Author’s note: Pat Reeve and Nicole Jones’ TV show, Driven with Pat and Nicole, airs on the Outdoor Channel Tuesday nights at 8:00 p.m. and Friday nights at 10:00 p.m. EST. For the last three years in a row this husband and wife duo has won a Golden Moose Award for excellence in TV production from the Outdoor Channel.
We were in Alaska hunting with Northern Wilderness Adventures in the middle of May 2007 on the Mulchatna River. I had a friend from Florida, Doug Klunder, who had hunted with this outfitter before and had returned this year to help guide us. I brought my Nikon spotting scope and Nikon Action 10x50mm binoculars because we would be hunting from ridge systems and glassing for bears.
On the first day of the hunt we walked about four miles up a ridge behind our camp. After two 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, so we packed up our boat to go after them, but soon realized the two bears actually were a sow and a cub and decided not to go after them.
We left at daybreak the following morning and planned to travel by boat 20 or 25 miles downstream and look for brown bears. I wore my ScentBlocker rain suit in the Mossy Oak Break-Up Pattern because the weather always seemed to be raining or at least misting. The sun decided to come out that day just before we came to a bend in the river though, and we spotted a huge brown bear sunning himself on an island about 20 yards in front of us.
Almost immediately after we spotted the bear he stood up and we froze as the entire world seemed to go silent. Our boat continued drifting towards the bear and as we got closer the bear decided to jump from the island to the bank, running off into the alders and the willows. As we passed by the spot where the bear had gone into the bushes we saw him turn around to look at us as he walked away. When we got about 100 yards downstream 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 as we walked but we were not able to find him at first. I started glassing and looking in the alders and the willows when I finally spotted movement through my binoculars. I took a closer look and was able to see a patch of brown hair where the bear had taken refuge in the thick brush.
After we had watched the bear for one-and-a-half hours he got up and walked back to the bank of the river. As soon as I noticed the bear coming toward us I brought my Thompson/Center Encore single-shot with a .416 Rigby barrel up to my shoulder. Once the bear turned broadside, I saw he had two rub spots on his side when the bear turned broadside. The guide saw the rubs as well and 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 continued down to the water to take a drink, which allowed us to get some great shots for our TV show. After he had finished and walked back up the bank I prepared to take the shot, at which point he promptly plopped down on the bank and went to sleep about 70 yards from us. He remained sleeping as we waited for about one-and-a-half hours. Finally the bear woke and stood up on the bank, and I got back into position to take the shot. I took aim right between the bear’s front shoulders with my Nikon Monarch 3×9-40 scope and squeezed the trigger. Much to my surprise the bear did not go down immediately, instead stumbling and running back into the brush. After a short ways, however, the bear succumbed and finally stopped, falling over onto the ground.
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 nine feet, his skull scored 29 inches, and later he made the Boone & Crockett record book. A biologist estimated the bear’s age to be around 30 years judging by his skull. Both of his canine teeth had broken off, and the biologist told us, “This bear probably wouldn’t have survived another winter.”
Later, my dad had told me that the spot where we had seen the bear was where moose usually chose to cross the river. More than likely the bear was waiting there in hopes of catching a cow moose and a young calf coming by. Regardless of why the bear ended up there, he was a true trophy. I still have him mounted on my wall today. He has a scar on his head where he had fought with another bear and his lip is split so he has a lot of character.
This truly was a hunt of a lifetime, and things have changed so much since then. When I took this hunt Doug Klunder was videoing me, and my future wife Nicole and I were still just dating.
In our next article, Reeve tells of his disastrous Dall sheep hunt.
Images courtesy John E. Phillips