I have known a few really good hunters; although, I don’t include myself among that august group. I am incredibly lucky and that alone has saved my bacon on numerous occasions; actually, being incredibly lucky, sums up my bear hunting skills. Otherwise, I would have passed over that great divide several times. Usually, you a need a lot of luck when you make an incredible mistake; I have made many and I am still here among the living. Typically, it involves a mistake in judgement or breaking one of the simple rules of common sense.
One of the primary rules of common sense is to keep your rifle close to you; this is just common sense, pure and simple, like keeping your lover close to you when you go to the big city. I know, there are people who travel in bear country without rifles and survive for years, but when there is a mistake made, the debt to be paid is always expensive need, like a mistake made when playing with hand grenades, it is a big mistake.
My friend Knarley Manners was driving on the road between Chetwynd and Hudson’s Hope near Mobely Lake when he noticed a bicycle on the road with no rider. Make no mistake, Knarley is a fast thinker and he figured there was trouble. He jumped out of the truck with his rifle in time to see a Grizzly dragging a bicyclist, wearing racing Speedos, kicking and screaming as he was being dragged into the bush. Knarley ran forward towards the bear to get a good shot, so as to avoid killing the bicyclist with a poorly aimed shot and killed the bear with a 30-06 round through the brain pan. Knarley was rather disgusted with the man for wearing such tight revealing underwear without any other clothing, but he threw him in the truck without touching him too closely and even threw his bicycle in the back. You can’t blame Knarley for being disgusted; he had never seen bicycle racing outfits before. In telling the story over the last 40 years or so, Knarley still concentrates on the revealing nature of a man riding a bicycle in tight underwear, rather than the killing of the bear. It was a summer bear and a good thing or Knarley would have made him wait until he had skinned the bear before he’d drive him to the Chetwynd hospital.
After a few hundred stitches and a little rest and relaxation the bicyclist was back on the road, wearing his fancy underwear, searching for new adventures. I would call that a close call in the world of survival. If we depend on a Knarley being there to bail us out when we get in trouble, while wearing our underwear in public, we will probably be disappointed more times than not. I did save Knarley’s life once and he has resented that favor he’s owed me for nearly 50 years now. The one time I would have really appreciated his legendary rifle, he was nowhere around and like the bicyclist it nearly cost me my life, but at least I was dressed properly. Knarley would have appreciated that, if it had gone the wrong way.
It was August 15 th, opening day of moose season and I couldn’t even find moose droppings. By mid-afternoon it had warmed up to the point that shooting a moose could have been a curse rather than a blessing with blow flies and the worry over spoiled meat making the hunt a disaster. I had my backpack with my fly rod and there were fish rising in the river. I fished along a gravel bank for a quarter of a mile or so and caught two nice Grayling for lunch. I gutted them right away and put them in a canvas pouch sling crossed over one shoulder. I just dipped them in the river once in a while to keep them fresh and cool, and kept fishing. There was a rock ledge that jutted out for 30 feet into the river, there was three or four inches of fast water running over it and a coating of moss made it very slippery, but it would give me a wide rang of casting opportunities. I leaned my trust 8mm Mauser against a tree and walked out on the slippery moss with my moccasins, being careful not to slip on the big submerged rock. I could now try to cache that monster fish that seemed to always elude me. He had to be lurking out there in some cold dark hole, just waiting to take a chance on my fly.
I fished for twenty minutes or so and wandered about 30 feet on the submerged ledge. The water was now about ten inches deep and the heat of the day made it seem even colder. It was getting harder to keep from slipping, but I paid homage to the fishing gods and kept trying to entice the grandaddy of them all. Suddenly, bang, I had a good strike and he was hooked solid. He came up out of the water and walked on his tail for eight inches or so. It was a Dolly and a big one. He fought so hard my moose hide moccasins lost traction and down I went. I held onto the rod, but now I was sitting on the slippery rock and the rushing water pushed me on over into the deep water on the down stream side. I was now in cold deep water up to my elbows and fighting to keep from being swept downstream. I turned to try and climb back on the ledge when I noticed a two year old Grizzly walking out on the ledge to join the party.
Good bye Dolly Varden and fly rod, the situation was deteriorating quickly and the fishing was over for the day. He was walking slowly and ever so much closer. My rifle was on the other side of him leaning against a tree and my Buck knife was safely concealed in a pouch on my belt. I could draw my knife, but seriously, if you are reduced to fighting a Grizzly with a knife, you might as well kiss your ass goodbye, because you are going to need some big time luck to stay alive more than a few minutes; even a two year old, weighing a mere 400 pounds or so, is a formidable opponent. I knew I couldn’t out swim him, that would be a joke even for an olympic swimmer. I had one chance, I took the fish sling off my shoulder and took one fish out of the pouch and threw it downstream toward the bank. It landed in the water and he didn’t even seem to notice it. I quickly smashed the remaining fish with my elbow against the ledge to release more scent and grabbed a rock from the ledge about twice the size of my fist and put in the pouch. I swung it around my head like young David facing Goliath and prayed that he would notice the pouch flying through that air and that the pouch would go in the right direction.
Instead of slinging the contents, I let go of the whole sling and it landed about 20 feet down river on the bank. The bear saw the canvas covered fish and followed it with his gaze, he figured it was fairly interesting and turned to check it out before having me for dinner as the main course.
