Rod McAllister, owner of the Comfort Inn in Gardiner outside Yellowstone, has hunted big game his entire life. But earlier this month he set off in pursuit of a beast he hadn’t yet slain—an Alaskan brown bear.
Ultimately, McAllister got his bear. But it was a quest that nearly killed the 54-year-old father of four.
Hunting near Judd Lake and the Talachulitna River, roughly 180 miles northwest of Anchorage, McAllister says he saw between 20 and 30 bears every day, mostly sows and cubs.
On Oct. 17, after nearly a week of patience and persistence in the backcountry with a professional guide, McAllister got what he came for—an enormous boar, measuring 11 feet and 4 inches from nose to tail.
“We’d been trying to get him for six days,” McAllister says. “Since these bears feed [on salmon] at night, we only had a small window…we had to get him just before he went in or as he came out.”
As luck would have it, as they walked in on the bear he charged full speed. “As he was coming at us I didn’t even think,” McAllister says. “I threw my gun up and shot him, breaking both of his shoulders. Then I just kept shooting until I was sure he was dead.”
The next morning, after all the bears retreated into the woods, McAllister and his guide returned to claim the kill.
“That’s when I got light-headed…I had to sit down because the whole world was spinning. I was rolling around screaming like a little girl,” he says with a chuckle.
The pure excitement McAllister felt at that moment led to a massive heart attack and an emergency airlift to an Anchorage hospital.
Although he has made a full recovery, the bear he killed the night before had come uncomfortably close to returning the favor.
Despite his near death experience and an extremely disgruntled wife, McAllister says it was definitely worth it.
“It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done in my life,” he says.