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Ask a man who has just come back from a spring bear hunt in Alaska how he lived, and you could scarcely expect to hear that he slept and ate on a yacht most of the time, spotting his quarry from the deck as the ship cruised leisurely along. The impression of spring bear hunting in Alaska thus created would be essentially a false one, even if the statement were true. Yet this is just how Leo Pavelle and the Jim Nashes of New York, and Walter Stocklin of Philadelphia, did go bear hunting last May. Only what they remember is not the luxury of the yacht Kodiak Bear, chartered from their guide, the late Charlie Madsen; but mostly days of unbelievable climbing, dashed hopes, the tension that built up unbearably as days went by without a shot fired at game.
Much of this was old stuff to the two most experienced hunters, Leo Pavelle, who is president of Pavelle Color, Inc., a film-processing establishment in New York, and to Walter Stocklin, a vice president of the Hutchins Agency (advertising) in Philadelphia. But to Jim Nash, president of an industrial design studio in New York, and his wife it was not. Stocklin and Pavelle had got the Nashes interested in hunting to the extent of their making a Wyoming big-game trip and an African safari. But Alaska—and its exertions—was new to them. So were its frustrations. Mrs. Nash clawed her way up mountains four times without getting a shot.
On the other hand, at twilight on the eighth day, as she sat watching a beach with her husband, hoping a bear would come down to feed while there was still shooting light, she saw a great form appear. She signaled to her husband; it was his turn to shoot. Jim Nash killed the bear with two shots—the largest brownie taken in 1954, according to skull measurements, which is the way to assess a bear for trophy purposes.
That same day Walter Stocklin shot his bear, no record breaker but a very worthwhile trophy nevertheless. Thanks to the vagaries of this difficult hunting—perhaps a twig snapping loudly at the wrong moment or a whimsical breeze that shifted at the end of a climb, warning the game—it was five more days before Leo Pavelle at last got his trophy. For details of that triumph, and other experiences of the hunters in their search, see the following pages.
The 13th day was lucky for Leo Pavelle. Since the eighth day, when Jim Nash and Walter Stocklin shot their bears, there had been only keen frustration and unfortunate breaks for him and Mrs. Nash. Now, the day before the hunt was scheduled to end, Pavelle set out once more to search for the bear Madeleine Nash had failed to find the day before.
It was a beautiful day. The climb went well and in something less than three hours the trio reached a position which they estimated would put Pavelle above the quarry. A shot bear nearly always runs downhill; it is better to be above it.
Now came the bad part. If the animal had decided to leave the country while they climbed, they were done. For all its size a brown bear, or a Kodiak as it is also called, can traverse the most difficult ground with ease.
The men sat down to wait and watch. Finally one of the guides said, "I think he is still here." Pavelle said nothing. Nick and Grisha had hunted bears for 30 years; they could practically smell their presence. One of them slipped away downhill. "I am going to snap some branches," he said. "Wait."
An instant later the bear appeared below Pavelle, running hard through the brush. Up came the .416 rifle, custom made for just such a moment. With an experienced hunter's precise movements, quick but unhurried, Leo Pavelle got off four shots. Three of them struck the bear with devastating effect and it fell in the snow.
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]