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Lessons Learned While Hunting And Afield

Movement in the shin-tangle alders just to my right about thirty yards ahead caught my immediate attention. My first thought was to grab the .44 Mag Ruger revolver on my left hip in a cross draw holster for ready access. But I knew any rapid movement might possibly catch the eye of whatever was moving behind the screening of brush. Ever so slowly I moved the .375 Ruger slung on my shoulder into a shooting position. A few moments earlier I had seen what I assumed to be a bear moving ahead of us. I had caught merely a glimpse of a sizable, dark “glob”. But before I could truly identify, “the thing” had melted into the dense underbrush.

I glanced side to side, then glanced at my friend behind me. He too seemed to sense something was about to happen. He carried his .375 H&H at port arms ready in case he needed to quickly swing it into action. Then before looking forward once again, I noticed him point ahead with his chin and mouth the word, “Bear!”

Turning, I spotted the “Bear!”. He was twenty feet away, thankfully with his backside toward us. Just about the time I got my rifle into a shooting position, the bear turned to look over his shoulder to see the object of his annoyance. For a moment he simply stared. Then he raised his nose a bit higher to scent what the noisy critters behind him were. He was a relative youngster, likely a 2-year old. His ears were long and the distance between them relatively narrow. He lacked the big head (wide between the ears), heavy jaw muscles (which form sort of a “divot” in his forehead) of a mature boar. I guessed he weighed about 175-pounds. As we watched, the bear turned full to face us. He raised his head, moved it back and forth to get our scent which was being carried away by a forceable wind blowing from him toward us.

He moved to stand on his hind legs but just as he was about to I felt a swirl of wind at my back. Immediately the bear turned and ran, He made a whole lot of racket as he left!

Without realizing it, I had hardly taken more than a very shallow breath since I had seen the bear. Finally, I took a deep audible breath, breathing through my mouth. I heard my companion do the same. Oxygen re-supplied to vital organs I turned to look once again over my shoulder. “Wasn’t too certain what he was going to do when he realized we were behind him. Thought for a second he might decide to charge, thinking you were another bear invading his little hidey-hole.”

“I might not have been as mean as he, but the .375 Ruger I carried on my shoulder and the .44 Mag on hip would have served as a great equalizer.” said I extremely thankful the bear had decided to go the other way instead of trying to prove his dominance. “Problem is, with him making as much noise as he did leaving, he probably spooked whatever there was ahead of us. Know the wind will be at our back but let’s head back to camp and have something to eat. Later, I’d like to set up on that point overlooking that three or four year old clear-cut area. Should be a fair amount of food there for critters.”

Walking back toward camp I thought seriously about what I would have done had the bear charged. How would I have reacted? Would there have been time enough to get the rifle to my shoulder or the pistol from my hip? Would it have been an all-out charge, or merely a false charge where at the last moment the bear stopped short? I was thankful I had gone thru the FTW Ranch’s “Dangerous Game” Hunter’s Course. There I had learned how to react quickly when charge, either provoked or unprovoked!

Hunting Bear

As we walked back to camp visions of bar-b-qued pork ribs dancing about my head and I remembered a bear hunt several years ago in Maine. I was hunting over bait with a .50 caliber flintlock muzzleloader. Sitting on the ground between two stumps about 40 yards from the bait, I watched a sow and two cubs approach the pile of Hostess Twinkies. As they approached one of the 20-pound cubs went its mother to the bait. The other was more adventuresome. It decided to find out what the blob was sitting between the two stumps. The cub walked to within inches of my feet. I was in a quandary. Should I try to “shoo” the cub away and risk attracting the sow’s attention, or, simply let it smell of my boots and hope it would then wander back to where its mother was slurping Twinkies.

Before I could decide what to do the sow turned. She noticed something did not quite seem “right” in the neighborhood. She “woofed” loudly at the cub at my feet. The boar cub paid no attention to her what so ever. The sow swaggered toward me and the disobedient cub. She slung her head back and forth, popping her teeth. She had my attention! Slowly I raised my flintlock and pointed it in her direction. The bear continued moving back and forth, “woofing” and popping her teeth. I picked a spot only about five yards ahead of me and made a mental mark of the spot. If she charged and crossed that imaginary line “drawn in the sand” I would have to shoot, knowing full well shooting a sow with cubs was not legal. But I would have no choice, if I intended to defend myself. I hoped and prayed it would come to that!

She charged! As a precautionary I had already cocked the flintlock’s hammer. She came fast, so many times quicker than it takes to tell. Thankfully she stopped Inches short of where I knew would have to shoot. She stood popping her teeth, woofing, slinging her head side to side. I kept the muzzleloader aimed at her just in case she might suddenly try to complete the charge, only five yards away. “A century later” she turned to walk away. When she got about thirty yards away she turned andcame again at full speed. She covered twenty-five yards in less than a heartbeat. Again she stopped five yards away “bouncing” on her front feet while “woofing” and fussing at the cub. The cub remained enamored with my left foot.

The enraged bear stood staring and fussing at me for a good thirty seconds, which seemed like three lifetimes. Then she again turned to walk away, looking back over her shoulder toward me or perhaps her cub. She stopped, turned and charged a third time! I felt assured she would not stop this time.

I was about to pull the trigger when she stopped and again started bouncing on her front feet, popping teeth loudly and “woofing”. I kept the flintlock pointed at her. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the errant cub walked to join the sow. When the cub go close the sow immediately swatted the cub so hard he flew through the air at least twenty-feet before hitting the ground on its backside. Cub properly reprimanded the sow lead the two cubs into the underbrush.

I let the flintlock’s hammer down, took several deep breaths.

The rest of the afternoon passed uneventfully. As it got dark, I gathered my gear and started walking the two miles to where I was to be picked up for the drive back to camp. About half way back I decided to shoot the flintlock. I would have to do so sooner or later, before cleaning it later that night.

I pointed the flintlock at the ground, cocked the hammer then tugged at the set trigger (back trigger) and gently tugged the trigger. The hammer hit the frizzen and made a loud “shhhhhhhhhhh” sort of hissing sound, but nothing else… My knees began to buckle and shake! Had the sow completed her charge, I would have had nothing more than a club! I guess all I could have done was shove that flintlock as deeply down her throat as possible. It might have really gotten “western” had she not been bluffing!

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