The polar bear is
one of the rarest and most prized of all big-game trophies. Living on the
almost inaccessible ice floes of the Arctic Ocean, huge, wily and without any
instinctive fear of man, it represents to the hunter the ultimate in dangerous
prey. Here, in excerpts from his hunting diary, is the dramatic story of how
Dr. William Fisher, a Bellingham, Wash. dentist, hunted and killed a
1,200-pound polar bear on safari in Alaska with his home-town friend Robert
FRIDAY: 3 p.m.:
It's 18� below but the sun is still shining. We're all tired but the weather is
too good to miss. Bush Pilot Bob Savaria is heading the plane right out across
the open lead ice, at 300 feet. In the other plane, Bob Shaw and Pilot Dick
Moorhead follow us out.
Now we've picked
up tracks, but they're very confusing. Looks like a sow and cubs from what I
can see, but looks like a big track too. We split up and follow in two
directions. Now I can see the tracks clearly—sow and cubs, so we pass it up.
Here comes the other plane, wings waggling, so we pull in after them.
There he is! This
is the bear we'd like to get. He's so wide across the rear he waddles as he
walks. We stay well away from the fellow as we don't want to spook him. He's
really a big one, dwarfing everything we've seen before.
We gain altitude
to spot a possible landing field, but there isn't a chance anywhere near. The
thin ice holding our bear is five miles across, surrounded by wild icefall
where thin ice meets permanent ice. There's a tiny ice island in the center,
but it looks impossibly small as a landing field. The bear is heading right for
it! Hind legs spread out and flattened to the ice, he's pulling himself along
with his fore-paws. Every now and then he breaks through. I ask Bob if there is
any way we can land on the ice island, and down we go for a look. I've got my
fingers crossed. We're coming in low—10 feet—looks rough and far too short.
Back up we go, away from the bear. He's still inching along, but a long way
off. That decides it. We're going to try.
If we do get
stuck, the other small plane can ferry us out—I guess. We hit the ice within 20
feet of the near edge, bouncing violently on the hillocks. Hope the skis stay
on. Here comes a great mound of snow on my side. I yell at Bob to turn the
plane. We're sliding sideways; we've stopped. We jump out to see if the landing
gear is undamaged—it is. Now I wonder how we'll get off.
There are pressure
ridges all around our little island, chunks of ice ranging from 10 to 30 feet
in height. We're completely hidden from the bear. I take the .375 Magnum and
climb the ridge to peek over. Bear is still heading our way but I see no more
than his head through the glasses. He's about 1,500 yards away and has fallen
through the ice again. Wonder why he has his mind set on coming here?
The other plane
has left. They're waiting on the horizon, watching us through glasses. I crawl
up the pressure ridge over chunks of ice as big as pianos, slipping and
A thousand yards
away now. The wind is in our favor. Evidently he didn't see the plane land.
He's still coming. I'm locating a good spot to shoot from—can't shoot him out
on thin ice as he'll fall in and we'll lose him. I really see him now, without
glasses. Five hundred yards out and still coming. He just went through again.
There! He comes out and starts maneuvering sideways to us. Change of direction?
No, now he's turned again and coming head on right toward me. Bob is staying
well back and to the side. He has his rifle to back me up. I tell him not to
shoot. This is my bear.
closer and closer, out 80 yards now. I can shoot any time, but if I do he'll
fall through and that ice will hardly hold the weight of a man. The bear can
use it because he knows how to distribute his weight over its surface. I'll
wait. The ice is better close to the island. He's coming right toward me. Forty
yards, and now he turns toward the right. I slide back down from the ridge and
run on my side, looking for another place to climb up. Can't find one. I look
up. There he is! Right on top of the ridge above me, not 20 yards away, head
weaving on the long neck. He sees me—he's growling—he hasn't decided whether to
come for me or slide back down the far side of the ridge. No time to do
anything but shoot—try for shoulder. He falls off on the far side. I yell to
the others to stay back and climb up the ridge—bear may be wounded. I peek
over, ready to shoot. My gosh! He's fallen through the ice dead, just his back
leg is sticking out. We may lose him. I squirm out and grab his back leg. The
thin ice sways like the deck of a small boat in a choppy sea, giving with each
step. Bob comes running with a rope. We tie it around the hind leg and hold on.
How the devil are we going to get him out? Must weigh well over half a ton.
Photographer Halmi and Bob and I put our backs against the ridge and pull.
Nothing happens. We've got him, but then again we haven't.