B.C. Boat and Sportsmen's Show
The Last Day
by Tracey John Hittel

When people visit us and spend time around the fire discussing books worth reading, one book that is always talked about is a non-fiction by James Gary Shelton. This man publishes books on bear attacks and tells short true life stories, some good, some bad, about people and the encounters they have had with both black bears and grizzlies. What is it that draws individuals to this book, is it the excitement, the intrigue, the unknowing? I cannot nail down why this book is so vastly read. We as individuals know that bears make us nervous, most of us anyway. I have clients ask me all the time, "Are there bears where you guys are from?" Well, of course, but they are more scared of you than you of them. One client told me after that statement, "Wanna bet!" The story goes like this....

I hear the soft sound of a waking baby and turn over and have a look at the alarm clock, 6:30AM. My young son now pushing the 5th month of his fresh new life is awake and wants attention. I attend to him with a warm smile as he gazes through his sleepy eyes and smiles back. I smother him with kisses and take him to mom who is still half asleep.

I am getting ready this AM as my hunting partner Bernie will be here soon; we want to get to a favorite hunting spot of his before first light which will be at about 8AM. I pack a cooler of lunch as a brief glimpse of light shines through the dark house, Bernie has arrived. We say little as we drive the 30 minutes to the spot where he had a chance at a bull moose the day before. We start our walk on a small overgrown road the sound of the crunching earth beneath our feet. It is cold and frozen, the AM very quiet and serene. These are the days I love so much. I wonder to myself whether I will get a shot at an animal this year, food on the table is on my mind. The long road has numerous fingerlings to choose from and we decide to split up. I take the first road left, Bernie continues along the main path. As I walk the skinny trail the new day is upon me and I can see my breath. I see no sign of a moose and turn back to the main road. As I walk I suddenly see a set of antlers, eyes looking at me, approximately 70 yards away. I bring up the gun and have a look thru the scope, a deer! I try to gather my thoughts; so many things go thru my head. Should I take this fine two pointer, I have a tag for deer but it is still so early in the morning; will I scare the moose away? I take another look thru the scope and the deer moves into the opening, staring at me the whole time. I pull the trigger and the silence of the morning is broken. The deer disappears instantly as I see my bullet bounce off the dirt trail in behind it. How did I miss? How, it was a short distance! Adrenaline pumps thru my veins and I can hear my heart beating, thump, thump, thump. I pry my mind away from the site of the shot but stay in my tracks for 5 minutes, the time goes by very slowly. Then I make my way to where I think the animal was and see no sign of blood, damn I must have missed. I walk another ten steps and see a small red mark on the frosty grass, then another.

I see the trail where my deer must have entered the dense bush. I wait another ten minutes, then enter the bush my gun ready loaded and ready. Ten yards in I see my deer, laying still and quiet, it is dead. I feel bad, thinking what have I done. Then I give my head a shake, fresh venison for the supper table.

I dress the animal and drag it close to the edge of the road. Bernie is no where in sight; he must be hunting deep in the fingerlings of the bush. We had arranged a plan that if a shot was heard the other hunter will show to help. It is now 8:45 AM, and Bernie is sure to be looking for the missed opportunity from yesterday. I decide to leave the animal and continue down the road to yet another fingerling. I cross a small stream and hear a splash, two Coho are spawning, they are bright red and the dorsal fins are worn to a color of white from scraping on the gravel base. I do not disrupt these fine fish and continue down the path. The morning silence is broken again as I hear a large rustling in the bush. I stop and listen, the sound of a large animal moving is all I hear, is it Bernie’s moose? I await a glimpse of him, but to no avail. It is decision time and I decide to follow a game trail in the direction of the sound. Fresh moose sign is evident on the trail and I can see large tracks in the trampled grass and throughout the muddy ground, the adrenaline starts pumping again. As I meander in and out of the thick bush I hear the noise is closer, I stop. The noise stops, man these things are smart and instinctive. I follow the trail carefully and hear the animal moving at a steady pace, so I increase my pace. By the time I cross a deep, cold pool of water I know I am losing the race, the sound of the animal is getting further away. The trail takes me to the road I initially was walking on, fresh tracks cross the road and disappear into the bush on the other side. I wait for any sound from the brush, nothing, the moose has eluded me. I walk the trail for another kilometer hoping that I will see the elusive animal, it has escaped.

I decide to exit the bush and see Bernie on the main road, a smile creeps across my face as we get closer. "So you got a Deer, eh?", he says. We walk to where the deer lays and the sky is filled with Bald Eagles soaring above the kill sight and numerous ravens are squawking in the nearby trees. When we get to the deer we could see fresh beak marks riddled the inside of a hind quarter. Tender meat for the birds to pick at, I cannot blame the scavengers.

We try to take the animal and pack it out on a pack board that Bernie has strapped to his back. The animal was too heavy, so we have no choice but to leave it and call in a quad. For those of you that are not familiar with a quad it is a fine piece of machinery that will get you into all sorts of surprising places. These rugged beasts are four wheel drive, short wheel base units with winches and racks to carry heavy loads, a must for hunters. I do prefer to walk while hunting, as the silence is part of the game and the exercise is good as well. In this case the quad will be welcome.

We decide to cover the deer up with numerous bushes and fire weed to ensure that the ravens and eagles do not have another feast while we hail a quad.

