Lights, Camera, Alaskan Action!

November 30, 2009

As the floatplane glided across the dense forest from Ketchikan to the coastal town of
Craig, Alaska, I followed its small shadow. I turned to my seatmate to comment on the
breathtaking view, but I quickly realized by the way she clenched the back of her
husband’s seat she might not share my level of excitement. I didn’t blame her.

My excitement had done nothing but skyrocket since Alan Lotton, of Sims Vibration
Laboratory, invited me to hunt black bear on Prince of Wales Island. Alan assured me an
adventure of a lifetime, and to add to my excitement, my spot and stalk hunt would be
filmed for a TV show on the Outdoor Channel!

After weeks of shooting practice at the range and deliveries of gear from sponsors that
would challenge my packing skills, I joined Alan and the crew during the last week of
April on the Eldorado, a fifty-eight foot steel-hulled boat that had been refurbished into a
floating hunt camp. Rick, the videographer, filmed Alan welcoming me at the dock and
crewmember Jimmy who took us back to the Eldorado in the small skiff. On board, I met
Captain Mike, the older brother of Steve Sims, president and owner of Sims Vibration
Laboratory; Chris, a fellow hunter and Sims Lab employee; and Kevin, the cook.

The first order of business was Captain Mike’s safety meeting where again the camera
rolled as Chris and I practiced putting on the cumbersome, life-saving neoprene survival
suits. Captain Mike had almost convinced us that we had to have to jump in the water to
fully test the suits – until I caught Alan’s sly wink.

Back in the galley, Kevin served a mouth-watering dinner of spaghetti and Dungeness
crab, hauled in from the sea that afternoon. Soon, I crawled into my bunk where not even
the boat’s roaring engines kept me from falling asleep.

The next morning, I was awakened by the crew moving about as they readied the boat for
our eight-hour voyage to the southeast part of Prince of Wales Island, our hunting
destination. Captain Mike reminded us that our departure time was critical. We had to
sail through a particularly challenging section called the Tlevak Narrows, and the
changing tides made the window of opportunity for safe passage slim. While the crew
loaded the skiff and refueled the Eldorado, Alan, Chris, Rick and I made a quick run to
the local sporting goods store for our licenses and last minute supplies.

The day-long sail took us successfully down through the lush timber of the Tlevak Strait,
into Cordova Bay and turned back north toward the South Prince of Wales Wilderness.
Captain Mike piloted the Eldorado into the protected Klakas Inlet and dropped anchor in
calm Max Cove.

The crew unloaded the skiff and we cruised the coves for bears before dinner. I was
thrilled to spot two different bears feeding along the rocky beaches, but was unable to get
close enough to either for a comfortable shot. “That’s OK,” Alan encouraged. “We’ve
got plenty of time, but that was a good trial run to go through to get the feel of what’s
going to take place.”

A full moon hung over the Eldorado in the night air and we listed to the crew’s favorite
Seattle bands filled the night air. Rick and I filmed schools of tiny squid attracted to the
boat’s floodlights. They left inky trails when startled by my camera’s flash
Once again, Kevin amazed us with steak and shitake mushroom caps filled with fresh
crab. Back in my bunk, I set my alarm for 4:30 and within minutes was rocked to sleep
by soothing waves, dreaming of bears.

The next morning, after a quick sound check of the camera microphones, we glassed the
coves and inlets in earnest for bears. By mid-morning, the only creature we had spotted
was a Sitka black-tailed doe, a stockier cousin of the mule deer. She stayed bedded down
on the bank in the warm spring sun for a few pictures before slipping off into the thick

As Jimmy guided the skiff slowly around a rocky outcropping, Alan suddenly snatched
up the binoculars. “There’s a bear,” he whispered. “Up in that cove.” Jimmy eased the
boat toward shore, gently bumping the hull on the beach. Rick grabbed his camera, I
grabbed my Remington 700 and Alan led us across the slippery kelp-covered rocks.

At first all I could see were the bear’s feet as it rounded the tree-lined cove some two
hundred yards away. I settled down into a rocky crevice, planting my rifle’s barrel on a
small stuffed knapsack to steady it. The bear appeared and ambled right towards us,
lifting his nose occasionally to sniff the overhanging branches. All I heard Alan say was,
“You’re in control now. Take your time.” At 75 yards, I put the crosshairs on the bear as
it took one last step towards me before quartering away. The force of my .300 caliber
bullet sent it bucking across the beach where it dropped into a heap.

“Bear down!” and “Nice shot, Beth!” shouted Chris and Jimmy. Alan slapped my
shoulder. “Good job!”

“I did it! I knew I could do it,” I gasped.

With a huge grin, Alan turned toward Rick’s camera. “We’re up here in Alaska with
Beth Ann Amico on her first black bear hunt,” he started. “And she didn’t waste any

“I have to ask you,” he continued. “What did you think when he was coming straight at
you? Did you wonder if he wasn’t going to give you a broadside shot?”

Still gulping for air, I tried to find the words to describe my thoughts, but couldn’t take
my eyes off the bear.

Alan gave me a high-five. “Let’s go see your bear! You lead the way.”

Once across the rocks, we knelt down beside the fallen bear to continue the interview and
take pictures. Again, I tried to answer Alan’s questions, but all I really wanted was to
soak in the enormity of the bear’s head and paws, putting my hand across them for

Jimmy brought the skiff around and the four men loaded the bear onto the bow of the
boat. In no time we were back at the Eldorado. We let Rick off so that he could film us
pulling alongside the boat and hoisting the bear onto the deck with the hydraulic lift.
The video of the hunt was the crew’s lunchtime entertainment. Everyone agreed that
Rick did a great job capturing my reaction to the shot. Later, Kevin skinned the bear and
gave me the bullet he found buried in its butter-colored fat.

The remainder of my week on the Eldorado was equally amazing. I fished for blaze
orange goldeneye rockfish, caught and release lingcod and went sightseeing. Our trip
back to Craig was filled with sightings of more bears, eagles, seals and orcas. We filmed
some additional scenes, or b-roll as it’s called, thanking Steve Sims, the many sponsors,
and wrapping up the trip.

And all too soon it was over. Hundreds of photos and a small silver bear charm from the
airport gift shop were the only tangible evidence of my adventure until a few weeks later,
when I received copies of the raw video.

After couple of months had passed, my bear’s skull and hide arrived for my taxidermist
to turn into a rug and the episode titled “Bear Island” aired on the Outdoor Channel. I
was even a celebrity one day when the local pharmacist recognized me from the show.
It truly was an adventure of a lifetime, just as Allan had promised, and the images of my
first black bear will be with me forever.