The "Pooh-Bear" adventure started at Safari Club International in February of 2017 when my husband, John, asked me if I could ever hunt an animal and my knee-jerk response was 'Yes, if something is attacking me I have no problem pulling the trigger.' I didn't think too much of his question thereafter as I took our 4-yr old daughter, Mikayla, back to our hotel room for an afternoon nap. A few hours later Mikayla and I met back up with John at the SCI convention and he said "Hey, I got you something!' I started looking for a package in his hands but there was no bag or package so my curiosity was rising. We walked over to a vendor booth to meet two very nice outfitters from an Alaskan bear hunting company. John said, 'Honey, I bought you a bear hunt!' In that very second, my heart dropped on the floor and I had a pit in my stomach. In effort to not seem ungrateful, I forced a smile and said thank you to both John and the outfitter. I maintained half a smile for the next few minutes and then John said, see you in two months. John asked me if I was excited and I forced another smile and said, 'Let's go find Pooh-Bear.'
John, Mikayla and I enjoyed the rest of SCI and did not talk about the bear hunt until we arrived home. I finally directly asked John why he would ever want to buy a bear hunt for me. His response was 'Well you told me you could hunt something that could hunt you', so clearly something got lost in translation. I said, 'No, I said I could kill something that was actively attacking me.' John was humored by this and said, 'We can probably get the bear to actively attack you.' Clearly, he missed my point, failed to remember my fear of shooting guns, and forgot I am an ER nurse and prefer to save lives versus take lives. John's an avid hunter and he jokes on a regular basis how he doesn't want to take me hunting with him because he's afraid I will run out into the field and try and resuscitate whatever he shoots.
March of 2017 I received the best news ever! The Alaskan outfitter had to push the bear hunt to Spring of 2018 because the bays where they bear hunt had not melted off due to a brutal, snowy winter. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders, at least for another year. John was so disappointed by this news he immediately got online to try and find another Spring bear hunt. After some diligent research, John found an online auction at the Guide Outfitter Assoc. of B.C. annual convention held in Victoria B.C. for a Spring black bear hunt...no fences, no bait. John was so excited to tell me the great news and when he did, once again, my heart hit the floor and I had a pit in my stomach. He was extremely determined to take me on a bear hunt so he put the wheels in motion right away. John drove me to his gunsmith, Rich Reiley, of High Tech Custom Rifles and had my arm length measured so I could have a rifle built just for me. John had relayed my fear of shooting to Rich and he recommended I spend some time shooting with one of his business associates, John Hermanson, who is retired military and an expert marksman. I followed his recommendation and finally worked up the nerve to shoot a .22. Once I figured out the gun wasn't going to hurt me, John coached me on shooting a variety of guns, at varying distances, all the way up to my .270. I was as prepared as I was ever going to be in a short timeline before our trip to B.C.
The first day of our five-day hunt was on May 15th and I wasn't super excited to find a bear. Over the first few days I learned a great deal about hunting and our guide, Brad, was a wealth of knowledge. I started asking Brad about bear behavior, activity, what do they eat, when do they sleep and as we discussed this, he told me one very important thing. Brad said male bears will try and eat the cubs to bring the females back into heat for mating season and as soon as he said this, it sealed the deal for me. Any internal conflict I had over shooting a bear had suddenly vanished. As I processed through this, I thought I can save many animal lives, including bear cubs, by hunting a big male bear.
May 18th was the first day I was truly ready to shoot a bear. I started the day with a whole new perspective and excitement to go find a big bear! Around 7:30pm Brad spotted the biggest 'Pooh-Bear' we have seen all week, grazing alongside the road. I was so excited I could barely contain myself. Brad and I hopped out of the truck and started down the ditch to stay out of sight. The wind was perfect as well and the bear could not smell us. Brad set me up for the shot at about 80 yards and 'Pooh-Bear' was quartering towards us so Brad told me where to place the shot and I pulled the trigger. The bear did a 180 and took off into the brush. Brad asked me how I felt after I shot, and I remember feeling stunned and told him it all felt so surreal. Brad started coaching me again and explained we must give the bear some time before we can start tracking him. By the time it was safe to go look for the bear, the night sky was setting in and we had to go back to the main house. We would get up in the morning and start tracking the bear.
May 19th was the big morning! I was on no sleep and very anxious to go find 'Pooh-Bear'. We headed out to track the bear. The drive was only about fifteen minutes to where I shot it and it seemed like the longest fifteen minutes of my life. Mikayla and I had to stay in the truck as John and Brad took off into the brush with a gun to start tracking. They were only gone about twenty minutes when John came up and said they couldn't find the bear. Just when I went to place my head in my hands, John said, 'Just kidding, we found the bear and you shot him exactly where you were supposed to!'. I went from agony to ecstasy within seconds. We all headed to the bear. Brad and John showed Mikayla and I the scant blood trail so we could follow it to the bear. I was still in awe and for the second time since this all started, I felt the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders just in a much different way.
It wasn't an easy journey for me conquering my fear of guns, practicing shooting, and never in a million years would I have thought I could ever pull a trigger. I am so thankful and so blessed for those who have helped me along the way. 'Pooh-Bear' was a big fluffy animal with a skill of 19 4/16" and his hide measured 6'6" tall. This was a bucket list type of experience and thanks to High Tech Custom Rifles, John Hermanson, and Cariboo Mountain Outfitters, the trip I once dreaded, ended up being a dream come true.