By Chris Cammack
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As soon as my guide, Cole, let out a roar, the giant bear spun around and stared in our direction. Still, it took quite a bit more calling, and the breaking of alder limbs around us, to entice the old boar to leave his blonde sow. Finally, the boar stood up with a look that said, “Enough is enough!” He snapped at the sow as if to tell her to stay put, shook off the rain like a wet dog, and marched straight downhill, making as much noise as he could while pretty much destroying everything in his path. It was on!
That heart-thumping moment was conceived in January 2018, at the Dallas Safari Club Convention. Two of my friends and taxidermy clients, were booking a brown bear hunt with my longtime friend and bear-hunting guide, Cole Kramer, owner of Adventure Mountain Hunts, and outfitter Bill Stevenson. My Texas hunting buddies invited me to join them, and by the end of the convention we had added a mutual friend, Dan Watson, from Australia.
Dan is a great guy to be around, and he’s also a guide, so it was nice to have him tag along on our hunt.
The months flew by, and before I knew it we were flying to Alaska to meet up with everyone and head for bear camp. My Texas friends only had eight days to hunt, but Joel Swan of Champion Ranch harvested a huge, old boar on Day Six. Our other buddy had a few great stalks before they had to catch their flight out on Day Eight, leaving me behind to finish the final eight days left in the spring bear season.
After Bill flew the guys out, he returned to move Cole, Dan, and myself to a new location. Alaska regulations prohibit you from hunting the same day you fly, so we got our new camp set up and had a great dinner, along with a slight celebration to honor the past, present, and future hunts.
The next morning I awoke to the familiar sounds of Cole and Dan brewing coffee and making breakfast in their tent next door to mine. It felt much like the past eight or nine mornings waking up in a tent, but then I realized, Wow, it’s my turn! I get to hunt a brown bear for myself today!
After breakfast we set about the task of finding a bear for me to hunt with my bow. It took us almost an hour to reach the top of our new spotting knob, where it was quite windy and rainy. We set up a tarp lean-to so we could glass without being exposed too badly to the elements. Satisfied with the shelter we’d built, we settled in and started to survey the land. The valley looked quite brushy to me — not exactly a bowhunter’s dream.
Less than an hour after we’d started glassing, Cole was in the middle of one of his seemingly endless cache of guide stories when he interrupted himself and said, “Bear. Big bear!”
Using landmarks in the terrain, Cole directed our eyes to the bear. It was close to two miles up and across the valley where the dark, coffee-colored boar was making his way downhill through the thick brush. He seemed to be searching for something. After about 30 minutes of watching him navigate his massive body through the alders, he finally found what he was looking for — a blonde sow that appeared to be half his size.
Because of the wind and rain, Cole knew we needed to get a better look by moving to another vantage point that would cut our distance to the boar in half. Cole and I took off and crossed the first river to get closer, while Dan kept a watchful eye on the bears. As we approached the next vantage point, Cole spotted the bears again and hand-signaled for Dan to hustle over and join us. While waiting for Dan to meet us, we got the spotting scope out and started making a plan.
We leap-frogged one more time to get within 1,000 yards. From this point, we would leave Dan behind to give hand signals in case the bears moved into the dense brush. However, right before we split up, the boar and sow bedded down for a late-afternoon nap. Cole and I knew there was an open patch of grass within 200 yards of where the bears had bedded down, and we hoped to get there and wait for them to wake up from their snooze. Hopefully, they would then move to the grass to feed.
There was so much brush to get through, we weren’t sure if we could be quiet enough to reach our destination without alarming the bears. We thanked God for the falling rain and blowing wind, which softened the sounds of our approach. As we got closer to the grass patch we’d set our sights on, there was still one deep ravine to get through.
Inching our way ever so quietly down into and back up the steep hillside, we still made more noise than we wanted to. As we approached the corner of our destination, we peered back across the valley at our signal man. Dan gave us the “still sleeping” signal. That was good!
We stepped forward to a small peninsula of alders that protruded into the opening. It was a good spot to survey and possibly get a shot from. Cole set up the spotting scope and started combing the brush. I was most thankful for the next hour and a half, as it gave me time to calm down.
Cole finally spotted the sleeping bears, silhouettes in the dense alders, just 160 yards from us. An hour later, the bears woke up and began feeding. The boar started making advances on his lady friend and began pushing her up the hill farther and farther away. That was not what we wanted to see happen. That’s when Cole and I had a heart-to-heart conversation about how we didn’t want this bear to get away. So we decided Cole would try to call the bear into bow range, knowing that the alternative was the boar pushing his sow over the mountain and out of our sight.
That’s when Cole roared and broke brush. The boar responded, and he was only 80 yards away when he stopped.
Cole and I were tucked into the only opening in the brush, with deep cover all around us. The boar continued toward us, on a mission, then suddenly disappeared into a ravine. Cole whispered, “This is going to happen fast,” Cole whispered. “Get ready!”
But nothing happened. There was only dead silence. We stared into the thick brush straight ahead, where we thought the bear should be, nearly in bow range. But then suddenly a stick snapped to our right. Cole swung his rifle in that direction and then said, “Draw!”
