It was about 10:30 or 11 a.m., and they were hiking out, about 500 yards from their ATVs parked next to the road.
Wilkins said he was in the lead coming down the old logging trail.
“‘Aaron, Aaron!’” Walker said. “‘What’s that?’”
“‘That’s a grizzly,’” Wilkins replied, and they started walking toward their ATVs.
The grizzly was within 50 yards and walking parallel to them. Wilkins said he thinks it was an adult sow grizzly, judging by its narrower and smaller head.
“Its head came up,” Wilkins said. “It came up looking right at me.”
The bear’s ears where pinned back, and it was crouched low to the ground, “locked on me,” Wilkins said.
“I remember the jaws popping and the mouth twisting. It came like a missile,” Walker said.
“My heart went into my shoes when that happened,” Wilkins said. “I thought, ‘Now I’m going to find out what it’s like to be mauled by a grizzly.’”
He pulled his .44 magnum pistol and aimed the handgun right at the bear’s nose. He planned to fire when the sow was within pistol range, but reassessed the situation: “‘If I kill this bear the investigation is going to be a nightmare,’” Wilkins thought.
The bear took mere seconds to charge 45 yards, Wilkins said.
“It was insanely fast,” Walker said.
The grizzly stopped at 15 yards, stood on its hind legs for a moment, then dropped to all fours.
He intentionally fired one round over its head, Wilkins said.
Walker was armed with a .44 too, but he said he couldn’t shoot because Wilkins was standing in his field of fire.
The bear turned and walked about 10 yards up the hill into the timber. Then it came again. Rather than shooting, he screamed at the bear, Wilkins said.
The bear withdrew again, but remained visible in the trees.
The bear eased up the hill a bit, but it was walking more or less parallel to them, Wilkins said.
The timber was dense and they glimpsed the grizzly only sporadically, Wilkins said.
“Which was an eery feeling because you know any second...” Walker said.
The guys hightailed to the four-wheelers.
When they had nearly reached their ATVs, Wyoming Game and Fish Department Powell Game Warden Chris Queen arrived. They gave Queen a recap of the incident.
Bear spray would not have been effective until the bear closed within 10 yards. So even if they could have deployed the aerosol, it would have been on top of Wilkins in a split second as well, Walker said.
Neither carries pepper spray anyway. Forty-fours: “That’s our bear spray,” Walker said.
The rest of the day the guys scouted from their ATVs, Walker said.
Wilkins’ wife, Cheryl, doesn’t want him to hunt alone, and Wilkins said he has learned not to lower his guard even when the vehicles are within sight.
Both men said it would be a long time before they hiked any narrow, tree-line logging trails again.
“Whatever we did right or wrong, we walked away from it, so we didn’t do anything too wrong,” Wilkins said.