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Injured grizzly attacks hunter
HARROWING: Woman kills bear at close range as it attacked her husband.

By Peter Porco
Anchorage Daily News

(Published: September 14, 2002)
In 35 years of hunting, Larry J. Miller of Wasilla has seen 100 bear kills, he said, including 10 of his own. But he'd never before seen the fight in a wounded bear like the grizzly his wife killed early this week as it was attacking him.

The day before, Miller shot the bear twice from 200 yards, ripping out flesh and shattering bones but apparently leaving the bear strong enough to walk away bleeding puddles in the alders of a mountainside near the Denali Highway.

The bear did not die until the following day as they searched for the animal, and not until Larry's 50-year-old wife, Brinda Miller, shot it three more times in the chest at close range with a .338-caliber rifle while it tangled with her husband.

Miller didn't know how the animal was able to stand and keep charging him.

While skinning it afterward, the couple saw that "the bear's heart wasn't even there," he said. "The part that holds your shoulders together, it was just demolished."

Larry Miller's right calf was punctured a few times by the bear's teeth, but he suffered no other injuries. His wife was unhurt.

"There ain't a man alive that done what she done," he said about his wife, a 100-pound woman he calls his "hunting buddy."

Miller, who'll be 53 later this month, and his wife and their dog were after caribou near Butte Lake, a few miles south of Mile 40 on the Denali Highway. On Monday, after riding six-wheel off-road vehicles to a spot where they'd seen numerous caribou, Miller shot a big one, he said.

They dressed the animal and took it a quarter-mile to a small unnamed lake on the mountain. It was about 4 p.m., and Miller looked down and saw the grizzly eating berries in an open patch.

"My wife says, 'You gonna shoot it?' 'I don't know,' " he said. "We spent an hour looking at it."

The winds were strong, however, and Miller feared the bear would soon catch their scent, so he decided to shoot it, he said. In telling the story, he always referred to the bear as a "him," knowing, as they found out later, it was a sow.

"I popped him, hit him right above his shoulders," he said. The bear ran in a panicked circle. Miller fired again. He would learn later his second shot hit it in the leg. The bear disappeared in the alders, and the Millers waited a spell before heading down.

In the berry patch, they found "meat the size of a tennis ball, and whole pieces of bone I shot out of him," said Miller.

"You ain't never seen so much blood in your life," Miller said. "I said, 'He's got to be dead."'

The blood trail ended, however, near a creek coming down from the lake.

"Man, this ain't good," Miller remembered thinking. "We'll come back in the morning and he'll be dead, and we'll take care of him then."

They rode eight miles to camp near the highway and hung the caribou meat. Next morning, they were back above the alders. Looking down to where the bear's trail ran out, they saw a small flock of ravens.

"He's dead right there," Miller said. "Not a problem."

They shed rain gear, coveralls and other heavy clothing and headed down into the alders. For 40 minutes, they zigzagged but without a sign of the grizzly. "Well, I've had enough," he said. "We need to get out of here. Something ain't right."

They returned to where Miller first shot it and spent an hour searching through the alders. Their dog, a Russian bear dog, said Miller, was ahead of them and now came tearing back, followed by the sow that Miller says he didn't really see clearly until it was on top of him.

"The noise it made, like nothing you've ever heard -- snapping, snapping, snapping. This happened in two seconds. He knew who I was. He could smell my guns or the caribou meat on me, something."

The bear hit him and he fell back and started kicking as the grizzly tried to bite his face and neck, he said. He struggled to take the safety off of his rifle, a powerful .458. The bear was biting him across his calf.

He yelled for his wife to shoot. The final act in the two-day drama occurred as man, woman and bear struggled in a tight cluster no farther from each other than 5 feet, Miller said.

"She stuck the gun over my face and fired." The stunned bear hung back, breathing froth and spurting blood. "There was this horrible noise out of his throat," Miller said.

"The next time he grabbed me between the ankle and calf and picked me up and shook me like I was a half-a-pound kid."

Miller was only a few feet from the bear's chest and his wife was afraid she'd hit him, but she fired again.

"She's not even aiming," he said. "She's just pointing like you point a stick at the big part of his body. Every time she pulled the trigger, he'd put me down."

The third hit finished the grizzly but not before it stood swaying and finally fell forward.

Brinda Miller started to cry.

"I told her, 'You did good, you did good,' " he said.

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lucky man, everybody needs a Brinda. i too am very lucky, in that my wife is also my best friend, and hunting and fishing buddy. And as the sayin goes, Hades hath no fury like a ticked off woman.
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