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Karsten Hart: Hunter, Freestyle Skier
Kissed by an Elk
Hold. Hold... Holld......
Author: Sitka Athlete Dustin Roe
Jun 13, 2012
Taking an Alaska Brown bear with nothing but a bow and arrow has be on my mind for as long I can remember. For the last four years, I have been working at this goal, consistently practicing my stalking abilities, whether it's on Whitetail Deer or Stone's Sheep.
In 2009, I was lucky to find Outfitter Scott Newman of
Alaska Bear Guides
. Scott runs a small owner-operated Guide Service in southeastern Alaska, offering seven bear hunts on Admiralty Island and four in the Misty Fjords, along with some incredible goat hunts near his home town of Petersberg. After a few minutes on the phone I knew this was my guy. I've spent the last three years alongside Scott, filming and accruing the time to get my Alaska Guide's License.
During a conversation in March, Scott said this might be the year I'd hunt my boyhood dream. I was shocked, since typically all his hunts are filled. But with a last-minute cancellation, a spot had opened for me. I jumped on the opportunity. My new G5 Prime hadn't even be sighted in yet.
The spring season started slow in Alaska. On May 8, I sat in the skiff trying to glass for bears while penny sized flakes covered the beach. The second hunt was a lot better with plenty of sun and bears, it seemed, on every parcel of grass. All four hunters took really nice old bruins, and I got some good video and met some great folks.
On hunt three it was just me, a hunter from South Carolina named Pat and the guides – Ben Wohlers from Montana and Scott. On the first day, Pat blasted a monster at 84 yards at last light. There was a sow hanging around that was not happy about it, so Scott decided not to skin in the dark. Instead, we all returned in morning for pictures and caping.
And then it was my turn to hunt. The first evening we saw a couple of small bears and I decided to make a stalk on one just for practice. I was able to crawl into 60 yards across a tidal flat with relatively no cover before it decided to move away and into the timber. It was a great start and it finally hit me that I was hunting Brown Bear with a bow and a tag in my pocket. Over the next few days we saw quite a few bears, but nothing like what I was looking for.
And then on day four, at 7:00 p.m., we saw a nice mature bear moving along the timber line just above the water, heading straight toward us. At high tide, the beaches are very small and a broadside shot is hard to get, unless he walks by you at five yards. We docked the boat and made a run for it anyway. There was one place on the beach that was fairly wide, and I thought I could get to it for a shot, but I didn't realize how fast the bear was moving. Just as I got to the spot, so did he. We were both surprised when we met at 16 yards.
I reached for an arrow, and he stood on his hind legs to get a better view. At trade shows, the stuffed bears are big, but in real life they are enormous! He turned and disappeared into the woods in a blur. That was the rush I had been waiting for. We looked over the area and determined that the bear had traveled three times as far as we did in the same amount of time. It's amazing how much ground they can cover.
On day five, May 28th, the evening hunt started right away when we spotted a boar and a sow feeding in a small inlet of grass. I immediately knew he was a shooter. We got to the beach and made a long, slow stalk, and at 70 yards out, we ran out of cover. With the bears coming out of the timber in a good spot, we decided to sit them out and hope they'd feed our way. But they walked into the trees and out of sight instead, and we weren't sure whether they'd caught our wind. We sat and hoped they might come back out.
Minutes later, we heard footsteps just inside the treeline. They had circled back our way, and must have been coming to check what they smelled. The brush was so thick you couldn't see but a few feet. It was nerve wracking. We slowly moved away from the tree line and out into the open, just in case they came out. They were probably only 15 or 20 yards away, so I wanted some room to shoot. We sat for a while but nothing happened. We decided to back out to the boat.
We drifted out and sat where we could see the beach and watch the back end where the river enters the ocean. Shortly after, I spotted what looked to be a good bear appearing out of the trees in the back meadow near the river. We motored the boat across the bay in his direction. He was only out for a few seconds before he moved out of sight, heading for a meadow. We knew the meadow was partially hidden by a small timbered island, and if we could get to it, we had a chance.
The boat was docked, and we were off. At first, we tried to follow the bank, but it quickly turned into cliffs and thick Alder brush. We had to go into the trees. Ben and I helped each other up the steep bank, and moments later while stealthing through the forest, I spotted him feeding 50 yards from the tidal pool's edge. It looked like I might have a chance if I could get back to the water and shoot across. It was thick, and we had to move slow not to make noise. I managed to get to the water, but decided he was too far at 45-50 yards.
