The Grizzly Who Came For Supper

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Grizzly encounters are normal in Alaska.

Thankfully most of them end in a calm fashion.  Most grizz don’t want a confrontation and will inevitably head in the opposite direction once they deduce you are a human being.  The encounters that we read about in the papers are few and far between, mostly resulting from confrontations with sows with cubs, a startled bear, a bear on a kill, or a starving bear.  So hunters need not fear ursus arctos horribilis,  they just need to mind him and 99% of all problems will be avoided.

One of my more memorable grizzly encounters occurred in the gray, dusky evening along a small arctic river some 150 miles from Russia.  I had succumbed to a long day of packing sheep quarters down from the mountain and had found a comfortable friend in my fluffy sleeping bag.  Sleep usually comes quickly after the long days of arduous work and that night was no exception.  It wasn’t long before my eyes began to blur and my breath had fallen into that slow rhythm that signaled much needed sleep.  It was about that time I heard a curious scuffling outside of my tent.  The moist sand and stones on the river bank creaked with what was now unmistakeably footsteps.  Footsteps of something heavy!  As I sat up in my sleeping bag, a sobering picture formed in my mind.  I imagined the smoke from the crackling fire floating down the river valley.  Smoke that carried the sweet smell of freshly cooked sheep ribs.  At that moment I somehow knew that my visitor wasn’t a wondering caribou or curious moose.  A grizzly had come for supper!

I instinctively grabbed my little Remington with my left hand as the muffled footsteps approached my tent.  With each new step the hair on the back on my neck became more erect and my skin began to tingle and then suddenly the footsteps ceased and all was eerily quiet.  For what seemed like an eternity I waited for the next movement, but what came next shocked even me!  It wasn’t another footstep, it was a broad grizzly nose pressing into the wall of my tent,  his great weight making the titanium poles that held up my tent buckle!  To this day I don’t why my reaction was such, but instead of blowing a hole through the side of the tent with the 300 wsm, I simply reached back with my right hand and with all the strength I could muster whacked that grizz right in the snoot with a monster back hand!  The bear must have been absolutely stunned because instead of attacking he whirled in complete dismay and hastily retreated toward the  willows.  As I peeked out of my tent door, rifle in hand, the only thing I saw was the last bit of grizzly bear butt heading into the brush.  You probably wouldn’t think it, but I slept well that night.  Only in “The Great Land” could something like that happen and I felt privileged to have lived day.

 

 

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