An Alaskan hunter shot and killed a 7-and-a-half-foot brown bear with a .44 Mag. revolver while it stalked him and the deer he just killed on Baranof Island in Southeast Alaska.
Nineteen-year-old Trenton Hammock of Sitka, Alaska, shared a short video with MeatEater from his hair-raising encounter on October 17. In his clip, the sow works its way toward the young hunter as he yells and tries to scare it off. A Sitka blacktail deer he just shot lies in the foreground between him and the bear.
Hammock attempted to dissuade the bear by firing a warning shot at close range with his revolver, but the curious bruin was not deterred.
“She didn’t care about me at all,” Hammock told MeatEater. “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.”
The bear became even more interested, Hammock said, an almost-Pavlovian response to the pistol report and the deer’s blood trail.
“After I shot in her direction, she disappeared beneath a small ravine for a little while,” he said. “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 me and the deer again.”
By this point, Hammock had made up his mind: He would shoot the bear if she got within 20 feet of him and his kill. He had a valid brown bear tag in his pack, after all.
“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,” Hammock said. “I get this log in between me and her, 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 followed up with a shot to the sow’s lungs. Then, with the threat sufficiently neutralized, he trained his cell phone camera on his visibly shocked face, then back on the dead bear before him.
Growing up hunting in Alaska, Hammock has seen his fair share of brown bear encounters. He’s run into lone bears while hunting solo and says he was once stalked by a sow with cubs for hours on end. He’s fired warning shots before but never had to kill a bear—though the possibility rarely strays far from his mind.
“I love bears,” Hammock said. He is studying to become a wildlife biologist and currently works as a COVID-19 screener. “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.”
For that reason, Hammock made a point to secure a brown bear tag for his home region where he planned to hunt blacktail this year. Had he failed to do so, it would have been illegal to shoot the bear he shot in defense of his deer harvest.
“In Alaska you cannot defend dead game from wild animals without a tag,” he said. “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.”
With his deer and brown bear tagged, Hammock took to the work of skinning the large sow—a task he says took every bit of eight hours. While time kept him from salvaging the meat (which is not required by law for brown bears), he plans to clean the skull himself and get a rug made from the hide.
“I sent the hide up to Tundra Taxidermy up in Chugiak, Alaska, and I’m getting a rug made,” he said. “For the skull, I have my own dermestid beetles.”
Hammock says that the encounter left him shaken but thankful for his safety.
“After shooting the bear, I was relieved that it was a clean kill and that I was OK,” he said. “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.”