Bernie and I walk the 1.5 kms to the truck and head back into Kitimat. I call my father-in-law, Terry, and ask him to come by with his new Yamaha Grizzly 660 Quad, a beautiful red machine. We leave around 4PM, tell our wives to get the garage ready for the animal to hang. On the way I have to tell Terry every detail from the day’s events. We arrive, unload the quad, grab our guns and some rope, and head-off to retrieve my deer. I am very excited.

We cross the steep bank with the quad, impassable with a truck, and start down to the spot where the deer is. I left a small Kleenex tied to a bush to ensure I find the exact spot where we had hidden the deer. Getting closer I realize it is obvious anyways, as the ravens and eagles are swarming the area. Arriving we see that the deer is totally exposed and the tall grass surrounding the site is trampled, part of the rib cage is missing and one of the front quarters is badly damaged, I cannot believe my eyes. How can birds do that much damage in such a short time? All of a sudden I hear a crashing in the bush, I chamber a round into my Ruger .338 Win. Mag. and climb onto a high stump, an animal dashes briefly through my sight, I see a small glimpse of his ears. "Wolves!" I say. Terry is loading his gun. Then the sound of panting dogs is heard and we see the tall grass moving back and forth very quickly about 10 yards from us. "Get ready Terry, here they come". The sound is getting closer and closer the panting more aggressive. There must be a dozen wolves in that bush. It reminded me of watching National Geographic programs from Africa, where hungry lions are stalking a scared animal in the tall grass and the grass is moving back and forth and there is no wind, no sign of the lions but you know they are a breath away. I was scared, although I did have a gun so I could defend myself, there is always that thought in the back of your mind that you are in the wild and you hear all sorts of stories.

We stand our ground and await whatever is to happen. I decide to spread out from Terry and going to a small opening in the dense bush. The panting noise follows me and I wonder if one bullet in the chamber is enough, I think not. I fill my clip with another two shells and yell to Terry to do the same, six shots will surely get at least one of them. The animals are now getting violent and impatient as they are two hunters away from the feast they fancy so dearly. Terry tells me to stay away from the edge of the bush. We cannot see past the first stand of grass but the animals can see our every move. We decide to back off and concentrate on loading the deer onto the quad. Terry grabs the deer by the horns and lays the body across the front rack. I stand by his side my gun pointed at the bush in case of a sudden attack. The deer is loaded and the panting is scary close, Terry quickly turns and puts his gun up to his shoulder and is ready to pull the trigger. What he sees is a site that he will never forget and I will cherish for the rest of my life. He continues to hold the gun up and says to me, "It’s a fu#@$% Grizzly!" Terry backs away from the bush and starts the quad I continue to keep my loaded weapon pointed at the nearby bush. The quad starts instantly and I climb on. We have to go back in the same direction of the Grizzly and this time I wonder if the bear will attack as we roar by. I have my gun drawn ready for movement from the bush. There is none.

Once back at the truck we load the animal and talk about what had just happened. As a small toast and nerve calmer, we have a small glass of straight Canadian Whiskey, it is a welcome. Considering we could have been star guests at a funeral days after that event.

As daylight is still available we do have time to go back and look for that elusive moose. Some of you reading this must be saying are you crazy, going back in there. Well maybe but, yes we did, of course go back to hunt the moose. I think the only thing on our minds was that grizzly bear though, not the moose.

I wanted to walk the same fingerling as I did earlier that day hoping for that spooked moose to show. I suggested Terry follow the next cut line and possibly we could get a shot at the moose before the days end. Unfortunately this did not happen and as darkness fell I wanted to check out one thing before leaving the area. I walked the original kill site where I had dressed the deer and wanted to see if the remains (gut pile) were still intact. The area was completely clean, some small traces of dried blood in the grass was all that was present. This Grizzly had a fine meal then followed the smell to where we had hid the deer some many meters away. I often wonder if we would have been attacked if not for the meal the Grizzly had earlier that day.

Going back to the books written by Mr. Shelton, he writes that ‘the sound of a gun shot has become a dinner bell for a Grizzly’. This was always something that stuck in my mind. What I will never forget is that one Grizzly making the most horrific panting noises and moving so quickly that it seemed like a whole pack wolves, simply incredible. Terry tells me that if the bear wanted he could have been on top of one of us before a shot could have been fired; I wonder how quick and accurate a person would need to be. I think we were both very lucky and as I enjoy each tender venison steak this winter the back of my mind will always be on the grizzly. Safe hunting and Happy Halloween.

Tracey John Hittel
Kitimat BC Canada
250 632-9880 or 250 639-4277
Our Website: Steelheadheaven Guide Services
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Hunting All Categories
  Article Topics Date
1. Shooting Clays Hunting Apr 2007
2. Boy's Gun Apr 2007
3. The Magic 1000 Apr 2007
4. Broomsticks to Magnums Apr 2007
5. Many Choices Apr 2007
6. Conserving Wildlife Apr 2007
7. Competition Apr 2007
8. Improving your Skills Apr 2007
9. B. C. Rifle Association Apr 2007
10. Non-Violent Sports — 'Notwithstanding' Apr 2007
11. C.O.R.E. program Apr 2007
12. Hunting Prep. Apr 2007
13. Kids Oops Apr 2007
14. Why Reload Apr 2007
15. The Last Day Hunting Jul 2000
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