Manitowish Waters resident and 2011 LUHS graduate Judson Scott got all he hoped for out of a life-long dream hunt for Alaskan grizzly. He would also hear an unsettling story from the Alaskan wildernesss.
“No words to explain it – crazy,” Scott said in summary of his hunt.
It was Aug. 19 when Scott, accompanied by his father, Jud, and a guide, would get his chance in the mountainous terrain near Alaska’s Denali Park.
“We were on four-wheelers and we spotted a bear on the side of the mountain, probably a mile away from us,” Scott recalled. “It immediately went in the brush.”
As that grizzly went into cover, another emerged from cover.
“Another bear popped out and he was just traveling along the mountain ... in a straight line, coming kind of towards us, but on the mountainside,” Scott said.
“He was going along pretty good, so we decided to try and cut him off. We rode the four-wheelers down for a good 20 minutes and got in front of him and then rode up the mountain so we could cut him off.”
Once they were properly positioned for the stalk, the four-wheelers were parked. Father and son struck out on the painstaking pursuit.
“Our guide stayed back – he was spotting with binoculars,” Scott said. “And my dad and I just slowly crawled through brush pretty much, for about an hour, trying to get as close as possible to this bear.”
Finally, they would spot their quarry.
“The bear had stopped in a big blueberry patch and was just eating away,” Scott said. But there was still the need to close the distance.
“My dad and I just continued to move ... it took probably at least an hour, just inching closer to this bear,” Scott said. “It was pretty windy, so we wanted to get as close as possible for a decent shot.”
When the bear went out of sight, the elder Scott went to investigate, putting some distance between father and son.
“I had kind of gotten away from my dad, because he had [gone] down to see where the bear went, because he had just disappeared over this hill,” Scott said. “I was trying to catch up to him when the bear popped over the hill again, about a hundred yards away.”
Just like that, the moment of truth had arrived.
“I looked down and my dad said, ‘Shoot.’ I could just tell he was saying that. I set up my shooting sticks and took the shot.”
Scott’s Remington Model Seven, chambered in .300 Winchester Short Mag, barked. It seemed like a good shot, but that wasn’t immediately clear.
“I heard it groan, and it rolled over the hill, out of my sight,” Scott recalled. “From there we didn’t know where it went. We couldn’t see it.”
For the moment, it was a mystery whether the grizzly was dead or just wounded.
“We were worried it was still alive in the brush somewhere and we’d have to go and find it. Kind of scary,” Scott said. “We went back to our guide, went back and got our four-wheelers, and just gave it time.”
About a half-hour later, the trio was back to look for Scott’s bear. It wouldn’t take long to find.
“We went up to the spot where I hit it and then walked over the hill, maybe about 20 yards, and it had just rolled down the hill from where I shot it and died right there. So we didn’t have to go looking for it in the brush.”
The grizzly weighed in at 450 pounds and stood 6-1⁄2 feet tall.
Scott is having a rug made out of the bear, which he will use in his college dorm room. He currently attends college at UW-Marathon in Wausau.
The tale of the trip doesn’t end with the successful hunt. While the Scotts were still in Alaska, something chilling happened.
“Only a few days after that ... in the Denali State Park, there was the first recorded bear death — someone killed by a bear — ever, in the park,” Scott said.
A 49-year-old San Diego man was backpacking alone Aug. 24 when a large male bear he had been photographing attacked and killed him. It was the first fatal bear attack in the park’s history.
Wildlife officials eventually dispatched the aggressive grizzly.
Scott acknowledges that the story is a scary one, but said his family anticipates returning to the Alaskan wilderness in the future.
“We have a cabin up there — we’ve been working on that, too. And that should be done next summer ... so we’ll get up there as much as we can,” he said.
With an adventure like the one Scott experienced in August, it would be hard to stay away.
“It was awesome. I can’t even explain how exciting it was stalking that bear and taking the shot. It was just nuts.”
Craig Turk may be reached at email@example.com