HUNTING THE GREAT BEARS

Alaska's brown bears are America's biggest game. Here is how a party of businessmen stalked their trophies
May 22, 1955

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.

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PHOTOHY PESKINMAGNIFICENT PRIZE SHOT BY JIM NASH IS HOISTED ABOARD BY HIS GUIDE PHOTOHY PESKINTHE "KODIAK BEAR" WAS FLOATING HOME OF THE HUNTERS PHOTOHY PESKINARRIVING at Kodiak after flight from the East, hunters find usual Alaskan rain. PHOTOHY PESKINROUGH PASSAGE rocks Mrs. Jim Nash as yacht heads for Uyak Bay to begin hunt. PHOTOHY PESKINPLANNING HUNT, Guide Madsen (at wheel) describes area to Pavelle, Mrs. Nash. PHOTOHY PESKINTHIRD DAY begins with Walter Stocklin loading movie camera as the Nashes watch. PHOTOHY PESKINFINAL CHECK of the sighted-in rifles is made on a beach. Jim Nash is shooting.
PHOTOHY PESKINLOOKING for game as yacht Kodiak Bear parallels shore line, all hands search heights. PHOTOHY PESKINFOURTH DAY finds a party traveling by outboard to the head of Uyak Bay, "glassing" the slopes as they go. Occasionally an overnight stop was made on the shore in tents. PHOTOHY PESKINSTILL SEARCHING ashore, two guides and their hunters (Stocklin and Pavelle) find a bear. PHOTOHY PESKINSEVENTH DAY ended with Stocklin (above) excitedly spotting a very big bear. PHOTOHY PESKINEIGHTH DAY and the hunters are out early. Said Stocklin: "He's still up there!" PHOTOHY PESKINASHORE AND EAGER, hunters and guides prepare for a fast ascent of the mountain in the hope of finding the big brown bear while it is still on the fairly open snowy benches. PHOTOHY PESKINWATCHING a bear on snow, party now on cannery dock decide it is too late to hunt. PHOTOHY PESKINWANDERING BEAR revealed by powerful telephoto lens is actually about 4,000 feet from the watchers. Stalks are planned in the hope a bear will remain in same area. PHOTOHY PESKINCOFFEE BREAK reveals Guide Grisha ever watchful. The bear was too distant to stalk. PHOTOHY PESKINWET AND TIRED, the party troops back in the rain to their little boat at twilight. What little game they did see was either too far away or it was too late for hunting. PHOTOHY PESKINWATCHING AGAIN from the snow line, Stocklin, guide glimpse undisturbed game. PHOTOHY PESKINDOWNED BEAR, shot at about 100 yards as it ran, is approached, found to be dead. TWO PHOTOSHY PESKINMOMENT OF KILL comes at last for Pavelle as he gets off shot at his bear. Below, he signals his victory to friends aboard the yacht after 13 days of uncertainty. PHOTOHY PESKINMOMENT OF TRIUMPH is relished by Stocklin as he poses with his huge trophy. Both he and Nash made their kills with .375 Magnum rifles using 'scope sights. PHOTOHY PESKINHUNT'S END comes for Leo Pavelle as he descends to the distant bay flanked by his guides, one of whom carries the skin of a bear he has just shot. The day before, Mrs. Nash made the arduous climb to these heights for the same animal but had to return without getting a chance for a shot. Still exhausted the next day, she suggested Pavelle try for it and directed him to it. PHOTOHY PESKINHAPPY HUNTERS Walter Stocklin and Madeleine Nash embrace before the drying skin of the huge brown bear killed by her husband. This near-record animal's pelt was later made into a magnificent rug which is approximately 10 feet 4 inches square.

BEAR NECESSITIES

The usual fall big-game hunting clothes will do, but the following are musts: hip boots, poncho or rain jacket, waterproof hat. Arrangements with an outfitter should be made a year in advance. As for expenses, these were Leo Pavelle's personal costs:

Custom-made rifle with 'scope

$ 915

Hunting license

50

Round-trip air fare, N.Y. to Kodiak

566

Food, drink, yacht charter

1,500

Rug from the skin of his trophy

150

Total

$3,181

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)