Editor’s Note: Rick and Julie Kreuter are the hosts of “Beyond the Hunt” that appears on the Outdoor Channel Mondays at 8:30 am EST and Thursdays at 3:30 and 8:00 pm EST. Rick and Julie have been married for 14 years, have hunted together for 15 years and have worn Mossy Oak for 8 years.
We were hunting coastal brown bears out of Sand Point on the Alaskan peninsula last October with Canoe Bay Outfitters. Most of the foliage along the beach and the sides of the tributaries was the same color as our Brush camo. There were also moss-gray rocks, yellow grasses and brush and a lot of underbrush with no leaves, so we felt really comfortable and invisible in our Mossy Oak Brush camo.
We saw numbers of great bears, but none we could classify as shooters. We hoped to take a bear that would measure close to 10 feet. The last day of our 10-day hunt also was Julie’s birthday and the day we planned to fly out. PenAir is the only airline that flies into Sand Point, and the company called to tell us they didn’t have seats for us on the plane, even though we’d confirmed our flight before we went to camp. We decided it was Julie’s birthday, and the powers that be had decided to give Julie an extra day to hunt as a birthday present.
We climbed to the top of a mountain on an island, so we could see 360-degrees around the island. Finally we spotted a big mature brown bear walking along the shoreline and eating seaweed. We came off the mountain and got back into the boat. The whole time we were in the boat the wind was coming from our back, so we knew there was no way we could get close to that bear without spooking him. I believe a bear’s ability to smell human odor is far superior to that of a white-tailed deer.
When we were about 400-yards out, glassing the bear from the boat, we spotted an eddy where the wind was swirling in front of the boat. For no reason at all, the wind turned 180 degrees and was now hitting us in the face, giving us the perfect wind to stalk the bear. We decided Julie was getting more and more birthday presents as this hunt went along. We steered the boat across this little bay and tucked it into a nook about 200 yards in front of the bear. We got out and stalked to within 100 yards of the bear. We set-up the cameras, and Julie waited for the shot on the bear. Everything was working out just perfectly for Julie’s birthday hunt.
After we were all set-up, the bear decided to leave the beach and go into the brush. Normally when the bears leave the beach, they’re bedding-down for the day. We thought the hunt was over, and that we had lost the opportunity for Julie to take her birthday bear on camera. But a few minutes later, the bear came out of the brush about 40-yards away and walked straight toward us. I was videoing as the bear came to us. I had him in full frame. At 30 yards, he stopped and looked at us. I think he knew we weren’t part of the rock we were hiding behind. I really think he saw the camera sticking-up above the rock and perhaps a reflection off the lens of the camera. Julie asked our guide and confirmed this was the bear she should take, took dead aim with her Savage .338 rifle and shot the bear.
The bear ran into the brush. Immediately, Julie took off after the bear. Our guide had told us, “These coastal brown bears are big, tough and hard to put-down. If you can get a second shot, always take it. If the bear gets in the brush, you can create a potentially-dangerous situation for us, if we have to go in after him.” Julie ran toward the bear to try and get that second shot, to keep us from having to go deep in the brush to recover a wounded bear. The guide also had told Julie, “As long as you can see the bear, take another shot.” Julie felt certain the bear was mortally wounded, but she did the right thing by attempting to get to the bear. When she took the second shot, Julie was only about 20-yards from the bear. Julie was rock solid, from her first shot through her second shot. However, when we got to her, she was having a really-hard time walking up to the bear to touch it. She was overcome with a huge adrenaline rush. Julie said, “Oh my gosh, this bear is huge. I know he’s dead, but he’s still intimidating.” Finally, Julie picked up the bear’s paw and put it over her face. You couldn’t see any of Julie’s head on either side of the bear’s paw. Julie got her birthday bear, and what a birthday present he was!