We had headed south of Delta Jct. in search of some caribou I had been watching for the past couple of weeks. There were a couple of real nice bulls and they had been working in a northward direction along the Alaska range on the west side of the Delta river. We had driven for an hour and now were glassing the foothills of the Granite Mountains just off the main road ,on a side road that climbed up to an advantage point for such a task. We sat and had glassed the area for 45 minutes without seeing a single rack. A dozen or so sheep was all that stood out on the mountain side. We started the truck and headed back down the road. At a bend in the road before heading down, charley said he wanted to take one more look. It was a beautiful day and why not, we had all weekend. He immediately spotted the Grizzly. From out new vantage point he stood out like a giant boulder (which I thought it was). The bear was grazing along just below the sheep and feeding on blueberries. Feeding, heck he was making a swath through them berries like there was no tomorrow. Preparing for hibernation was obviously a priority with this bear. The stalk began. We crossed a valley and got in line with where we figured the bear should be feeding. We had the wind to our face and it was a steady blow. I was in the process of trying to locate the bear with my binoculars when charley gave me a poke in the ribs and pointed him out. He was just 400 yards or so from us still feeding at a frenzy. Charley was plenty excited now and we began to crawl toward the bear. As for me, I’d seen other bears and this one only made my heart race a bit and my palms sweat. It was hard to hold the video camera.
When we were within 125 yards and nothing remained between us and the bear except some lifeless blueberries, Charley called a hold on our stalk. I was feeling brave by now and could have gone another 6 inches myself, but it was his bear. We had been video taping up until now. Charley made me put it away and replace it with my .338 for a backup. He was using his trusty ole Ruger model 77 with 250 grain Nosler partition in the 30-06 caliber. The bear kept gorging himself on the berries. He would get a jaw full, look up in our direction, then continue eating. We were at eye level with the brute. I advised Charley to let him have it when he put his head down to eat. One shot to the neck put the bear down and paralyzed him on the spot. I should have kept video taping. It was a great shot. Shucks, he didn’t need me to back him up. Maybe it gave him the confidence to make such a good shot. I would like to have gotten it on video though.
The bear lay there paralyzed on his side and his right fore leg kept making a huge sweeping arc through the air with those ominous long glistening claws swishing the air at each swipe. I told Charley I couldn’t possibly skin the bear under such circumstances. My luck I’d slip with the knife when he made one of those swipes and maybe cut his hide where I shouldn’t. Which could possibly make Charley mad because it was a beautiful bear. But worse, the bear just might hook on my head with one of them claws and rip my hide. That would make me mad. The hide would really suffer damage then. So Charley crept forward a ways, shot the bear again in the chest, and stopped all movement.
Charley stood over the Grizzly now , quite happy with himself and a bit nervous yet. For a 15 year old, he had just gone through one hair raising experience. Repeatedly, I instructed Charley to kneel down next to the big Grizzly for a couple snap shots, and he flinched and jumped back each time I suggested it. The bear was laying there at by feet with glazed over eyes, and hadn’t taken a bite out of me yet. The bear had been dead for some time now. It was a thrill of a lifetime, and Charley cherished it.
In the background the Black Rapids Glacier loomed above Charley and the bear as I snapped a few photos. Just three hours previous Charley was sitting on the edge of his seat at school waiting for the bell that would ring and start his long weekend of fun hunting for caribou. He sure blew it. Now we had to take this hide home and care for it and then get stuck with honey-do’s all weekend.
Such a deal!