This past June (2012) I flew out of Anchorage, Alaska, with Joe Schuster of Sportsmans Air Service to go black bear hunting. We flew to Unit 16, near Beluga Lake. I had gotten a permit to hunt Brown Bear as well, but didn’t expect to see any on the trip. I had been planning the black bear hunt for about eight months and was really excited to take my first bear with a bow!
The hunt held a particularly special place in my heart because of my father. My dad (Keith Johnson) was a Master Guide and outfitter in Alaska for over 40 years. He is well known for his experience, his ethical hunting reputation and the contributions that he made to hunting in Alaska and throughout the United States. He was the recipient of the prestigious North American Outstanding Professional Hunter of the Year Award at the Safari Club International Convention along with having 40-plus articles written about him and his hunting operation over the years.
However, my father is now ill and is unable to hunt. His illness has been a painful reality for my family and me. He wrote a book about bear hunting that tells the stories of his favorite bear hunts from his career, yet he would not be able to accompany me on my first bear hunt. I really wanted to make him proud, make a great shot, and come home and share the story with him.
After an amazing week long hunt, not only did I get to come home and tell my father the story of my successful hunt of a beautiful Black Bear, but I also got to come home and tell him about my Pope and Young Brown Bear!
I harvested a Brown Bear, becoming the 6th woman to do so with a bow. Both of my bears were taken in one shot, and neither went farther than 20 yards. The Brown Bear knew I was there and decided to hold its ground. It was snapping its teeth, chomping its jaws, thrashing the brush and circling to intimidate me. I had to pull back and hold multiple times until I got a good quartering away shot. I will never forgot the roar that came from that Brown Bear when my arrow passed through it. I heard it echoing in my head for days afterward. It was an experience that many archers dream of. It was even more amazing to get to come home and to share the story and video of the hunt with my father and to have him be proud of me. That feeling is irreplaceable. The legacy of hunting is something that is so important to pass along in your family. And while he can’t hunt any more, I hope to continue his hunting legacy and continue to make him proud as I pursue a love of the hunt that we both share.
About the author: Joni Kiser is co-owner of Full Curl Archery in Anchorage, Alaska. For the hunt she used a Mathews Jewel bow, Easton Axis Arrow, and QAD Exodus Broadheads.
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