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Young Boy Saves Family from Charging Bear

A swift response by an armed 11-year-old boy walking to a fishing hole with his family in Hoonah, Alaska, saved them when he shot a brown bear that emerged from the woods and charged the group.

At the time of the attack, Elliot Clark was walking near Game Creek in Port Frederick with his uncle, Craig Stoltzfus, Stoltzfus’ father, a cousin and three dogs.

According to the Juneau Empire, Clark and Stoltzfus were the only two members of the group who were armed when a brown bear came out of the woods and charged at them.

Lucas Clark, Elliot’s father, who is a bear hunting guide, recounted the story for the Empire in a phone interview. Although Clark was in the state of Washington when the attack occurred, his story aligns with that of Alaska State Troopers.

“There was four of them in a line … my son was third,” Clark said. “The bear came down the trail at them. Fellow 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.”

Clark said the bear bushed the first two men to the side of the trail. The unarmed cousin was left standing behind Elliot Clark, who raised his pump-action shotgun and fired at the bear, striking it with birdshot, which is often used to simply scare bears off.

“His first shot was a light load of birdshot,” Clark said. “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.”

A third shot entered the bear’s shoulder and back, dropping it to the ground.

According to Clark, the bear was so close when his son hit it with his third shot that there were powder burns on the bear’s mouth. Even so, the bear was still alive, and it slid by Elliot’s feet.

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

“What bravery,” Alaska Sen. Shelley Hughes posted on her Facebook page, along with photos of the aftermath of the incident.

Stoltzfus fired an insurance round into the bear.

Had Clark found time to put a sling on Elliot’s shotgun, the outcome of the incident might have been different. Without a sling on the gun, Elliot was forced to carry it in his hands. Clark claims the absence of a sling and a lot of shooting practice prepared Elliot to protect himself and his family.

“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,” Clark said.

Until the day leading up to the incident, Elliot had a plug in his shotgun, meaning his gun only carried three rounds: the “top round” of birdshot and two slugs. After calling his father to ask permission, Elliot removed the plug the day before.

The family had been carrying guns for protection after seeing the bear in the area for several days.

“It’s not just a matter of skill or preparedness,” Clark said regarding the incident. “It can happen to anybody and it can go wrongly, especially a kid.

“We pray for our kids every day and, in my mind, that’s the biggest factor right there.”