by Ted Nugent
I could see the threatening yellow-white canines with each drooling, audible chomp of his powerful predator jaws. His broad, massive black head swung methodically, beady eyes drilling into my soul at a scant fifteen yards. The cathedral of majestic old growth firs allowed just enough sunlight to slice into our primeval standoff-zone to provide a surreal, shadowy, even mystical eeriness to this boreal wilderness stage. I was at once engulfed and owned by the here and now, yet somehow strangely out of body, beyond history. Time stood still, and so did I. The Detroiter inside emboldened me to nerve it out. After all, I jammed with the mighty Funkbrothers of Motown, so big, tough black guys didn’t scare me. In fact, they’re my friends, good friends actually, and I felt quite at home in such a setting, thank you. Except, this time, this big black guy didn’t want to share R&B guitar licks with me. I felt other, more powerful life and death dynamics alive and about, even palpable here in the Alaskan wilderness of Prince of Wales. The majestic, mature black bear Alpha boar now took another few swaggering steps toward me. I held my ground. It was truly the essence of life. The powerful spirit of brother bear was now a part of me. The brisk wind was a prayer for the wildthings, the delicious Alaskan air protein for my soul. Was I alive or in a hunter’s dream? The moment of truth was here and now. Tooth, fang and claw in all its perfection. I was about to implode. Beautiful.
Just behind and over my right shoulder was my best hunting partner and son Toby, vidcam rocking, capturing on digital tape the timeless encounter of man and beast. Not just predator and prey, mind you, but the elevated intensity of dominant predator facing dominant predator, a classic standoff of metaphysical proportions on a chunk of sacred wildground; The Last Frontier of not just Mother Earth, but far beyond into the spiritual sphere of dreams. At the time, I was not conscious of Toby and our friend Steve Sims at my side, but it was a certainty that Steve already had his Glock 10mm at the ready with bear-whomping
200 grain CorBon Penetrators ready to rock. Nonetheless, this huge bruin was so close now, that his notoriously explosive charging speed was a moot point, unstoppable in any situation, but hopeless with his high-ground advantage before me. My trusty bow and arrow felt absolutely feeble considering the possibilities. Fred Bear crouched behind a huge boulder on a beach, the world record Brown Bear right there coming on at spitting distance. Do you see it? I do. It was scrumciously inebriating, intoxicating, at once sensually invigorating. This is how smart people get high: stoned but dangerously in tune, at the very peak of readiness. We were rockin bigtime. Now what?
Having just celebrated my other favorite rite of spring with a beautiful Texas Rio Grande wild turkey in the bag, bear hunting with my son in America’s number one biggest state was the perfect next logical step for the thrilling season of renewal. And where better than Alaska with the Sims tribe, on the crystalline frigid waters of the Prince of Wales archipelago. Connecting in Seattle, Toby and I flew into Ketchikan and then on to remote Craig where we skiffed across the placid bay to the Sim’s Eldorado fishing trawler for a week in the pristine wilderness of the 50th State. Bear heaven for sure, as Steve, Gary and Mike Sims celebrate a family tradition of spiritual renewal and great escape that all brothers oughtta. With God smiling down upon us, the warm, sunny, clear weather was out of the ordinary but heartily welcomed by all as we cruised across the brilliant calm waters, snacking on incredibly delicious, freshly harvested King and Dungeness crabs fit for a king. God, I love America.
The Eldorado is a fine, sturdy 58 foot commercial fishing boat, set up to comfortably accommodate the happy-go-lucky eight man bear hunting party for the month. With experienced professionals on board, this may very well be the most independent vessel on the waters of wild Alaska a guy could ever dream of. Toby and I were in awe of the beauty and ruggedness of it all, more than ready to give it our best mountain man shot. The Spirit of the Wild indeed.
An Alaskan resident, Mike Sims knew the ropes well for such a wild outing, and ably assisted by BloodBrothers Kevin Miller and Jimmy Ford, true wilderness Natty Bumpo, Jeremiah Johnson’s if ever there were, we knew we were in the hands of master outdoorsmen and in for one hell of a dream excursion. And so it was as we headed into a stunning, sheltered cove amongst the timbered islands, beaching our skiff as Toby, Steve and I entered the wildzone, cocked, locked and ready to rock, doc. Spirits soared on high.
Steve had barely left the gravel beach and stuck his head into the canopy of the towering conifers when his hand flashed up and he hissed “BEAR! BIG BEAR!” Toby snapped the vidcam into record and I peeked into the shadows to see a huge black blob with eyes, staring back at us from the darkened depths only 30 yards ahead. Surrounded by gigantic old growth timber and remnant giant stumpage from time immemorial, the great black bear peered at the strange threesome of unidentified intruders. Clearly this old boy had never laid eyes on such creatures and was unafraid, even bold. I pussyfooted forward as I loaded an arrow onto my bowstring, already committed to killing this beast. Hearts were a pumpin’, adrenalin was a dumpin’, spirits a thumpin”, well into the ultimate wildzone. And on he came, slow but sure. And I responded in kind, moving closer to the mighty killing machine, closing the distance well within the dangerzone. He paused every few bowlegged steps, mouth dripping saliva, killer canines aglow with digestive spittle. I froze. He was now only 20 yards out, slightly quartering towards me, looking bigger by the minute. With a huge, wide head, and his broad, heavy belly-dragging torso, I knew I was looking at one great bear.