But then luck intervened. There happened to be a log crossing the water to my right, and if I could cross it, there would be enough cover to could close the distance. I sneaked across the log, out in the open, as he fed on sedge grass, made it to shore, and he was slowly feeding around toward me. He closed to 35 yards – plenty close if he would just give me a broadside shot. Only a few logs lied between us, and he was still heading my way. When he crossed the final log, I knew he was mine. 30 yards and closing.
I drew my bow as he continued to gorge himself. For what seemed like forever, I held the bow at full draw. No need to range him, all pins were in the kill zone. All he had to do was turn.
Would he? I felt like he was going to feed right into me. My heart was pounding, but I was completely focused, holding at full draw, keeping the pins surrounded by coarse brown fur. Holding. Holding...
At what turned out to be 14 yards, something was about to happen. Either his sixth sense or a small swirl of wind caught his attention. He locked on to me. I hadn't moved an inch. From where I was, he looked massive. His hackles came up and he flexed his neck and I held still at full draw. Something was about to happen quick. I knew from experience that if he turned to run, he would do so rather slowly, allowing a very small window for an ethical shot.
But if he came at me, I had nearly zero time or angle for a good shot.
He started turning, as though to run, and I slipped an arrow right behind his shoulder. A very loud crack rang as the arrow hit its mark. I knew it must have centered a rib, but when he ran, I could see only half the arrow shaft sticking out of the vital region. It was perfect placement, and I realized he was in big trouble. I picked my GoPro out of the mud, since it had fallen off my bow when I was cheering. Then I met back up with Ben. We were pumped and watched the video to make sure the shot was good like I remembered. It was.
We waited only a few short minutes and entered the trees in search of my bear. At tree line we found a heavy blood trail and part of my arrow. We slowly followed the signs and spotted him laying about 80 yards from where the shot was made. It's definitely a rush to hunt these bears with a bow and arrow. Night fall was almost upon us, so we decided to leave him till morning for skinning and photos.
If you dream of doing something like this, you gotta do it! There's just something about hunting a very smart animal that can kill you. This is one of those hunting memories that will last a life time.
Great story and video/pics! Awesome bear too! I share your attitude about doing the things you want in life, dreams do not come to us, we have to make them reality. Cant wait until our next adventure together Dustin. Congrats my friend!
Matt Jurad Posted At 6/15/2012 09:58 AM
Great job Dustin! Nice work on the video too.
Quinn Posted At 6/14/2012 11:29 AM
AWESOME! "A rush..."; I could only imagine! You're a stud, DR!
Luke Johnson Posted At 6/14/2012 12:35 AM
Epic Hunt Dustin and a great story and one that you will remember for the rest of your life. Thank you for sharing this and I agree very strongly with your statement, "If you dream of doing something like this, you gotta do it! There's just something about hunting a very smart animal that can kill you. This is one of those hunting memories that will last a life time." There is no time to waste in our lives, if you want to do something, the time is NOW!!!! GO FOR IT!!
Kevin Paulson Posted At 6/14/2012 12:28 AM
OH YEAH DUDE!!!! THAT was awesome! I'd love to see more video content in these blog posts! Great shot Dustin man you were at full draw forever it seemed! Congrats on a great bear!
Dale Pearson Posted At 6/14/2012 12:14 AM
Dustin...that is awesome! I don't know what I would have been thinking or saying at that point...congrats on an amazing bear hunt that I'm sure you won't forget!
Chad Bell Posted At 6/13/2012 08:36 PM
Great article, and nice work Dustin & Sitka Team
Blake D. Brinker Posted At 6/13/2012 04:01 PM
Awesome story, how do the coastal browns taste compared to the costal blacks?
Would love to do a hunt like that at some point.
jryoung Posted At 6/13/2012 03:21 PM
Well done Dustin. You held for a super long time. Must have felt like hours. Looks like you were pretty solid as well. :) Great shot, great hunt and great video.
Tom Foss Posted At 6/13/2012 03:09 PM
Way to go Dustin!
C. Foss Posted At 6/13/2012 02:03 PM
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