Bear Hunting And How It Got Me Hooked

This is my first post since starting this site, so I thought it would be appropriate to tell you all how it started. I found my love for writing as a result of a bear hunt. I had such a thoroughly good time that I felt the need to tell the story over and over to friends and family. One night at about three AM I was so “taken by the spirit” that I shot out of bed and wrote the tale of my adventure in a single sitting. I then sent it to a coworker who seemed to enjoy it and suggested I submit it to the Alberta Outdoorsmen. I laughed at the idea but other people who read it suggested it as well, so I sent it. To my amazement I was told it would be published. It was put into the September 2013 issue (which I’m sure had record sales as a result of my mother and I buying everyone we know a copy). You can read the published version and also take a look at their other content. Below is my original (somewhat longer) version.

 

 

It’s strange the things you learn from the situations you put yourself in. For only a few years now I have been a self proclaimed hunter. My repertoire however is quite limited; grouse, deer, a lot of gophers. For quite a while I had been day dreaming about hunting a bear, it always looked like fun and I am inexplicably fond of bear skin rugs, this desire for one is not shared by my girlfriend. For some reason this winter I decided that a spring bear hunt would be worked into my schedule. It was possibly spurred along by working in a hunting store and having too much time to daydream.

Over the winter I had purchased a new bow and thought it would be a good tool for the job. I could picture it now… me in a tree stand… at full draw… waiting for a big bear to turn just right… and  thunk! This is what I wanted. So I began asking around, as I stated I work at a hunting store, so I asked my co-workers with known experience with bears. I got the basic information; set up a tree stand and bait near a swampy area with trees, chain the bait barrel to the tree, cut holes in it just too small for a paw to fit in it. This seemed reasonable and I was looking forward to the set up which I planned to do near my father’s house. As time went by school and work continually got in the way, as they tend to do. Finally after three weeks into hunting season, I still had no bait out, I got two days off and these were, as far as I was concerned, for hunting. I bought my wildlife certificate and my bear license and tags, but if I wanted to afford the gas to get there and back I couldn’t buy the bow license. I wasn’t quite competent enough with a bow anyway, following an angry wounded bear into the woods as a result of a poor arrow shot is certainly on my list of nightmares. I guess this hunt was my old Marlin 30-30’s chance to shine. Unfortunately my father’s schedule did not match mine, instead I went to a friend of mines house. Troy is his name and we have been friends for years and when it comes to wildlife, his land always seems to have it. I arrived at Troy’s on Monday, the first of my days off, we began the day by going for a quad ride to find bait. Beavers I was told make excellent bait and cause problems in the area. So the plan, I was informed by my “guide”, was to go shoot a beaver to use as bear bait.

So there we were, sitting… me with my 30-30 and him with a more task appropriate .22 magnum, staring at sizeable beaver dam and lodge. The whole time all I could do was question the morality, and a little the legality, of shooting an animal simply to use it as bait for another animal. On the other hand I was told they are a pest. After some time sitting quietly and no action a plan was built, “I’ll pull apart the dam, he’ll come out and we’ll get a shot at him, hold my gun” and he was off and standing in the middle of this dam pulling logs and tossing them aside. My moral question got a little bigger, we are now wrecking the beaver’s hard work to lure him out, and all I could picture was two hooligans pulling siding off my house to lure me out to be shot.  Luckily for me my moral qualms needed not be answered that day as it was still spring and that beaver dam was frozen solid after the first few inches so that plan was scrapped and my dreams of shooting a bear seemed to shrink a bit more. We went back to the house to formulate a new plan and have a bite to eat. After a few delays, such as dinner and my distraction by Troy’s newest additions to the gun safe, I figured our best bet for bait that we had on hand were cans of tuna, plenty of fishy smelling juice what’s not to like? It was now dark outside (I don’t understand where the day went) me, being determined, made my “guide” take me to where his treestand was already set. We were not setting bait for predators in the middle of the night, even at the time it felt like a bad idea. Looking around the area it was perfect I thought, nice slope along a cutline with some brush piles and a swamp, what more could a bear want?  I was told the tree stand was on the other side of the small swamp about 50 to 70 yards away from where we had nailed two tuna cans to fence posts and the third to a tree. All I had to do now was come back in the morning and carefully cross the supposedly small and shallow swamp to the nearby tree stand and wait.