Of all bears, the two year old and the geriatric bear are the most dangerous. The two year old is kicked away from its sow during its two year old year and realizes, albeit belatedly, how important those lessons on finding food were. The geriatric bear is having a hard time securing food also. Its claws are often cracked, broken, worn out and infected as well as its teeth; the infirmities of ages also plague the bear and arthritis slows it down so that it can no longer run down game. Under these conditions of starvation, either bear is likely to lose its innate feelings of shyness towards humans and realize these humans are fairly pathetic in the physical abilities department; especially, if they don’t have that curious weapon, the rifle. While the bear was ripping my canvas fish stringer to shred to get at the tasty morsel, I fought the current, making my way to shore and slipped out of the water, so agonizingly close to the bear.
The bear only gave me cautious glances as he started eating the canvas sack to fully enjoy the fish flavor. I backed up to my rifle to keep my eyes on the bear and hopefully not let him know that I was intimidated. I picked it up with a sense of relief and checked to be sure there was a round in the chamber. I continued backing into the forest and kept my eyes on the bear. He was only a two year old summer bear, his hide was virtually valueless on the fur market and not worth skinning, so I really didn’t want to kill him and waste a bear and a bullet if it wasn’t necessary. Once I was in the forest, I would take thirty long and fast walk strides, counting them and being sure each one landed softly and quietly; again, I didn’t want the bear to hear me running away and think I was afraid. He could follow my scent or hear me, so every thirty strides I would slowly turn doing a 360 to be sure I wasn’t being followed. I stayed clear of thick brush to keep the bear from setting up an ambush.
I almost made a fatal mistake, but like the bicyclist, I survived by pure luck.
If you remember the title, you may be wondering why you read a story that was supposedly about bear hunting and no one has done any bear hunting: the point is, the bears were hunting and humans unwittingly became the object of the hunt. In today’s world, especially when dealing with warlike countries, who for all purposes are as unpredictable and even more dangerous than the two year old and geriatric Grizzlies. Their only predictable qualities are that they are probably starving and looking for a sign of weakness to make an easy kill.
In the commission of our current foreign policy, we have turned our back and ignored the actions of several of our most dangerous enemies and even offered the gift of improved diplomatic relations and tacit approval of their cruel methods directed toward their own people by ignoring the abuse. Our enemies see confusion, irresolution, misdirection, and disingenuousness of our foreign policy. We are prejudiced against Democracies and praise totalitarian governments pointing out their accomplishments and plans for the future. We have basically deserted Israel and cry over the policies and sacrifices that have led to a constitutional Iraq: while praising the roads and rail systems of China. We apologize to the most tyrannical regimes in the Middle East, Iran and Syria, while they export terror to Iraq, strive to develop nuclear weapons, kill and torture their own citizen demonstrators. Yet, we promote their ruthless dictators as reformers and apologize to them for past infractions while promising not to interfere with their internal affairs. While these tyrannical anti-American dictators become emboldened by our impotent foreign policy, we turn on pro-American dictators who have merely threatened radical reactions to demonstrations. We excuse the cold blooded murder in Iran and Syria by repeating an innocuous word so favored by the Left that it excuses mayhem with a blanket dispensation, thus the bloody dictators learn to call themselves “Revolutionaries”; immediately, transgressions are justified in the fight for revolution and the dismembering of Capitalist influences and power.
Our military adventure in the small thinly populated country of Libya has added to the confusion and escalated the killing and mayhem. We have demonstrated what happens to a country that abandons its nuclear ambitions and how easy it is for a country of seven million to hamstring the military might of America. We are desperate in our efforts to justify our military expenditure and to claim some type of success in Libya, so our president has increased the level of his war game by employing his favorite killing technique, that of using drones to hunt and kill one man. A strategy that has failed in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in the most famous man hunt of all time.
Domestically, our president’s policies belie his Nobel Prize winning skills; especially, when he interrupts the nation’s business because a close Black friend is justifiably arrested by a White policeman and ignores a savage attack on a White transgendered girl by two Black girls in a McDonalds close to his home, an attack that left the White girl in a seizure, an attack that a Black crew of workers laughed at, filmed, refused to stop, and warned the attackers about the approach of police officers. The nation waits to see if the president and his lackey, Eric Holder will prosecute the girls for a Hate crime or whether that designation is only applied when Blacks are attacked.
Yes, our president confuses our allies; while instilling confidence among our enemies, by a policy of immunity from retribution for execution of acts against the US and our former allies. He has also left the American people bewildered by his irrational international and domestic policies and actions.
There is an old joke in bear hunting camps that has probably been repeated for thousands of years, “Sometimes, you eat the bear: sometimes the bear eats you.” Obviously, the joke is funny because the bear only eats you one time and that is the end. Thus, it is important to remember, the old lesson that mistakes around bears are extremely costly. We are making a multitude of mistakes in our ongoing bear hunts and each mistake is a step on the inevitable path to destruction and perdition; every American realizes, we can rely on blind luck for only so long, before the hungry bear takes a big bite out of our arse.
A professional horseman for over 50 years, Skook continues to work with horses. Skook has finished an historical novel, Fifty Thousand Years, that traces a mitochondrial line of DNA from 50,000 years ago to the present. The story follows a line of courageous women, from the Ice Ages to the present, as they meet the challenges of survival with grit and creativity. These are not women who whimper of being victims, they meet the challenges of survival as women who use their abilities without excuses or remorse, these women are winners, they are our ancestors.