Hair’s Breadth Bear

Base camp near Cold Bay with Guide Roger Morris and Brent Jones in the center, Dan at right.

By Kurt J. Jaeger

It was four o’clock in the morning when I woke up. As quietly as possible, I peeled myself drowsily from the down feather sleeping bag and shoved myself past the in-unison snoring guides to the tent entrance. I carefully pulled up the zipper where cold air beat into my face. Thousands of stars blinked from the cloudless sky.

For a while, I stared over the water to where the tiny town of Cold Bay showed some puny lights, then scanned the low waves splashing rhythmically against the coarse stones at the beach a dozen yards away. In the east, the frozen peaks around Mount Pavlof stood out clearly against the velvet black sky and conveyed the impression of an immense expanse of frozen solitude. I shivered.

Taking one last sweeping look over the steep bank behind the tents, the enormous mountain range beyond and the open bay leading into the Bering Straight, I slipped back into the warm tent and the even warmer sleeping bag. However, I couldn’t find the peace for a restful sleep anymore. The prospect to experience the coming day in bright sunshine seemed to work on me like a stimulant, with the nervous thought of it being the last hunting day bothering me.

Based on my experiences over the past six days, I had definitely reached the conclusion that the place of birth of terrible weather had to be in this part of the world. There had also been days when I had several times cursed my decision to come here in the first place, to chase the big bear with my pals from “AAA Alaskan Outfitters” with whom I had hunted successfully two years before for Dall sheep in the Wrangels.

There had been days of driving snow, sleet and low stratus clouds chased by roaring, icy winds with a chill factor of no less than thirty degrees below. Days that taught to me the hard way what “freezing to the bones” really meant. Six days in the hinterland at the base of enormous mountains, always on the lookout for traces on the ground, or the sight of the enormous Kodiak bear.

As I thought of the past week, I drew my head deeper into the sleeping bag. Instinctively, I felt for the rough skin of my nose, which had turned somewhat insensitive, and thanked God that the frostbite there was only minor. My toes seemed it to be worse off. Then I thought of what my hunting guide, Roger Morris, had revealed the night before–that this morning, we would board the inflatable boat and call at another hunting camp along the coast to the West and try our luck there.  I was curious about the new area, and hope came flooding back again. Roger had sounded confident, and I knew how hard he would again try for my success. If not, I would fly back to Europe empty handed, without the ultimate result of hunting, though I would be happy about the experience itself.

Now and then a hunter needs success, and lying there I figured that after the hardships I had been through, I deserved some credit in the accounting book of Diana. It had been a damned cold spring with much snow in the mountains and it seemed that the chances of getting a bear were small, although we had twice encountered bears at the base of the mountains. In the first instance, approaching darkness prevented us from getting any closer.  The second opportunity turned out to be hopeless since the bear had traveled fast along the foothills of the mountain range without ever stopping.

Bear at shore after tumbling down from plateau with author and Guide Roger Morris.

We were greatly disappointed when late in the afternoon of the sixth day we reached the steep bank and looked down onto the base camp to find no bearskins spread out drying on racks.  Instead, we found a note in one of the tents informing us that the three Texans in camp had thrown the towel in on the second day. The biting cold and constant, howling winds were apparently something they did not care for too much. To soften the impact of the bad news, they had at least left a few bottles of expensive whiskey behind for our welfare.

The pale light of the breaking day penetrated slowly through the tent walls. Beside me Roger started to move, then blinked sleepily around him.

“Good morning!” I called out happily.

His astonished look was a confused question mark. I pointed excitedly to the tent entrance.

“I am already awake for a long time and you should really have a look outside. You can’t imagine what a wonderful day awaits you out there,” I said.

Roger did not say a word. He stepped carefully over Dan who still kept snoring and pulled up the zip-fastener. Two minutes later he came back again, a wide grin showed on his bearded face.

