Hunting a grizzly bear has always been a lifelong dream. It was one of those things like pursuing Cape buffalo that I never thought I would get to do, but through the Good Lord’s Grace, I have been fortunate enough to do both.
It took two days and 5 flights varying from a 757 to a two seat super cub to get me into camp, but finally me and my cameraman, Rob Snider made it to our two tent base camp in the Alaskan bush. I was hunting with outfitter Clint Mayeur of Alaska Big Game Hunting(www.alaskagamehunting.com ), and my young guide was Billy West.
We were at the base of some pretty decent sized mountains, but certainly not sheep mountains. There was a river down low and bald mountains high. Since there were no fish – and honestly I doubt they ever get that far – we found the bears on the berries.
We glassed and the first day had an encounter with a sow and 2 cubs. After a short stalk, we ended up about 60 yards away, before I got busted taking photos, and they vacated the area, sort of.
The second day, we again saw the threesome, but in the afternoon, we hiked about 4 miles from camp to glass a higher drainage. Billy, spotted a loan bear up in a bowl, and we watched him from about 2 miles. He looked decent, so we moved closer. When we got where we wanted to be, there was a strip of berries about 15 yards wide between head high brush that went to the bottom of the mountain. As we eased ahead and tried to peak over, I spotted the big blonde head of a grizzly walking straight at us only about 40 yards away. I sat down, got my gun up and tried to get the others down. I don’t know if the bear heard us or what, but he stood up, and then he could see us over the crest of the hill. That was it, he was gone. Man what a rush to have a big griz walking straight at you at less than 50 yards…
We walked over the hill to see if he would go down the drain and possibly come out on the other side, and suddenly Rob said, “There’s the bear in the rocks above us. He circled.”
Sure enough, the grizz was walking parallel to us about 80 yards above us going across an avalanche shoot. I got on my sticks at a severe uphill angle and looked for the shot.
I wanted a broadside as I was shooting a .300 Win, but he was always moving when he was broadside. He stopped twice and peered down at us, and the third time, I decided I had waited long enough. It was a really odd position for a shot, but I tightened in to my ICON and lined up my Nikon Monarch scope and tried to get steady. It was a thrill just to see that sight picture, and I knew it was about to be crunch time. With his squared head looking down, I put the crosshairs just under his chin and squeezed. The big bear rolled and then was running down the hill into thick brush. Great – 30 minutes before dark, and I have a wounded bear on a steep hill in the brush…
We were discussing the situation when I looked way down the mountain, and the bear was standing broadside barely holding his head up. I quickly put one in his shoulder and he dropped like a sack of potatoes.
We recovered him, but we were 6 miles from camp. It was a long trek back, and the fun had just begun. The next morning we went back to get the bear. Bugs were terrible, so the photo session and skinning was in a hurry. The bear is obviously blonde, but the photos don’t show the almost white collar all the way under his neck. The hide was just fantastic and he was a good solid bear to not be coastal. My first shot went in beside the sternum and lodged in the hide just in front of the tail. Second shot went through the heart and was under the skin on the far side shoulder. This truly was the culmination of a 35 year dream.
I can remember being a little boy and one of my dad’s friends had been to AK in the late 60’s. He killed a Dall’s sheep and a blonde grizzly, and I was just enamored with that beautiful rug. This bear’s hide was just as I remember that rug. What an adventure!
I chose the ICON in .300 Win mag for a number of reasons. First, it is my all around, all purpose rifle. I use it on the majority of hunts, so it is what I am most comfortable with and that means a lot. With 180 grain premium bullets, I am confident that it will take down any game in North America, and it is a flat shooter. In a harsh place like Alaska, having Weathershield and a synthetic stock are huge advantages. You know your gun won’t rust, and you don’t have to handle it with kid gloves. If I had to own only one rifle for North American hunting, without a doubt it would be my .300 Win ICON.