Bear Hunt Diary: Finding My Maine Black Bear

If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2 of my black bear hunt you should do that first.

We searched for three hours before calling it for the night. Steve, Gene and Peter had to work in the morning. I’d be coming back in the morning to continue the search alone. If I couldn’t find it someone else would come with a hound and track it, but not until afternoon. Afternoon was not acceptable. I would find it, dammit. I would.

“What have I done?” Repeated many, many times during a very long night, as though I didn’t know. I knew what I’d done but I didn’t know how long I’d caused the bear to suffer. I went to bed at 1 am and dozed off and on for a couple of hours.

I headed back to Woodland to search for my bear. Distraught doesn’t describe my emotions. I’m not one to pray very often. Oh, I pray for other people but I don’t ask for myself often, and I don’t pray to an Americanized kind of god. “I need help. Guide me through me this and get me to my bear.”

And then I ask Mum for help. “I need help, Mum. Show me where the bear is.” She died 15 years ago but I know she’s with me for every step I take outdoors, every cast of my rod, every time I pull a trigger, every berry and mushroom I pick. I am my mother’s daughter. I park in a pullout on the dirt road, zip my light weight jacket to the top to help against the chilly morning air, and load my rifle. “Here we go…”

Standing at the bait bucket, I run through what happened the night before. Shot, bear rolled over bank, moved here and here and here, last heard it there. Nobody knows I’m out here right now. It’s early and nobody knows I’m out here alone, already searching. I’m concentrating on “alone.” This is all up to me now.

I’m walking through it. Shot, bear rolled over bank, moved here and here and here, last heard it there. I walk through it again, not finding any new blood spots in the daylight. Gene’s done a thorough job of finding every speck of blood there is. I have nothing new to go on. I’m in spots that make sense to me, poking the barrel of my loaded .308 into bushes and ferns, any covered spot a wounded bear might be hiding. “Please don’t be here,” I whisper at each spot, afraid of being attacked if I find him.

I’m getting no where in my search. Behind root masses of fallen trees, under blow downs, behind rocks. This is useless. I’m going back to the same places we searched the night before and I’ve already searched again this morning. I’m back to my useless “what have I done” mumbling. I’m so consumed by worrying about being attacked and what I’m going to tell people if I can’t find this bear that I’ve left my common sense and everything I know back at the bait bucket.

“Get yourself together,” I snap at myself out loud. Deep breath. “I can do this.” I head back to the bucket. I stare at the bucket while I get myself together. I’m not wasting time now.

It’s 7:16 am when I start my third pass, 11 hours and 57 minutes after I shot my bear. It’s cool but I’m running out of time if I’m going to save the meat.

Finding my Maine black bear

Alone in the woods for Round 3 on Friday morning

What do I know? Okay…good place to start. What do I know?
Shot, bear rolled over bank, moved here and here and here, last heard it there. So I start “there” this time. I’m calm and I’ve forgotten that I’m cold. Yes, I might get hurt but no, I probably won’t. I push the thoughts of a wounded bear and getting myself hurt out of my mind. They’re distracting thoughts and I MUST concentrate on what I know.

What do I know? There’s a three foot wide trail behind the right side of the bait bucket. I stand in it, looking down the trail. It’s a clear trail. There are no raspberry bushes, ferns or blow downs. If I were a wounded bear I would probably take this easy trail.

What do I know? Bears and other animals head for a bog, mud or water when they are hurt. There’s a stream further back.

What do I know? I keep asking and answering this question. I didn’t hear the bear cross the stream. I follow the path to the edge of the stream and look up and down. It’s not there. There are no fresh tracks to the edge of the water and no tracks in the mud on the other side. This bear drags its left front paw or hops lightly on it. It would have left a track in the mud on the other side if it had crossed here.

I stare at the stream, clearing my mind while I back up 15 feet. I can go from spot to spot again…

“Turn around” popped into my mind. Thanks, Mum! And so I turn around.

I found my black bear.

“Turn around.” And there he is.

