Wednesday morning shortly after breakfast Gary, Dillon, Angie and I all headed to the woods with bait and four-wheelers in tow. I had the best time riding to each different stand and watching the ins and outs of bait station building.
I saw several new plants and saw new wildlife. I even saw MOOSE TRACKS!! What a blast. Angie and I would report back to each other what all we seen and what tracks were found. Gary mentioned several times that the afternoon weather was sure to bring bears into the bait stations. I was getting more excited by the moment to be in the woods hunting. I had no clue where I would be hunting but I was excited about sitting in a new stand.
Dillon and I went into 4 different stands to sweeten the bait stations. On the first one, I didn’t make it all the way in because the creek was up and I didn’t wear my waterproof boots. I never saw that stand. The second stand that we went into, I instantly got a good feeling. This stand had some hunting karma going on with me. The ladder stand was good and high and was set up at a 45 degree angle to the bait station…PERFECT for a right handed bowhunter. The bait station was at 18-20 yards from the stand. The lane was nicely cleared and there was even an added bacon ball which hung high in a tree close to the bait station. I REALLY liked this stand, but I did not ask for the stand in all fairness to everyone, that was for the guide to decide.
Dillon and I headed to the third stand which was also a great setup for a bowhunter. This stand was a lock-on perched high in a tree and angled slightly away from the bait station…a great stand for either right or left handed shooter. This bait station had some huge paw prints in it and was tore up from baiting the day before. On our last stand that we went to, it was set up perfectly but I just didn’t get the “WOW-factor” with it so no Karma there either.
After returning to the lodge and eating a wonderful lunch we all headed over to the cabin to get geared up for the afternoon hunt. I still had no clue as to where any of us would be sitting so I waited patiently for our stand assignments. When Gary told me I was going to Yield 4, I was thinking it was the lock-on stand where we saw the big paw prints. This was good, but I still had the ladder stand spot on my mind. Shoot, I thought, I wish I would have been chosen for that ladder stand; but they were all good so I loaded up with anticipation of the hunt.
We were told to pack lightly because we were going in on the four-wheelers three riders at a time and would be limited to gear we were able to pack in. For this reason, I opted against bringing the camera…the video camera was not the biggest issue, it was the arm and head that I would have to have to use the camera. It was just too much stuff to tote in on the four-wheeler with several people on it.
When we pulled up to a good parking area and Gary unloaded the four-wheeler off the trailer, at the very last moment he said “Wait, I am being rather optimistic here but I am going to hook up the trailer.” That worked out good because we were able to put our backpacks in the trailer and Tammie put her gun in the wagon as I held my bow on the back of the four-wheeler. Off we went, several miles into the woods. I later found out that Yield 3 and Yield 4 were the mile markers.
Gary took me to the stand first and as we pulled up and got off, I didn’t realize it was the stand that I had such a good feeling about earlier in the day. I actually didn’t notice it until we came around the corner and I seen the stand. My heart actually took a few double beats…I felt it in my bones that very minute that it was going to be a great afternoon, not necessarily that I would harvest anything but that I would definitely have a great afternoon. I looked at Crackie and it was 4:20 p.m. Gary walked over to the bait station and then he walked back by me as I was taking my tow rope out of my backpack. He said good luck and was headed down the trail. I asked him that if once it got 8:00 p.m. and I came down did I need to start back to the road and then up the road to the left. He said, “Yes” shaking his head positively as he walked away!
I was trying to work quickly and as quietly as possible, hooking up my bow to my tow rope and digging my Kwikee Quiver tree bracket out of my backpack; putting it with a screw in hook into my side leg pocket so I could screw them into the tree as soon as I got up there on the platform. I clipped my tow rope to my backpack, slung my backpack on and headed up the ladder. Once on the platform and looking around, I had such a happy feeling come over me that I actually was placed here, on this stand, the one that I had such a good feeling about earlier in the day. I attached my safety harness anchor strap to the tree and clipped on my safety harness strap. I quickly screwed in my quiver bracket and found that there was a 4″ long cut branch sticking out of the tree that was perfect for my backpack. I dug my bow holder out of my backpack and quickly screwed it into the tree. I brought up my bow, removed the carrier strap, placed my quiver in the bracket, removed the third arrow (for the third hunt) gave it a quick check and nocked it on my bow string.
After sitting there a minute and after pulling on my gloves and strapping on my release I dug into my pocket for Crackie. It was 4:42 p.m. and it looked like I had a signal. I text Richard; I got a reply. I let him know that I was in the tree. At 4:57 p.m. I sent him a picture of the bait station and let him know that it was at 19 yards.
Thinking that maybe the first picture didn’t show exactly how I was sitting, I sent him a second text:
We sent a few text back and forth and he let me know he was on his way home and I told him that I would try to get a signal on the way back to the lodge to call him. At 5:25 p.m. I had just pulled out my Crackie to send Richard one more text to let him know that I did not bring the video camera for lack of room on the ride in but that I wished I had because this was the perfect set-up on the bait station. Before I had the opportunity to hit send, I seen movement through the leaves on the left of me. I slid the phone back into my side pocket with as little movement as possible.
