I have been guiding brown bear hunters and fishermen and bear photographers from our homestead within Becharof National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for 33 years and have had numerous close encounters with bears. Until now, I have never had to shoot an unwounded bear to protect either myself or clients, but the other week an event occurred and my good fortune changed.
When it happened, I was fully aware of what was going on and how big the bear was. I also managed to stay aware of where my clients were, even when the bear was directly between us. The woman I was guiding said that while she did not remember smelling the bear’s breath, it was close enough to her face that it could have bitten her!
I have killed enough bears to know how important shot placement can be, even with large-bore rifles. I was well aware of the limitations of my 9mm pistol, even with Buffalo Bore ammo. I was aiming for a vital area with each shot; because it all took place between 6 and 8 feet, they were not far off. But hitting the head and brain of a highly animated and agitated animal is a difficult shot.
The two photos shown here tell a pretty good story by themselves. The secondary photo (embedded at the bottom of this story) was taken from the point where the charging bear first erupted from the brush. I am on the left and Larry, my fishing client, is on the right. The bear was within 2 feet or less of Larry and his wife when I shot it. You can see the dead bear to the left of Larry. The main photo (embedded to the right) shows Larry and me with the dead bear and shows its size.
Larry and his wife were fishing with me, and because we were going to a small stream I had fished before, which had numerous large male brown bears, I decided to take my Smith & Wesson 3953 DAO 9mm, rather than the S&W 629 .44 Mag. Mountain Gun I have carried for the past 25 years, as the larger boars are usually less of a problem than sows with cubs.
Before we reached the stream, while we were walking through dense brush and tall grass, we heard a growl and deep “woof” of a bear approximately 6 feet to our right (behind me in the secondary photo). We had been talking loudly but must have startled a sleeping bear. It sounded like it made a movement toward us, and I shouted loudly and the bear ran back through the brush to the right in the photo. Within 15 seconds, we could hear it growling and charging through the dense brush from the opposite side.
I had my pistol out by then, and the bear first appeared from where the photographer in photo No. 2 was standing. It went straight for my clients; Larry and his wife fell backwards in the deep grass. She said the bear’s face was close enough to hers that it could have bitten her!
The bear was highly agitated and standing within 3 feet of my clients when I decided I could take a shot without endangering them.
My first shot was at its neck, and then it began growling and spinning toward the impact. I wanted to hit the head but the bear was moving so fast I simply began shooting each time I could hit a vital area. I hit it six times before it turned to run off, and my seventh shot was into its pelvis area as it ran. When it dropped within 6 feet of the last shot, I checked my pistol and found I had only a single round left in the chamber so decided against walking in and finishing it.
My pistol was loaded with Buffalo Bore 9mm +P Outdoorsman 147-grain FN hard-cast loads that have a muzzle velocity of 1100 fps. I had previously tested, compared and proven such loads with my .357 and .44 mags., and I was convinced they would work.
On day two of their hunt, these guys noticed a herd of elk feeding on a hillside two canyons away. After observing the herd for a little bit, the hunter selected a yearling cow out of the herd to shoot.
He passed on the larger cows because he knew they would have a heck of a hike to get the meat out of the woods afterwards. In any case, they settled in, and he squeezed off his shot, which resulted in an 875-yard elk kill.
After two exhausting days of searching we’re rewarded with a kill. We took the shot at about 6:30pm and we obtained again to camp simply after 11:00pm.
Leon Champine, Joe Pople, and Corey Cook were out turkey hunting when an unlikely pair joined their hunting party.
It was just before dawn when two young bucks wandered up on the trio of hunters.
The yearling bucks were curious an unafraid as they sniffed and licked the hunters’ shotguns.
Champine pulled out his camera and took a few videos of the brave little deer as they sniffed, licked, and tried to eat his Ghillie suit.
“I believe this is their first season without following mom around to teach them what is dangerous,” Champine told Indiana Fox News affiliate Fox 59. “I also believe that they were just simply inquisitive.”
The three men have more than 50 years of combined hunting experience, and none of them have ever seen something like this. “It was truly a once in a lifetime encounter that I am incredibly fortunate enough to have captured on my phone,” Champine said.
It is a remarkable story of God’s intervening hand to save his people. Pastor Paul Ciniraj, director of Bibles for Mideast, says that he and other Christians were rescued from the clutches of death by a group of three lions. Ciniraj and his group were under attack from Islamic militants when the giant cats attacked and scared the murderous group away.
