Many of the Outdoor Life editors and writers who relayed this fascination with bears into the pages of this magazine are no longer with us. Still, their impact and influence will stay with this magazine forever. Field Editor Ben East’s stories were compiled into anthologies of wilderness adventures, and one series even became a Hollywood film. Titled “Woman Of The North,” it starred Ellen Burstyn as Olive Frederickson, a woman who survived many ordeals as a single parent in the remote wilderness of British Columbia.
Ben put bears, especially the Alaska brown, high on his list of tough customers. He called brown bears “the largest flesh-eaters that walk the earth.” In 1945, Ben wrote about a brown bear that killed a 1200-pound steer on a Kodiak Island cattle ranch and then dragged his kill three-quarters of a mile back up a mountain, through alder tangles, biting off trunks as thick as a man’s arm.
“The African lion rates generally as the king of the beasts,” wrote Ben. “But I have a hunch that if the king of the beasts and the king of the bears were matched in the same arena, the big cat would go to the soap works. If the brownie landed one solid blow, there would be a lion in one corner and a lion’s head in another.”
The late Charlie Elliott, an Outdoor Life field editor, claimed those great bear stories enchanted hunters. Charlie always said that the bear would continue to intrigue readers. Every man buries a terrible fear in his psyche. Charlie was the enormous Kodiaks of the salmon streams in the far northwest and its close cousin, the silvertip grizzly.
“This huge creature of the hinterlands has been the king of its domain forever and has no fear of anything, including man,” said field editor Charlie Elliott. “Some of my closest escapes in hunting have involved the grizzly. I have been within a few yards of the huge Silvertips several times and two at such close range that had not my 220-grain ball broken them down instantly; I might have spent the start of my afterlife as a human rug on some rocky den floor.”
I have a buddy who shot a black bear at our deer camp in New York. He would not even approach the downed bear until a couple of buddies showed. “Maybe he was still alive,” he confessed. “I was just plain scared,” he admitted. Bears will do that to us hunters.
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