Armed 11-Year Old Boy Saves Fishing Party From Charging Bear

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 2 months ago

Juneau Empire:

Quick action from a Hoonah boy saved a fishing party from a charging brown bear on June 18, the Empire has learned through Alaska State Troopers and family members.

It was the first Defense of Life or Property (DLP) killing in the Hoonah area this year, according to trooper spokesperson Megan Peters.

When the attack occurred, Elliot Clark, then 11 years old, was walking through the woods near Game Creek in Port Frederick several miles south of Hoonah. The young outdoorsman was heading to a nearby fishing hole with his uncle, Craig Stoltzfus, Stoltzfus’ father, a cousin and three dogs.

Stoltzfus and Elliot Clark were armed when a brown bear came out of the woods, charging the group head on. The other members of the party were not armed.

Lucas Clark, Elliot’s father and himself a bear hunting guide, told the story in a Tuesday phone interview with the Empire. Elliot Clark declined to be interviewed at this time.

Lucas Clark was in Washington state at the time of the attack, but his account squares with that from Alaska State Troopers, who investigate DLP killings in Alaska. Stoltzfus couldn’t be reached for this story.

“There was four of them in a line … my son was third,” Clark said. “The bear came down the trail at them, fella in the front, who was his uncle, the bear was on him so quickly that he didn’t have time to take his rifle off his shoulder.”

The bear ran through the first two men, who were pushed to the side of the trail, leaving Elliot Clark in front of his unarmed cousin. The boy raised his pump action shotgun and shot the sow, hitting it with birdshot, which is often used just to scare bears off, Lucas Clark said.

“His first shot was a light load of birdshot. That first shot hit him in the shoulder and did absolutely nothing. The next shot hit him in the nose and traveled down through the neck,” Lucas Clark said.

The third shot went into the bear’s shoulder and his back, dropping it to the ground. The bear was so close when Elliot hit it with his third shot, there were powder burns on the bear’s mouth. Still alive, the bear then slid by Elliot’s feet.

“As the bear slid past him and came to a stop, he put a kill shot it him,” Lucas Clark said.

Stoltzfus finished it off with another round.

The moment could have turned out differently. Lucas Clark hadn’t gotten around to putting a sling on his son’s shotgun, leaving the 11-year-old to carry it in his hands. He credits this and a lot of shooting practice with preparing Elliot for the moment.

“He was carrying it in his hands rather than on his shoulder. That was the problem with the other ones, when the bear came at his uncle, he had his rifle on his shoulder and the bear was very close, so he couldn’t get it off in time,” Lucas Clark said.

Just the day before, Elliot still had a plug in his shotgun, meaning his gun only carried three rounds: the “topround” of birdshot and two slugs. He had taken the plug out the day before, Lucas Clark said, after calling his father to ask permission to do so.

The family had seen bear in the area for a few days, and had been carrying guns for protection.

This inspiring story leads to as many questions as it answers in the brief article.  The report hints that the first round was bird shot and the remainder of the tube magazine had slugs, but it isn’t clear.  It would be nice to know this for sure.  Also, what gauge shotgun was he carrying?  That has the appearance of a 20 rather than a 12.  If this young man is going to be traipsing around in the Alaskan bush, give him a 12 gauge, Dad.  He’s ready.

This is what I’ve heard about being in the bush in this part of the states.  The low ready position is the most prepared, and if your weapon is slung on your back you may not have time to react to the threat a bear poses.  Finally, why were the other members of the party not armed?  There is absolutely no way I would be in the Alaskan bush without being armed, preferably with a rifle or shotgun (with slugs in the tube magazine), or a large bore sidearm like a .460 S&W, .454 Casull, .44 magnum or at least .357 magnum wheel gun.

In any case, congratulations to young Mr. Clark. and kudos for your bravery.  You are a legend in the making.  For the rest of your life, men will want to buy you drinks to tell them your story again.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. On July 3, 2017 at 8:25 am, Fred said:

    “The bear ran through the first two men, who were pushed to the side of the trail”

    I would be interested to know if the unarmed cousin behind young Mr. Clark was carrying dead game or if the bear just wanted the trail. At any rate, bravo sir.

  2. On July 3, 2017 at 9:52 am, John Irwin Reston said:

    A properly stoked 20 ga. is plenty of weapon for a boy this size. Had he been carrying a 12 ga. it might have been too heavy and unless he’s been schooled extensively in their use, a handgun would have been useless for him.

    A large bore revolver like the .460 or .454 and even the .44 Magnum is a handful for anyone, including those who shoot them often.

    If I were inclined to sally forth into the Alaskan bush I would chose a double rifle, probably in .375 HH. Doubles are known world wide to be the platform for handling dangerous game up close and though the recoil is tough and noticeable, things like that tend to get lost in time and space in a dangerous situation.

  3. On July 3, 2017 at 9:55 am, Herschel Smith said:


    I wasn’t suggesting that the boy carry a large bore revolver. I had changed the subject by then. I am suggesting that the other members of the party were irresponsible for going into the bush unarmed with something like that.

  4. On July 3, 2017 at 10:16 am, Diamond Mair said:

    Mmmmm, a question (or six)? It’s confusing, as the bear is referred to as a “he”, but also as a sow (ie, female), therefore, cubs are a definite possibility, as sows are known for their maternal protectiveness – was there any effort to locate possible cubs, to preclude their starving to death/falling victim to predators? NOT knocking the young man’s courage/quick response in a very adrenaline-dump situation, though I’m the first to admit I’m not crazy about hunting (exposure to too many IDIOTS who hung strictly for trophies, or who wound, then don’t bother to track & ‘finish off’ an animal).
    Semper Fi’

  5. On July 3, 2017 at 10:22 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Hmm … very interesting. I hadn’t noticed that about the report. The bear is referred to as “him.” Good eye. I suspect it was a sow and had cubs, but chalk this up to more sloppy reporting.

  6. On July 3, 2017 at 12:45 pm, Archer said:

    @Diamond Mair & Herschel: The bear is universally referred to as “it” by the reporter. It’s only called “him” when quoting the interviewees.

    I’d chalk it up to colloquialisms: bears are “him” unless cubs are alongside, and then it’s “mama”.

    For reference (because everyone I’ve ever met does this): think about mosquitoes. One bites at you and you swat “him”, right? But only female mosquitoes bite; males eat plant matter. It’s similar with bees; anyone stung complains, “He got me!” But male bees rarely leave the hive and don’t have stingers anyway, so if you get stung, it’s by a female.

    Any stinging/biting/aggressive behavior, and we instinctively use the male pronoun regardless of the biological facts. Colloquialism.

  7. On July 3, 2017 at 6:38 pm, The Alaskan said:

    This spring/summer up here in Alaska, we’ve already had two fatal bear/human encounters. One, a sixteen year old teenager in the Anchorage bowl area, running a race on a well used trail, attacked and killed by a black bear.

    Another, a girl a week or two latter, walking with a friend at a mine where they both worked; both were attacked by a black bear. One girl had bear spray and was slightly injured and able to escape. The other girl was killed and her body was drug away to be consumed by the bear.

    Other attacks without fatalities (maulings) have also been happening with more than normal frequency it seems. There’s a new story of a black bear breaking into a boy’s bedroom window in Juneau while he slept, and another where a black bear visited a liquor store…also in Juneau. )

    I’m with ya there brother when it comes to being armed while in the bush. I am always armed…in the bush or in town…with the idea that it’ll be a bear that will test me. My selection of carry arms bear that in mind.

    As to bear species, blacks are more known to stalk, kill, and eat humans. Brownies aren’t usually aggressive, especially when the salmon are running. They don’t like to be run off their streams however, and all bears have the right of way. People run into trouble by not being ,*bear aware* and only fools tramp around the bush unarmed and “pushy” around bears. I’ve seen groups of fishermen run bears out of their favorite or wanted new, fishing holes. And of course, sows with cubs is a no brainer…but you’d be surprised at the idiocy up here.

    Grizzlies (where I live, in the interior), well, they’re just plain ole mean and unpredictable.

    The boy in Hoonah did good. A 20 slugged up and placed right…and in the right hands.

  8. On July 3, 2017 at 11:36 pm, StillSworn said:

    The thousand yard stare tells of a journey. This man faced death, stood up and defeated it. May God continue to bless him.

  9. On July 5, 2017 at 9:48 am, Longbow said:

    God bless this young man!

  10. On July 7, 2017 at 7:45 pm, Lt. Greyman, NVA said:

    Jeff Cooper used to say of the look a man got from “staring into the eyes of the Elephant”. Well, that kid has that stare.

    Bless him.

    Say Dad, you think you might get him a Model 29 Smith for Christmas? Or a Benelli M4.

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This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Guns and was published July 2nd, 2017 by Herschel Smith.

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