TBT - (1999) "North to Alaska!"

Back in the late '90s my brother lived in Soldata, Alaska. An avid outdoor sportsman - he was living the dream of world class hunting and fishing. That second year there he obtained a permit to shoot a moose during the October hunting season and asked me to come to Alaska to help with the hunt.

Knowing that Alaska has the world's largest land predators, bears weighing as much as 1,400 pounds and up to 10' in length, I decided to do some research concerning my safety on this hunt before making the trip. On the Internet I found out dogs kill more people in Alaska then bears. Okay - two things to watch out for.

That first day of the hunt he handed me a Mossberg 12 gage shotgun and a a hand full of solid lead shells. Then he gave me a Ruger 44 magnum pistol to carry. My usual role on a hunt with Brad is Sherpa - help haul out the meat, as I do not like to shoot four legged creatures. So I asked why all the heavy artillery? He said that when the bears smell the blood of a fresh kill they aggressively move in for their share of the food. In other words - I had the additional responsibility as his bodyguard.

As we moved through the brushy area below the Tustumena Glacier I noticed some fresh bear scat. Brad pointed out the bright huckleberries in the bear's dung. I asked if he ever saw any bear poo with buttons or a zipper in them. No laugh on that one. Then we were hit with a choking cloud of mosquitos - worse then any I encountered in the Amazon. He said that is a good sign that big animals are nearby - possibly a moose. Then we heard bears fighting over salmon in the creek about 50 yards away - the loud roaring literally made the hair stand up on the back of my neck!

No luck the first day of the hunt, so off again the next day to skirt around the lakeshore where the tree line meets the tall grass of the shoreline. The grass was about 4' high and I saw something odd - looked like a flying carpet passing by at grass level about 20' away from us. My brother was slightly in the lead and he stopped and pointed his rifle at the 'carpet', which at that point stood up out of the tall grass to reveal itself as a giant Brown Bear! As it stood there towering over us - I stood there paralyzed with my mouth open, unable to move. At least the bear was still able to think and he decided it was better to drop back down in the grass and move on.

Some bodyguard I turned out to be - the bear could have nailed us before I could have reacted with a bullet. But my brother, being the cool hunter, said he had the gun muzzle on the bear's muzzle the whole time the bear stood over us. In fact it was the sound of Brad's rifle safety being clicked off that alerted the animal to our presence and made the bear stand up out of curiosity, blocking out the sun and my ability to think.

No animals were hurt during the making of this adventure - but some had the s#@t scared out of them!