Kamchatka Land of 10,000 Bears, Part 12

by david on January 27, 2020

From the decision to take the bear until he piled up was perhaps 90 seconds. It seemed like hours. I found out a short time later that my shot had been a little high and hit him in the spine, ricocheted off and entered the back of his skull, finally exiting the front, killing him instantly. Luck or ability, it did not matter — I had my bear. He was impressive, 950-1000 pounds, measuring a few centimeters over nine feet. He was a “big, big, bear”. I had not even gotten a good look at him yet when the adrenaline that had been keeping me moving for the last few minutes gave out. I pretty much went to my knees in the snow. Thank goodness my brain still worked. I needed to clear my rifle, and did so. Now I could catch my breath for a few moments, or so I thought. Both Igor and Vasili were soon at my side with congratulations, smiles and handshakes. They pulled me back to my feet and towards the snowmobile. This turned out to be a good thing. I was able to put the rifle safely back into its scabbard and then plant my backside firmly on the snowmobile’s seat. More importantly, it brought me close to the bottle of brandy riding in the padded compartment behind my seat and helped myself to a slug (or three).

Igor and Vasili went to prep the bear for some pictures and left Julia and me by the snowmobile. It was then I noticed her shivering. It was not that cold. In fact I had steadily been shedding layers since the brandy had started flowing. When I asked what was wrong, her answer was twofold. She was cold because her feet were wet. Snow had built up between the tops of her boots and her snow pants and had subsequently melted, soaking her feet and socks from the inside out. Between the guys and myself, we had her wet socks replaced with some dry wool socks and then some of the plastic grocery bags over her shoes and rubber banded to the outside of her ski pants would keep any further snow from accumulating and repeating the problem. Cold, wet, feet can make the rest of you miserable. With that situation remedied, I found out what the rest of the deal was. This was her first time working for Chubook, her first time to camp, and her first experience of an actual hunt. She was not supposed to be on a hunt at all. She was brought up around hunters and hunting, but being dropped right into the thick of my hunt was a bit overwhelming for her. There is a plethora of emotions in a hunt and she got both barrels, so to speak. The exhilaration of spotting the game and the chase (remember, she was on the back of Igor’s snowmobile) required us to get close, followed by the adrenaline of the shot and celebration of the successful hunt, are immediately followed by a sense of remorse at killing such a magnificent animal. It is a lot to digest.  We sat and chatted for a bit and by the time she could feel her feet again and the brandy I gave her kicked in, she said she was feeling much better.

The perfect medicine for what ailed me. The perfect medicine for what ailed me.

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