When we moved to Alaska, we knew that bear attacks and moose attacks are things that Alaskans may experience. But we didn’t really expect it to happen to us. But one caribou hunting trip off the Denali Highway, Ben encountered some grizzly bears that were a bit too close for comfort. Here he tells the story of a grizzly charge in his own words.
Setting Up Camp
So there I was…..it was Friday. We had arrived at our desired location and set up camp. Once camp was settled, we went up the mountain to glass (look) for caribou. The three other guys in our hunting party were about 10-15 feet in front and slightly below me, our backs to the mountain, glassing the area below. All of us were thinking about caribou hunting, not a grizzly charge.
After about two hours of glassing the ridges, the other guys stood up and started talking. I went down to join the discussion. You know that small voice inside your head that says, “Don’t leave your rifle propped up on your backpack, take it with you?” Yeah, me too…and this was probably the last time I’ll ever ignore it! I walked down to the guys and we begin talking softly about the plan for the evening. It was getting late, we’d seen a monster bull moose in the distance, but no other animals at all. While we were talking I heard (and the other guys didn’t) a soft rustling of some bushes.
I quickly turned in the direction of the sound and all I immediately see is this huge square face of a brown bear bouncing up and down as it charged through the bushes towards us. When I first saw it, it was probably about 15-20 yards away. I alerted the guys…”Bear!!!” Apparently I did not say this forcefully enough. One of the guys thought I meant a long way away and began to slowly turn towards me. “Bear!! BEAR!!!” I repeated, suddenly realizing I was without my rifle. As I’m turning to try and find some cover, I noticed a second brown bear also bounding through the bushes out of the corner of my eye. At that exact moment in time, none of us had guns on us.
The next 15-30 seconds of the grizzly charge went by very quickly. The guy closest to me (and apparently closest to his rifle) all of a sudden had his rifle materialize in his hands. I was doing my best to get behind him so he’d have a clear line of fire to the bears. His son, who had been asleep, was awakened by the commotion and tripped over himself trying to get up. He thankfully still managed to stay with us in our hasty 5-10 yard retreat off the edge of a steep hill we’d been standing on.
Because of where I had been sitting and the direction of the grizzly charge, the bears were now between me and my rifle and backpack. The other guy in our party took off running along the side of the shelf towards his rifle. As he was approaching it, he turns and sees all three bears. We believe it was a mama grizzly with two 2.5 to 3 year old cubs. The cubs were the ones who actually started the charge. “She’s got cubs!” my hunting partner yells. At that point he looked forward and realized he had just ran right past his rifle.
Recovering and Retreating to Camp
By this point in time, the three of us dropped off the side of the steep hill into the dense brush. This caused us to lose sight of the bears. According to our friend who had just ran past his gun and was still on the hillside with the bears, the mama lost sight of us, stopped her charge, and stood up on her hind legs looking for us. She was standing in the same spot we’d all been standing in only moments before. Somehow, our friend collected his gun and retreated with us. We started yelling at these bears, who we could no longer see. We decided to wait a few minutes in the position we were in.
At about this time that I conveniently remember that I’m also carrying a handgun. A lot of good that knowledge did me at the time. Anyway, I drew the handgun and racked a round in the chamber. We then form a line and began slowly advancing back towards our gear left abandoned on the hillside. We got my rifle back and all of our bags, and with our heads on swivels, we made our way back to camp.
Needless to say, until we got back into the truck on the way home, I don’t think either my handgun and rifle were more than 5 feet from me! Because the moment you might leave your gun behind, that is about the time that a grizzly charge may happen. Have any good hunting stories? Share them below in the comments!