I watched as a bear stepped through the underbrush quietly–in stealth mode. A front paw and forearm was the first thing I saw. I was looking right at him and couldn’t even hear him. Its coat was so black that it boldly stood out among all the green leaves and the color of the ground. It was the blackest black I ever laid eyes on with all the greenery around it. I slowly reached up and started to lift my bow making certain not to hit the side of the stand with my bottom cam. It was walking into the bait station with his head constantly moving sniffing the ground, the air, the leaves and branches as he walked by them. At this point, I stood up slowly and slid my hand down my bow string finding my D-loop and hooked my release on it.
Wow, was this bear ever BLACK! It walked so methodically as it crossed in front of the bait station, stopped in a “quartering to” position and held its head up sniffing in the direction of the bacon ball hanging high in the tree. It slowly turned on its hind quarters and started back across the front of the bait station. The logs on the bait station were 4 foot long and the bear was at least three-quarters of that length. Gary had told us in orientation that we could use the logs to gauge the size of a bear since it was hard to do that from the stand, especially for a first time bear hunter. It was at that point that I came to full draw.
Once I was at full draw and had locked my anchor point the bear paused for a brief moment at a perfect quartering-away shot position. What instantaneously ran through my head was how bright my green pin was on its black coat. It stood out as if it were magnified. As the bear straightened its head, I slowly, with a steady move squeezed off my release. The arrow, which has a white nock, white and black zebra wrap, a white, black and hot pink fletching seemed to float through the air and I never lost sight of it as it made contact with perfect shot placement on the bear.
The bear let out a grunt as it leaped in the air snatching its head back at the point of impact and then it took off quickly on the same trail that it came in on. I didn’t hear a leaf shuffle but I saw a small tree top shake, then I heard it. I heard the death moan. More like a death brawl. The first one was loud and it took me a split second to register the sound. A whaling sound that somehow hit my senses with a bittersweet sting; somewhat hair raising and chill inspiring. I had heard and read so much about this and knew quite well that when you hear that after a shot, you know, without a doubt, you were successful. When the first one stopped, it let out a second lower moan, and followed up with a couple more at the same tempo. While this was happening all too quickly I dug in my pocket and grabbed my phone and hit redial trying to call Richard off an earlier text. No answer. The last moan was very short and had no life in it. I knew at that moment, I had done it. I dialed again; no answer. I dialed again, praying he would answer–I wanted Richard to be the first to know. Richard answered the phone as the last moan stopped.
I said quickly and rather loudly, “MISTER, I GOT MY BEAR!!” He said “What? I can’t understand you.” I said it again “I JUST GOT MY BEAR!!” Then the tears started coming down and I couldn’t speak for a second or two. I heard him yell out “Unt-uh!! Did you?” I said “Yes, just now. I made a perfect quartering shot on it.” He asked something to the effect as to if I knew for sure or saw him go down. I explained to him that I heard it in the woods within 60 yards as it did the death moans and that I was positive that it was down. He was really happy and almost as choked up as I was. I told him that I was going to wait about 45 minutes and then go down and track it, but I felt pretty sure I knew right where it was at. I told him my phone was almost dead but I would send a picture if I could.
I sat back in the stand and the tears were just rolling down my face; I was sobbing…but with a smile on my face. I thanked the Good Lord for allowing me to experience this moment and for my health to be able to hunt and for many, many things that we sometimes take for granted. I composed myself, called my mother and text Gary to let him know that I had a bear down. I started packing up my gear and I lowered my bow. I came down the tree 30 minutes after the shot. I took my time walking to the bait pile and started finding blood immediately. I took photos of the first blood, a bloody tree trunk and my arrow on the ground. Then I looked down the trail from where the tree was and there it laid, on its side; it was just as black against the green contrast as it was when I first seen it.
I walked over to it, stuck it in the hind quarter with a stick and it didn’t move. I knelt down and I was amazed at how soft and thick its coat was. Once again I started sobbing….I was overjoyed and I couldn’t control my tears or emotions. AT LAST!! Three years of hoping, dreaming and praying…I was finally living in the moment. As I sat there trying to figure out if it was a boar or sow and looking at its teeth and paws it finally dawned on me that I was in the middle of well used trail, headed to a well baited bait station, without anything to defend myself for other bears or wolves, which had been seen by several hunters. So I pulled myself together, using my coat sleeves to wipe away tears and mascara and anything else that might now be running down my face and started back to the tree base where my gear was.
This hunt meant so much to me. I got my first bow in March of 2007, three months later at my first BHA 3-D shoot at Southern Sportsman’s Lodge I said to the group I was shooting with that I wanted to shoot a bear with my bow one day. The more I thought about it over the next few months the more I made it a personal goal to do just that. Anyone who knows me well, knows that this is something very special to me. It has been more than three years and that dream has come to reality for me. I was truly on cloud nine–it was an emotional moment and it was nice to share it with friends. Truly, LIFE IS GOOD!!