I drew my bow as the bear rushed up out of the ravine, crashing through the brush straight at us. Then he stopped for a split second and glared at what he expected to be his competitor.
“Shoot him now!” Cole urged.
I let my arrow fly, hitting the giant bear in the chest at just 14 yards. The shock of the 650-grain arrow seemed to stop his forward momentum and he spun around and quickly disappeared into the thick brush. The sow immediately came running down the hill and turned in the direction of the boar. The last place we saw the bear was 175 yards away as he headed downhill.
It was now after 10 p.m., with maybe an hour of daylight remaining, and rain was falling. Cole found a fair blood trail about 10 yards into the alders and said that due to the rain we needed to go into the brush and start tracking or run the risk of the blood being washed away by morning. With no blood trail and a seemingly endless wall of brush, recovery would be difficult to impossible.
After about 30 minutes, Dan met up with us from across the valley. Cole was fairly confident in my shot, so the three of us started following the blood trail through the alders. Cole was about 10 steps ahead of me, armed with his .375 H&H rifle. I had my bow, and Dan carried another rifle. We were instructed to stop when Cole stopped, so he could be sure to hear and observe every movement unhindered.
Cautiously we inched our way through the sea of alders for what seemed liked forever, though we’d probably only covered about 150 yards. Then Cole stopped suddenly and slowly motioned for me to come forward quietly. As I approached, a massive form appeared, silhouetted in the brush. It was the bear, and he was still alive! I drew my bow as the huge boar swung his massive head toward me at just eight yards away.
“Shoot!” Cole hissed.
“Where?” I asked.
“Anywhere!” he snapped.
All I had was a quartering-to shot, but I took it. The boar jumped up, roaring, biting, and ripping alders out of the ground. He was an out-of-control bulldozer going off just eight steps away. I nocked another arrow and shot him again as he angrily spun around, and incredibly, within just seconds the old boar expired right in front of us.
I couldn’t believe what had just happened! I was speechless, but Cole broke the silence with, “Congratulations, my friend! Well done!” We shook hands, hugged, and soaked up the experience for as much as we could, but light was fading fast so we took to saws and a machete to clear a 20-foot circle in the alders where we could work on the bear. Every so often we could hear the sow breaking limbs in the darkness, so we kept one guy on the gun for about an hour, but when it appeared safe we all began working with knives.
Around 3 a.m. we were almost done. I was leaning against a back leg to prevent the carcass from rolling over, and Cole was 11 feet away skinning the head. Suddenly, the brush erupted and the sow appeared right behind Cole on the otherside of the brushpile we’d created. “The sow’s right there!” I screamed as I fell away from the carcass.
Cole jumped over the carcass as it rolled toward the sow and Dan tossed him the rifle. Cole took aim but the sow was spooked by the commotion and whirled off into the darkness. Evidently, she didn’t want to eat us, because she could have had Cole for sure.
“You know what, guys?” I yelled. “I’ve had enough FUN for one day! NO MORE!”
But the sow hovered around us at about 50 yards for another hour. We kept a close eye on her but continued working on the downed bear and about an hour after the sow had finally walked away we had packs full and began to work our way out of the sea of alders. I’ve never been happier in my life than when we broke from the alders and the eastern sky began to glow. We could actually see around us for the last mile to camp. There’s no doubt God was protecting us that night.
We got back to camp around 7:30 a.m., completely exhausted. We made pancakes for breakfast, and then hit the sack. That afternoon, Bill flew in to pick us up and take us back to basecamp. We thanked everyone and then chartered a plane to the city of Kodiak, where Cole lives.
The next morning, we went to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office to check in my bear. We honestly did not know that we had a potential World Record bear until that moment. What I did know was that I had set out with four great friends, and had had one of the greatest adventures of my life. That was the real success in my mind.
The next 100 days were a whirlwind, and after the required 60-day drying period the Pope and Young Club’s official measurer, Chris Lacey, scored my bear. I was told the next step was to assemble a panel of measurers to officially score my bear. They met me at my home in Texas, where they confirmed the score of 294⁄16", a new World Record by just 1⁄16".
It’s still surreal to me that I even had the opportunity to hunt an Alaskan brown bear with my bow, let alone be so honored as to arrow the new World Record. It would be impossible to express enough thanks to those who helped make this dream a reality, especially my wife, Felicia, for supporting me in chasing my dreams. Usually, Felicia is right beside me with her own bow in hand. But she had stayed home from this trip to take care of our baby girl, Davoni.
I had experienced the greatest adventure of my life while spending two weeks with my friends in the Alaskan bush. Taking the new World Record brown bear with my bow was just a bonus.
Author’s NoteS: I used a 70-lb. Mathews Halon, GrizzlyStik Momentum arrows, and Massai 200 broadheads. I wore clothing from Sitka Gear and carried a Stone Glacier pack. If you’re interested in such a hunt, contact Cole Kramer at Adventuremountainhunts.com, or call (907) 539-6447.