Bear On The Prowl

March 13th, 2009 / Posted by David
Bear On The Prowl

There’s no doubt about it. Most black bears are shy and elusive creatures that would rather stick to the shadows than risk a one-on-one encounter with a stinky and potentially dangerous human being.
But every so often a bear shows up who doesn’t play by the rules. These are the bears we read about, the bears that maul and sometimes even kill hikers and berry pickers. I ran into such a bear in the fall of ’98 while bowhunting with Bob Heyde’s Homestead Outfitters in central Alberta. It was a hair-raising encounter.

The Hair-Raising Hunt
I was bowhunting the early season for whitetail, mule deer, antlered moose and black bear. Since I was booked for a month, I felt my chances of filling a bear tag and either a moose or deer tag were reasonably good. Actually, I figured the bear would be a piece of cake. I have hunted with Homestead Outfitters several times in the past, and each trip resulted in at least one opportunity at a trophy-sized 300 plus pound bruin. As it turned out, this trip would be no exception.

There was just one twist, however. I didn’t want to take another bear over bait. Instead, I wanted to arrow a black bear from the ground, and the place to do this is the farm country five hours north of Edmonton where black bears are known to ravage oat fields with abandon. Bears here feed almost like whitetails. That is, they bed in wood lots during the day, and then sneak out into the fields of standing oats to feed in the evening. The trick would be to catch one en route to the field, or slip up onto one as he gorged himself along the perimeter of the field. The shooting could be, as they say, up close and personal.

I had an opportunity at a bear my first evening afield . A 300 pound jumbo walked brazenly out of the bush a mere 35 yards in front of me, and then continued across an open alfalfa field without ever looking back. The distance however was simply too great for me to try a shot with my recurve. I frantically tried to close the distance, but the bear soon melted into the bush on the far side of the field. I never saw him again.

The next evening our host, David Marx, showed me one of his oat fields that was constantly being raided by black bears. Within minutes we caught a fat bear parked about 40 yards from the bush sweeping oats into his mouth without a care in the world. It looked like a “gimme”, so I grabbed my bow and started stalking the chocolate colored bear . The wind however changed, and immediately alerted the bruin to my presence. This bear soon melted into the bush, too.

A big bear paw print found in the sand

A big bear paw print found in the sand

The next morning David’s wife, Paulette, told us a huge black bear had chased a neighbor across an oat field . This farmer, who up to then, had no fear of bears was quite stunned by the incident. Apparently he had exited his pickup to shoo a bruin away from a grain truck that was left in the field overnight. But instead of running, the bear, snarling and woofing loudly, held his ground.

Realizing he was dealing with an aggressive and potentially dangerous bear, the farmer decided to leave well enough alone, turned his back on the bruin, and starting walking towards his pick-up. That’s when the bear charged. The farmer, running now, reached the safety of his pickup in time, but was mortified when the big blackie attacked his truck by smashing his paws into the door, rear-view mirror and front fender. The incident took place in an oat field adjacent to the one we had hunted the previous evening. Little did I know then that I too would have a life- threatening encounter with that 375-pound boar.

Too-Close Encounters
I’ve had several close encounters with other black bears that scared the pudding out of me. I’ve had bears pad by my head at night while I rested comfortably inside a canvas tent. I’ve had bears follow me back to my truck in the dark, clacking their teeth only yards behind me. I’ve had bears stalk within ten yards of me while a pal wailed on an elk calf call. I’ve sat on the ground within yards of a bait site, and photographed groups of bears as they fed greedily nearby. I’ve had bears charge me at a bait site only to run like hell when I stood up yelling and waving my arms. I’ve had also had bears stand their ground forcing me to back away and walk around them. I’ve had bears woof at me from the base of the tree keeping me in my stand until help arrived.

I’ve had other bruins actually climb up and try to get into the treestand with me. I even walked between a sow and two cubs one day while still-hunting for deer, almost stepping on the cute little tykes, and had momma bear quite upset with me—but none of these bears ever attacked me. The Hip Pocket bear however was different. He did not fear humans—he despised them.

The evening started off easy enough. While searching the edge of a large oat field for activity, I glassed a large bear a quarter of a mile away just emerging from the bush to feed in the oats. I tried to put the sneak on that bruin, but he soon disappeared into the bush. Heyde, who had been walking behind me with a 30-30, thought I was going too fast and had walked right past the bear. I turned around, and sure enough there was indeed a bear moving through the bush about 30 yards from the edge of the field, but it was just too thick to risk a shot. That bruin was soon swallowed up by the shadows. We both thought it was the bear I had been stalking, and since he had seen us the hunt was over for the evening. We didn’t realize several bears were feeding regularly in this field.

We decided to split up then, and scout our way back to the parked Dodge. It seemed like a good idea at the time . The thought of running into a nasty bear now was the last thing on our minds. I wasn’t gone ten minutes however when I stumbled upon a concentration of black bear sign along the edge of an uncut oat field. Large diameter droppings and well-worn trails littered with tracks from five inch front pads told me a huge boar was spending a lot of time in the immediate vicinity.

I slipped into the bush and slowly started to still-hunt through the thick stuff. There was bear sign everywhere giving my adrenal glands a hefty workout. The adrenaline really started to flow twenty minutes later when I caught a large bruin off guard, sitting on his haunches and yawning like a junkyard dog only 40 yards distant. The range and thick cover made a bow shot impossible, so I decided to ease forward when the bear got up on all fours, put his nose to the ground and started walking in my general direction.

Draggin bears out of the woods is made easier with canoes, of course when you see the video below you'll not be too excited to be on a boat with bear around.

Draggin bears out of the woods is made easier with canoes, of course when you see the video below you'll not be too excited to be on a boat with bear around.

I tried to find a hole in the brush to shoot through, but there was none to be had. Suddenly the bear sensed something was wrong, turned his head and looked right at me. He wasted no time. Standing up on his hind legs, he began to hiss, loudly. Then he turned slightly sideways to me, dropped to all fours and laid his ears back. I knew I was in trouble. Without further warning the big bear raised his five-inch front pads off the ground a foot or so, and after emitting a series of “woofs” in staccato-like fashion, charged.

I never had a chance to come to full draw. Dead branches were snapped in two like matchsticks as the enraged bear lunged forward stopping less then thirty feet from me. He stood up on his hind legs again, raked a six-inch aspen with his claws and began pushing it back and forth on the trunk like he was trying to uproot the whole tree.

If he was trying to scare me, it worked. The bear was enormous, nearly twice my size, with beady little eyes, no neck and massive front legs . He dropped back down to all fours, and just stared at me head-on hissing loudly. Slowly, the 375-pound boar backed up a bit, and started pacing back and forth in front of me never taking his eyes off me. I came to full draw on two occasions, but again could not find an opening in the brush to shoot. The boar stopped pacing, and sat on his haunches just staring at me for what seemed like forever before turning to slowly walk away from me.
That’s when I made a foolish mistake . I took a few steps in his direction looking for a clear path for my arrow when the bear, enraged apparently by my forward movement, pivoted on his front feet and charged me again. This time I thought I was going to be fertilizer. The bear seemed to be on a mission, his staccato-like woofs were even louder than before. I held my ground, hoping for an opportunity to drill him with an arrow, and knowing full well there was no use running. The boar suddenly stopped in the same place as last time, and again stood up to maul the aspen, hissing all the while.

The big black then dropped to all fours, turned to walk away but seemed to change his mind in mid-stride and instead swung his head about to sit down on his haunches so he could stare at me some more. I dared not move this time.

A few minutes later the bear got up, and waddled slowly back into the bush. I got on a bear trail, and quickly closed the distance between us . When he passed in front of me, he must have caught me moving out of the corner of his eye. He spun around in my direction for a better look-see, but when he did he gave me a clear 15-yard broadside shot. I immediately brought my Mathews Conquest to full draw, aimed and sent a TNT-tipped 2514 in his direction. The shaft passed completely through the bear leaving plenty of red blood at the wound sight.

Roaring loudly , the huge bear bit at the arrow wound several times before climbing ten feet into a nearby sixteen-inch aspen. Instinct took over then, I guess, because for some reason I charged the bear sending him another fifteen feet up the tree.

I was elated when I reached the base of the aspen and gazed skyward at the huge boar, but only for a few seconds. That’s when he looked down at me, and without any hesitation started inching his way out of the tree. I was horrified. There was no way I was going to let this bear get to ground zero, but I couldn’t find a clear opening through all the leafy branches to shoot. I finally got right underneath him, and tried to send a second shaft from his tail to his chest. I didn’t get the penetration I wanted, but it did push the bear to the very top of the aspen.

I could hear blood dripping onto the ground now, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I stepped back away from the tree, nocked another shaft and shot once more. This time the broadhead angled deep into his chest. The bear teetered a bit at the top for a few seconds, and then fell forty feet like a baby grand piano breaking branches off, some the size of my leg, all the way down. The bear hit the ground with a resounding T-H-U-D, and then horror of horrors, uprighted himself, spun around and before I could say “Oh my God”, charged.

This time I ran, quickly, knowing at any moment the bear was going to sink his teeth into me. I somehow managed to get behind a large aspen, pulled my last arrow from my quiver and turned to face the bear. I was flabbergasted! There he was, standing only a few feet away, swinging his great head back and forth like a crazed drug addict waving a gun in my face! We stood eyeball to eyeball for several seconds before I realized the fight was out of him. He slowly turned his back to me, and after zigzagging 50 yards or so through the bush, expired without further incident. We got the bear back to the ranch, but due to the 70-degree temperature, decided to skin him out that evening. There wasn’t nearly as much fat on the bear as I would have expected for this time of the year. The poor berry crop may have been one of the reasons for his aggressive disposition.

If I had to do it over again, I don’t know if I would do anything differently. Looking back, the whole incident from the time I saw the bear sitting on his haunches to the time he came crashing out of the tree was probably only four or five minutes. It was however a very long four or five minutes—four or five minutes I will never forget.

Man Vs. Bear
A big black bear boar is nothing to fool around with. Despite his apparent clumsiness and sometimes clown-like antics, he is a predator at the top of his food chain. He is heavily boned and well muscled, and likes to fight as evidenced by the deep scars many old bears carry. His canine teeth are big, and his claws can rip a four-foot log apart with ease. Indeed, black bears have been known to kill cows, pigs, sheep, horses, dogs and on occasion bull moose with little fanfare.

A human being in this regard is simply no match for an enraged black bear. He can easily outrun you, and contrary to what you may have seen on television or in the circus, a black bear can outmaneuver any World Champion professional wrestler.

You are not safe in a treestand either. A black bear can climb twenty feet up a tree faster than you can read this sentence. And if that isn’t enough, a mature boar is nearly twice the size of a grown man averaging 250 pounds in the fall with 500-pound specimens common enough. Indeed, I’ve tagged several bears over the years with archery tackle, including two spring boars that tipped the scales at 400 pounds and two fall boars that broke the 400-pound barrier. But none of these bears were aggressive.

SEE AMAZING BEAR ATTACK FOOTAGE This video is not of the story above but is really cool.

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