Thursday, November 19, 2009

Of Men and Bears

I was having a late dinner in the next town over and as I was warming my hands on a mug of coffee, a hunter plopped down at my table.

This man is a local from the word go: an avid horseman, raised a large family here, loves to pack into the back country, and makes his living off the land. He is also a fantastic story teller, and while I am not, I loved this tale.

Grizzly bears, long on the endangered species list around here, have been making a remarkable comeback. With their increased numbers comes an increased likelihood of human interaction. With the interactions, comes a set of options in managing the confrontations. This is one management story.

This hunter tells a story of a recent hunting camp. He was just settling in for the evening, and electrifying his camp. He ran wire around where he had penned the horses and the food supply, but hadn't yet got around to his sleeping area.He heard a twig snap. He looked up to see a seasoned boar, looking not at the food or horses, but directly at him.

Quickly, he contrived a plan to film an outstanding occasion, but not one I would have thought of in such a case. He quickly put together jump wires and finished the electric project and then gathered up his video camera and bear spray. As the bear charged down on him, he became weak in the knees (as any wise person should do when becoming prey), and started to fumble about. Do you spray with your right and run the video with your left or vice versa?

The bear barreled down through the fence and the hunter sprayed the bear's face. The bear continued through camp, and to the creek, washed his face and proceeded through for a second pass, undeterred. Fumbling video camera and bear spray, the hunter spent the rest of what was in the can, dropping the camera and reaching for his pistol. There was only so much pepper in the can and clearly, this bear could have cared less anyway.

Much to the relief of the hunter, the bear continued on its way, leaving a torn up camp, shaken hunter, and a terribly blurry reel of film.

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