By MEGAN HOLLAND
Anchorage Daily News
April 18, 2007
The bear had just barely woken up from its winter slumber when Keogh shot it as it emerged from a brushy den on the side of a snowy mountain in the Oshetna River valley.
But as Keogh and his hunting partner approached and Keogh began pulling the dead bear clear of the winter den, the situation quickly turned from the perfect spring day hunt to a nightmare: From within the grizzly's winter hideaway, they heard the unmistakable deep growl of another bear.
Seconds later, the second animal charged out of the den straight for Keogh.
The hunter was able to fire one round from his rifle before the bear was on him. It bit Keogh from his legs up to his scalp and was chewing on his head when Keogh's hunting partner, Ray Bendixen, fired three rounds into the grizzly's skull. He shot it dead with a small-caliber rifle meant to kill vermin.
"There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Ray saved my life," Keogh said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his Anchorage home, where he is recuperating.
Keogh, a 42-year-old hunting and fishing guide, was out for a casual day hunt Friday with his longtime friend when the mauling occurred. The pair were on snowmobiles and were in familiar territory.
After Keogh and Bendixen spotted the den and the animal, they watched through binoculars for close to five hours before they moved in closer to shoot it, they said. Both men say they only saw the one bear. Tracks also seemed to show one bear.
Keogh snowshoed closer to the animal, and when he was about 100 yards away killed it with his rifle.
They estimated the male to be about 3 years old and 6 feet tall, weighing about 400 pounds.
"At this point, that there was a second bear wasn't even a consideration," said Keogh, who grew up in Alaska and has a fair amount of experience hunting bears.
"That's when we heard the growl," said Bendixen, whose rifle was packed about 20 feet away on his snowmobile.
When the second animal emerged, the hunters acted quickly. But the bear, likely the dead bear's mother, was quicker.
Keogh grabbed his rifle and shot it once - a round that went in the left shoulder and through to its left hind leg. The bear, a female that the hunters said was larger than the dead one, went for Keogh. He tried to reload, but he wasn't quick enough.
"Somewhere pretty quick I lost that rifle out of my hand," Keogh said. "At that point, there was nothing I could do."
Bendixen had run back to the snowmobile to recover his gun. He took what Alaska Wildlife Trooper Jon Simeon would later describe as "three awesome, well-placed shots," at the bear's head.
The hunters knew they would need help and headed to an abandoned cabin about five miles away, Bendixen said.
Keogh used his satellite phone to call his son in Anchorage. His son called for help, and a LifeGuard Air Ambulance helicopter rescued Keogh.
He was treated for his wounds and released from the hospital.
Distributed to subscribers for publication by
Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.scrippsnews.com
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