DC'S BLACK BEAR HUNT - TOK ALASKA 2007
On 28 May 2007 my good friend, Shannon Hanks, finally got me out to Tok Alaska to hunt a Black Bear in his “hidden” location Game Management Unit 20-D. Now I have heard the stories, and have seen the Bears brought out of this place for the last 5 years. First a little background: Gary Crawford was a major player in finding and setting this location up. Gary is a very good friend of Shannon’s and a guy I worked with back in ’02 through ’04, but I never got to spend a lot of time with because of our schedules. Gary has since re-located from Alaska to Missouri, and is currently about to relocate back to his home area of Louisiana. I truly wish I could have spent a little more time hunting and fishing with Gary, but it just didn’t work out. Gary and Shannon are both originally from Louisiana; together they took on a mission to master Black bear hunting in the Alaska Interior. After much research and time they found a spot near Tok Alaska, about 60 miles from the Canadian border. Shannon has been trying to get me to go hunt with him at this location for the last couple of years; timing has never really worked out until this year. I had heard all the stories about how hard this place was to get into, but the stories in no-way could ever describe the reality of difficulty involved. The stand is about 2.5 miles from where you park your vehicle, through the years they had “cut-a-path” so that a skilled ATV rider could get in near the stand for the purpose of bringing out a downed Bear. Not just any ATV or rider can make it there; you have to use a winch and have the right combination of power and tires to transverse this terrain. I chose to hike the entire distance while Shannon brought the ATV in. Now I realize that I am not in peek physical condition, but even at peak condition, not many people are cut out for this hike. It is two and a half miles of thick tundra, wild untamed Alaska land. Words cannot really describe this hike, but the trail in a nutshell is thick trees, rutted mud puddles, spongy muskeg, hills and valleys, ponds and lakes, just plain tough terrain. Landmarks along the way have names like; One Mile swamp, Bear-Bluffs, and Take-a-break lake. It took every ounce of physical energy I had to get into this place the first night. We got there just before midnight on the 28th and could tell the Bears had been there recently, they had knocked down all the logs and cribbing that Shannon had piled around some dog food three nights prior. We stayed on the stand until about 3:45 AM and it was just plain dead, nothing even moving. We hiked out that dreaded trail; and left the ATV there (because it is so difficult to get it in and out of there) we then retired back to our motel room at Fast Eddy’s in Tok for some sleep. At 4:30 PM on the 29th we headed back in, we got on the stand about 6:45 PM. I don’t think it is right to reveal all of the legal methods Shannon has mastered in providing scent to attract Bears in this area, so I won’t. The forest was alive with action; squirrels, birds, ducks and beaver (and of course mosquito’s) were out and abundant. Everything but Bears surrounded the area. We waited and waited, we had agreed that due to timing 11:30 PM would be our cut off to hike out and proceed home. After 3 hours of sitting in these trees, being dead silent, it happened. I stood up to de-cramp my sore legs from the hike, as I stood there perfectly still I looked down, and there she was, standing directly below us. Shannon had not seen her yet, and I wasn’t sure the correct way to signal him without spooking her. In 2-3 minutes she started walking out from under us and towards the barrel; Shannon got his first view of her and signaled to me to sit down slowly. I did as I was told and Shannon started to record her. As he videoed, I slowly prepared my Super Red Hawk .44 Magnum pistol and set up for a good shot. I donned my hearing protection, not thinking that Shannon was whispering to me how the events needed to proceed, I could not hear a word he was saying, I was just waiting for a signal from him for when the timing was right. Come to find out he had been telling me when the timing was right, but no physical signal came. I used my best judgment based on hours of prior conversation with him about the position the Bear needed to be in order to a take a perfect shot. I was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane, taking deep breaths and trying to steady myself. The last thing I wanted to do was mess this up, wound the Bear, have it to run off injured, and have to engage in a foot pursuit. I slowly put pressure on the trigger and the pistol discharged in a text-book manner (surprising me, just like it should). At that moment I had no idea if I had a proper shot or not, the Bear bolted off to the right, she headed down the trail right towards the ATV and fell over, and just laid there.
I was in an overload of thought and emotion, excited, unsure, unaware, victorious, indescribable feelings. Shannon assured me all was right, everything was perfect to this point. I tried to calm myself as we sat there, we listened to her give the dreaded “death moan” as she quickly expired some 25 yards away. We climbed down from the tree and Shannon (armed with my 12 gauge slug gun) quickly secured the area and called for my approach. We examined the fallen Bear, took photos, then discussed the amount of work we faced to get her out of the location and back to the truck. I realize that I took the life of an innocent animal in the wild, but at that moment I was on a high that no drug could ever duplicate, I felt more alive than ever before in my life. The feeling I had could never be put into words, but Shannon knew exactly how I felt, he stood there; looked me in the eyes, I looked at him, and we shared a brief moment of word-free silence, as he fully understood what I was thinking and feeling, no words were needed. We both smiled at this secret we shared, and then we hid it like contraband.
A special thank you to Shannon Hank’s, without you this would have never happened. You are a great friend, and always will be. See how it all went down by clicking HERE to watch the VIDEO
(click to enlarge)