My hand flew to my mouth. There he is! Oh my gawd. There he is, in a low spot only 10 feet from the stream. Mouth covered, I scream for split second. “AHHHHHHHH!” I jump up and down twice. “AHHHHHHHH!” I’m not screaming and jumping for joy. There’s no joy in any of this. I’m screaming and jumping in relief. It’s a completely overwhelming sense of relief I’ve felt twice before – the day Kristin and I didn’t die in child birth, and the day 15 month old Taylor didn’t die in a Boston emergency room.

Relief. I have not failed the bear or myself.

And then there’s silence. He’s not breathing. I watch for 30 seconds. He is not breathing. He is dead. I’ve found my bear.

I kneel beside him, stroking his fur. “I’m so sorry I’ve made you suffer. I’m sorry. Thank you.” Tears of relief stream down my face. I’m relieved in ways I cannot describe. With shaking hands I push the numbers on the keypad to tell Steve that it’s over.

“I found him.” He’s confused. He’s been at work and waiting for my phone call to say I’m going in to search. “I FOUND HIM!”

I found my Maine black bear by pulling together everything I know and putting it into place.I had time to sit alone with the bear and think about what I’d experienced while I waited for Steve to get to me. I hadn’t made a perfect shot but it was, obviously, a kill shot. Meat on the table. I was alone when I made the decision to not shoot the bear I wanted so I could take this injured bear. We have good friends who will come out in the dark to help us find a wounded bear. I found the bear because I got my head straightened out, focused on what I know, and did what I had to do.

No joy. There’s no joy in killing an animal. He is not the first animal I’ve killed nor will he be the last.

There is pride on being able to make intelligent decisions and get the job done. It took me five years to get this bear.

 

Steve pulled the bear out for me

Steve dragged the bear out for me

I’ll spare you the details of intestines and blood but I do want to tell you more about this bear. He had to be dressed quickly. There wasn’t time to teach me how to do this job but I did help a little. That left front paw was almost completely disjointed at the ankle. He’d probably been hit by a car. I held his right paw up while he was being skinned. ” tink tink” The knife hit something odd just above his right elbow.

“Look at this.” Fragments of bone protruded above his right elbow. It wasn’t a fresh wound but it wasn’t yet calcified. He was thin. He had so little fat I’m sure he wouldn’t have survived winter. It’s no wonder he moved slowly and made so much noise. He had a hard time getting around. I’d focused on his paw. If he limped on his right front leg I hadn’t noticed.

I caused him more suffering, and I ended his suffering. I submitted a tooth to be aged but I won’t have his age back for about a year. He had gray on his muzzle and his teeth were very stained. I thought at first that he was fairly young because he weighed only 148.5 pounds but I now think he was probably quite old. I’ll let you know next year.

Maine Wildlife Conservation Council and Bear Hunting in Maine

A quick message from Maine Wildlife Conservation Council about black bear hunting in Maine. Humane Society of the United States, working in Maine under the name Mainer’s For Fair Bear Hunting (it’s HSUS, not Mainers) is spending the money they dupe people into donating to dupe them again into banning the hunting methods that help Maine black bears thrive.

Outdoors Kids: 5 Top Tips on How to Talk to Your Child About Drugs and Alcohol

Kids and drugs and alcohol – bad combinations. Steve and I raised the girls outdoors. They had ponies and horses, did chores with the cattle, goats, pigs and poultry. They helped in the garden. They fish and enjoy other activities. I’m a Hooked On Fishing – Not On Drugs instructor because kids who have outdoors skills are less likely to be come involved in drugs and alcohol than kids who aren’t involved in the outdoors.

Keeping kids sober and drug free is important to me. When I was asked to share these tips with you I was able to say yes without hesitation.

Adelphi University‘s Dr. Audrey Freshman, Ph.D., LCSW, CASAC has written 5 tips to make engaging with your child easier.

