Day One: October 11, 2005.
Jim Grisham and his two friends Dan and Billy arrived at Bear Skin Creek
Guide Service at Chignik Lake, Alaska. Chignik Lake is located on the Alaska
Peninsula, The owner of the guide service is Ron Lind.
After being welcomed to Alaska and fed lunch, the three men were taken to
the range to insure the accuracy of their rifles.
The three gentlemen from Mississippi were to be sent to the hunting cabin at
Chignik River accompanied by three assistant guides.
Dan was matched with assistant guide Skin Wysocki, Billy with Elia Ishnook
and Jim with me Hugo Hoerdeman. The clients were anxious to get to the cabin and
start their hunt despite not arriving with all their luggage.
We arrived late that afternoon to the cabin. Our arrival coincided with a
school of Silver Salmon. There was a large Silver on at least one of the three gentlemen’s lines continuously for about three hours.
Day Two: October 12, 2005
When you hunt the Chignik Lake area you find game the old fashioned way. We
look for game by climbing high bluffs and glassing until we see a stalkable
animal. Spotting planes are not used in the pursuit.
On this first morning of our hunt, Jim and I climbed a bluff called Moose
Hill. We saw a large dark bear in the berry flat across the river. We took
the jet boat across the river to get a closer look at the bear. We made an
unsuccessful stalk on the bear through the thick willows and alders. When
we arrived back at the cabin we learned that Elia and Billy shot a bear late
that evening. The bear was killed at the mouth of Bear Skin creek.
Day Three: October 13, 2005
The next morning we helped skin the bear. It was a large female brown bear
with a beautiful hide. We took the boat back up river to Black Lake. Black
Lake is a large shallow lake at the head of Chignik River. On the way up
the river we climbed three bluffs and glassed from each location. We didn’t
see any bears from the bluffs or at Black Lake. Jim and I went down river
to Asshole Hill. The hill gets its name from the Aleut word that means
“sore butt” as you descend its steep slope. Jim was uncomfortable on the
steep ledge of Asshole Hill, so we decided to descend and went back to Moose
Hill. From Moose Hill we watched Skin and Dan make a stalk on the dark bear
we tried for the day before. While we were on Moose Hill I looked at the
berry flat to the right and saw a huge bear walking away from the river. He
was a huge light colored bear with a waddle gate. Jim and I grabbed our
guns and started down the hill. The bear had a big head start, so we jumped
into the boat and headed up river in hopes of catching up to the bear. As
Jim and I were heading down the hill, the bear turned back towards the river
and was heading back in our direction. This was according to Billy who was
still on the hill watching us and the bear. The sound of the outboard
motor turned the bear around away from the river. We parked the boat and
climbed over the river bank. The bear was moving away from us towards the
alders. When the bear dropped his head to eat or looked away from our
direction we moved as quickly as we could over the tundra. We were within
300 yards when the bear stood on his hind legs to get a look at his
pursuers. The bear dropped down to all four feet and quickly entered the
brush. Jim could have shot the bear from that distance with no problem,
however we would not have been able to make a good second or third shot
before the bear disappeared into the brush.
Day Four: October 14, 2005
Today we hunted the Delta. The area where Chignik River empties into
Chignik Lake. We found a large bull moose lying dead in the shallow water.
The wind was blowing in a good direction, so we watched the moose carcass all
day in the driving rain. We didn’t see any bears on the Delta that day. It
has been raining and windy everyday. We were happy to have a dry cabin to
go back to at night.
Day Five: October 15, 2005
Another bear was killed this morning. Skin and Dan shot a large female on
the river just a short distance from Moose Hill. That morning as we were
going down river we heard the shots. They had plenty of help to skin the
bear, so we continued our hunt.
We checked the moose and bear carcass’s, neither one had been touched. It
was getting late, so we decided to go back up river. Late that evening we
saw the large bore walking in the direction of the bear carcass that Skin
and Dan shot. We watched the bear until dark. Both of Jim’s friends he
had invited on the hunting trip have killed bears. We have made two failed
stalks, climbed six steep hills and have seen very few bears. Jim was
wondering how he got so unlucky to be paired with me.
That evening we talked about the possibility of shooting a smaller bear.
Jim told me he was determined to hunt for a large trophy bear. “The bears
with small ears that waddle when they walk.”
Day Six: October 16, 2005
We spent the entire day standing in one spot. For nine hours we watched the
bear kill from the day before. From our position across the river we saw
foxes, eagles and birds come to the area, but our large bore was not seen
Day Seven: October 17, 2005
We only stayed out about half the day. It rained and the wind blew so hard
that visibility was zero. That night I told Jim that hunting in Alaska is
not always about killing something. It is about challenging yourself ,
doing something different and the memories made during the hunt. He
immediately informed me that he came to Alaska to get a trophy brown bear,
and that was what he intended to do.
Day Eight: October 18, 2005
Jim’s friends Dan and Billy were taken back to the main lodge this morning.
Elia Ishnook would stay at the cabin with Jim and I to help spot bears.
This morning Elia, Jim and I went up the west fork of the Chignik River.
