Brown Bears, Bull Elk and Murphy
Son of a b$%#h… Mythical Shooting Lanes, Mother Nature and Murphy!
I tell you what, sometimes it feels like everything is conspiring against you. 2016 was one of those years. Yeah, I was able to fill the freezer, but that was the result of sheer perseverance as luck, weather and my equipment seemed to be conspiring to leave me empty handed.
I don’t know about you, but I love hunting with my bow, there is nothing like the challenge of closing the distance on an animal whose every sense is designed to keep you from getting close. I have had a lot of success bow hunting over the years, but sometimes it truly leaves you with nothing else to say but Son of a #$%#$.
I would swear that mother nature was out to foil me at every turn during 2016. How so you say? Well let’s start off with the wind this year, I could be hunting a drainage and have consistent winds all day, but the moment I would close inside of 75 yards on a bull, poof, I would get the most dreaded of sensations …puff as the wind began blowing against the back of my neck, and then Snap, Crack, Bang, the forest explodes and the elk vaporize into mist. The only time I can recall having more issues with the wind was in 2014. The most amazing thing about this, is that it happened consistently in two entirely different areas on two entirely different hunts. Then mother nature decided to see what type of wind rating I had as she threw what felt like full blown screaming tornados my way…knocking down trees and deafening me to all but the sound of an F-18 turbine screaming in my ears, (that would be the wind blasting through the trees in case you were wondering) But, hey that’s hunting right?
Mythical Shooting Lanes
What about that thing we call a shooting lane? You know, that spot, where an animal steps into an area clear of brush, limbs, etc. where your arrow can travel without running into any other object than the animal. Yeah, well I am pretty sure that shooting lanes are a fairy tale, as every close encounter I had with a bull involved a thick patch of timber, alders and brush between us. North Idaho isn’t known for its wide open vistas or pretty parked out timber patches, but still, you would think at least once in a while you would get a bull to step into something that at least resembles a shooting lane. But nope, not happening.
To add insult to injury… who has had a bull elk literally spin and run like the hounds of hell are aftern him when you let out a soft cow chirp to stop him in one of those “shooting lanes”? Well I can officially say, this guy has! This bull didn’t even remotely look my way, I gave out my sweetest, softest little cow chirp, and he just lit up the afterburners like he was cleared for a hot takeoff, he had fire coming from his hooves and I am pretty sure he broke the sound barrier as he flew across the drainage and out of my life forever. But hey, I discovered I can call in lost bear cubs, so that’s something.
I was beyond excited as I boarded the plane on my way to Cordova, Alaska for one of my bucket list hunts…spot and stalk brown bear with my bow. I was hunting with a fantastic outfitter, in a bear rich area and it didn’t disappoint. Within minutes of getting dropped off by the Super Cub, we looked down the beach to see a young brown bear cruising our way along the shore. He strolled by within about 50 yards of our camp. We saw that bear a couple more times during our hunt, he is just lucky that he still had some growing to do.
It turned out a deal whale had washed up on a little sand barrier island just across the inlet from us, so it was attracting bears like bees to honey. Over the course of a week we saw over 22 different brown bears. The third night of our hunt, we were up on one of the sand dunes overlooking the whale and got to witness two bears battle, and Brian almost got a shot with his bow on the bigger of the two, but the boar just beat him to the top of the dune and caught him in the open and immediately hit the afterburners.
Two nights later, we caught another good boar coming across the inlet towards the whale and he gave me a perfect opportunity, when he went behind one of the sand dunes Mike (the guide) and I took off on a dead run and closed the distance from about 150 yards to about 47, as he cleared the sand dune, I had a perfect quartering away shot, when I let the arrow fly, I was rewarded with seeing it hit about 6 inches back of the shoulder and heard a loud crack, the bear spun and took off back across the inlet. Mike asked me if he needed to shoot, I said no, that is a dead bear. Little did we know, my broadhead literally shattered just below the blades and the arrow only penetrated about 3”. When he was about to the timber on the mainland, I looked at Mike and Brian and simply said “maybe you better shoot”, they cracked off a couple of shots before the bear made it into the timber. We decided to back off and wait til morning to track him. Well, what we thought was going to be a pretty straight forward tracking and recover job turned into a 16 hr stress test as we tracked him through the swamps until finally we lost his trail. Once again, murphy reared his ugly head and I went home empty handed, but so grateful for the experience.
I don’t want it to sound like I am complaining (well I kind of am), but in all seriousness, I had a blast, even when it seemed like nothing I did worked out all year. I got up close and personal with a bunch of Alaska Brown Bears, I was into elk almost every day of the season, I learned something new about the areas I hunt, I got smarter as a hunter and best of all I got to spend time in some truly wild places, doing what I love to do! I don’t hunt for the kill, that is not how I define success, I hunt for the joy of the wilds, for the sweat and effort of the hunt and for all of the amazing experiences and memories it brings with it.
Why do you hunt?