5 TOP TIPS on HOW TO TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT DRUGS and ALCOHOL

#1 IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO DISCUSS HOW TO TOLERATE NEGATIVE FEELINGS
Helping a child to navigate the world of drugs and alcohol starts early on in a child’s life.  Drug prevention begins with a child’s ability to gain life skills.  Essential is the need to self-regulate emotional states and to manage uncomfortable feelings of anger, sadness, boredom and frustration without resorting to immediate escape.  It is important to teach a child that their negative feelings will pass and to model ways to cope through exercise, relaxation and healthy diversion.

We already know I’m partial to fishing with kids. Scavenger hunts are another fun way to get kids outdoors and moving. Make a list of 10 items outdoors (pine cone, yellow leaf, orange flower, acorn…). Fun and prizes are great incentives to get kids outdoors.

#2 IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO BEGIN DRUG EDUCATION
Children of all ages are exposed to the helpful benefits of medication.  They witness commercials advertising pain and psychological relief aides. It is important to differentiate the correct way to take medication, to use medication as prescribed, to supervise the use of medication in an age-appropriate way, to discard bottles once treatment is over.  Help your child to understand proper use of medication, what drugs are not safe to take (e.g. unprescribed opiates or stimulants) and define abusive use of medications. The same way we teach children not to drink bleach we must teach them never to take someone else’s pills or to give their own away.

#3 TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT DRUG AND ALCOHOL REFUSAL SKILLS
It is very difficult, particularly as the child gets older to resist peer-pressures and still feel socially connected to a peer group, Identify the dilemma for your child and practice ways to say “no” to drugs and alcohol in advance of a party or social event.  If you worry that your child will be at-risk in a social setting, such as a concert, plan in advance to set parameters for safety e.g. curfew, transportation home, Remember, you are a parent and not a friend so stay in your role as supervisor.

There’s no place like home. Do you have a place kids can gather at home? We have a small stone fireplace beside the house. We set up bales of hay around the fire, set up a canopy for shade and to keep light rain off them, and kept a stash of snacks. Know where your kids are, who they’re with and what they’re doing – and it’s easy when they and their friends are home.

#4 DRUG PREVENTION IS A FAMILY AFFAIR
Studies show that the more meals a family eats together the less likely a child is to develop a drug or alcohol problem.  It is vital to plan family time in a structured and prescribed manner so that a child is aware of a time to talk about issues of the day.  A child will assimilate the goals and expectations of the family and internalize them as they gain independence through modeled behavior. Try not to drink alcohol each night in front of your child and then expect them to refuse alcohol when their friends offer.

What kid doesn’t love a cookout! You can use a gas grill, charcoal, or build a fire. They don’t care as much about your method of cooking as they do that you’re cooking outdoors. It’s ok to give kids age appropriate jobs when cooking out. Give praise and have fun!

#5 TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT THE VALUE OF SEEKING HELPFUL ADVICE
Hopefully your child may never need counseling.  However, if and when they do, you want it to be a positive experience and not one that they resist and must be forced into.  From the outset, emphasize the positive value in seeking help and/or counseling when confused.  Resist the message that seeking help is a sign of weakness but rather one of strength. We can all  benefit from “coaching” when we wish to learn new skills, or plan a life direction, or encounter a difficult time in our lives.  Help your child to embrace help!

Counseling doesn’t always mean from a therapist. Listen to what kids are saying. Offer advice when appropriate. Sometimes it’s easier to talk when you’re walking because you’re not face to face. Kids don’t have to avoid uncomfortable eye contact when you’re on the move. Don’t like walking? Work in the garden, throw stones in a pond or go fishing. Listen, talk and listen some more.

Kids and drugs and alcohol – bad combinations. Steve and I raised the girls outdoors. They had ponies and horses, did chores with the cattle, goats, pigs and poultry. They helped in the garden. They fish and enjoy other activities. I’m a Hooked On Fishing – Not On Drugs instructor because kids who have outdoors skills are less likely to be come involved in drugs and alcohol than kids who aren’t involved in the outdoors.

Keeping kids sober and drug free is important to me. When I was asked to share these tips with you I was able to say yes without hesitation.

