Bear Encounters - Part 1


        When I’m in the mountains hunting, fishing or just camping, there is nothing that gets my attention faster than the word “BEAR!”  I have an extremely healthy respect for bears because they are very dangerous, unpredictable, and they are big and strong and when you combine all those characteristics (I won’t call them “qualities”) you have a spoiler, a bully, an up setter of the applecart. They stink, their breath is atrocious, they are always on the prowl, on the prod, they don’t mind their own business, they are always sticking their nose into somebody else’s business, and if you don’t like that, well too bad for you, because if you cross paths with them, you don’t have the right of way. They are the “enforcer” of the woods, and I guess that’s one of the reasons why they are there, they make everybody else “polite”, and humble and mind their business.

           Black bears are not nearly as dangerous as grizzly bears, but don’t let anybody tell you they are not dangerous, that they will always keep their distance, and won’t bother you or attack you, although as a general rule those things are usually right, they are not always right. No sir!  Never trust a bear, a black bear to do the predictable thing, and always trust a grizzly to do what you don’t want him to do. In other words, don’t be anywhere near a bear if you can help it, and if you can’t help it you better have some powerful good backup.

            One day, several years ago my folks heard a noise outside their cabin, the sound of garbage cans being tipped over and rummaged about. Dad stepped out on the front porch to see what the ruckus was about. There was a black bear scattering garbage all over the drive way looking for whatever he could eat. He yelled at the bear to scare him off.  Blackie looked up the stairway at Dad and then went right back to scattering more garbage. Dad didn’t like that.  “I’ll show him a thing or two,” Dad thought, and went into his bedroom, loaded his 30-06 and went back out on the porch. He had put three rounds in the rifle, and chambered the first round. He looked down the stairs at the bear, who was making a bigger mess, and aimed a couple of feet above the soft berm of earth so there would be no ricochet and let the loud authoritative voice of the 06 do the talking. The bear looked up at Dad, then went back to the garbage cans. It didn’t scare the bear at all. Totally surprised at the bear’s non-reaction, Dad chambered the next round, decided to kick up some dust into the bears face and get a little more respectful attention. He aimed at the hard dirt and gravel off to one side, just a foot away from the bear’s nose. If it did ricochet it would still go into the berm. KA-BOOM!  “That oughta do it,” I’m sure Dad thought. 

             It did it all right.  The bear, bared his teeth at Dad and growled!  Dad had one more bullet. Just then the bear charged up the stairs toward Dad, at full speed. Dad had chambered the last round and barely had time for a third shot, which was from the hip, the bear was almost on Dad, maybe a foot or two away from the muzzle of the rifle, when he pulled the trigger, the slug hitting the bear between the eyes (I know that sounds too Hollywood), but that’s exactly where the bullet hit) and the bear dropped dead at Dad’s shaking feet. My Dad had the shakes for a week, a very close call. That was a predictable black bear, who did the very un-predictable thing.  I had a good friend who also was attacked by a big black bear at night. He was walking along a trail when he heard a noise and saw a large dark animal coming down slope toward him at full speed.  He estimated the size of the bear at 400 pounds. This was an un-provoked attack, he thought the bear was waiting in ambush to get a deer probably. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a meal was a meal in Blackies mind I guess. Jeff survived the experience by divine intervention as Jeff tells it, and I believe him, but the point in this account is also to demonstrate the unpredictability of black bears.

            I have never been attacked by a bear for which I am very grateful, but I’ve been very close to bears, way too close for comfort, and I did not like the feeling at all. My brothers and I walked right into a big grizzly at night in a rainstorm. We were un-armed. We had been fishing and all we had were our poles and a flashlight.

Continued in part 2 here.



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