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Black Bear Down
By Paul Askew

This year I decided to hang up the Traditional Bow and string up the compound to put some meat in the freezer. My hunting partner and I sat up in an older cut on Sunday, August 26th hoping to catch the elk herd feeding that evening.

With the wind and a light rain in my face, I sat on a stump with an 8' fir tree directly in front of me that made a good natural blind and cover from the wind and rain. It was around 5:30 pm, and I was just relaxing and letting Mother Nature do her thing. I caught a dark flash in front of me at my 1 o'clock position and thought that the first cow just showed up.

I lifted my binoculars and was excited to see a bear standing on a stump looking around. Hidden by the fir tree, I stood up on my stump and looked down to grab my range finder. Once I had my range finder in hand, I looked back up and the bear was gone. I thought to myself, “There is no way he smelled me”. Thoughts raced through my head until I heard noise in the blackberry bushes and realized he had just taken a few steps over to start feeding on berries.

I ranged him at 42 yards and contemplated a stalk. I decided to relax and just see what happened. I talked myself into sitting still, hoping he would come my way. After a few minutes, the crunching stopped and I thought maybe he had moved down the ravine. Then I saw a flower start dancing around at my 2 o'clock and ranged the spot at 27 yards. I couldn't see the bear as this cut has tall grass and lots of blackberry bushes. I started ranging my 3 o'clock, because he was obviously moving in that direction.

As the bear passed behind a fir tree, I drew my bow and my arrow fell off. The wind and rain kept the minute noise from alerting the bear. He started feeding in some berries 22 yards from my semi elevated position on the stump. I knew, given the opportunity, the shot would be top pin. After about 5 minutes of seeing flashes of black in the thick blackberry cover; the bear finally started feeding directly in front of me in a small opening. I drew my bow and when the bear went broadside I put an arrow right behind the left shoulder. On impact, the bear did a woof type of sound. I heard him get a bit tangled up in the berry bushes about 15 yards from impact and thought, “alright, he is done right there”. No such luck. I listened and could hear him run for about another 25 yards, and then I did not hear anything. I could only hope he expired that quickly.

With rain coming down and the confidence of the shot, I snagged my hunting buddy and took up the trail. Blood was tough to find, but the bear left an obvious path where he tore through the brush and grass. It took 30 minutes to cover 40 yards and then the blood trail started getting much better. I covered another 40 yards and hit a berry patch. At this point, it was 7:15 pm and really dark in the shadows. There was no
way I was going in this patch after a wounded bear.

The next morning my wife, Mary, convinced me to take her .40 caliber Sig with me. I figured by now the bear was dead and it would be extra weight but Mary's logic got to me, so I took the Sig. I arrived back at the berry patch with a pair of pruners in hand. I started cutting the thorn covered vines to the point where I could get on my hands and knees and crawl through the patch. It was obvious that this was a bear’s regular travel path, but it was not cut out for humans. I trimmed my way through one vine at a time. The bear left lots of blood on both sides of the tunnel and tracking was easy. The trail shot out to the right for about 10 yards, then hung a left for another 20 yards or so. I kept catching a whiff of what I figured was the bear. I hit a spot on the trail that went down into a dark spot where there was a hollowed out stump. I was really, really glad I had the Sig with me at that point. It took me a second to muster the courage to go into the dark area as I could now smell the bear.

With a bit of an adrenaline rush, I crawled past the stump. Another 5 or 6 yards and the trail went left and I could see the bear's fur 5 yards in front of me. I studied the bear for any sign of life; there was none. With gun in hand, I crawled up to the bear and was surprised just how big this guy was. Having killed a bigger bear a few years earlier, I thought this guy was a lot smaller than he was. I knew he was mature, because his ears sat apart on his head, but I didn't think he would be pushing 275 to 300 lbs. It was all I could do to get him moved into position for pictures. Fortunately, he made a loop in the brush and came to rest under some fir trees. As it turned out, he died 25 yards to the left of where we left the blood trail the night before. The shot was double lung and he went about 120 yards total.

Although I ended up with about 200 blackberry thorn pokes and scratches, I was ecstatic to find this guy. What an awesome animal. With the temperature down to 45 degrees the night before and the bear expiring in the shade, I made quick work of skinning and trimming the meat off the bone. After 4 hours, I had a pile of meat and a great cape for a mount. I was only 2 miles in and was fortunate enough to be able to call my friend, Matt, that lives in a small town nearby. Matt loaded the meat and back paws in his Eberlestock pack and I loaded the bear's head and hide in mine.

At the end of the day, you never know what you will harvest when you are in nature, and that is why I always buy the Sport Pac in Oregon.