Adelphi University’s Dr. Audrey Freshman, Ph.D., LCSW, CASAC has written 5 tips to make engaging with your child easier.

5 TOP TIPS on HOW TO TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT DRUGS and ALCOHOL

#1 IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO DISCUSS HOW TO TOLERATE NEGATIVE FEELINGS

Helping a child to navigate the world of drugs and alcohol starts early on in a child’s life. Drug prevention begins with a child’s ability to gain life skills. Essential is the need to self-regulate emotional states and to manage uncomfortable feelings of anger, sadness, boredom and frustration without resorting to immediate escape. It is important to teach a child that their negative feelings will pass and to model ways to cope through exercise, relaxation and healthy diversion.

We already know I’m partial to fishing with kids. Scavenger hunts are another fun way to get kids outdoors and moving. Make a list of 10 items outdoors (pine cone, yellow leaf, orange flower, acorn…). Fun and prizes are great incentives to get kids outdoors.

#2 IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO BEGIN DRUG EDUCATION

Children of all ages are exposed to the helpful benefits of medication. They witness commercials advertising pain and psychological relief aides. It is important to differentiate the correct way to take medication, to use medication as prescribed, to supervise the use of medication in an age-appropriate way, to discard bottles once treatment is over. Help your child to understand proper use of medication, what drugs are not safe to take (e.g. unprescribed opiates or stimulants) and define abusive use of medications. The same way we teach children not to drink bleach we must teach them never to take someone else’s pills or to give their own away.

#3 TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT DRUG AND ALCOHOL REFUSAL SKILLS

It is very difficult, particularly as the child gets older to resist peer-pressures and still feel socially connected to a peer group, Identify the dilemma for your child and practice ways to say “no” to drugs and alcohol in advance of a party or social event. If you worry that your child will be at-risk in a social setting, such as a concert, plan in advance to set parameters for safety e.g. curfew, transportation home, Remember, you are a parent and not a friend so stay in your role as supervisor.

There’s no place like home. Do you have a place kids can gather at home? We have a small stone fireplace beside the house. We set up bales of hay around the fire, set up a canopy for shade and to keep light rain off them, and kept a stash of snacks. Know where your kids are, who they’re with and what they’re doing – and it’s easy when they and their friends are home.

#4 DRUG PREVENTION IS A FAMILY AFFAIR

Studies show that the more meals a family eats together the less likely a child is to develop a drug or alcohol problem. It is vital to plan family time in a structured and prescribed manner so that a child is aware of a time to talk about issues of the day. A child will assimilate the goals and expectations of the family and internalize them as they gain independence through modeled behavior. Try not to drink alcohol each night in front of your child and then expect them to refuse alcohol when their friends offer.

What kid doesn’t love a cookout! You can use a gas grill, charcoal, or build a fire. They don’t care as much about your method of cooking as they do that you’re cooking outdoors. It’s okay to give kids age appropriate jobs when cooking out. Give praise and have fun!

#5 TALK TO YOUR CHILD ABOUT THE VALUE OF SEEKING HELPFUL ADVICE

Hopefully your child may never need counseling. However, if and when they do, you want it to be a positive experience and not one that they resist and must be forced into. From the outset, emphasize the positive value in seeking help and/or counseling when confused. Resist the message that seeking help is a sign of weakness but rather one of strength. We can all benefit from “coaching” when we wish to learn a new skills, or plan a life direction, or encounter a difficult time in our lives. Help your child to embrace help!

Counseling doesn’t always mean from a therapist. Listen to what kids are saying. Offer advice when appropriate. Sometimes it’s easier to talk when you’re walking because you’re not face to face. Kids don’t have to avoid uncomfortable eye contact when you’re on the move. Don’t like walking? Work in the garden, throw stones in a pond or go fishing. Listen, talk and listen some more.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Adelphi University. The opinions and italicized text are all mine.

Reader Comment Disclaimer
Comments submitted may be displayed on other websites owned by the sponsoring brand.

