Kodiak Island: Hunter With Handgun Takes on Brown Bear, Lives to Tell the Tale

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File

The Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi) is a subspecies of the brown bear, a circumpolar species whose subspecies include the grizzly and the Eurasian brown bear - but of all the various subspecies of U. arctos, the Kodiak bears are the biggest. They live only on the islands of the Kodiak Archipelago, and due to a high-protein diet (lots of fish) they grow to impressive sizes, reaching up to eight feet in length, four feet high at the shoulder, and males will weigh in at over half a ton. These animals can run 35 miles per hour and can rip the door off a truck.

Now, with that in mind, imagine facing one of these beasts - at spitting distance - with a sidearm.

That's what Tyce Erickson did, while on a hunting expedition on Kodiak island, and not only did he live to tell the tale, he came away without a scratch, due to a good choice of sidearm, some great marksmanship, and an ability to keep his head under pressure. He spoke later to Outkick's David Hookstead about the incident in an exclusive interview.

"The guide was in front of me and I was right behind him about 10 feet or so when tracking it. The bear charged him being in the lead, he hit the bear with his rifle on the initial charge we think in the chest, then his leg tripped up in the brush on the steep hillside. He racked another one while on his back and kind of shot from his hip. Not being able to see well being on his back now still tangled in the brush is when he yelled for help. I had my gun out and ready since we were tracking it. I ran to his side through the brush to clear the guide, not shooting over him, and the bear erupted in front of me with a little less brush. This is all happening in seconds. I am guessing around 15 to 20 feet. I didn’t walk it off exactly, we were hunting and didn’t really care. So close it was an easy target with the pistol being such a big animal," Erickson told me during an exclusive interview.

It would have been an easy target, sure, if it was just a target, but this was a bear, a bear that had ill designs on Mr. Erickson, and would have killed him if he hadn't kept his head and focused on his front sight. We can be assured that Mr. Erickson has a big pair of solid brass ones after this incident. Bears, as humans have known, well, forever, aren't something to take lightly.

See Related: Montana Hunter Runs Afoul of Grizzly Bear 

California Woman Killed by Black Bear in State's First Documented Fatal Attack

Erickson exhibited not only coolness in the face of a giant, slavering carnivore but some pretty good marksmanship as well. He used a 10mm semi-auto pistol, chosen for its hitting power and magazine capacity.

"I fired three times and after skinning the bear, found a bullet in the chest we believed to be from the guide's rifle and two bullets from my pistol. One in the neck and one through the back. I had 15 rounds, but the guide said to stop shooting when the bear rolled after my third shot. The skull is part of the animal you bring home, and he didn’t want it shot on accident with the pistol and broken. When the bear was skinned, it’s hard to see exactly all the holes so he may have hit it more than that, but that’s all we could see real clearly. One of my bullets may have hit one of the trees in the brush as the bear was not in the wide open," the outdoorsman turned internet hunting sensation further explained.

The State of Alaska, it should be noted, closely monitors the population of these bears. Hunting is very tightly regulated, and out-of-state hunters are prohibited from hunting without a registered guide. The International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species lists the Kodiak bear as an animal of "Least Concern," meaning we aren't going to run out of the giant bruins any time soon; if hunting a big bear is on your bucket list, they don't get any bigger unless you draw a rare and coveted polar bear permit.

There is a certain excitement in hunting a creature that might just hunt you back. It adds a certain spice to the mix. It also serves as a reminder that the wild places in our world are still wild, and the creatures that roam those places don't always recognize human hegemony. We are, to put it bluntly, on the menu in many places like Africa, Siberia, and, yes, Alaska. Sadly, a lot of people just don't seem to get that, and will deride Mr. Erickson's adventure as a nasty old human killing a big fluffy. That's not what happened, and that's not what bears are. I recently had occasion to discuss big animals and human's views of them in a video:

I like hunting grouse. You can shoot a grouse, put it in your pocket, and go find another. But taking an Alaskan grizzly is on my bucket list, and black bears are always a welcome addition to the contents of our freezer. But I'd just as soon shoot my griz from a safe distance. And if I ever meet up with Mr. Tyce Erickson, believe you me, I'd shake his hand and buy him an adult beverage - the guy faced death, got the job done, and walked away.



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