Story and photos by: Tylor Olsen
Each time I return from a hunting adventure, most of my friends and family gather around in anticipation of the crazy stories I seem to consistently bring home.
I always start the best stories off the same way: “No Shit There I Was.” The phase is simple, but it grabs the attention of the listener. Those few words set the stage for a wild tale and of course, add a little drama to the moment. They let everyone know they are about to hear a story that verges on the unbelievable. This story is exactly that.
Spring Brown Bear on the Alaska Peninsula can be one of the greatest adventures of a man's life. With the high volume of bears, it can be very eventful. But swing and miss by just a little on your hunting area and you'll find yourself caught in some of the longest days of glassing imaginable. Days upon days can be spent without seeing a glimpse of a bear within miles of you. It can be one of the most discouraging and frustrating adventures of any hunter’s lifetime.
This particular hunt was shaping up to be not much more than landscape photography. It was the sixth day of our 10-day hunt and we hadn't seen much for bear except one a small sow. Our hunter was an older gentleman. He was not keen on passing up any bear and he was beginning to feel very discouraged. We tried to explain to him when hunting these peninsula bears, the name of the game is patience. At any moment, at any time, your opportunity can happen. So stick to the plan and good things will happen. That’s why these hunts are 10 days and not three or four.
Our sixth morning was slowly dwindling into the noon hour. Sitting on our glassing knob just above camp, Head Guide and good friend Ben Wohlers suggested I walk the short 40 yard trail back down to camp to make some sandwiches for lunch. Of course, I agreed and after gathering sandwich orders from the crew, I headed down the short trail to camp. The walk was short and my mind was focused a million miles away from any bear. About 20 yards into the hike, I happened to look up, and No Shit There I Was, face-to-face with one of the most beautiful bears I had ever seen. Holy crap it was close too - maybe less than 25 yards away. We stood looking at each other for no more than a few seconds before the bear then let out a loud “huff,” turned and ran about 40 yards. At that point, the bear was agitated and still way too close. I was surprised to see it abruptly turn 90 degrees to its left and start tearing into the bank of a hill, maybe digging after a gopher or maybe upset I was that close.
Adrenaline filling every inch of my veins took me to the top of our glassing knob in no more than four strides. At the top of hill, it wasn’t hard to get everyone’s attention. We quickly turned the hunter in the direction of the bear still tearing at the bank of the hill and he raised his rifle. With a well placed first shot, the bear roared and rolled down towards the beach. Finding its feet, it began to stumble away from us. With another well placed bullet, the bear expired no more than 150 yards from camp. The entire sequence lasted less than 60 seconds. It took much longer for the adrenaline to wear off. Our hands where still shaking while we took photos and began skinning the beautiful eight-foot sow. She was well into her prime and had the most beautiful coat I have ever seen on a Coastal Brown Bear.
This experience solidified my belief that when you least expect it, and when you let your guard down, that's when exciting moments happen. Days and days of glassing for one opportunity culminated in a highly adrenalized 60 second window. Before I knew it the bear was down, our celebration had ended, and we had the hunter prepared for his flight home. No shit, that's exactly what happened.