Mission Alaska Part 3: Bridger’s Birth Into the World of Hunting
After fueling up at the boat dock and heading face first into Prince William Sound, within minutes we were off on yet another hunting adventure. Hunting several years previously in Valdez with Jason Semler, I knew it would be a matter of no time before we saw bears feeding on seaside mountain slopes. Motoring out to one of Jason’s secret Valdez hunting locations called “Bearadise Bay” we came to a coasting slide in the boat. Jason scuttled to the back of the boat, grabbed his monstrous fish gaff threw that hook over board and nabbed up a buoy. Think Deadliest Catch, with out the crabs and on a smaller boat. His 25 foot aluminum boat had a rope pulling rig on it that did quick work of the shrimp pots. He hauled up three shrimp pots while discussing the hunting game plan with Bridger and I. He said “we are going to motor towards these bays, and slowly scan the mountain side.” Mean while, the pots he pulled up had enough banana size shrimp in it to make one “heckuva” meal, as Jason put it. Taking his advice I pulled one shrimp out and cracked it open, pealed his shell then ate that little guy raw.
The salt water and the taste is similar to shrimp cocktail at a party, no cocktail sauce was needed. Jason said hold off on eating them raw as he had an idea for these little buggers. On a mini Coleman stove he crammed a boat load of shrimp with butter and salsa. We proceeded to house those for a quick meal, before continuing to hunt the seaside mountain faces for our bear friends. The shrimp was an excellent alternative to the standard protocol of Top Ramen noodles and water from a camel pack. Jason fired up the boat and continued to motor on. Bridger Vaness the Videographer of the trip was now in the driver seat and hunting big game for the very first time. I would be lending a hand and going on the stalk with him as his second set of eyes.
“Bear, Bear, Bear” Jason points to a bear on the cliff side as I am taking a quick nap. He startled me, but Bridger was so wide eyed and excited he was already standing. After watching the bear for an hour or so and deciding this was a sole mature bear, we made the call to go after it. Jason quickly motored over to the cliff side rocky shore and said “follow the tracks to the top of trail and shoot from one of the trees at the top of the rock face.” Bridger nodded, and I agreed to come along for the stalk while Jason captained the boat. Jason kicked the boat into reverse right before hitting the rocky edge of the boulder laden sea bank. Bridger and I bailed out on the rocky bank and military crawled up the 6-8 foot snow base to the set of “human/bear tracks” we could see.
We got to the tracks and followed them near the top of the hill, they led directly to three small cottonwood trees. Bridger and I had not located the bear yet, Bridger picked the tree he was comfortable shooting from and laid down. He was shooting off of a shooting stick buried into the snow bank. I located the bear, which was very close around 130-150 yards directly above us feeding on a cliff side.
He found the bear but was not steady to take the shot. I told him to “lay prone off of the snow bank.” He dropped down off of the shooting stick using the snow bank to shoot from.
He said “Oh yeah, I got him!” to which I replied “ aim low center mass and roll him when it turns broad side.” As I ended that sentence “buuuhhhhdooooom!” Ringing out and echoing off the cliffs, Bridger’s shot conducted a hunters orchestra with a “fuuwhaap” finale signaling the sound of a fatal hit.
The bear immediately tumbled off the skunk cabbage cliff, scrambling to catch itself before falling into an avalanche snow chute. Falling 60 yards strait down, the bear expired on top of an alder covered avalanche chute. With no movement from the bear, we grabbed our packs and headed to retrieve the animal. A 30-minute hike nearly strait up, and Bridger found his very first big game animal. We used the snow slide to drag the bear down near the boat to begin the next steps of the process. The next step Bridger learned was validating his harvest card immediately before processing any of the animal. We snapped several pictures together to commemorate the camaraderie shared on this hunting adventure. After a short round of picture taking, we then processed and salvaged the entire bear.
Making quick work before the falling sunset on Valdez, we motored back to harbor before dark. Who would have thought in three days we could harvest two beautiful black bears and make lifelong lasting memories. Idling back to the boat launch in Valdez, we parted ways with Jason and thanked him for his friendship and camaraderie. Driving 8 hours back home to Palmer would go by fast. Bridger and I both grinning ear to ear with success, the drive was filled with laughter and stories. The next steps would be processing both the bear’s meat into delectable packages of meat, and “officially sealing” the bear with Wildlife officials. All was completed successfully and everyone who took part in the adventure could not have been happier.
I must say that helping another person with their first big game hunting experience is pretty magical. I know that going on an adventure like this and harvesting an animal as Bridger did, will leave a lasting trait engrained in his gene code forever. Sharing my passion with someone in my opinion is one sure fire method to keep hunting around for generations to come. I receive just as much if not more pleasure, when someone else deserving harvests an animal that I know will be used in the capacity nature intended. I was so happy for Bridger harvesting his first bear, it put as much of a smile on my face as it did on his. What a cool memory shared together, the pictures will be enjoyed for years to come and the meat for many months. Thanks to everyone who was involved in the bear hunting this year, it could not have been done with out you.
Stay tuned for the 2012 Alaska fishing season!!
-Photon 10X40 Russian made Binoculars
-Barneys Pinnacle Pack
-Hidden Antler Jersey
-350 Remington Mag.
-Mamut Champ Pants
-MSR Snow Shoes