I mean, the worst thing that can happen hunting for whitetail in Illinois is you fall out of the tree stand. In Alaska, you have to be worried about bears snatching your kill, and possibly, your life.
19-year old Trenton Hammock was hunting Sitka blacktail deer on Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska.
After the successful hunt and had just laid some fresh venison down on the ground when he suddenly had to use his .44 magnum revolver to defend himself with and his fresh meat from a hungry brown bear that was over 7-feet tall.
According to a conversation with MeatEater, Hammock reportedly attempted to first scare the bear off yelling at it and making his presence known, and then, by firing a warning shot at close range.
He said the bear was more interested in the deer than it was scared of the gunshot:
“She didn’t care about me at all. Rather than being scared by the shot I’d fired just 5 feet in front of her, she kinda perked up. It was like someone rang a dinner bell.
After I shot in her direction, she disappeared beneath a small ravine for a little while. Eventually, she emerged in the spot where I’d killed the deer.
I watched her smell the blood on the ground right before she started coming directly at the deer and me again.”
Hammock had his cell phone camera rolling, but as the bear got closer, the situation got more serious, and the camera cut off.
Recalled the wild moment with a “one year ago today” post on Instagram recently:
He told himself that if the bear got within 20-feet, he was going to take the shot to defend himself, and since he had a valid brown bear hunting tag in his pocket, it was considered a legal hunt.
The footage picks back up with Hammock appearing to be somewhat shocked at what transpired but also surprisingly calm given the circumstances.
The camera then pans over to show both the deer and the bear lying on the ground in front of him.
“This whole time, she’s weaving through trees trying to sneak up to me, and I’m standing next to my deer trying to move around and keep something between us while also staying where I can still see her.
I get this log in between her and me, and she’s coming directly for me. When she was about 20 feet away, I yelled as loud as I could again and threw a rock in her direction. My spot was that log. I was like, if she reaches right here I’m gonna have to shoot her. And so once she put both front feet on that log, I shot her right in the heart.”
Hammock grew up in Alaska and had plenty of encounters with big bears. He frequently hunts by himself, and although he’s fired warning shots at bears before, he’s never had come this close to him before.
Once, while hunting alone, he had a female grizzly, and his cubs followed him for hours before he was able to get himself to safer ground. He said he has a tremendous amount of respect for bears.
Still, the possibility of eventually having to shoot one was pretty good considering the amount of time he spends hunting in bear country.
“I love bears. I have so much respect for them, and I know that every time I go out hunting, I’m walking into their backyard. But I’ve always known that it could potentially come down to shooting one.”
Though he never goes out with the goal of specifically hunting bears, he does buy a brown bear tag from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game every year just in case of a situation like this.
Had he not purchased a tag, it actually would have been illegal for him to shoot the bear, even if he did so in defense of his deer harvest.
“In Alaska, you cannot defend dead game from wild animals without a tag. If some guy was trying to steal my deer, I could shoot him but not the bear, which is why I get a bear tag every year in case I need to kill one.
I don’t want to do all the work for nothing.”
Hammock said it took him about 8-hours to get his harvest from both the deer and the bear skinned and packed out of the woods.
He admitted that he was pretty shaken up by the incident, but he’s happy the situation was not more dangerous.
“After shooting the bear, I was relieved that it was a clean kill and that I was OK.
There was a ton of adrenaline, and I was really shaky for a while. I probably spent 20 to 30 minutes just watching the bear after I shot it before I felt comfortable enough to begin working on my deer.
I was concerned about another bear showing up or the one that I shot getting back up. It was probably an hour after I shot it before I actually went down and touched it.”
It’s an important reminder to always be prepared with either bear spray or a firearm to defend yourself while recreating in bear country.
Dangerous conflicts with bears are rising across the country, and people who spend time hunting in grizzly bear country are particularly at risk for potential run-ins like this.