Step into the Ring
When Gene managed to call in and shoot a deer, Steve never came. Gene didn’t wait. With the daylight dwindling, he skinned the blacktail quickly.
He was three steps away from his rifle when the bear charged out of the brush. Too far away. He held fast to his four inch Buck knife and mentally prepared to persevere.
“He was spittin’ and carryin’ on. And you know, I prayed. ‘Lord please help me. I need help.”
In a split second, he decided to shove his knife down the bear’s throat once it got close enough. When he did, the bear removed most of the muscle from his right arm as it thrashed its head around.
“You see the bear’s mouth is small from the side.” Gene points to the bear, which is now mounted on his wall. “It’s like a dog when he bites down, he grabs and twists like this.” Under the sleeve of his T-shirt, I spot a huge C-shaped scar.
“I didn’t want to look at my arm. I thought it was gone. It’s a funny feeling, you know. I was a pretty tough guy staying in shape for hunting and fishing my whole life, but this was bad.”
He switched hands for a few left jabs. Instead of playing dead, Gene sparred for three or four rounds of the bear coming at him.
During one charge, Gene “bulldogged” the bear—a move he learned in his younger years wrangling cattle. He wrapped his arm around the bear’s neck and literally wrestled it until it sent him sailing eight feet through the air.
At the next charge, Gene knew the bear would come at him with its right paw.
“I had watched a lot of bears when I first came to Alaska. I noticed early on they were mostly right-pawed, like people. I saw that paw coming and I was ready for it! I stepped back, and he kinda got me across the face and sliced this ear in two.” Gene points to his right ear, which actually looks pretty good, considering.
The bear came at him again. “I was on my back, and the bear overshot me.” Luckily Gene had some sturdy boots on, “and so I took both feet and landed them underneath there, and rolled him over like this” Gene leans back and bends his legs, showing off his best version of a double kick. “That time I was up first!”
The bear kept coming at him. Gene, now grievously injured, anticipated its reactions and stabbed the bear repeatedly in the neck and head with his knife.
At one point, lying on his back, Gene shook his foot to distract the bear from eviscerating him. The beast managed to take a sizable chunk out of his inner thigh.
Gene draws my attention to a bear-hide rug on his floor. “See his claws? See how those are rounded and smooth. Those are for pulling meat off the bone, not just slicing. The bear claw pulls everything out.”