We saw a bear catching salmon in that area the day before. After glassing
for a few hours, a bear with blond hair on top of his head came out of the
brush. The bear looked like about an eight foot bear. This was not the
trophy bear Jim was looking for. He nicknamed the bear Punk, because of
his blond hair.
We went back to the Delta, climbed another bluff which overlooked four
separate drainages. We stayed almost until dark and did not see any other
Day Nine: October 19, 2005
This morning we climbed Moose Hill to check on the bear carcass. It had
not been touched. We went down river to check the moose carcass, it was
also not touched. We then approached the area where the first bear was killed eight days ago. The only thing left of that bear carcass was a few ribs and a backbone.
That evening at about 6pm I went up Moose Hill to scout out the area for the
next day. I told Jim I would be back in ten minutes and then we would go
get his bear. At the top of the hill I saw the huge bear standing by the
bear that had been killed by Dan and Skin. His tremendous size made the
carcass look tiny.
We decided to make a stalk that evening, even though the wind was not
perfect. We walked up the riverbank and saw that the bear had moved the
kill. We sat and watched until dark.. The bear never came out of the brush.
Day Ten: October 20, 2005
Today is the second to last day of the season. The wind is blowing in a
favorable direction for watching the carcass. We arrived at first light and
stayed until dark waiting for our dinner guest to arrive. The big smart
allusive bear did not show up. We stood all day in the wind and rain. We
were beginning to think that this trophy bear was far smarter than we were.
That evening, Jim, Elia and I discussed our options for the last day of the
hunt. The rivers were all high because of the rain, so fishing would be
poor for the bears. The berries were almost all gone, food sources were now
limited for the bears. Because of these factors, we decided to check the
carcass one more time in the morning.
Jim said that evening that if we didn’t get the trophy bore, he knew we had
tried our best. He was satisfied with the hunt.
Day Eleven: October 21, 2005
This morning we had oatmeal mixed into our pancake batter for breakfast.
Oatmeal is part of a tradition of good-luck and a successful day of hunting.
This tradition was started during moose season.
After cleaning the cabin and packing our gear we went up river one last
time. When we arrived at the base of Moose Hill I asked Jim if he had said
his prayers last night? He told me he had been praying all night and the day
before. This would be our sixth and final attempt at this bear. The wind
was strong and blowing in our favor. The grass was wet from the previous
day’s rain. We would be down wind from the carcass and the noise made from
our clothes rubbing on brush and footsteps would be minimal. As we
approached the half way point between the boat and the carcass, we each put
a bullet in the chamber of our rifles If we armed our rifles any later,
the noise might have alerted the bear. When we arrived at the spot of the
previous days hunt, we could see that the carcass was no longer in the same
location. We slowly and quietly crept closer. The carcass had been dragged
up a small hill. The brush in the area was broken off and flattened out.
The dirt on the hill was turned over; making it look like a tractor had gone
over the area. We did not go any further. If we had followed the path the
bear made we may have ended looking up a hill at the giant protecting his
food. We climbed the hill to our right, putting ourselves on equal ground
with the bear. Once on top of the hill we could see Magpies and Ravens,
giving us the location of the carcass the bear was feeding on. We were
standing on a bear trail in a small grassy area surrounded by willow brush. I was happy that we could see into the brush as well as we could. As we
moved closer to where the carcass was we kept low to the ground looking
under the brush. All of a sudden, 30 feet in front of us the giant bear
stood up on his hind legs. We must have made a noise that had given our
position away. The bear towered over the willows which were as tall as we
were. As the bear looked down at us, I could feel my mouth drop open. My
eyes were now fixed on this awesome creature. After a few seconds of which
seemed like minutes, I shouted for Jim to shoot. Out of the corner of my eye
I saw Jim raise his rifle, and then heard the deafening sound of his 340 magnum.
This signaled Elia and I to start shooting. The bear dropped to all four
feet and ran to our right. We shot at the bear and emptied our rifles on
the moving brush. We reloaded our guns and looked to see where the bear had
gone. The bear was out of sight and nothing in the area was moving. We
walked over to where the bear was standing; blood was on the dirt and grass.
We followed the blood trail for about twenty yards before it stopped. It
was early in the day, so we had plenty of daylight left to find the bear.
The willows were so thick that looking for a wounded bear in them would be
very dangerous. I looked around the area and spotted a large dark hill
about 75 yards away. My binoculars confirmed it was Jim’s bear hiding in the
brush. I took aim and shot him in the side with my 338 magnum. The bear
let out a loud roar and started to run. Jim and Elia both shot and stopped
the bear in his tracks. We carefully approached the dead bear. All three
of us were in awe of the bear’s size and beauty. This incredible bear is
just what Jim had been dreaming about. A large trophy male Alaskan Brown
After photos of the bear Elia went to get the boat and the pack while Jim
and I started skinning the bear. The skull and hide weighted over 200
pounds. We shot at the bear 18 times.
Jim and I agreed that hunting large bores is very challenging. The effort
was worth every minute spent in the pursuit of his trophy bear.
Jim Grisham’s bear measured over 10 ½ feet with a skull size of over 28
Alaskan Assistant Guide