky was a friend of mine from High School. His father had some horses including pack animals. He was willing to let us use two saddle horses and two pack horses. Our plan was to leave Nicky’s father’s home on the south side of the Kenai River in Soldotna. We would travel south and southeast to the timberline. This area had low impact from other hunters due to its remote location.

We left in the early morning from Nicky’s home. He had prepared most of the food, camp gear and, of course, the horses and pack animals. I helped him with the pack animals and learned how the pack saddles held the large bags that held the equipment and food. There wasn’t a lot of stuff. We expected to bring back a moose which would require all the energy of the pack animals. But we had a small tent, sleeping bags and very limited cooking equipment.

It was a nice day as we started off. There was light cloud cover with a fes breaks in the clouds for sunlight to peek through. It was in the fall so we had about 12 hours of daylight which should give us time to reach timberline if we traveled from early morning until dusk.

The first part of the trip we talked about our families and the things we had done while growing up on the Kenai. We had both graduated from Kenai Central High School. I had gone to the Air Force Academy Prep School with hopes to be a hot shot fighter pilot. Nicky  began working right out of high school and had started his family in a nice home on the Kenai River.

My family was living in Anchorage. I had left the Air Force Academy and went on a mission to Argentina. More of this stuff later.

Anyway, Nicky and I decide to go moose hunting at the timberline on the Kenai Pennisula. It would take about a day to get there and we could hunt for about two days.

We started out early with two riding horses and two pack animals. The day went without incident as we travel through small trees, tundra and small streams. At timberline we stopped and made a small fire. Nicky began cooking the hamburger as I cleaned up and finished preparing the camp.

I completed my task and went to see how Nicky and the hamburger was doing. The shadows of the trees started to get long in the clearing next to camp when I reached over to get a flashlight to help Nicky see if the meat was done. A caught a movement out of the corner of my ear to my right. A quick look and it was a brown bear. It was about 30 feet away and moving toward camp. Yikes!

“There is bear!” I blurted out. It was about 30 feet away.

Nicky reach for the rifles that were leaning against a near tree that was to his left and in front of me. He grabbed my rifle and brought to up to his shoulder.

“Hey that’s my gun!” I said. He handed over my rifle and reach for his. The bear was now closer.

We brought our rifles up about the same time and shot. The bear spun around and ran into a grove of small trees. Immediately, we ran to the trees, took about two more steps and stopped. The trees averaged three to four inches in diameter and two feet apart. The brush between the trees reached our waists and was thick. With the fading light we could not see three feet.

We had a wounded bear in fading light in Alaska far from home. It was too late to move camp away from the bear. Also, Alaska law was very clear. A hunter must not leave a wounded bear without a reasonable attempt to find it. There would be no attempt now. Not tonight!

We rearranged the camp somewhat. The horses had been hobbled about 1oo yards from the camp. They were moved next to the tent. We felt it was better to be trampled by horses than eaten by a bear. (Now that I think about it . . .) Next we gathered all our weapons around us. I placed my rifle along my right side next to my sleeping bag. The 357 Magnum was on my left. I had learned how to shoot it with my left hand. My large skinning knife was under my jacket which served as a pillow. Nicky prepared in a similar manner.

All night we heard every sound and movement. As Nicky said, “We jumped when a squirrel farted.” Only once did we actually think that we heard the bear in the brush next to the camp.

In the morning, we broke camp and saddled the horses. Nicky lead the way with his pack horse and I followed with my mine. The bear had probably stayed in the area so we started the search with a small circle around the small stand of trees.

Nicky was in the lead and had his rifle in his right hand with the butt on his thigh and the barrel pointed in the air to his right. I had mine in my right hand and slung in the my left elbow. Suddenly, Nicky’s horse reared high into the air on his hind legs. My horse turned to my right as I was looking everywhere for the bear. Nothing!

Nicky stopped and was looking down. “What!” I yelled.

“It’s here.” he stated flatly.

The bear was laying in the trail, dead.

Have you every tried to get a bear hide on the back of a horse? But that’s the next story.

The New PhD Graduate

August 14, 2009

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The new PhD graduate. We had the opportunity to watch Jeff officially receive congratulations for his hard work. he actually received his diploma six weeks ago.

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Jeff and his smiling parents.

Bruce and Laura

March 14, 2009
Laura

I thought I’d better start recording all the fun things we are doing and have done over the years.

Today, I was golfing at Bryden Canyon and one of the golfers had spent considerable time in Anchorage, Alaska. He was telling stories of the cold and long winter. I, of course, started to tell him of living on a homestead, bear encounters and other close calls. This lead to the idea that I need to start writing this stuff down for my kids to read.

But first, I will post pictures of Laura and I and start telling current stories of interest. Today, it’s just the pictures.

Laura

Bruce

Bruce

Hello world!

March 14, 2009

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