The Hunted

Bear hunting with hounds has always been lots of fun. Back in 2001, I was introduced to bow hunting. Archery bear hunts quickly added a degree of challenge and excitement to the hunt. Bears can be a creature of habit, so I easily adapted to patterning their habits and setting up a tree stand in their path.

My second season of archery bear hunting has become one of my most memorable hunts to date. I spent 3 days searching for, then studying and learning the daily pattern of, a black bear. Sharpening my new found hunting skills, I had great hope that this would be the year that I would harvest a bear with my bow. The boar that I was after had a habit of walking a game trail through a small half acre meadow near the bottom of a deep ravine, nestled between two mountains. There was a small creek isolated by dense woods and undergrowth running through the bottom. On the second day of the hunt, in the late afternoon, I slowly hiked into the clearing where my tree stand was. I had encountered a few does during the hike in and quickly realized that I should have arrived a few hours earlier. I stood at the base of the fir tree where I had placed my tree stand a few days earlier, watching and listening for a couple of minutes prior to climbing the rope ladder into the tree. I could hear a heavy set animal quietly stirring around down in the dense thicket below the clearing. Knowing that there were deer nearby, I was unsure if what I was hearing was a deer or a bear. To prevent spooking the animal, I decided not to climb into the stand. I found a huge pine next to the trail near the edge of the clearing. Placing my back to the tree, facing the meadow with bow in hand, I waited anxiously hoping the animal would soon show itself. For about 30 minutes, I listened to it move back and forth just 20 yards from me, but out of sight it remained. Then 10 minutes of puzzling silence. I waited anxiously as many thoughts raced through my head. “Where did it go? Did I spook it?” Though I was dressed in full camos and using every scent concealment product I knew of at the time, I checked for a breeze. There was a very, very slight breeze, barely noticeable but swirling around in the ravine. “It must have winded me” I thought. Then I hear it, a faint twig snap coming from behind. I slowly twisted around to see and there he was. A beautiful cinnamon colored black bear had just stepped out of the thicket and had caught my movement. We both stood there motionless, just staring at each other. He could only see my head because of how I was looking around the large pine. Strangely enough, he seemed to have lost interest and began walking cautiously up the hill through the fallen trees and dry leaves toward the trail. He paused for a moment with a small fir blocking his eyesight of me. I slowly turning back around, and positioned my bow. Already having an arrow knocked, I clipped the release around the string and rested the bottom cam against my left leg so that I wouldn’t tire while waiting. I couldn’t reposition my feet without alarming the bear, so I was stuck facing the wrong way. Making a shot would be 100% impossible from this position. I kept thinking “please come up on my left side”, but he wasn’t doing it. I strained to listen as he walked up the hill, getting closer and closer behind me. I knew he had reached the trail because he wasn’t rustling the leaves anymore. If there was ever a time in my life to wish for eyes in the back of my head, this was it. Ever so quietly, he walked the trail toward me. I knew he was getting close because I could now hear his breathing. I strained my eyes peripherally trying to see him without turning my head. Closer and closer he came until finally I could see him out of the corner of my eye. Wearily, he walked the trail that I was standing just 2’ off of. The word “nervous” took on a whole new meaning as he approached and stopped right in front of me. With my heart racing, he stretched his nose out to my right knee. Taking a step closer, he ran his nose down my leg to my boot. Though he never touched me, I don’t believe I could have gotten a pencil between us. With his head down, smelling my boots, I looked down at him with my mouth open and eyes as wide as they could get. I thought to myself, “I like a good thrill, but holy smokes this is too close!” I looked back up as my heart was trying to explode out of my chest, just to see the top cam of the bow start to shake. “Stop it! Don’t move!” said the voice in my head. I knew that the slightest movement would cause him to either attack or run. Black bears are generally not aggressive to people, however, being this close could provoke an attack if startled. It solely depended upon his gut reaction and I had no intention of finding out which it would be……………….To be continued………………

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