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Bad Day Bear

Bad Day Bear

A morning of shopping with the wife might not be the disaster you think it is.

Some days I wonder why I even get out of bed. Maybe you've had days like that, when it seems as if the deck is stacked against you. For me, Saturday, Sep-tember 3, started off as one of those days.

On Friday, the day before, I had decided to make a quick check of a waterhole I used to hunt. Even though it sits only 80 yards from a main forest road, it had been surprisingly productive for me. It had been one of my favorite spots.

Then other hunters discovered it, and I quit going there. But now, three days into Idaho's archery season, I needed a backup plan and thought of that waterhole. Since I hadn't planned to hunt there, I hadn't set up a stand or even scouted it. But when I visited the waterhole on Friday, I found enough sign around the water to convince me it was worth a try.


Saturday just happened to be the first day of Labor Day weekend -- you know, the weekend that tourists and campers arrive to share the wonders of Idaho's great public forests. As you can imagine, this is not the ideal day to be bowhunting on public lands, especially 80 yards off a heavily traveled road.

Still, I wanted to hunt that day, so I formed a plan -- I would hunt a nearby stand in the morning and then, if no other hunters were there, put up a stand on the waterhole for the evening hunt. When I told my wife of the plan, she promptly reminded me of my prior commitment to go shopping with her that day. Not wanting to break my word, I reluctantly agreed.

About 2:30 Saturday afternoon, after a stimulating day of visiting every store in the local mall, I finally made it into the woods. As I drove down the road to my waterhole, a train of three teenagers on dirt bikes, followed by both parents on ATVs, buzzed around me. As if getting into the woods late wasn't bad enough, now the road right beside my waterhole looked and sounded like a motocross track. I was getting discouraged and beginning to question my sanity.

Trying to ignore all of that, I went ahead and parked, gathered my Amer-istep ladder stand and gear, and made my way to the waterhole as quietly as possible. After clanking to the selected tree, I hurriedly assembled the stand. Then, while attaching the brace, I heard a small Woof! close by and looked up just in time to see the hairy, black rear-end of a bear in hasty retreat.

"Well, there went my opportunity for the day," I muttered with more than a slight tinge of disgust. I finished erecting the stand and decided to go check a trail camera I had installed at another spot. It held a few pictures of some does and fawns, but nothing more.

BACK AT MY STAND at 3:30 p.m., I again doubted my sanity. This would never work. Still, hunting here was better than not hunting at all, so I settled in for a long afternoon, and for the next 21„2 hours thrilled to the sounds of cars, pickup trucks, and ATVs roaring up and down the road.

About 6 p.m., a local pine martin I had named Curious George years before due to his inquisitive nature, came to visit. After drinking, he ran to the bottom of my stand. I was trying to remain still and not betray my presence when some small squeaks forced me to look down. Curious George had killed a mouse and was now eating it. The rare experience of watching this natural drama made the frustrating events of the day a little more bearable, and I settled back to enjoy the rest of the evening.

Fifteen minutes later, a large chocolate-phase bear appeared and cautiously made his way toward the water.

He stopped and lifted his snout, testing the air for any sign of danger. Slowly, I lifted my bow from the bow holder, hooked my Carter Quickie release to the D-loop, maneuvered for a shot, and waited.

Just then the wind swirled, and the bear wasted no time in leaving the same way he had come. My frustration was nearing the screaming point.

"I am definitely not getting another opportunity tonight," I grumbled. How-ever, from experience I knew that bears often circle to try to find a safer way to a bait or water, so I stayed ready and alert.

Five minutes later, my patience was rewarded by a sight that few people ever get to experience. Coming down that same trail was a larger black bear, accompanied by the same chocolate boar that had just winded me! Never before had I seen two mature boars together, and as far as I know, that would be a rare sight.

As they neared the water, I came to full draw. But which bear should I shoot? Distance helped me decide. A large, fallen tree split the waterhole in half, and the big black came to my side, which put him at 18 yards. With a show of dominance, he then woofed at the chocolate, which submissively retreated to the far side of the tree at 22 yards.

Size also entered into the decision. The chocolate was beautiful, but he was just an inch or two shorter than the black. I would take the bigger bear.

As they both began to drink, I settled the sight pin directly above and behind the shoulder of the black boar. The release let the string go, driving the arrow and broadhead through both lungs and heart of the big boar and about seven inches into the mud on the other side.

I sat down to relieve the pressure from my shaking legs and tried to comprehend the events that had just taken place. It took me several minutes to regain my composure, and then I truly began to appreciate this rare experience.

When the arrow struck the ground, the stunned bear barked and swatted the chocolate boar, apparently thinking the other bear had hit him. The chocolate panicked and quickly vacated the premises. The large black tried to flee, but he made it only about 10 yards before collapsing and letting out that eerie moan of a mortally-wounded bear.

I sat down to relieve the pressure from my shaking legs and tried to comprehend the events that had just taken place. It took me several minutes to regain my composure, and then I truly began to appreciate this rare experience.

After 15 minutes of seeing no movement, I climbed down and admired my great bear -- his perfect fall coat, scarred muzzle, split left ear, and huge size. Anxiously searching for my camera, I soon realized I had left it at home. You've got to be kidding me, I thought. All this, and no camera to record the experience. I then remembered the Moultrie digital trail camera in my pack -- that would have to do. All things considered,

the photos didn't turn out too bad.

Returning to my truck, I got my game cart and managed to load the 350-pound bear onto the cart and wheel him back to the truck by myself -- one advantage of hunting close to the road. Then two gentlemen stopped and offered assistance, which I graciously accepted. With minimal strain, the three of us lifted cart and bear into the bed of my truck.

Driving home, I made my customary cell phone call to my wife. I couldn't help but greet her with "Honey, you won't believe the day I just had."

Author's Note: I was shooting a Mathews Switch-back, Easton A/C/C Super Slim arrows, Rocky Mountain Supreme XP broadheads, Sure-Loc Special Ops sight, and Carter Quickie release aid.

The author lives in St. Anthony, Idaho. He works for Carter Enterprises, makers of quality release aids. For more information on Carter releases, go to

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