Hunting: A few of my close encounters
Last week, I was watching a Canadian black bear hunt in Ontario on the Outdoor Channel in which the hunter was tracking a wounded bear and had a close call.
It reminded me of a similar situation I had on my first bear hunt. As I was thinking about it, I remembered several other close calls I’ve had during my hunting career, and thought they might make for interesting reading. Here are four of my most hair-raising hunting experiences.
It was my first bear hunt. I was in Quebec, hunting with my new 60-pound draw weight Bear Kodiak Magnum recurve bow, using cedar arrows tipped with the four-bladed razor head broad heads — which should give an idea of how long ago it was. I’d been sitting in a tree since before daylight and hadn’t seen anything by 9 a.m., so I started out to meet my guide and head back for breakfast. The trail was about one mile to the dirt road, about three feet wide and bordered by some very heavy brush. I’d only gone about 50 yards from the stand when I rounded a turn and there, not more than 10 yards from me, was a big black bear.
Slowly, I pulled an arrow out of the quiver, knocked it and as I was drawing it back, I saw the bear rise up on its hind legs with his nose in the air. Obviously, he was trying to get a whiff of me. I don’t remember aiming, but somehow, that razor head was right on target, or so I thought. Upon impact he roared, and when his feet hit the ground, he was popping his teeth and running right at me.
Fumbling for another arrow and with no place to go, I just stood there as he ran by, just slightly brushing my camo. I’m not sure if I was shaking outside, but I definitely was inside. It was, however, a dead run for him, because he expired about 15-20 yards down the trail. Later, the guide told me the bear never even saw me, it was trying to get away, but I wasn’t convinced of that.
I’m the first to admit I don’t like snakes of any kind, but unfortunately, my hunting desires for various species of animals and birds have led to several very close calls.
My first happened in New York state when I was invited to join several college friends on a snake hunt on Tongue Mountain. I’m not sure what they were going to do when they found them, but I agreed to go along, but not participate.
We were about a half-mile up on to the mountain when I stopped to take a drink of water, and the rest of my friends were at least 100 yards ahead of me. There on a ledge, eye level to me and about a foot from my head, was a rattlesnake. Fortunately, it wasn’t coiled, but as it did, I heard the rattles. I don’t know what happened to that snake, but I do know I was off that mountain and in my car in less than 10 minutes.
Snake encounter No. 2 took place on a Merriam turkey hunt in Wyoming, near the Snake River. I had spotted several nice toms feeding along the river on the far edge of an open field late one afternoon, but the only cover I could find was a large clump of bushes about the size of a pickup truck. I knew they would be roosting close by and decided to set up early in the morning before daylight in those bushes and do my calling from there.
Before daylight, I set out my decoys about 15 yards from my hideout and settled in sitting on the ground to wait for daylight. When I heard that first tree gobble I answered and got a response. I knew that it would be coming in soon. I had my gun across my crossed legs and waited. As it got light, I reached for my box call I had laid on the ground, and there about 10 feet from me was a rattler. It was stretched out length-wise and not moving. It was probably only 10 or 15 minutes, but it seemed like hours, and I never took my eyes off of him. My plan was if it looked or moved in my direction, I was going to shoot before it got to me. Fortunately, it slithered away. I did not get a turkey that day.
My last snake encounter was also with a rattlesnake, but this one was on a spring Rio Grande turkey hunt in Texas. My friend, who invited me to his ranch, had cleared out a spot for me and set up a chair in some cactus bushes near where a flock of turkeys had been roosting. Early the morning of the hunt, he took me into the spot in the dark, pointed in the direction of where they were roosting and left.
Quickly, I put out my decoys and went back and sat down. I never got any answer to my calls, but about a half-hour after sunup, a big tom appeared right next to me. I didn’t want to move, and for some reason looked down at the ground, and there was a rattlesnake between my feet. I always wear snake boots, but at that distance, I didn’t know how protective they would be. I remember being told when you encounter a snake like this, do not move. That was easy because I was scared stiff.
I’m surprised I didn’t drown him, because I was sweating profusely. I’m not sure if the incoming tom’s gobbling scared it or it just decided to leave, but it slithered away right through my spread of decoys and disappeared in the brush. It was then that I noticed my hands were a bit shaky. The next morning, I returned to that same spot, but not in the dark, and got a turkey.
I am sure that there are a number of you out there who also have had close encounters in the outdoors that you would like to share. If you have, send me an e-mail explaining your close call, and once a month I’ll pick and publish the most interesting ones. Try to keep your explanation to 300 words and don’t send photos.