My First Bear Hunt

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Joined: 06/03/2010

My First Bear Hunt
           I was fresh out of the service and eager to get back into my civilian lifestyle, which included lots of hunting and fishing, when a buddy asked me if I wanted to try bear hunting that fall. Phil was an old hunting partner from our high school days and he had also recently gotten discharged and was as anxious as I was to go hunting. I had never done any bear hunting before because bears seemed to be pretty scarce back then. Phil had relatives who owned a farm with some apple orchards that the bears had been hitting very hard damaging a few of the apple trees along the way so we were going to have a kind of Carte Blanc use of the area for our bear hunting.
            Our plan was simple and haphazard but we were amateurs and didn’t know any better. We built several ground blinds around the orchard and plotted how we would ambush our trophy bears in no time. We had no idea what the prevailing wind patterns were or when the bears actually came out in the orchard and we were trusting in our dumb luck that we would be successful. As I look back on this adventure I can think of lots of things we did wrong or didn’t do that we should have but as it turned out we were both happy just to be hunting.
            Back in those days you could buy a bear tag as long as you had a small game license and if I remember correctly it cost about three dollars for the season which ran from October until the November gun deer season. You could also shoot a bear with your deer license during the deer season without having the bear tag. As an old timer I naturally think things were much better back in those days compared to our complicated drawings and point systems now!
            On the opening morning I was sitting happily in my blind and Phil was in his as we wiled away the morning with nary a bear or even any sign of one. The evening hunt was a little more eventful for me because a couple of raccoons spent the better part of an hour cavorting in an apple tree which at least made my evening sitting amusing. Over the next few days I saw deer, lots of deer, partridge, squirrels, rabbits and plenty of mice! I even had a skunk that was very determined to visit my blind and smell my boots; probably the waterproofing grease was enticing and the skunk couldn’t resist checking me out.
            We soon gave up on the morning hunts and concentrated on sitting for the evening until even that proved unsuccessful and I finally gave up on that too. Phil decided to hunt on a once in a while schedule and I thought maybe just sitting on a Friday or Saturday evening was my limit. October was drawing to an end when I walked slowly into my blind one evening and realized right away that something was going on in the orchard but my blind was in the wrong place to see exactly what.
            I sat for a bit until my curiosity got the better of me and finally got up to go see what the commotion was. As I walked slowly toward an apple tree that still had an abundance of fruit I soon saw what I had been seeking for almost a month, a large bear hanging off a branch and shaking it forcefully to put some apples onto the ground. I was in awe seeing a bear so close and it took me a few minutes to remember I was supposed to shoot a bear. I maneuvered into position and took aim carefully. Just as I was about to squeeze the trigger on my ‘03’ Springfield I caught glimpse of some smaller black furry things under the tree in the tall grass. Cubs! I couldn’t shoot a female with young cubs and these were obviously young ones who would never survive without their mother, besides it was illegal in Michigan.
             My first season of bear hunting ended with that mother and her cubs and, although I promised myself I would do it again sometime, I somehow never had much time for bear hunting after that. I don’t know why I gave up on it but I suspect it was a combination of things including the fact that the sight of those cubs playing so carefree under their mother was a vision I never have forgotten. Phil didn’t get one that season either but we each got a nice deer that November. That orchard was a magnet for deer, as I had learned during the bear season, and it proved to be a great place for bucks that year.