Nicole Reeve Took Her Dream Brown Bear with a Bow the Spring of 2014
Editor’s Note: “I've been wearing Mossy Oak since I was a little girl,” says Nicole Reeve, co-host of the TV show “Driven with Pat and Nicole” on the Outdoor Channel. An official member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff for 8 years, Nicole’s an admitted adrenaline junkie. “This spring I decided I would take a brown bear with my bow. For many years, I had wanted to hunt a brown bear. I thought there would be a huge adrenaline rush when I got in close to a dangerous animal like a brown bear. I like the excitement of the hunt, and I enjoy making eye-to-eye contact with dangerous game. I’m a certified, bonafide, you can get papers on me, adrenaline junkie. What can be more exciting than getting close enough to a brown bear to take him with a bow and arrow?”
We were hunting with Bill Stevenson and Alaska Outfitters www.unit9bearhunts.com on the Alaskan peninsula. To really appreciate the hunt I had in the spring of 2014, I need to explain that the spring before (2013) we went to Alaska to hunt brown bear with a different outfitter. The outfitter was great, and the location was great, but the weather was horrible. We hunted inland brown bears for 20 days straight. The area we were hunting had record-low temperatures, never rising above -20 degrees Fahrenheit. We were there to hunt brown bears coming out of their dens where they had been hibernating. But because the weather was so cold, the bears weren’t there. While we were there, we learned that record lows that had stood for 50 years were broken. So, in 2014, we decided to go later in the year. The outfitter we’d gone with last year didn’t offer late-season hunts.
And, as bad as the weather was last year, this year Alaska had an abnormally-warm spring. When we got there, there was still snow high in the mountains, but some green was up. All the bears were out of hibernation. We stayed in tents and glassed for bears every day. Each morning, we only walked about 100 yards from camp to a knoll that we called “the spotting knob.” From that vantage point, we could see for miles and miles and miles.
Black bears have extremely-keen noses, and we wanted to leave as little human odor on the ground as possible. We didn’t want to spook the bears out of our area. So, we made the decision not to stalk any bear, unless it was the bear we wanted to take for sure, and the bear was in a place that we could get to without leaving a lot of human odor. We were seeing 12 to 15 bears per day - all the way up to the top of the mountain and all the way down to a river that salmon came up in the fall to spawn. We had scheduled 14 hunting days for this hunt, and I took my bear on the fifth day of the hunt. We had tried to stalk a bear earlier, but the bear was moving too fast, and we couldn’t get in front of him.
On day five, we saw a really nice bear walking down the gravel bar on the side of the salmon stream. The bear would stop every now and then and feed on grass. We felt like we would have enough time to get off our spotting knob, build a makeshift blind and let the bear walk within bow range. When we reached the sand bar, we could see the bear coming through the alders about 100 yards in front of us. He broke through the alders and got out on the sandbar about 70 yards from us. I had my arrow nocked, and my mechanical release attached to my bow string. I was ready for the shot. Pat was filming the hunt, and I had two guides with me. One guide stood on my left side, and the other guide stood on my right side - both with high-powered rifles - just in case we had a problem. Cole Kramer was one of our guides, and the other guide was a female, Rebecca Francis. Rebecca was ranging the bear and giving me the yardage as the bear approached. When I heard Rebecca say, “The bear is at 23 yards right now,” I knew that was as close as I wanted the bear to come. The bear was quartering to me and not really presenting a shot. I knew he could see us, and that brown bears weren’t afraid of anything. They’re at the top of the food chain, and they have no fear of humans. I could tell the bear was trying to circle downwind of us.
When he was at 23 yards, I drew my bow. The bear had turned his head away from us to look back at the alders. When I drew the bow, he stopped on a little hump out in the middle of the river, picked up his leg to take another step and turned perfectly broadside to us. I aimed right behind his shoulder, released the arrow and saw the Lumenok on the end of my arrow enter right behind the shoulder. When the bear took the arrow, he ran away from us into some alders. We thought we saw him go down 40 yards from where I had arrowed him. At that time, one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I ever had had hit me, and I came apart. I usually don’t get that adrenaline rush until after I've taken the shot - like this time. We didn’t really believe the bear had gone down that quickly. After 10 to 15 minutes we decided to go after the bear. The guides walked out in front of Pat and me, as we approached the bear. They saw the bear dead at 30 yards. The bear squared 9 feet, and the guides estimated that he would weigh close to 1,000 pounds.
When I put my hands on my dream bear, I thought about how long and how hard we had worked to get this bear. We had put in 21 days the year before and hadn’t seen a bear. To harvest this bear on the fifth day of our hunt and be able to go home early was really a blessing - I was just flooded with emotion. I also thought about my guide Rebecca Francis. How cool it was that a lady brown bear bowhunter guide had guided me to take this monster bear.