The legend of Bella Twin: Cree sharpshooter
Bella Twin’s story begins in 1890, where she was born in the Canadian wilderness into the Cree Nation. Growing up she not only collected and learned various Cree traditions, life skills and stories, but also learned how to hunt and trap. Over the years, she became known for her deadly aim and skinned hundreds, if not thousands of animals throughout her lifetime. Eventually, she chose to settle on Rabbit Hill in Slave Lake, Alberta.
Fast forward to May 10th, 1953: Bella was 63 years old and stood just under 5 feet in stature. She was out with her hunting partner and alleged love interest, Dave Auger, and wandered through an oil exploration cutline. Off in the distance, the pair noticed a grizzly headed in their direction; they ducked to the side of the cut and hid, hoping that the bear would continue on. However, as the bear got closer to where they were hiding, it began to sniff and continued approaching ever-closer. It was about 30 yards away (though some stories claim a much closer distance) when Bella did what any avid hunter would do: she took aim at the weakest part of the skull and shot once. The beast fell instantly and Bella approached and emptied her rifle into its head. This is actually very smart: it ensures the animal is actually dead and no longer a threat.
Crazy fact: there are only about 3 ways to shoot a bear and kill it quickly, the first being to aim right at its nose if it facing you. Secondly, if its mouth is open, you should target at the back of the roof of the bear's mouth; anywhere else above the nose will cause you to miss its brain. The third and far more complicated way is shooting from the side by marking halfway between the line from the center of the eye to the earhole. That specific spot is exactly what Bella hit the creature dead with one shot.
Even more enthralling is that Bella killed this bear with a Cooey Ace 1 single shot .22 rimfire, made between 1929 and 1934. The .22 isn’t known for its high velocity power. The bullets she used were .22 long cartridges, less powerful than the rifle and also a cheap buy. Bella’s rifle was also in poor condition. The screw holding the stock to the barrel was missing and had been held together with hockey tape; the stock was missing a piece by the receiver, a wood screw was holding together a crack in the stock. Furthermore, there was much deterioration on the stock and barrel. Ingeniously placed was a piece of rubber which served as a homemade method for free floating the barrel. In layman's terms, this piece kept the barrel and the stock from touching, increasing the rifle’s precision. All of this information can only lead us to one conclusion: Bella was an ingenious and extraordinarily talented hunter.
After the grand takedown of the massive grizzly, Bella was able to sell the hide, the gun and the skull separately and make a pretty hefty profit for the time. The gun is currently on display at the Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton. It is still in the exact same condition today as when Bella used it. The hide is stored at the same museum but is far too worn to be displayed to the public. The skull actually has a bit of a funny purchase history.
Dave Auger went back into the bush to retrieve it by request of Reinhold Eben-Ebenau, who was the original purchaser of the skull. Reinhold had shot a bear shortly before Bella had and sent its skull measurements to the Boone and Crockett Club. At that time, it was found that his bear was the biggest grizzly in North America. So after purchasing the skull from Bella, he sent those measurements in as well to find out who had shot the larger bear. Bella’s bear had beat his by a few centimeters. This set Bella as the new record holder for the largest grizzly in North America. The skull measurements were 16 9/16” long and 9 14/16” wide making the total score a whopping 26 7/16”. These measurements allowed for estimates that the bear itself was 9-10ft tall and 1400-1600lbs. Today, the skull is also on display at the Royal Alberta Museum. On the skull itself you will notice engravings that state the location, the date, as well as the record making measurements.
To further the reach of this woman, I would like to acknowledge the influence she had on her grandson, Larry Loyie. He was an award winning author whose most notable work, “As Long as The River Flows,” adapted a fictionalized version of Bella’s grizzly story into a portion of his book. Larry once stated that he had put her in the book because he felt that she was being forgotten and ”only remembered by readers of hunting magazines.” She was just as much remembered for being a loving grandmother and teaching her grandchildren the ways and traditions of the Cree.