Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bow Hunting Bears Makes for a Dangerous Hunt

 by Robert L. Gisel

 The ultimate in sports hunting, after hearing the story myself, has to be in hunting bear with a bow and arrow. That my brother Chuck Gisel had the fortune, or dubious honor, to participate as the backup rifle makes for a very exciting story.

 The mastermind of this adventure was Scott Leonard, who was working at the Alaska Fish and Game in Juneau. He had bow hunted just about everything except bears. So his idea to go after a one with the bow was a logical progression in his range of trophy hunting. Killing a bear is a dangerous proposition in usual circumstances, but taking one on with a bow and arrow is courageous beyond belief, or simply asking for trouble.

 Obviously this is big game hunting and not recommended for the fainthearted or photo-shoot-only crowd.

 Doing this sport one is best advised to take along a backup shooter with the proper rifle and savvy at dropping bears at close range. Scott somehow convinced my brother to go with him as his backup gun. The conditions were laid out and it was agreed they would select a small black bear and Scott would get well prepared for the hunt. This included practice snap-shooting for speed and accuracy, which he did, prior to embarking on the expedition.

 The arrow selected had a spiral tip that would spin and go through the game in a spiral, coring a plug all the way through. To make this work you had to be totally accurate and hit its heart in spite of any movement by the bear. You might only get one shot, so it better be good.

 Bears have a bad adrenalin problem that makes taking one down difficult in the best of circumstances, to say the least. A head shot usually just bounces off the skull. Even with a shot in the heart it will continue it's charge for you for fifty yards or more. Only a hit in a shoulder breaking the ball joint of its limb can stop its attack. You have to do this so it can't run and it drops at your feet.

 It follows then that using a bow as the weapon has some real potential drawbacks and questions one's sanity. Scott just wanted the experience and, of course, the hide. Evidently the thrill as well.

 After practice, the team set out for Gambier Bay outside of Juneau in a friend's boat. Anchored off North Point the first day was spent just watching the beach for any bear that might come around on its rounds. Seeing none, the next day they went to a different location and watched some landlocked islands, then again for a third day. Several bears were observed but what the hunters were looking for was any repeats of the same one, which means it could be predicted in its pattern.

 The one seen to be rounding a circle was a small brown bear which made it almost ideal for the hunt. Black bears are more amiable, if any wild bears can be amiable. The browns akin to the grizzly and are known to be mean and sometimes dangerously unpredictable. This upped the stakes in the bow hunt; a better prize, more risk in getting it.

With a careful study of topographical maps they plotted out where to set up to waylay this bear as it came around on its usual path. They had be down wind, so the bear couldn't smell its hunters, and be hidden well in a thicket of brush. A spot was selected, they got into their positions and the trap was set.

 Bears do funny things sometimes, like sneak around to other side of you when you're looking the other way. Hiding in the brush, waiting for a bear to approach and do battle must be the epitome of macho.

 This time the bear came around as expected. It walked up its trail quite close to where Chuck and Scott were. Sensing someone was there, it stood up a mere 20 feet from them. It couldn't smell the hunting party as long as the direction of the wind prevailed and kept them down wind. On its hind legs it looked around, sniffing. Still the brown bear couldn't spot what it was missing. If it did, he would be on them in a second.

 Scott had his bow drawn for the shot and held it for some moments. Chuck began to wonder when he was ever going to release the arrow. Chuck had his gun up and aimed. At six yards there was no room for misses.

 Finally the arrow flew and found its mark through where the heart should be. Naturally the bear protested this with its throaty roar. He was really mad now. At 20 feet away this was a horrendous and frightening sound. Then the long stream of blood pumped out at intervals indicating the heart had been hit.

 Enduring the deafening battle cry, Chuck still had his wits about him to shoot it twice to ensure it came down and stayed down.

 Still alive, he was pawing the ground and making noise, lots of it. Chuck approached the bear, capped him with his barrel against his skull and that finished him and the hunt.

 Chuck said he did a check of his shorts to make sure he hadn't, such was the fearsome experience. Scott was pumped, his first bow-hunted bear kill. Chuck was sure this was his last.

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