Donnie insisted that I go on this bear hunt as nothing would happen within the two weeks I would be away and my buddy Charlie Rock from St. Louis was packed and ready to travel up North. I knew that if I didn’t go it would upset Donnie so I agreed to go and make the best of the trip.
Charlie and I met up in Anchorage and flew to Cold Bay on the 28th of September and were flown into the bush the following day by super cub which was two days before the season started. I saw five or six bears on my flight in to a place called Winding Creek. When Charlie arrived we did our best to brace our camp for what is now the windiest place that I have ever been. We set up our 4-man Cabela’s Outfitter tent with vestibule and a tarp for a cook area. Here is chief cook, handyman, and bearer of the .375, and one heck of a great buddy Charlie at our cook tent.
We located the best vantage points and glassed, glassed, and glassed but didn’t see much after the season opened except a sow and two cubs and one lone bear that we stalked to within 100 yards. The bear crossed our path and went on alert and headed out. There weren’t really any salmon left in the streams like we anticipated and were told would be there so the bear sightings were pretty lean and were dictated by when one would happen through the area while feeding on berries.
We agreed with our pilot that we would call on about the fifth or sixth day if our area wasn’t producing so we called and arranged to be moved. That evening we saw another lone bear about an hour away and hour before dark but didn’t relocate the bear the following morning.
I was moved first and we saw three wolves on our flight. I had to hold the wing strut of the plane down while the pilot unloaded my gear so the plane wouldn’t get flipped over it was so windy and did the same when Charlie’s flight came in.
The second camp was along the coast near a lagoon. We had to wait a couple hours for the wind and rain to calm down enough to set up our second camp and while we did so a lone bear came on the other side off the mouth of the lagoon, and swam out into the surf and bobbed for fish. I’m telling you this was Jeff Spicoli, “Surfs-Up Dude” kinda surf, big looking stuff to this land-lover; I’m guessing 15 foot breakers!
We set up our tent using gray whale vertebrae as tent hold downs and driftwood for our cook lean-to and for seats. We could glass a large area from a hill just outside of camp and we soon located what turned out to be a large sow and cub.
One afternoon Charlie and I hunted along the coast to see if a bear might be looking for something to eat that has washed on shore. Here is a photo of yours truly after the surf had calmed down.
The beach combing was fantastic. We found more whale bones including the whale rib that I’m leaning on in this photo, more vertebrae, and even a skull that I estimate would weigh over 300 pounds.
We also found numerous fishing floats that broke free including a dozen small glass floats from the oriental fleets of yesteryear. I stalked to within yards of a red fox but couldn’t pull off getting the close range shot. We didn’t see any bears.
In the succeeding days we ventured up to the lake’s inlet and found the last of the semi-living silver salmon and remnants of many that had been devoured earlier in the run.
We started back for camp in the rain and WHAM! There it was. There was a bear, only yards ahead in the long-grass. We backed up to re-group and then slowly moved in to mere yards of the boar. I was so close I could see the rain drops on his coat, claws on his paws, and the whites in his eyes.
To be Continued.....
The bear that had killed him must have been a brute. We stopped and looked over the fresh carcass and pondered its death before retreating back to camp.
The bear hunting continued to not live up to the islands reputation as our time ticked away. Towards the end of our stay it sunk in that we were camped on a historic campsite. We started noticing that there were more artifacts strewn about on the ground than the broken oil lamp that I had found on the first day.
We found dozens of stone weights used with fishing nets, basalt shards that were pressure flaked, bones that were worked into tools, and then the discovery that made all of the others pale; a mass human grave site with skulls, lower mandibles, femurs, etc. eroding from the cut bank from one small location. I photographed the site and filed a report with the USFWS upon my return.
On the last evening a fox offered the close-range shot with a volcano as a beautiful backdrop and capped off our visit to this most windy isle.