Among an endless sea of white, a tiny speck of brown emerges from 100 yards away.
It’s a beautiful sight to behold, until the tiny brown speck in the distance suddenly becomes an 8-foot-tall, snarling blur of teeth and claws, and it’s coming in fast. A young Inuit Eskimo tries to fire up the snow mobile, but the engine won’t turn over. The beast is closing in now — 50 yards, 40 yards, 30 yards. Finally, the frozen engine fires up and the snowmobile flies across the frozen tundra, away from a hungry barren-ground grizzly bear that had just awoken from a long hibernation.
This was the type of thrill that Topeka bowhunter Scott Hunsicker, 51, paid good money to experience. Hunsicker, whose father, Gary, operates an archery shop from his basement, has been bowhunting ever since he can remember. He’s traveled the world chasing trophy animals from Alaska to Africa. He’s taken down dangerous prey before — such as mountain lions, black bears and buffalo — but nothing like this.
“Every single time, none of those animals knew I was there,” Hunsicker said. “In this situation, these bears know you’re there, and they know where you’re at.”
“They told me before I went that these bears are aggressive, simply because they fear nothing. I didn’t really quite understand what they meant by ‘aggressive.’ I had no idea how fast these things are. They’ll run 35 miles an hour just immediately.” - Scott Hunsicker, Topeka bow hunter
“They told me before I went that these bears are aggressive, simply because they fear nothing. I didn’t really quite understand what they meant by ‘aggressive.’ I had no idea how fast these things are. They’ll run 35 miles an hour just immediately.”
Making things more difficult was the fact that he was bowhunting rather than using a rifle, which meant a drastically shorter range to get off a shot. Such an expedition is rare, and some of the Inuit Eskimos who contract with Canada North Outfitters to guide the hunts are reluctant to get within a compound bow’s range.
“You’ve got to be 50 yards or less with a bow, and these guides are very, very staunch that they don’t want you off of that snowmobile very close to that bear, because they’re responsible for you. It’s just amazing how fast they are, and they could make a mess for you in a hurry.”
Hunsicker’s guide, George, had good reason to be wary. Two years before, he had been mauled by a grizzly. The attack, according to Hunsicker, resulted in a lost eye, 200 stitches to his head and bite marks on his arm, hand and leg. During the attack, George played dead, which Hunsicker said saved his life.
“He had a bad experience, obviously, and lived through it,” Hunsicker said. “I was shocked when I see this guy and he’s literally got one eye. I mean his face looks like he’s been burned in a fire. You could tell he’s had some serious skin grafts and everything done to his face and his head.”
When Hunsicker first arrived in Cambridge Bay on April 29, he was greeted by a bone-chilling, 22-below temperature, unusually low for the time of year. As a result, many of the grizzlies that inhabit the area were still hibernating when they began hunting.
“You think you’ve got warm stuff on. I’ve gone all over the world and I have warm gear, but man, when you’re sitting back there for hours on hours, your feet get cold,” Hunsicker said. “Once you get cold up there, there’s no getting warm.
“I had some serious frostbite after the first day. I mean all the skin on my hands peeled three layers deep.”
During the first three days, the group was unable to find a grizzly. Hunsicker rode in a sled made out of plywood, which is pulled by a snowmobile for hours on end in the harsh Artic weather.
“It’s about the roughest ride you can even imagine,” Hunsicker said.
He also said it was easy to get lost in an endless landscape of pure-white snow.
“You’re actually hunting on the ocean,” Hunsicker said. “There’s the Victoria Islands up there, and then of course the ocean and it looks like mountain terrain. Of course, everything’s got snow on it. I’m trying to get a feel for where exactly where we’re at. I had a hard time figuring out when I was on ground, when I was on a lake and when I was on ocean. I couldn’t tell, because obviously everything’s white.”
After heavy winds and low visibility hampered their efforts on the third day, Hunsicker finally got to encounter a bear on day four. After spotting a large grizzly, the group tracked it to a cluster of large rocks, which he said were actually islands in the ocean. From its high vantage point on top of the rocks, the grizzly watched the hunters, and when they got too close it came barreling down toward them at full speed.
“When they’re coming at you, it’s a sight that you don’t forget,” Hunsicker said.
Read the rest of the story at CJOnline.com.