“My risen Lord Jesus Christ has saved my life once again,” Pastor Paul wrote, “and I praise and thank God for His unspeakable grace!” It was Easter Sunday when the miracle took place. The pastor was recovering in the home of some friends following a stoning attack by Islamists earlier that day. “Suddenly, a group of militants reached the house, armed with steel bars and other weapons,” he reported to WND.
Pastor Ciniraj thought this was the end of the road for him, and feared for the life of the 80-year-old resident, and several children who were taking refuge in the house alongside him. “Losing all hope, we thought for sure this was our last day,” he said. They only had just one more thing to do: pray. Then, something truly Biblical took place!
“Completely unexpectedly, a lion ran from the forest, leapt toward the militants, and seized one by the neck. When other combatants tried to attack the lion, two other lions bounded toward them. The terrified militants fled the site, and the lions left us completely alone,” he said.
“Equally astonishing, records show no lions are supposed to live in that forest,” he said.
Ciniraj reported that he had been approaching the closing of a 21-day period of fasting and prayer. “As that drew to a close, more than 3,000 former Muslims were baptized in many of our churches in Asia, Africa and the Middle East,” he said.
“The Lord enabled me to baptize many people during this time.”
What an incredible story of God’s power! Praise Him today for His protection! Share this to encourage others.
A growing number of women who love adventure and the outdoors are embracing a traditionally male-dominated pastime — hunting. Their passion for the skills they learn and the challenges they work through is evident, as is the amount of criticism they attract.
Emma Sears, 24, nurse
Emma Sears grew up in a farming family in Stratford, in Victoria’s East Gippsland, and was out hunting ducks, rabbits and foxes at a young age.
As an older teenager she started learning how to hunt deer and other game.
She prefers hunting solo, and is excited to see the growing number of women getting into the industry — the Sporting Shooters’ Association of Australia reports a steady increase in its female membership, with 10 per cent of its 177,000 members women.
“I wanted to challenge myself and test myself out in the bush against wild animals, and be successful,” she said of her solo trips.
“Obviously it’s fun hunting with companions, but you get a really good sense of achievement and satisfaction in a successful hunt on your own.”
Ms Sears last year worked at three major hunting industry trade shows in the United States, where she met hundreds of like-minded women.
“The US and Canada are definitely a lot more encouraging of women in the outdoors,” she said.
“It’s so accepted. It’s ingrained in their culture and their values. They just love it.”
Ms Sears hunts for trophies and for meat, harvesting as much meat off an animal as possible. She also loves the bush and exploring new country.
“It’s all that excitement of what are you going to find today, and having that challenge against the wind, against the elements, and then against the wild animal,” she said.
“It’s not always about the kill. It doesn’t always pay off.
“The animal often gets the better of you or the elements get the better of you. And it makes you want to go back and be successful.”
Ms Sears heads out to hunt when she needs to fill the freezer, and also looks for trophy animals — generally, older animals that are past their prime.
“I might pass up multiple animals and go many, many times without ever actually taking an animal, waiting for that big mature stag to present itself. And then that’s where the challenge comes from,” she said.
“I saw 11 deer the other afternoon, so I watched them feed out, but I didn’t need to shoot anything for meat, and there was nothing there that was of trophy size, so I just watched them and they didn’t know I was there.
“And that’s really exciting. I sometimes find that even more exciting than taking an animal — to watch and try to get a photo.”
Dealing with negative feedback
Ms Sears is aware of the criticism that abounds when you talk about hunting, but said it usually came from people who did not understand.
“I’m really respectful of people’s opinions, and if you don’t want to discuss hunting, I don’t,” she said.
“But usually people are inquisitive, and that gives me an opportunity to talk to them about why I go hunting and the benefit for me.
“And ultimately it comes down to, even if we don’t agree, we can agree to disagree and be respectful in our views.”
It is something she practises with her best friend, who is a vegetarian.
“We have robust discussions, but at the end of the day we don’t agree on certain things,” Ms Sears said.
“But then we also have a significant understanding about what I like to do around hunting, and how she feels about animal rights and animal cruelty.
“And she sees hunting as a really ethical way of obtaining your food.”
Sharna Johnson, 28, nurse
Sharna Johnson remembers going out shooting rabbits with her pop at the age of five, then going home and watching her nan cook them up.
Growing up in the high country town of Omeo, in north-east Victoria, she was exposed to hunting from an early age.
“I’ve always had a pretty big love of adventure and learning new things, and I absolutely love the high country and the mountains and getting out exploring them,” she said.
“I think hunting just became an extension of that.”