After lying sleepless and uncomfortable for a few hours on a leather couch slightly too small for me, the morning finally came. I fired up my truck and drove off alone toward the hunting spot. I left my tuck just outside the entrance to the cut line only a few hundred yards up hill from the “bait”. Upon my arrival a few things came to my attention; 1. It had rained that night so that nice fish smell likely didn’t go far 2. The swamp was much larger and deeper looking than I had been led to believe and there was no easy way around it 3. I have never been accused of being a good judge of distance but that 70-yards-away-treestand was closer to 200, a lot farther than I can push that 30-30. My doubts increased but I was already there and didn’t want to make myself a liar as I had already told people I was going bear hunting, I actually am that proud/petty. I decided to make myself comfortable, kind of, on a small brush pile between the “bait” and the swamp. It was comfortable…ish and I had a good view of the make shift bait but to see the swamp I had to look over my shoulder, several logs, and willow trees.

I sat for a few hours questioning most of my life’s choices most notably my poor planning skills in regards to hunting. Occasionally my thoughts would be broken by the sounds of squirrels making large amounts of noise in the bushes. I occasionally checked the clouds moving in, it was chilly and overcast and rain looked imminent. There I sat on a miserably overcast day starring at a tuna can nailed to a post for hours on end, slowly losing faith in myself as a hunter, wonder if maybe I should just stick to the gun range… or video games. When over my left shoulder I hear a splash, I look, it’s a bear coming right toward me and my bait. It’s beautiful, graceful, majestic, walking towards me… WALKING TOWARDS ME.  It hits me, my heart it pounding, it’s a bear, 20 yards away and ground level, eye to eye, it doesn’t see me but I’m sure it smells me, or at least my fear, I can taste my fear, that unmistakable metallic taste that screams “YOU’RE ALIVE! RUN! FIGHT! DO SOMETHING FAST!” The only thing protecting me from a mangled death on a brush pile is some logs and my old Marlin. I take aim behind the shoulder just like I know I should, it’s him or me, BANG! My old gun never sounded so loud, the bear yelps, curls, rolls, and runs into the bush, crash bang crack, that sound that only breaking trees can make, I can barely hear it over my pounding heart. I immediately run the action on my gun, for all I know the bear is injured, mad and knows where I am. I wait 5 minutes motionless, listening, I hear nothing but my heart, a good sign I hope. I dig through my pack, hands shaking, looking for my phone, no signal. I get up, slowly, and walk along the cutline to my truck, slowly, all the while watching the woods for movement and doing the best to stop my heart from coming out of my chest. I reach the truck still no service on my phone, I want someone else here if I go into the woods after that thing. I jump up on the tool box of my truck, finally, some service I call Troy, no answer, three times no answer. I decide to send him a text “Shot a bear. Get here quick… bring a gun” I’d have liked to have seen his reaction to that text. I got the text out but I don’t know if he will get it anytime soon or what he’s doing. I load another bullet into the tube magazine on my gun, I guess I’m going in solo. I walk back and start to track slowly and cautiously I’m no more than a dozen steps in when I hear the soothing sound of a diesel engine, good, this hunt got slightly safer. We begin again and he immediately spots a trail of water and blood, as I had shot the bear in a shallow swamp there was a heavy water trail too. 50 yards in we find it collapsed and dead. It’s a male, and he sure looks smaller now that he isn’t walking towards me. I am not comforted by the fact that based on his final run, had he wanted to he could have easily made it to me before expiring from his wounds, which I might add were perfectly placed through his chest in the right and out the left.

In my excitement, very few photos were taken

I understand now why people hunt dangerous game, I have never felt so alive as when I looked down those iron sights, heart pounding so hard I can feel it in my ears, taking a deep breath to steady and squeezing that trigger, hoping my shot is true because at this point it is all that can save me. But I think for the sake of my mother and my girlfriend, in the future I’ll use a tree stand, but some small part of me wants to try it again, but with a bow, just to see.

I now have a lovely bearskin rug


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