SHANNON'S BLACK BEAR HUNT - TOK ALASKA 2007
Until this year I was graced with an outstanding hunting partner named Gary
Crawford. Gary and I had been quite successful as a team over the past 3 years
taking 8 bears between us. Unfortunately Gary got reassigned to Missouri last
summer leaving me in doubt about continuing to bear hunt. But over the long
Alaskan winter, I got to thinking about the one that got away. In all of our
success, there was one bear that had eluded us for the two previous years. It
was a very light, almost blonde colored black bear. He was pretty sneaky and
only came in to the stand when we weren’t there. Proof of this was on the trail
camera as we had several pictures of him eating, sometimes only hours after we
vacated the stand. Gary especially had put many hours in the stand waiting for
this guy, but never even got a glimpse of him. By March my mind was made up. I
would hunt exclusively for this one particular bear in hopes of closing the only
unfinished chapter in me and Gary’s hunting history.
It was 25 May of 2007. I had been putting bait out on my stand for about 3 weeks but had not been able to hunt it yet. I knew something was coming in because the 50 pound bags of dog food were disappearing quicker than I could put them out. This was the first opportunity I had to sit on the stand and see exactly what had such a huge appetite. My intentions were simple; sit in the stand alone with my cameras, take some good video, come back the next night and hunt. It sounded simple enough and, for a while, held true to form. After about an hour on the stand, a young male black bear appeared out of nowhere as they so often do. He seemed a bit nervous as he approached the bait, looking around in all directions before finally settling down to eat. He only stayed for about 30 minutes, allowing me to get some great video footage, before he made a rather hastily departure. His actions led me to believe their may be another more dominant bear in the area. After about another hour on the stand, my suspicion became reality. Sneaking in towards my stand was the most beautiful cinnamon color phase black bear I had ever seen in my life. I quickly picked up the camera and began to film him.
I was getting more and more excited with each passing minute. It didn’t take me long to realize that this was the bear I was looking for. The same bear that Gary had hunted for the past two years. As the video kept rolling I began to plan out the next night. I would come in to the stand early with my bow, do a scent burn to lure him back to the bait, and hopefully he would appear presenting me with a dream quartering away shot. Unfortunately this bear had a different idea. After a few minutes of video taping this bruin, I began to realize that he was not at all interested in food scattered about the site. He instead seemed to have his attention fixed on me. He continually circled my stand, huffing and blowing from time to time, letting me know that he was aware of my presence. This was not the first time I had experienced such behavior from a dominant boar, but something about this bear was different. After about 15 minutes of circling and winding me, he got brave enough to attempt to climb the tree my stand was in. I simply yelled at him and stomped my feet and he backed off. But then he came back. This time he moved a little more deliberately and climbed a bit farther up the tree. Again I yelled, stomped my feet, and scared him back down. I was sure he would run off this time or at least take some interest in the food. I was wrong. The bear made a third attempt to climb up the tree. I decided the smart thing to do would be to replace the camera in my hand with the 44 magnum pistol I was carrying in my shoulder holster. I yelled and stomped again, but this time the bear didn’t climb down. With his eyes fixed on me, he continued to climb up. I yelled once more but to no avail. The bear continued to climb closer towards me never even looking away. It was an eerie feeling as I stood there alone in the stand with that bear staring at me from about 10 feet away. I thought about smacking him on the nose with the pistol if he got closer or kicking him in the head if he made it that far up the tree. I did not want to have to shoot this bear, but rational thinking finally got the best of me. As the bear climbed up about another 5 feet I knew there was only one thing left to do. I took point blank aim at his center chest and squeezed off a single shot. I saw the shock wave roll through the bear as the 300 grain bullet penetrated his lung, heart and liver. In a final show of toughness, this bear slowly climbed down the tree, got on the ground and ran about 20 yards before finally collapsing and expiring. I stood there shaking in that tree stand for 30 minutes before I was calm enough to climb down. When I finally did reach the ground, I was rewarded with the trophy of a lifetime. The bear I shot squared right at 6 feet and had an 18 ½ inch skull. And the color of his hide was like none even my taxidermist had ever seen before. This was definitely the bear that had outwitted Gary and I for 2 years.
This encounter is one that I will never forget. In Alaska we are often told that as humans we are no longer at the top of the food chain, but we are in fact part of it. My experience will forever be a testimonial to that statement as I ask the question “who was really the hunter on 25 May 2007?” Gary, this one’s for you brother. We finally got him. A 20 minute Video of the entire adventure can be viewed (or down-loaded) by clicking HERE.
Shannon D. Hanks
North Pole, Alaska
May 27, 2007
(click to enlarge)