Pat Reeve’s Hunt for the Sleeping Brown Bear with His Muzzleloader
Editor’s Note: Pat Reeve and Nicole Jones’ TV show, Driven with Pat and Nicole, airs on the Outdoor Channel Tuesday nights at 8:00 pm and Friday nights at 10:00 pm EST. For the last 3 years, this husband- and-wife duo has won a Golden Moose Award for excellence in TV production from the Outdoor Channel. “Driven” features big-game hunting around the world, but its main focus has been whitetails. Pat and Nicole wear the Mossy Oak Treestand and Break-Up Infinity camo patterns.
We were in Alaska hunting with Northern Wilderness Adventures in the middle of May, in the spring of 2007, hunting on the Mulchatna River. I had a friend from Florida, Doug Klunder, who had hunted with this outfitter before, and he came back to help guide us. I brought my Nikon spotting scope and Nikon Action 10x50mm binoculars, since we were hunting from ridge systems and glassing for bears. The first day of the hunt we walked about 4-miles up a ridge behind camp. After 2 hours of seeing nothing, we spotted two bears across the river on another mountain range. Initially, we thought the two bears were a boar and a sow. We packed up our boat to go after them, but we realized the two bears actually were a sow and a cub, so we decided not to go after them.
The next morning, we left at daybreak. We planned to travel by boat 20- or 25-miles downstream and look for brown bear. I wore my ScentBlocker rainsuit in the Mossy Oak Break-Up Pattern, since the weather always seemed to be raining or misting. Finally, the sun came out. Just before we got to a bend in the river, we spotted a huge brown bear sunning himself on an island about 20 yards in front of us. He stood up immediately. We froze, and the entire world seemed to go silent. Our boat was drifting toward the bear. As we got closer, the bear decided to jump from the island to the bank, and he ran off into the alders and the willows. As we passed by the spot where the bear had gone into the bushes, he walked away and then turned around to look at us. When we got downstream about 100 yards of the bear and out of his sight, we beached the boat on the opposite shore and slow-stalked back up the river. We expected to see the bear, but we couldn’t spot him. I started glassing and looking in the alders and the willows. Finally, I spotted movement through my binoculars and could see a patch of brown hair where the bear was in the thick brush.
After we watched the bear for 1-1/2-hours, he got up and walked back to the bank of the river. As soon as I saw the bear coming toward us, I brought my Thompson/Center Encore single-shot with a .416 Rigby barrel to my shoulder. Once the bear turned broadside, I saw he had two rub spots on his side. The guide whispered, “Don’t worry about rub spots. I’ve been guiding up here for 25 years, and this is the biggest bear I’ve ever seen. You can fix those rub spots.” The bear went down to the water to drink, so we got some great shots for our TV show. When he finished, he walked up the bank. I was about to take the shot, but he plopped down on the bank and went to sleep about 70-yards from us for about 1-1/2-hours. Finally, the bear stood up, and I got back into position to take the shot. I saw the bear through my Nikon Monarch 3x9-40 scope, aimed right behind his front shoulder and squeezed the trigger. Much to my surprise, the bear didn’t go down but instead stumbled, turned and ran back into the brush. Then I saw him stop after a little ways and tip over.
I have to admit I had an adrenaline rush when we approached the bear, and I noticed his huge claws that could have ripped me apart. The guide estimated that the bear weighed about 1,300 pounds. The bear’s hide squared just-over 9 feet, his skull scored 29 inches, and he made the Boone & Crockett record book. A biologist estimated the bear’s age to be around 30 years from his skull. Both of his canine teeth had broken off. The biologist told us, “This bear probably wouldn’t have survived another winter.” My dad had told me the spot where we saw the bear was where moose usually crossed the river. More than likely, the bear was waiting there in hopes of catching a cow moose and a young calf coming by. This bear was a true trophy. I have him mounted on my wall today. He had a scar on his head where he had fought with another bear, and his lip had been split, so he had a lot of character. This truly was a hunt of a lifetime. At that time, Doug Klunder was videoing me, and my future wife Nicole and I were just dating.