I spent yesterday still hunting and calling in the rain, the kind of day that you end up wet one way or another regardless of wearing rain gear or not. I covered some good ground, working big timber, muskegs, and brush zones. With a storm front coming in I had high hopes for good deer activity. I took Filson the yellow lab with me. He's the perfect deer hunting companion. He's calm, quiet, stays at heel, and likes to lick exit wounds on deer. He also hates bears and will alert if there's one around.
I did not see a single deer all day. Quite strange and disappointing. While working the brushy edge of a muskeg however I snuck up on a pretty big brown bear. When I first saw him he was 30 yards away, digging up skunk cabbage roots.
Several things went through my mind: I've got a bear tag and I want a shoulder mount with a big head. This bear is pretty big, a contender to be a shoulder mount. I'm carrying a 9.3x62 with 286gr Noslers which will totally wreck him. There's enough time to get him skinned out and off the hill before dark so I don't have to navigate my way home through all the logs in the water with the crazy-high tide. I've got a very short time to make a decision here before the dog notices him and loses his mind, at which point the bear will do one of two things very fast: either run away or straight at us. I glance at Filson. Thankfully he's found a very important clump of moss to snuffle with enthusiasm.
Looking the bear over, I like him. He's real dark with a light brown muzzle and the light color extends up between his eyes to the forehead in a stripe. He's big, but not huge. I guess him to be an 8 footer. His head, though distinctive, is not the giant I'm looking for. The ears are are a bit too close together and his muzzle isn't quite blocky enough. I decide to pass.
So now, as bear chews his roots and dog snuffles his moss I have to make a plan. Thirty yards away from an unknowing brown bear is a dangerous place to be. It's basically right in his hip pocket. When he discovers you the response will be fight or flight and it all comes down to his personality and the decision he makes. More stuff goes through my mind: Having gotten so close undetected, there's likely no way that I can sneak out of there without surprising him so the best thing is to get prepared and try to run him off. I take a moment to look around. There's no logs or holes to trip on, I can step left or right with no problem. If he charges he'll have to deal with a slight up-hill which is helpful to me. The dog is still clueless because he's down in a slight depression and has decided to watch our back trail.
I turn the scope down from 2.5 to 1x, plant my feet, and mount the rifle to get a look at him. I must confess thinking that the crosshair looked pretty good perched on the point of his shoulder as he quartered towards me digging more roots. Deciding my prep has made things as good as they can be I gently say "Hey you."
His head snaps up and his eyes widen. He scans his surroundings with a confused look. He definitely heard me but has no idea where I am. He lifts his nose and sniffs the air. This is perhaps naughty, but I find it delightful that I get to see a brown bear as baffled looking as I have often been upon hearing an out-of-place noise in the woods. Delightful! My verbalization has caught Filson's attention. He's looking around. It a normal voice now, I tell the bear "You gotta go". His eyes lock on mine and recoils in surprise. Filson now sees him and gives a growl. I give Filson the command of "What's that!" which basically tells him to actively investigate something. He erupts in barking and posturing, runs forward and stops a few yards in front of me.
The bear comes unglued, turns himself inside out, and flees across the muskeg. Filson keeps barking as he sprints 100 yards, water spraying out from his paws, until he disappears into the brush. Filson circles about, sniffing and huffing, convinced that he just saved my life. Maybe he did, he certainly was helpful anyway.
As we head down the hill and hunt our way out alot of thoughts cross my mind. I walk past yellow cedars that are three feet around at the butt and marvel at God's creation. I replay videos in my mind of killing charging bears and consider how things might have gone with this one and what I could've done better or different. I think about how much I like this dog, and how it kinda sucks that he's got less years to do this stuff with me than he's already had. We make it down to saltwater with no more bears, but no deer either. Twice on the way down I watched my backtrail for 10 minutes. If that bear had followed us down I would've killed and tagged him as I cannot abide that behavior. We broke out of the woods and into the estuary. Filson did some celebratory zoom-circle running and then settled in back at heel and we made our way to the anchorage. It was a good day.