Our Best and Worst Stories: Derrick Nawrocki’s Bear and Bust

In our ongoing series of our best and worst hunting stories, GVO President Derrick Nawrocki recounts his excellent bear hunting trip to Idaho and a tough outing in the Iowa deer stand.

Our Best and Worst Stories: Derrick Nawrocki’s Bear and Bust

Derrick Nawrock (left) and Jason Bear with Bear's bruin.

Our Ask the Editor series continues with Derrick Nawrocki, President of Grand View Outdoors. Nawrocki’s best and worst hunting experiences are moments worth remembering — even the painful parts. Read about his bear hunting trip to Idaho with Bob Robb, Jason Bear, the Korrel brothers and Kidd Youren. Then commiserate a little with his disastrous attempt to tag out in Iowa.

We want to hear your stories too! Share your stories with us at editors@grandviewoutdoors.com or leave us a comment on Facebook and let us know what you think.

Best Hunt

Archery bear in Idaho, Korell Outfitters, 2011

By far one of the best hunts I ever have been on was an archery bear hunt in Idaho with korelloutfitters.com and two great friends, Jason Bear and Bob Robb. 

Korell Outfitters is a small, personalized family-run outfitting business located along the Payette River in southwest Idaho. Owner Chris Korell and brother Cody Korell were born and raised here and together have more than 38 years of experience guiding hunters in this area. They do everything it takes to make a successful outfitting business work. They have exclusive hunting rights to more than1,000 square miles of some of the best big game hunting in the west.

Already sure to be a great adventure and hunting style, hunting with a pack of treeing walker hounds, spun into high gear when my ticket was pulled, and it went something like this. We got the call that the one of the guides had located a mature blonde bear. The only catch was it was several thousand yards or more off the side of a mountain virtually straight down. That guide was none other than Kidd Youren, one of the current cast members on the History Channel series Mountain Men.

I vividly remember Chris Korell asking me, “Are you sure you’re ready?”

Basically, his cowboy way of asking whether you're man enough.

“We are dropping into the most extreme and challenging spot we can access.” And off we went.

I vividly remember hanging onto everything and anything I could get my free hand around to keep from descending the mountain like a snowball out of control. My other hand was occupied with my bow.

At some point, we ended up in front of a small cave with very little visibility and an angry bear chopping his jaws and pounding the ground. To me, anyways, it felt like he was blowing smoke and shaking the ground all around us — talk about an uptick in heart rate and an adrenaline rush. I had a very small window to take the shot, and then stand in front of the cave and ask myself "will I have time to nock another arrow if that bruin decides to come out and make me his play toy?"

Thankfully, the shot was true, and I have a story to tell for the rest of my life. We packed out the bear but couldn’t go back up the mountain. We had to traverse through the thickest mountain cover I have ever fought through, and six hours later we were off the mountain.

For what it is worth, Cody Korell told me that overall my hunt was in his top five of all time, which is really saying something. If you are looking for a great western hunting adventure for bears, elk, cougars, deer or wolf these are the guys to call.

Game cameras showed great bucks, but a landowner who pulled the lease at the last minute turned excitement into a disaster.
Game cameras showed great bucks, but a landowner who pulled the lease at the last minute turned excitement into a disaster.

Worst Hunt

Archery whitetail in Iowa, Lease with a farmer, 2018

First off, this has zero to do with the incredible hunting opportunities the state of Iowa offers, truly a dream location for any bow hunter.

Like many bow hunters, I bought Iowa preference points and hoped to one day get a chance to arrow a real whitetail giant. Finally, it was my turn after 10 years of buying points and just not pulling the trigger to hunt yet.

Then, just like that, it all comes together. A friend of a friend calls and says he has a connection on a farm loaded with great bucks and would I like to join a small group and finally hunt Iowa. Yes, yes, and yes, sign me up! Off my lease payment goes in the mail. It felt like the stars had finally aligned for me. 

We had inked a deal with a farmer, vetted from others we knew, with great land, great past success and land not overly hunted. We sent game cameras, tree stands and other gear that our local friend could use to set-up our stand sites.

The spring game cameras captured some solid bucks and our enthusiasm was building by the minute.  As you see by some pre-season scouting photos, we had some great bucks showing up consistently on the farm, but things were about to go sideways.

Strike one: Spring flooding washed out most of our tree stands and our game cams were now under water. We were not deterred one bit. There was plenty of time for the water to go away and the big bucks will come right back. They might even stir up some others. After all, we are in Iowa.

Strike two: One week before our hunt dates, trucks are loaded, bows are sighted in, energy is high, and I get the call that our farmer has pulled the lease out from under us and said we were no longer welcome to hunt. One of his cardinal rules was that no one was to drive past the barns on his property, you park at the barn and walk to your stand. Somehow from Alabama (my home) and/or Minnesota (my hunting partner's home state) we drove on the farmer’s property, which obviously did not happen. Regardless, he wouldn’t budge and was exceptionally unwilling to realize we were not the ones who drove on his land. To this day I will never understand why this happened to us, but that opportunity was gone and the money we sent never came back our way, adding injury to insult.

Strike three: Blinded by Iowa buck fever and having tags in our pockets we needed to act on, we moved forward and went to Iowa anyway to target some walk-in hunting areas. With no time to scout and competing against local hunters and others who had deep knowledge of the areas we were attempting to hunt, we were defeated despite our best efforts. In this story, no blind squirrel found any nuts. We packed up and began the long road home empty-handed.

I am still adding preference points every year for Iowa. But on my return, I am going to track down a reliable and proven guide.


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