Editor’s Note: Pat Reeve and Nicole Jones, the hosts of “Driven with Pat & Nicole” on the Outdoor Channel, have been married since June, 2012. They don’t hesitate to look danger in the face and never flinch. They rely heavily on their Mossy Oak camo to make them appear to be invisible to the critters they hunt. At 110 pounds and looking like a fashion model, Nicole is the last person you’d expect to stalk a lion, shoot it with a bow, jump out of an airplane from 12,000 feet, ride a jet boat down a raging river, crawl through mud, eat dust and climb mountains to live the Mossy Oak obsession. Nicole admits, “I’m an adrenaline junkie. Just like my husband, I’m driven to hunt.”
Because I love the outdoors and love hunting, I have a bucket list of animals I want to take. The brown bear is right at the top of that list. A brown bear hunt is really difficult to put together. Most guides for brown bears are booked a year in advance. There are a very-limited number of bear tags. When we met Mike Bowden of Hidden Alaska Guides and Outfitters, we began to talk about a brown bear hunt. Mike hunts inland brown bears instead of coastal bears. My husband had taken a brown bear in May one year, by floating down a river, finding the bear and then trying hunting him. For this hunt, Pat said, “Why don’t we do a snow pack hunt and try and find a brown bear coming out of hibernation. That’s more of a ‘Driven’ TV hunt, because you don’t see many hunts like that on television.” I said, “Let’s do it.” We flew to Anchorage, Alaska, and then took another plane to Willow. Finally, we took a DeHavilland Beaver airplane that carried skis instead of tires for landing on ice and snow.
We landed on a frozen lake where there was a small cabin for us to stay. We planned to hunt from snowmobiles and drive to huge drainages. There we set-up spotting scopes and binoculars to look for bears opening-up their dens and coming-out to feed. Most often bears open-up their dens by 11:00 am. The daytime temperatures should be around 30 or 40 degrees for the bears to come out of hibernation. As the snow pack outside the den heats-up, the snow turns to water, and the water starts dripping on the sleeping bears and wakes them up. When the bears dig-out of their dens, they usually stay close to the den for a few days. By the third day, the bears will get hungry and leave the den site to forage for food. The dens are supposed to be easy to see, since when the bears dig out of the den, they leave huge piles of dirt on the snow.
Pat and I hunted for 10 days. The area broke record-low temperatures that year. When we were riding snowmobiles, the weather was even colder. We never did find a bear, and we never got a break in the weather. Every day, we had to fight the freezing cold. We all agreed that a brown bear would have to be out of his mind to leave a warm den and come out into this frigid air. We had to melt snow to drink. We did find one open den. Pat and I went inside the den and shot some pictures just to show how big a brown bear’s den really is. Often, people who watch our show on the “Outdoor Channel” think we take animals on every hunt. This is a classic example of a 10-day hunt where we never had a shot. Guides and outfitters can’t control the weather when you’re hunting. We really enjoyed being with the guides and being at camp, so we planned to go back and hunt there again this fall.