“Seems to be your day alright!” he said tersely, then climbed over Dan once more and started to tend to the camping stove. Soon, a busy hustle and bustle and clattering of pots and dishes finally woke Dan from his carpentry. Everybody was up and soon busy rolling sleeping bags and rubber mats and in agreement that the good weather called for immediate action. While Roger was serving the steaming coffee, the first beams of the rising sun reached our tents. The glaring light even dazzled off the material on the inside.

The preparation of the rubber dinghies was next. The outboard motors had to be fastened and the tanks filled for the long journey over the water. Roger, Dan and I took the lead with our boat. Brent followed with a new hunter and most of the gear. The sun shone warming our faces. To our left, the enormous mountain chain covered with ice and snow was overwhelming and impressive in their massive solidity below an azure-blue sky. The incredible harsh world here on the Aleutian chain, untouched since creation millions of years ago, let me feel how small and insignificant we human beings are on this planet.

Roger steered the boat parallel to the coast approximately five hundred meters offshore so as not to disturb any loitering bears with the engine noise. Time passed as we progressed, and in the distance I could see the catchments area of Lennards Harbor as we scanned the steep coastline sliding slowly past us with our glasses.

I don’t remember who spotted the moving brown spot way up on the coastal escarpment first. “Bear!” Roger shouted suddenly and simultaneously throttled back the outboard motor. At the same time we saw how the big brown spot headed with powerful strides for a thicket of alder. It was a bear all right, however, I had not been able judge his size before he disappeared into a thicket. Continue reading Hair’s Breadth Bear

Advertisements

Coming Soon…

By Scott Mayer

I wanted to give SCI Members a “head’s up” about a new and exciting product we’ll be bringing online soon–My Hunt ReportTM is the source for the reports, photos and videos from SCI Members that help you choose the best outfitters for the best hunting trophies and experiences!

My Hunt ReportTM is planned as a searchable database for reports filed by SCI Members on outfitters, guides and hunting conditions around the world. All SCI Members will be encouraged to participate, and those who do will be rewarded with a one-stop place to store the photos and videos relating to their hunts for everyone to see.

Here are just some of the features we envision from My Hunt ReportTM:

  • Hunting conditions as told by fellow SCI Members.
  • Your hunting photos and videos.
  • Your trophies, records and awards.
  • Access from any computer, tablet, or Smartphone anywhere in the world.
This is only a mock-up for conceptual purposes, but it shows just some of the features we envision to help you share your success stories and make new ones.

With My Hunt ReportTM , search for last-minute hunting opportunities, or really drill down and plan the ultimate adventure.  Show your trophies and hunting videos to other members—even on the Convention floor.  Find where the biggest trophies are coming from, and what outfitter will put you on them. Get ideas for your trophy room.

We’re working hard to bring this to you soon. In the meantime, please be thinking of your notable hunts, and any exciting video or exceptional trophies you want others to see in your personal My Hunt ReportTM. Stay tuned for more information including contacts and how to have your own My Hunt ReportTM .

Favorite Guns Of SCI Members Ronnie H. and Russ M.

McWhorter Custom rifle in 7 MM Weatherby Mag 070912
Ronnie H. shoots a McWhorter Custom rifle in 7 MM Weatherby Mag.

Ronnie H.

When asked what his favorite guns are, SCI Member Ronnie H. writes, “My favorite rifle is a McWhorter Custom rifle in 7 MM Weatherby Mag topped with a Zeiss 4-16×50 with FL glass and illuminated reticle.  I feed it Weatherby 154-grain softpoints and I’ve taken deer, goats, coyotes and, as you can see in the photo, hogs with it.  In fact I’ve taken so many hogs with it that my friends have named it ‘Pork Chop.’

“The rifle is perfectly balanced, has a Jewel trigger set at 1.5 pounds pull, and shoots less than 1/2-inch groups at 100 yards.  The Zeiss scope has a 30mm tube and with the elevation turret I can shoot out to 600 yards.  In low light conditions, the illuminated reticle allows me to take hogs and predators that would be difficult to even see with a lesser scope.