Ms Johnson started a small business, HCG Like a Girl, which sells hunting clothing for women, and she runs an associated Facebook page providing a place for female hunters to swap stories and photos.
“I think females themselves within the hunting community in Australia have been really good at supporting each other,” she said.
“I think that’s one of the things with HCG Like a Girl — when I started doing that it was about getting some images out there and some stories out there, because there was lots and lots of girls doing it, but it wasn’t really considered normal.”
Ms Johnson loves the learning experience and the challenges of hunting, aiming to improve her skills with each trip.
She is primarily a hound hunter, taking her dogs out to trail deer.
“There is a bit of adrenaline that gets going, when you’re sneaking in on a deer and getting in close,” she said.
“I’ve been out chasing fallow deer recently just with the camera and trying to get in close enough to get that really good shot. Every day you’re learning something new.”
Talking about the antis
As a hunter, she is used to dealing with criticisms from people who think hunting is cruel.
Negative feedback ranges from people who are on the fence regarding hunting, to people those in the industry call “antis”.
“Generally the stuff on my Facebook page that I deal with is the crazies,” Ms Johnson said.
“Half the time it doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s not very often you get an educated argument put forward to you.
“I’ve got a firm delete and block policy. There’s no point trying to start an argument with the antis.”
She said hunting was a more ethical way to source meat, and when it came to pest control, a quick clean kill was preferable to other options.
“Unless you’re eating lettuce every day, you’ve got blood on your hands in some way,” Ms Johnson said.
“I always try to take a clean, ethical shot.
“In terms of animal cruelty, when you’re talking about the wild dog population that we have locally, what they’re going to do to a lamb or a calf is crueller than what I’m going to do.
“[A clean kill] is better than 1080 bait. It’s pretty disgusting what the animals go through [with baiting].”
Rebecca Brammer, 25, pet nutritionist
Growing up on a farm near Geelong, Rebecca Brammer comes from a long line of shooters.
“I’m a sixth-generation shooter. Dad was a sporting clay shooter, and we also hunted rabbits and foxes and things like that around the place,” she said.
“Mainly I do deer hunting and fox hunting now.”
Ms Brammer loves the outdoors and spending nights camping in the bush.
“I also love eating venison and I love eating something I’ve managed to harvest,” she said.
“I’m an animal lover and I work in the animal health industry, and I have a lot of issues with commercially bred and slaughtered meat.
“So I really like to be able to know where my meat comes from and that it was respected and killed humanely.”
Ms Brammer also has to deal with people who are against hunting, to the extent that she shut down her personal Facebook page and now has a ‘like’ page.
“Almost every day I would get a message from somebody I would consider as an anti, and they’re really, really nasty,” she said.
“I don’t quite understand how somebody who thinks what I’m doing is cruel and wrong can turn around and hope my children die or that I get raped, and they just go all out.
“It’s incredible some of the things they come out with and some of the things they think are appropriate.”
Taking an ethical shot
Ms Brammer said she was not killing for the sake of killing, but for pest control or to harvest her own meat.
She said the animal was being killed in its own environment with a minimum of stress.
“I respect its carcass. I’ve thanked every single deer that I’ve shot. I go up to them, and just in my head I give them a bit of a pat and a thank you,” she said.
“I always make sure that if we’re leaving a carcass in the bush that it’s folded up nicely, or maybe put in a bit of hole, and we put trees over the top. A slaughter cow doesn’t get that kind of respect.”
Ms Brammer said she would only take a shot if she knew it was ethical, trying to make sure her kills were quick and clean.
“I’ll use the correct calibre of rifle or the correct poundage and weight of broadhead with my bow, and make sure that I’m able to hit those vital spots,” she said.
“And if something has gone amiss, then I make sure that second shot is being followed up really quickly.”
Ms Brammer said nothing she had shot had ever had to walk around the bush suffering.
“It’s more ethical than any other way of harvesting meat,” she said.
Ms Brammer said social media and marketing aimed at women was part of the reason for the increasing numbers of females out hunting.
“I think there’s probably been a lot of women hunting … but now on social media women can hook up and link in and meet each other, which has changed it,” she said.
“There are all these companies releasing women’s camo and pink guns and tailoring it to the women’s market a little bit more.
“And I think the chicks who before would have gone, ‘Hunting’s not for me’, are now going, ‘Oh, there’s a pink rifle, it must be for me’.”
Ms Brammer is another woman who has developed a business out of her love of hunting, creating jewellery such as rings and earrings from spent bullet casings.