In 1954 when I was 16 and a junior at Highland High (Alb., NM) I went bear hunting with my dad (an FBI agent), Delf “Jelly” Bryce (Special Agent in Charge – Alb., NM), Mckinley Co. NM sheriff Kelse Presley and FBI agent Paul Dorris who took the pictures.
We were hunting on the Navajo Res. North of Whiskey Lake (Chuska mtns.) and had seen a great deal of bear sign, including some large ones. While strung out single file walking through a thick patch of oaks with me in the lead I suddenly saw two bear about 10 yds. to my right, took quick aim with my Mannlicher-Schoenauer 30-06, fired and cleanly missed! Both bears took off towards where I knew they would have to cross a clearing so I also took off after them in an attempt to get a shot when they were in the open. As I ran I immediately heard a shot behind me where I knew Delf Bryce to be and assumed he had fired at one of the same bears I had seen.
I quickly reached the clearing but both bears had already crossed and disappeared into the brush. As I walked back the hundred yards or so to where I first saw the bears I heard another shot. Upon returning to where I had shot I saw my empty case and about 8 feet from it lay a fair sized female bear (very dead) with Delf standing over her and the rest of the hunting party arriving at the scene.
What had happened according to Delf, who was walking 20-30 yards behind me, was that I had walked past a mother bear without seeing her and came abreast of her two fully grown cubs. Delf said the cubs were probably 2yrs old and almost as large as their mother (old enough to look after themselves, thankfully). As soon as I fired the mother bear turned and came for me and I never saw her. The shot I heard was Delf shooting the bear about 5 paces behind me and the last shot was a finisher. I don’t remember how much the old she-bear weighed but we had to borrow a horse from Hastein Manuel Nez Tah, Kelse Presley’s local contact, to get her to our truck. I’d guess 250-275 lbs.
I was fortunate to have Delf Bryce behind me or I may have been worked over by a very angry bear. Delf was famous in the FBI for his shooting demonstrations and his having killed several outlaws in his career with the Oklahoma PD as well as the FBI.There are lessons to be learned here but I’ll let you pick them out – I certainly did!
— George Franklin, SCI Member and Treasurer of NNMSCI