Ken Genecco custom Remington 700 and Winchester 70
Russ M. had his Winchester Model 70 (top) and Remington Model 700 (bottom) custom stocked by Ken Genecco.

Russ M.

Member Russ M.’s go-to rifle since the mid-1980s has been a Remington Model 700 chambered in .30-‘06.  Russ adds, “At that time, I was backpack hunting and my Winchester Model 70 was just too heavy. I sent the Remington to Ken Genecco in Stockton, CA, and had a synthetic stock and Leupold 2-7 Compact scope put on it. It weighs 7 pounds, 2 ounces including the sling and scope. There are other rifle and caliber combinations, but I think you would be hard pressed to find a better one for the lower 48.”

Russ continues, “When I went to Africa the first time, I needed a rifle for dangerous game. Being somewhat of a traditionalist, I bought a pre-64 Winchester Model 70 in .375 H&H and, since my Remington had by that time become an extension of my arm, I sent the Winchester to Gennecco for a stock duplicating the dimensions of the Remington. It weighs just less than 9 pounds with a 1.5-5 Leopold scope, or just over 9 pounds with a 1.5-6 Kahles Illuminated reticle scope–both in Talley rings. From varmints to Cape buffalo, this is my choice for the rest of the world.

“Since I live in the California condor lead ban zone, I have been shooting Barnes bullets almost exclusively for many years. They’re very accurate and always lethal.

“These are my two rifles that see the most use. There have been a few others acquired along the way, but those very seldom leave the safe anymore.”

SCIF Funds Conservation Projects

Safari Club International Foundation has contributed $537,590 in the past six months to fund worldwide wildlife conservation projects.

“The research programs selected by SCIF’s professional biologists inform wildlife managers and policy makers on critical wildlife management needs worldwide,” said SCIF President Joe Hosmer. “SCIF strives to ensure management decisions are based on the best available science.”

SCIF donated $350,000 to fund multiple predator/prey projects in the U.S. and Canada. Conservation projects include Predator/Prey studies observing rates of whitetail deer fawn survival in Michigan and Wisconsin, elk survival in Montana, and caribou survival in Newfoundland. The results of these projects will help properly manage both predators and prey in systems where both exist. Donations were also made to wildlife population research and enhancement programs including mule deer in the Eastern Mojave Desert, brown bears on Kodiak Island, black bears in Missouri, and moose in Alaska, among others.

The most recent project is a partnership with Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Kenai Moose Project. SCIF donated $20,000. In multiple African nations, SCIF has given more than $123,000 to wildlife conservation and human-wildlife conflict programs.

Most recently, SCIF donated $30,000 for the upcoming African Wildlife Consultative Forum, which will be held in Botswana. SCIF also continues to fund lion research in Zambia to improve the accuracy of aging lions in their natural environment.

Being able to accurately age lions in the field will assist range states develop appropriate lion harvest regulations to ensure sustainability.

“Throughout the year, SCIF contributes over $1 million to wildlife research, management and anti-poaching programs. As an international organization, SCIF continues to increase our financial impact for sustainable-use conservation and we hope more organizations can follow our lead,” said Hosmer.

Contributions to wildlife species made during the past 6 months include:

  • Lion (Southern Africa) $30,000
  • Elephant (Zimbabwe) $25,200
  • Leopard (Zimbabwe, Namibia) $18,000
  • Wildlife Genetics (Africa) $20,000
  • Brown Bear (Alaska) $50,000
  • Black Bear (Missouri) $25,000
  • Elk (Montana. & Ontario)$69,800
  • Whitetail deer (Mich. & Wisc$75,000
  • Mule Deer (Calif. & Colorado) $40,880
  • Moose (Alaska) $33,500
  • Caribou (Newfoundland) $8,550
  • Bighorn Sheep (Mont. & Wyo) $31,500
  • Dall Sheep (Alaska) $5,000
  • Predator ID Manual (Intl) $10,000
  • Conservation Matching Grants $8,000
  • African Wildlife Forum $30,000

Make a Donation to SCIF

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: