The town of Hoonah, Alaska, has a hero in its midst – quick-thinking, sharp-shooting 11-year-old, Elliot Clark.
The Juneau Empire reports that on June 18, Elliot, his cousin, his uncle, Craig Stoltzfus, and Stoltzfus’ father, accompanied by three family dogs, were out for a day of fishing in Port Frederick, several miles south of Hoonah. They were walking through the woods near Game Creek when a brown bear charged at them. Of the four fishermen, only two were armed – Elliot and his uncle.
Though he was not present to witness his son’s quick skills, Elliot’s father, Lucas Clark, recounted the events leading up to the shooting. His account was corroborated by Alaska State Troopers.
“There was four of them in a line … my son was third,” Clark said in a telephone interview with the Juneau Empire. The first two people were Stoltzfus and his father. “The bear came down the trail at them,” the senior Clark continued.
“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.”
Both men were pushed to the side of the trail by the charging bear, who now faced Elliot and his unarmed cousin behind him. The young man raised his shotgun and shot the bear four times.
“His first shot was a light load of birdshot,” usually meant to scare bears off, said his father, a bear hunting guide by profession. “That first shot hit him in the shoulder and did absolutely nothing. The next shot hit him in the nose and travelled down through the neck,” he continued. The third shot, he said, hit the bear’s shoulder and back, causing the animal to fall to the ground. The Juneau Empire reports that when Elliot fired the third time, “The bear was so close, there were powder burns on the bear’s mouth. Still alive, the bear then slid by Elliot’s feet.” Elliot shot it once more, this time killing the animal and securing his and his family’s safety. His uncle finished the bear off with one more round.
Clark credited his son’s ability to act so quickly with lots of training and the fact that Elliot was holding his gun, rather than carrying it slung over his shoulder.
Clark explained that he had not yet put a sling on his son’s shotgun, and so “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.”
Alaska State Trooper spokesperson, Megan Peters, confirmed to the Juneau Empire that “this was the first Defense of Life or Property (DLP) killing in the Hoonah area this year.”
The area is known for its population of bears. In 2016, according to the Juneau Empire article, “Between Alaska Wildlife Troopers and Hoonah Police Department, three brown bears were killed in DLP in the Hoonah area last summer and fall. In one of those killings, Hoonah man, Josh Dybdahl, was bitten in the leg and almost killed before his hunting partner was able to shoot the bear.”
Elliot’s family had seen bears in the area a few days prior to the June 18 incident and so, were carrying guns for protection. Because they live in “bear country,” the elder Clark said safety and caution must always be observed.
“It’s not just a matter of skill or preparedness,” he said.
“It can happen to anybody and it can go wrongly, especially [for] a kid. We pray for our kids every day and in my mind, that’s the biggest factor right there.”
Elliot declined an interview, according to the Juneau Empire article, but commenters on his story are commending his fast thinking and top notch skills. “Well done!” many applaud, others are calling him a “hero.” One commenter said that he is an “impressive young man with a cool head and more than one guardian angel!” Another said that his experience was a lesson to all about safety in the wild, while one Twitter user proclaimed, “Elliot Clark is my new spirit animal!”
[Featured Image by aragami123345/Thinkstock]