He plodded behind a huge stump and sat back on his haunches for further scrutiny, adding as much drama and excitement to the hunt as can be imagined. I took another silent step forward and stood at the ready. The amazing video footage clearly shows his overt cockiness and domineering scowl as he moved closer now, at only fifteen yards uphill through a screen of brush and fresh green spring forest growth. I drew my bow and looked at his hulking chest behind the massive shoulder and let fly. I shot too fast, my entire, long archery life lessons of control and discipline destroyed by the electricity of it all as the deadly projectile zinged harmlessly over the monster’s back, sticking hard into a tree beyond.
Damn! The hoary black locomotive lurched instantly and vanished into a slight depression as I yanked another arrow from my quiver and dashed up the incline to see him slowly walking beneath giant deadfalls. Instinctively my 2nd arrow came back unto itself and was gone across the 20 yard gap right now. My glowing Lumenok lighted arrow nock showed the mystical flight of my arrow like a lazerbeam as it punched hard into the rear ribs, angling forward into the beast’s life giving vitals. Oh baby! How sweet it is! I’d rather be lucky than good anytime. Thank you Lord. Youdaman!
Breathless, Steve and Toby now joined me at the crest of BearHill, and we gushed with the excitement that only bear hunters on the ground, face to face with such a beast can possibly understand. It was Nugent partytime if ever there was. Toby was not able to crest the hump with me in order to film the 2nd shot, so I reviewed the spine tingling details with my BloodBrothers as we strategized our next move. Steve wisely advised we back off and wait to investigate my hit, but I just had to check out the main trail on which the bear had vanished to see if there was any blood at all. And there was. Good blood and tracks of a scrambling beast.
With vidcam rolling behind me, I crawled into the jungle tunnel, pushing my own Glock 10mm ahead of me, radar on commando feeding frenzy mode. We had only crawled a few yards, Steve right on my heels, when Toby gave a slight whistle, pointing high up into the treetops ahead. At once, all three of us saw the huge black lump 30 feet up, 30 yards ahead, and I swung up my pistol instinctively. The Glock barked three series of rapid double taps, the huge bruin tumbling out of the towering spruce in a spectacular black swan dive from heaven. It was amazing. He slammed back to the good mother earth with a shattering thump, and lay still. All was silent. We were breathless and stunned. Then the celebration dance began. In respect for the astonishing beast and the thrills he had provided us, intense celebration erupted in the jungle. In the jungle, baby.
He was stunning. Glistening, rich, thick luxurious blue-ebony hide in its prime from a long winter’s nap, we had us a black bear of a lifetime. Nearly 5” pads with long, black claws and a skull that would go over 20 inches, this springtime blackie would weigh over 400 pounds and provide a gorgeous rug to rival the fun factor of the hunt. Just a day prior, a native Alaskan woman named
Nina had introduced herself and daughter to Toby and I at the Narrows Inn in Ketchikan, giving us a sacred gift of an Alaskan eagle feather as a token of spiritual good luck. The spirit of the mighty eagle had indeed stood with us in that chunk of Alaska, and an eagle-bear ceremony was at hand. Great footage of the emotional setting was captured for our Spirit of the Wild TV show, and more than a roll of film captured photos of which powerful memories will be shared with all our family and friends.
Back at the Eldorado, we hoisted the huge bear onto the deck with the big fishing crane, and memories of those amazing films of Fred Bear doing the same thing with Ed Bilderback on the Valiant Maid came gushing back. We felt at one with nature in all her tooth, fang and claw perfection. Dining on fresh crab, shrimp and halibut that night, reviewing all the thrilling details of our day, took on a life of its own. We were absolutely there, but also hovering overhead, the adventures of family, friends and explorers of this great land before us flashing by like visions of eternity. It was wild, and we all cherished it as wild as it gets in wild Alaska in the springtime, starting all over again.
Ted’s Gonzo GearBag on this hunt-53# Renegade NugeBow, GoldTip 5575 Zebra Carbons, Magnus 100 grain Stinger, Mossy Oak ScentLok clothing, Martin Super Quiver, Critters Dreams backpack, Scott release, Georgia boots, Mossy Oak ScentLok clothing, Medalist under garments, Sims accessories, LoneWolf Glock Model 20 10mm, CorBon 200 grain Penetrator ammo, Outdoor Edge Kody Pak knife set, Bohning Archery fletch waterproofing, James Valley fox scent & scent eliminator spray,