Conrad Boyes owes his life to his semi-automatic rifle.
He used it to fire off two quick .30-calibre rounds that hit a charging grizzly bear at close range, fatally wounding the animal, but not before it mauled him.
The attack occurred late in the morning of Sept. 5, while the 59-year-old native of Vanderhoof was hunting elk near remote Kluachesi Lake, about 140 kilometres southwest of Fort Nelson.
"I came to a bit of an opening and heard this noise and stopped and saw this big grizzly bear standing on her hind feet about 15 or 20 feet away, and she let out a big roar and first thing you know she's coming at me full-bore," said Boyes.
"I flipped my rifle down off my shoulder, took the safety off and didn't have a chance to aim, I just pulled the trigger. I got two shots off and she was on me. She bit my right thigh and put two holes in me about the size of a toonie an inch-and-a-half deep. When I sat up, she started swatting me on the head and I put my arms up over my head to protect my eyes. She got my head in her mouth and crunched down on my left-hand jaw and busted it all to heck."
At that point, Boyes felt an adrenaline surge and reached into the bear's mouth and managed to pry it open. The bear was attacking from the side and broke Boyes's left thumb and bit his other hand. Boyes was able to get both feet against the bear's chest and kicked hard enough to get away from it. The first bullet he fired hit the bear in the paw and the second went through the shoulder and entered the chest area, travelling through the lungs and heart.
"She just rolled on her forefeet and crawled away," said Boyes. "I could hear gurgling coming from her chest and I knew she was pretty well dying. If I wouldn't have had a semi-automatic I wouldn't be here to tell the story. She crawled off into the brush and I never saw her again.
"I knew I had to get to the camp, because it's a big vast valley and nobody knew exactly where I was. By the time I got there I was weak because I'd lost a lot of blood."
Boyes walked 45 minutes and groggily stumbled into the camp, where his sister, Janet Turnbull, administered first aid, using a cloth to swab coagulating blood out of his mouth and throat to keep him from choking. Boyes' s oldest brother David was also at the camp with his plane, which the family uses every year to return to the same spot for hunting, and eventually made radio contact with a passing 747 jetliner, which relayed the emergency call to Fort Nelson. Four hours later, a helicopter crew arrived with paramedics on board and he was flown to Fort Nelson and sedated for a jet ride to University Hospital in Edmonton. He spent the next two weeks in hospital before returning to Vanderhoof last week.
Boyes, a lifelong hunter who owns a trucking company in Vanderhoof, vows the incident won't keep him from picking up his favourite hobby again next year.
"Hopefully we'll be back up there hunting next fall," said Boyes. "I was born and raised in the bush and I've hunted all my life and this is the first time something like this happened."