Sometimes things go wrong on even the simplest hunt. That’s what makes a hunting story!
After Bill dropped me off at the treestand I settled in as I listened to his truck fade into the distance. Once the whine of the four-wheel drive vanished, I loaded my rifle, a new 45-70 lever action. I also put in a Walkers Game Ear before pulling my face mask over my head. Since this was my first bear hunt I did not know what to expect.
I used my rangefinder to verify the distance to the five-gallon bait bucket that was tied to a tree. It was exactly 18 yards away. I thought about how thick the woods were and how it seemed improbable that I would even see a bear before it stepped out into the little clearing by the bait location.
Only a half hour later I started hearing what sounded like three or four steps at a time in broken intervals. Suddenly I heard a loud splash that was like someone diving into a pond. Then I could clearly hear the sound of someone frolicking around in the water. I didn’t even know there was water behind me since I couldn’t see more than a few feet into the forest.
I thought to myself, “Oh great – some kids are swimming right behind me and ruining my hunt!”
The splashing stopped and I began to listen intently. Only a few minutes passed and although I didn’t hear anything I could feel the presence of something in the woods nearby. I slowly turned my head back towards the bait bucket. Wham – the bear was right there just spitting distance from me!
I slowly cocked the hammer on my rifle while simultaneously lining up the peep sights on the bears shoulder. The 405-grain Kodiak bullet that Grizzly Cartridge Co. meticulously loaded for me plowed through the bear causing it to do two complete forward somersaults.
Before the bear got to its feet I sent another bullet that parted the dark black hair on its side, rolling the bear over. In a flash the bear was running towards the tree I was in. I leaned out of the stand and shot straight down as the bear passed the tree headed into the woods behind me. I heard thrashing and moaning for a few seconds before the Maine woods were once again quiet.
I checked my rifle to find it was empty, so I loaded three more cartridges. I remembered Bill’s last words as he left me in the stand;
If you get one call me and don’t get out of the tree.
It took me two seconds to decide there was no harm in getting down and going to see the bear. After all, it was obviously dead.
I proceeded to walk briskly into the darkness of the brush towards where I had last heard the bear.
I thought out loud, “I better cock my rifle just in case.”
I was standing about 25 yards from the tree I was just in. My eyes were scanning the forest floor when suddenly I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. The 200-pound bruin had backed into a little thicket and I was blocking his only way out.
The bear came crashing out and ran right into my thigh knocking me over, catching me in the face with the paw of his broken front leg. As soon as I hit the ground I rolled over and fired at the bear. At the shot, the bear started coming towards me again so I shot again. It took me a minute to regain my composure. I noticed the woods were dead quiet, and I realized I was on my back with my eyes closed. That’s when I got up and started running.
Bill and I finally reached the treestand location and after a few tense moments we located my bear. The dead bear had four nickel-sized holes in its hide proving my shots had been true. I called my wife on the cell phone as we pulled the bear out of the woods.
“How’s it going?” she asked.
I said, “Babe, it’s been an adventure of a lifetime!”
The moral of the story is – Listen to your guide!