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Polar Bear Number 9 – A B&C Audio Adventure



By Robert B. Nancarrow
23rd Big Game Awards Program| From Legendary Hunts

I had just been thrown from the sled, when John, my guide, prematurely threw out the anchor before the sled had slowed enough for a safe dismounting. I landed on my chest, with my rifle under me, sliding across the ice in the snow. We had tried to intercept a large boar that had been pursuing a sow, with two year-old cubs. We just weren’t quick enough. The boar had reached the new ice, and was quickly on its way to the rough ice.

Hunting polar bear by traditional means, using dog sled and Inuit guides, is without question one of North America’s greatest challenges. We were using a team of seven dogs, solely for transportation. John didn’t believe in chasing polar bear with dogs. His exact words were, “We will ‘hunt’ the polar bear with dogs.” That’s exactly what we were doing, the sixth day of my 15-day hunt.

At 180 yards, I quickly rested my .300 Winchester Magnum on the nearest block of ice, placed the crosshairs on the bear’s shoulder, and pulled the trigger. At the report of the rifle, the bear stopped running and stood up. I was surprised I had not hit the bear, but now I had a standing shot. I squeezed the trigger a second time, again with no results. I shot a third, followed by a fourth and final shot, still with no results. I quickly checked my scope to see if it was loose, and inserted four more shells. By this time, the bear had started to run to the rough ice. I fired two more shots, and did not touch the bear. My guide looked at me with disbelief, but with calm reservations that we would see another bear and maybe get another shot. Not finding the scope loose, I blamed myself in my excitement for just plain poor shooting, never thinking that my gun was at fault.

That night it was very difficult to sleep, because I knew I had just lost a trophy of a lifetime. John was reassuring, and I was able to finally fall asleep. The following day we started our hunt where we left off the day before. The tracks were still there, and the mistakes I made were still fresh in my mind. We then took to the huge track and started to hunt again. By noon, we came up against a wall of ice. John decided we would hunt in the direction of our main camp, 10 miles back. Not feeling as though I was going to have the good fortune of seeing a bear of that magnitude again, I sat in the dog sled with mixed emotions. John stopped and climbed a large block of ice to look for bear. He quickly motioned me to join him, and when I got there, he was pointing a quarter mile in the distance to a very large bear, eating a bearded seal. The bear was on new ice, approximately four to six inches thick. The wind was coming from the north, and was starting to pick up. We were 22 miles west of Banks Island on the Arctic ice flows. I asked John if he would stay with the dogs, so they would not bark. I would make the stalk alone. He agreed and wished me luck.

 As I crawled to within 70 yards, I could truly see the bear’s tremendous size. My heart was pounding out of control and I was actually starting to feel fear.

I was now on my own, crawling the entire distance since there was nothing but smooth ice between me and the bear. On my belly, I was instantly aware that the ice was rolling under me. It seemed to intensify as the wind became stronger, but all that mattered was that I was getting closer to my trophy. I was now within 180 yards, and although my heart was hammering, I elected to take my shot from that distance. As I calmly squeezed the trigger, expecting to hit the bear, the horror of the day before became real once more. I fired the second, third, and fourth shots, all with the same results. I could not hit the bear at this distance and had to come up with a different plan. My guide was too far away to get his rifle and the bear had now become nervous, moving further away. The one thing in my favor was the constant cracking of the ice, which sounded as loud as the report of my rifle. The only two options I had were to give it up completely or get within bow range, and hope for the best. I chose the latter.

I had waited for too many years, and spent more money than I could afford getting this far. Only a hunter could understand my decision. As I crawled to within 70 yards, I could truly see the bear’s tremendous size. My heart was pounding out of control and I was actually starting to feel fear. At approximately 60 yards I decided to shoot, not knowing what to expect. As I pulled the trigger, I can honestly say I did not know what the results would be. I had the crosshairs on the shoulder of the huge bear, and the bullet struck three feet back from his front shoulder. The bear let loose a tremendous roar and started diagonally toward me. Seeing that the gun was that far off, I had to force myself to aim off the bear, in order to hit him again. It worked! The next bullet struck the bear in the chest. The bear turned sideways, going in the opposite direction, so I aimed at his hip, striking the bear square in the shoulder. I was out of bullets and the bear and I were now only 35 yards apart. The bear got up again. Knowing there was nothing I could do, I laid with my face on the ice, hoping he would not see me.

After what seemed like an eternity, the bear finally expired. By that time, I was so exhausted from fear, that I almost could not raise up to look at my monstrous trophy. The bear was the ninth bear seen on my hunt — truly, the most fabulous creature I have ever seen. Later I discovered that my gun barrel was blocked with ice and had split at the magna-porting when I was thrown from the sled, causing its inaccuracy. 

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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt