Skip to main content

Shaking Legs

To open our Big Game Special, let's define successful big game hunting.


John Berriochoa enjoys life in a bear stand.



The bears had us surrounded. We'd seen six total, and now we could see five at one time, prowling through the brush around our Idaho bait site, popping their teeth and making threatening noises at each other. For my son-in-law John Berriochoa, who had never seen a bear in the wild before, this was a bit of bear overload.

Then the seventh bear, a big boar, arrived on the scene. Although John would have dropped the string on any of the others, I kept telling him to wait. "They're little ones," I whispered in his ear. "We'll see a bigger one." And here was a bigger one. "Shoot this one!" I motioned.


For the next 10 minutes, John stood with his bow at the ready, but the bear fed quartering toward us. No shot. When the bear finally did turn broadside, John drew his bow, but the bear turned with his rear toward us. No shot. Finally darkness settled in and closed the show. No shot.

As we walked back to the truck, John raved, "Dwight, I've never had such an adrenaline rush in my life. When I drew on that bear, my legs were shaking so bad I had to sit down to get them under control!"

To put that into perspective, you have to understand that John is no wimp. Growing up on the "res" in Oklahoma, he fought with other kids daily. He served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Desert Storm. As an amateur UFC cage fighter, he had 18 sanctioned matches and achieved national ranking. As a prison guard for many years, he kept rebellious inmates in line. In short, John knows pressure. But drawing down on that black bear gave him "the biggest adrenaline rush of my life" -- and shaking legs.

Isn't that what big game hunting is all about -- shaking legs? Some hunters seem compelled to judge the motives of other hunters and the ethics of certain hunting styles.

They appoint themselves as arbiters for right and wrong for all hunters. We see that at Bowhunter any time we publish stories about hunting methods that are not universally accepted, such as baiting. Readers jump all over us, questioning our judgment in publishing such unethical trash. One reader wrote:

"Most bear baiting today is done by professionals whose workhorses are ATVs and whose paying clients' only active participation in the 'hunt' is an unearned and anticlimactic kill."

Unearned and anticlimactic? Who has the right to judge that? Consider John's hunt. While John was not my client, we had a "guide/client" relationship in that John did not place that bait -- my friend Wayne and I did. So John didn't earn the hunt through physical effort. But he certainly earned it with desire and enthusiasm. And was it anticlimactic? Judge for yourself. John's knees were knocking. Case closed.

Hunting big game with hounds often draws a similar response, as the following letter attests:

"I've seen several articles about bowhunting for big cats and bears using dogs. I'm a bowhunter of 22 years, but I can't quite understand the rationale behind chasing down an animal with dogs. Where's the challenge? Isn't it cheating?"

In "Getting There" on page 92, Brandon Ray writes about his bear hunt in New Mexico on which he and a friend take bears with an outfitter -- using hounds. Will we take grief for printing that story? Absolutely.

But why should we? If you're a regular Bowhunter reader, you know that Brandon is a seasoned bowhunter who takes numerous adventure bowhunts on his own. He knows his stuff and doesn't need anyone to hold his hand. He doesn't need dogs to kill a bear. But for a new experience and a fresh perspective, he hunted bears with hounds.

End result? Brandon enjoyed a legitimate and first-rate big game hunt. How do we know? His legs were shaking -- not only from bagging a fine bear, but also from the fatigue of getting there.

One common thread governs all of us in the field -- legality. States and provinces set the rules, and we all must abide by those rules. If we do not, we are criminals. Legality has no gray areas.

But beyond that, who is big enough to judge what is "unearned and anticlimactic"? We all have different levels of experience and skill, different goals and personalities. Yes, whitetail hunting remains the American standard, bugling in a bull elk ranks as a huge thrill, and stalking muleys may be the supreme challenge. Most hunters would agree.

Still, some bowhunters chase dogs through the mountains to the point of exhaustion. Others nearly fall from a treestand at the sight of a black bear. Who's to judge what's right or wrong, better or worse? From our perspective here at Bowhunter, it's all good -- big game hunting at its finest. How do we know? The shaking legs. Just ask John.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

Daybreak Whitetail Bowhunt

Bowhunter TV Editor Derek Mleynek has a chance to fill his buck tag on a mixed bag hunt in Texas.

Canyon Ranch Bowhunt

Canyon Ranch Bowhunt

Bowhunter Equipment Editor Tony Peterson sees plenty of action while hunting whitetails and hogs in Texas.

Better Bow Accuracy: Release Arm Alignment

Better Bow Accuracy: Release Arm Alignment

On this edition of "Dead On," pro archer Randy Ulmer shows you how to properly align your release arm for better accuracy and bowhunting practice.

Turkey Decoy Beatdown

Turkey Decoy Beatdown

Bowhunter contributor Matt Palmquist witnesses a hen trying to destroy one of his decoys while hunting turkeys in Kansas.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Inspired by “Buzzwinkle,” a lit up moose in Anchorage, this Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger Recipe is sure to be a delicious party on your taste buds with every bite.Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger Recipe Recipes

Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

Inspired by “Buzzwinkle,” a lit up moose in Anchorage, this Apple and Cheddar-Ale Moose Burger...

This venison kebabs recipe marinates for a full day to take the already flavorful Asian bulgogi sauce to the next level.Grilled Korean Bulgogi Venison Kebabs Recipe Recipes

Grilled Korean Bulgogi Venison Kebabs Recipe

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

This venison kebabs recipe marinates for a full day to take the already flavorful Asian...

Chasing predators is great for calming big-game nerves.Tips for Bowhunting Predators Other Game

Tips for Bowhunting Predators

Joe Bell

Chasing predators is great for calming big-game nerves.

A recent study examines what does look for when choosing a mate.Does Antler Size Really Matter To Does? Whitetail

Does Antler Size Really Matter To Does?

C.J. Winand

A recent study examines what does look for when choosing a mate.

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

Bowhunter Magazine is turning 45 years old! My, how time flies! I began bowhunting not long afterBowhunting: Passion, Obsession or Addiction? Stories

Bowhunting: Passion, Obsession or Addiction?

Randy Ulmer - October 21, 2016

Bowhunter Magazine is turning 45 years old! My, how time flies! I began bowhunting not long...

Hunters hating hunters is an old, ugly facet of our sport. Vitriol from residents to nonresidents is a part of that, and seems to be getting worse.Nonresident Bowhunter Hate Stories

Nonresident Bowhunter Hate

Tony J. Peterson - June 21, 2018

Hunters hating hunters is an old, ugly facet of our sport. Vitriol from residents to...

On a cold day in December 2014, I had the pleasure of viewing an incredibly special whitetail deer.A DIY Quest for a 200-Class Whitetail Stories

A DIY Quest for a 200-Class Whitetail

Dayne Majeau - July 27, 2016

On a cold day in December 2014, I had the pleasure of viewing an incredibly special whitetail...

Dwight Schuh explains why it's okay to be serious about bowhunting - but not too serious!Hunting for the Fun of It Stories

Hunting for the Fun of It

Dwight Schuh

Dwight Schuh explains why it's okay to be serious about bowhunting - but not too serious!

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Bowhunter App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Bowhunter subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now