Bear Hunt Diary: I Pull the Trigger

If you haven’t read part one yet you’ll want to get up to speed.

One sheet of fabric separates me and the bears.

One sheet of fabric separates me and the bears.

He turned to his right and rambled up the bank to the overgrown skidder trail. He wasn’t leaving yet so neither was I. He got a little tangled in the raspberry bushes before stepping out of them and into the brushy opening on the wide trail.

Small bear was limping badly. He took small, hopping steps on his left front leg, sometimes dragging that paw. I then understood why he was so loud and moved so slowly. He was suffering. I pushed the safety off.

I didn’t have a good shot through the brush so I watched him. He rambled down the bank, behind the hemlock tree holding the bucket, and back up the bank to the bucket. I wished he’d walked the straight line through the clear area to get to the bait. I think he avoided clearings as much as possible now that I know he was injured. He sat down at the edge of tree with just his head showing again. I was kicking myself now for not piecing together how loud he was, how slowly he moved, and that dangling left paw the first time he came in. It’s obvious now.

Small bear sniffed and looked around. I moved to bend my knee, raising my right leg a few inches so I could steady my elbow on it, and he heard me. He looked toward the blind, sniffing again, looking for the cause of that sound. I avoided eye contact. The only parts of me not covered in camo were my eyes and hands. My gloves were left behind in the truck.

Here comes that upsetting part I mentioned in part one.

He didn’t find me. I was calm, no longer shaking, and a little disappointed. This isn’t the bear I’d been studying. Not the bear that would put a lot of meat in the freezer. He took a step forward and I took aim at his right shoulder.

I did think of the game camera as this happened. I knew I’d have photos to look at later that night. The camera let me down. I have only one photo before we started searching. I will never forget what this looks like or what happens when I shoot an animal. This photo is a reminder of the seriousness of what I do.

Pulling the trigger has never been so smooth. My Browning .308 BAR has no kick. The trigger doesn’t pull lightly. I have to squeeze firmly and consistently. When I’m target practicing I have too much time to think about it. It hasn’t been natural yet when practicing and I sometimes pull just enough to be one inch low and one inch to the right of bullseye. Smooth this time. “Okay. Shoot now.”

I saw fire from the end of the barrel. On impact, small bear rolled over backward (there’s that tiny bit of adrenaline rush as I write) two or three times, down the bank and landed in the bushes. I’d shot my first large game animal.

I hit my target. My first large game animal is down.

Small bear rolls after being shot. I hit my target. My first large game animal is down.

The shell ejected and a fresh one moved into place automatically. In 1.5 seconds I was ready for the next shot if I needed it or could take it. I stood and listened. He moved. Was it death throes? Was he getting up to run away? I couldn’t see him. Do I get the headlamp out of my pack and walk to the bucket? Wait? Was he suffering?

Texts to Steve while he was on his way back from picking up lobsters for Kristin’s bridal shower. He was on Route 9 with little or no cell phone reception.
7:19  Bear down
7:22  Hear it moving. I don’t know what to do but wait a little.

Now I’m concerned. I’m alone in the woods with a wounded bear. My rifle is loaded and ready to go but I still can’t see the bear.

7:23  Get me help. (Steve calls Gene and Peter.)

I’m upset now. I’ve caused this bear to suffer. This is not what I pictured at any time when I thought through what I would do and what would happen. I was going to make an excellent shot and the bear was going to drop in its place and not know what hit him. Yes, I do know that bears are tough. This one was particularly tough. I’m comfortable with taking the life of an animal I’m going to eat. I don’t like it but I am both realistic and responsible. If I were vegan I’d still be the cause of animal deaths. I am comfortable taking 100% responsibility for my food. I am not okay with inflicting pain, and that’s what I’d done.

7:28  Not dead yet, moving away.

Dammit.

Text from Steve, who has pulled over and made phone calls.
7:35 Gene is going to call you. He will drive to the top of the hill. Peter is on his way. I’m in Wesley.

I kept track of the bear as it moved. I heard it hit the ground just before Gene called.

