Patience, luck bring trophy animals into Soldotna hunter's line of fire

Success follows 'country girl'

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2002

"Annie, Get Your Guns" is a Broadway musical about a rambunctious westerner woman with a remarkable talent for shooting. With the open of hunting season just around the corner, one Kenai Peninsula hunter who, in the past year, has displayed a talent for hunting could be hearing the call, "Mendi, get your guns."

"I'm a country girl," Webster said about her love of the wilderness and hunting.

With two big game kills under her belt last season -- make that really big game -- Soldotna resident Melinda "Mendi" Webster said those who put in the time

in the field will definitely bag their limit, regardless of the target.

"If you spend enough time in the woods, you're pretty much guaranteed to get one," she said of the black bears and moose to be had on the peninsula.

Last September, Webster bagged a 56-inch moose off of the Swanson River canoe trails near Swan Lake. This past May, during the Memorial Day weekend, she took a 6 1/2-foot black bear on the west side of Cook Inlet.

On both occasions, Webster took to the water to get to hunting ground, taking a canoe up the Swanson to bag the moose and boating across the inlet. She said searching for out of the way places is how she has come across her hefty kills.

"I'm out in places people don't normally go," Webster said. "People don't travel enough off the road."

On the moose expedition, she and her fiance Chris Frost, of Soldotna, took a canoe each up the river and stopped at a point where they would have to hike overland to a different river trail. She said they left one canoe and carted the second over the half mile portage to the next stream. After reaching mooring and hiking another mile, she remembered that she needed to forget something.

"I am superstitious, and I always like being prepared," Webster said. "But, if you're unprepared, that's when the big things always happen."

She said on the first day of the hunt they didn't see anything legal to kill, and she made a decision.

"I told Chris, 'I know, we have our hunting knife,'" Webster said.

They backtracked through the woods to the first canoe to leave the knife, and ended the day returning to their initial hunting ground.

On the return trip the next morning, the two spotted their prize.

"The moose was in rut, rubbing its antlers against a tree," Webster said. "Chris looked at it through the binoculars and said, 'You are not going to believe the size of this animal."

She stood and waited until the bull turned broadside and shot him right behind the shoulders. The moose ran about 20 yards, she said.

"And he was out for the count," Webster said. "I was like, see, I told you we needed to leave the knife ... but then we had to walk the 1/2 mile back for the knife."

Webster had to call her father and a friend to help them pack the nearly half-ton animal out of the woods. And she said she'd never seen one that size.

"There was no way you could move," she said. "It was just hard enough to just lift the leg to gut it. Just the front shoulder weighed (about) 150 pounds."

With the black bear, Webster and Frost took a friend's boat out of Homer to camp off the coast of the western shore. She said she stayed behind while Frost and his friend Brett Gesh went after a bear they spotted sleeping on a nearby mountainside.

They were unsuccessful in sneaking up on the creature and returned to their vessel -- but saw another in an open field on the way back.

"Chris told me about the bear and they dropped me on the beach," Webster said. "The bear was grazing, and the wind was blowing sideways in the middle of the field, so it wouldn't catch our scent. One time he stood up on his hind legs to smell the air, I thought he caught wind, but he didn't."

She crawled onto a mound about 200 yard from the animal and rested her weapon. When the animal turned, she said she shot and hit him between the shoulders.

"It was just like in the movies," she said. "He was flailing and was near the trees. I was afraid he'd run."

She shot two more times, catching the bear in the hindquarters with the second shot and in the foot with the third.

She said the bear died at about 10:30 that morning, but, as with the moose, she "forgot" her knife and had to go back to retrieve it.

"When we returned to the boat, it was high and dry because the tide was out," she said.

Webster said she never intended to go after the tremendous kills she garnered in the past year. They just came as part of a healthy string of fortune she's seen in the past year, including a 57-pound king she fished out of the Kasilof River two weeks ago and a 210-pound halibut she caught near Deep Creek last month.

"I've just had a really good year," she said. "I'm definitely not going out there looking for a trophy animal. I'm out there solely to fill my freezer. That's just the way it's worked out."

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