Elliot Clark, pictured with gun, poses with the hide of a brown bear that charged a group of hunters near Hoonah. (Photo courtesy Sen. Shelley Hughes’ Facebook page)

Elliot Clark, pictured with gun, poses with the hide of a brown bear that charged a group of hunters near Hoonah. (Photo courtesy Sen. Shelley Hughes’ Facebook page)

Armed 11-year-old boy saves fishing party from charging bear

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.

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.

Lucas Clark said the family practices caution and safety when it comes to living in bear country. But nobody can control mother nature, and no amount of preparedness can guarantee safety.

“It’s not just a matter of skill or preparedness. It can happen to anybody and it can go wrongly, especially a kid,” Lucas Clark said. “We pray for our kids every day and in my mind that’s the biggest factor right there.”

 


 

• Contact reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or kevin.gullufsen@juneauempire.com

 


 

Armed 11-year-old boy saves fishing party from charging bear

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Jan. 29

Bus drivers picket outside the bus barn in Wasilla, Alaska on Jan. 26, 2023. Bus drivers in Alaska’s second-largest school district have gone on strike after delivering students to classes on Tuesday,  Jan. 31, citing unfair labor practices. (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News)
Mat-Su school bus drivers strike

ANCHORAGE — Bus drivers in Alaska’s second-largest school district went on strike… Continue reading

The Juneau School District’s recently announced its new directors of teaching and learning support and student services who are set to start in their positions in July. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
District selects new directors for teaching and learning support and student services

The new directors will take over their roles in the district in July.

The final Boeing 747 lands at Paine Field following a test flight, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, in Everett, Wash. Boeing bids farewell to an icon on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023, when it delivers the jumbo jet to cargo carrier Atlas Air. Since it debuted in 1969, the 747 has served as a cargo plane, a commercial aircraft capable of carrying nearly 500 passengers, and the Air Force One presidential aircraft, but it has been rendered obsolete by more profitable and fuel-efficient models. (Jennifer Buchanan / The Seattle Times)
Boeing bids farewell to an icon, delivers last 747 jumbo jet

SEATTLE — Boeing bid farewell to an icon on Tuesday: It’s delivering… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

President Joe Biden talks with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, after returning from an event in Baltimore on infrastructure. (AP Photo / Susan Walsh)
Biden to end COVID-19 emergencies on May 11

The move would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response.

Carla Casulucan, shareholder relations manager for Huna Totem Corp., gives public testimony Monday night in support of the Huna Totem development and urged the city to vote against an ordinance that would have allowed the city to spend $300,000 to help plan the location of a proposed cruise ship dock at the downtown subport. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire)
City decides against spending on cruise ship dock planning

Assembly votes down ordinance after more than a dozen public comments against it.

Eaglecrest Ski Patrol received a report of an avalanche in closed terrain in the East Bowl Chutes at 10:10 a.m. Thursday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Most Read