There is a bear #13, Up close and personal.

by david on December 16, 2019

The grass was not so thick along the edge of the woods and traveling was a little easier.  I could at least run. Both hands on the rifle, we took off as fast as we could. The dog’s voices were clearly audible and close enough to distinguish one dog from another.  I ran closer and tried to figure out the best place to be. Being close to the edge limited my field of view. Stepping about 15 feet from the woods’ edge, I stopped and tried to catch my breath and calm my nerves.  No time for that. I heard the huff, huff of the bear before I saw him. I pulled the rifle’s hammer back to full cock and got ready. I saw him start into the clearing about the same time he saw me and started back into the woods.  Mistake. He exposed a shoulder and I brought the rifle up and started to move it as I would a shotgun. Rifle on my shoulder, front bead centered in the rear ghost ring and on the bears shoulder, no dogs in the way, I squeeze the trigger.  The big heavy bullet from the old-fashioned lever gun knocked the bear over where it stood. I would later find out the bullet broke both shoulders and passed through both lungs before exiting the opposite side. Lever worked and another round chambered in case he got up. Josh cautiously edged me closer.  The bear was down, but not dead. The dogs had caught up and were nipping at the bear but there was not much he could do about that unless they got too close to his dangerous end. Josh said to put another round in to end things and protect the dogs. Knowing you do not shoot a trophy bear in the head (you score a bear by measuring his skull, damage the skull, and you may ruin the trophy), I was unsure where to administer the coup de grâce.  I asked Josh and he asked if I wanted him to do it. An affirmative answer from me, and the bear was done. Damn, that was exciting. I accomplished my goal of taking the bear on the ground and eyeball-to-eyeball at 15 to 20 feet.

Being this close was much more exciting than I ever thought possible.  I could hear the bear huffing and his teeth popping as they snapped together.  I could even see the drool dripping from his mouth. I had only seen his head and his shoulder.  I can’t really imagine the effect of seeing his whole body all at one time, particularly if he had decided he had had enough and came towards me instead of trying to get away.  No time to think about things like that at that point. I closed my eyes for a second to let some of the adrenaline drain away and to cement the images of the last minute or two in my mind.  A moment was all I got though. Josh was right there and the high fives and hugs started. All the guys on the bear mobile were hooting and hollering from their first-row balcony seats. They had not gotten all the way down yet before Jay arrived and was getting all of his dogs back on their leads.  It was a three ring circus on steroids. I finally cleared my rifle and leaned it against a tree. Now I could get up close to my bear. He was very large but not the massive monster my brother took. He was old, maybe not in decline yet, but definitely past his prime. His skin had some give to it, and I was told he had been larger in the past.  His teeth were worn and a few were broken. His head was broad and the ears were spread apart, not together on top, another sign of a really good bear. His feet were humongous to me and his toenails were equally impressive.

When my adrenaline levels dropped, allowing my hands to stop shaking, it was time for pictures.  We took a few there at the edge of the woods, but they were not turning out as I had hoped. The available light was not really suitable for the pictures I wanted. The bear mobile came to the rescue again.  It had a special loading platform and, easy as pie, we loaded him up and took him back to the road, where we could get some proper pictures. It took probably 15 minutes for the picture taking to be completed and 15 more for everyone in the area that wanted to see the bear to come and see the bear.  A few more minutes for us to transfer the bear to Josh’s truck, and we were on our way back. Since Doug had not been able to join us on the hunt, I had Josh drop me in the parking lot so I could fetch him. With little brother in tow, we made it to the shed before my bear was hoisted up to be weighed:  463 pounds. Not a monster but very respectable. The guys hanging around the shed told me that he would have probably been over 500 at his peak. He was just what I wanted, a better-than-average geriatric bear.

I chose this bear and decided to make him mine.  He would come to my house as a full rug and be in a place of prominence for any and all to see.  The meat he provided would go into my freezer and be rationed out only for special occasions as to last a long time.  Taking a trophy is not just about killing something. It IS about everything I wrote about above. It is about getting out in nature and seeing her in all her splendor.  It is about searching for something you want to keep forever. It is about the discipline required for the hunter to practice the necessary skills and to train to be as fit as possible.  It is about facing an adversary and beating them in their own backyard. It is about seeing new places and learning new things. It is about making new friends. It is about special times with family.  Sometimes the best trophy is the experience itself.

 

Finally got my bear Finally got my bear

 

Best bear guide ever,  Josh Latham Best bear guide ever, Josh Latham

 

Working the packing wrinkles out before finding my rugs new home. Working the packing wrinkles out before finding my rugs new home.

 

Little brother and his full mount trophy Little brother and his full mount trophy

 

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