I grew up on a small farm 8 miles outside a small town in Michigan. My father hunted in his younger days, but working a factory job, farming, being active in our Baptist church, and working with the county farm bureau and county soil conservation district, he had little time for hunting. Most of my friends began hunting when I was 14, the minimum age to firearm deer hunt in Michigan at that time, and I heard the stories and saw the deer the lucky ones had shot and decided I, too, would be a deer hunter. I read every hunting magazine I could get my hands on, watched every hunting show we got on our three channels and became consumed with deer hunting. It took a few years before I finally filled my first antlerless tag, and I filled my first buck tag the year after that. I continued to read hunting stories, which fueled my desire to go on out-of-state hunts, especially a bear hunt—more specifically, a brown bear hunt on Kodiak Island, Alaska. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to successfully hunt elk in Colorado, but the cost of an Alaska bear guide was prohibitive.
I’ve taken my son, Logan, deer hunting and fishing since he was very young, as did his maternal grandfather. Those influences steered him to become an all-around outdoorsman. My son decided his calling was to serve in the United States Coast Guard. This, in turn, gave him the opportunity to hunt and fish all over the United States. When he transferred to Kodiak Island, we took the opportunity to visit. The island was more beautiful than I ever imagined, and while we were there we took in some fishing and sightseeing. I was smitten with Kodiak, but it was bittersweet knowing the cost of a guide would keep me from the island's bears.
My son became a waterfowl guide, but that did no good for bear hunting. It was then that he mentioned Alaska’s kinship rule: he could be my bear guide! I was more excited than I’d have been had I won the lottery, and the planning of a combination brown bear and blacktail deer hunt began. Having both applied for, and failed to get, draw tags on the off-road system, we would have to hunt the road-system registration hunt.
I decided this hunt called for a larger caliber rifle than what I owned, so I bought a semi-custom Remington 700 in .35 Whelen. I mounted a Vortex scope on the rifle and worked up a load using Barnes 225-grain TSX bullets. I practiced my shooting, lost a few pounds and attempted to get in better shape. October seemed to take quite a long time to arrive, but I finally flew out of Detroit and headed to Kodiak for the hunt of my lifetime.
I arrived a couple days before bear season opened, giving us the opportunity to get my tags and our supplies in order, get registered at Fish and Game, and experience a day of deer hunting before the real adventure began. On the fifth day of our hunt, I shot the first buck we saw: a nice fat forkhorn. We got it quartered, and my son, along with his friend Joe who had accompanied us that day, packed out the meat. The hunt was now just about bear, and we had high hopes of finding one before my nine days on the island came to an end.
The day after shooting my deer, we spotted a good-looking bear in the same area. We watched it for about 45 minutes, eventually deciding it was a solid representation of the species, and waited for the best shot opportunity. The first shot from my .35 Whelen hit hard, and the second shot put down the bear for good.
The emotions flowing through me were almost overwhelming; At 55 years old, here I sat on the side of a mountain on Kodiak Island looking down at a brown bear, the bear I’d been dreaming about for 40 years. The best part was not only fulfilling my dream but doing it with my son as my guide. We hugged and congratulated each other and then the work began. We hiked down to the bear, took pictures and started skinning. We did well; it was skinned and packed in a little over an hour. The pack with the head and hide weighed about 125 pounds. Logan packed it out. I am amazed at how tough and strong he is. The bear was a sow that squared just under 8 feet. She may not be one of the 10-foot monsters Kodiak is famous for, but we did well to get both my blacktail and brown bear on my first Kodiak hunt. Needless to say, this hunt is proof that dreams really do come true.
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