“Are you okay?” he asked. I was. We discussed what he should do. If I wasn’t okay he’d come in immediately but if he came in and the bear wasn’t dead we risked our safety and pushing it further away. He waited. I sat down behind the blind.

Thump crash rattle bang! I jumped a foot. “Oh shit…” Was the bear, or a bear, at the bucket? “I can’t shoot another bear!” I pulled the flashlight out of my jacket pocket.

A raccoon looked back at me, its eyes glowing in the light of my flashlight. A raccoon. It was bold and refused to leave even when I nearly bounced a stick off its head as a warning. One more stick, no warning this time, convinced it to go. I didn’t need that distraction. Nothing more from the bear.

I heard Steve’s truck coming out the dirt road. Minutes later he yelled. “Rob?”

“At the blind.” They walked further in. “The bear is down.” The search began.

Steve and Gene looking for blood at the base of the tree.

Steve and Gene looking for blood at the base of the tree.

I told the story. “It was here when I shot it. It rolled this way, went over the bank. It moved here (add hand gestures), here and here. I haven’t heard it since just before I talked to you, Gene.” We found a bit of fat and blood at the base of the tree, a bit more away from the tree, then just blood. We followed the blood trail through the woods. From a distance Gene can tell the difference between a drop of blood and the small red spot on a maple leaf that’s beginning to turn its autumn colors. I was much slower, taking time to inspect anything I thought could be blood.

Steve went back to the truck about the time we expected Peter to arrive. When he arrived we started from the beginning. “It was here when I shot it. It rolled this way, went over the bank. It moved here, here and here. The last time I heard it was a half hour after after I shot it. It’s over here, and I think it’s dead but I’m not sure.”

I stayed between Peter and Gene, and Steve stayed behind me. Me being the only one with a gun, we didn’t need to be spread too far apart. Gene and Peter found more blood but we couldn’t find the bear. The saying baiting bears is like shooting fish in a barrel is bizarre but finding a black bear in the dark woods at night is like finding a needle in a haystack.

last heard it there

Notice the missing camo pattern? It isn’t picked up by the game camera at night.

Back to the beginning. I went through it in my mind again. Shot it here, rolled there, walked here and here and here, last heard it here. I was so certain that I knew where it was and since we didn’t hear it moving I thought it was dead but between the four of us we couldn’t find it.

back to the beginning

Back to the beginning, by myself this time.

Back to the beginning, now by myself so that I can think this through without interruption or distraction. Under brush and bushes, climbing over fallen trees, tripping over rocks and stepping into skidder ruts. Around root masses of fallen trees, behind them, around them again. Where was it? And was it suffering?

“Robin, where do you think it is from here,” Gene asked. I had to admit I didn’t know because having zigzagged through the trees this way and that, I didn’t know exactly where I was in relation to the bucket. By then I wasn’t sure of anything. I doubted myself in everything.

We searched for three hours before calling it for the night. Steve, Gene and Peter had to work in the morning. I’d be coming back in the morning to continue the search alone. If I couldn’t find it someone else would come with a hound and track it, but not until afternoon. Afternoon was not acceptable. I would find it, dammit. I would.

“What have I done?” Repeated many, many times during a very long night, as though I didn’t know. I knew what I’d done but I didn’t know how long I’d caused the bear to suffer. I went to bed at 1 am and dozed off and on for a couple of hours.

I wrap up the story in part three.

Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)

Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)

I hit the publish button on this post as Steve was walking out the door to go to work. He came back in a moment later. “Hey Rob, want to see a flying squirrel? It’s in the bait barrel.” Poor little guy! (We’re going with male. I didn’t check.) He probably hadn’t been in the barrel for long. He was wet from being outdoors doing what flying squirrels do. He needed a place to spend the day and hey, why not spend it snacking on sweet treats between naps.

Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)

Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus)

I took a picture of course, then helped him out. I scooped him gently with the shovel but he was nervous on the ride up and jumped off. “It’s ok. I won’t hurt you.” You know…because flying squirrels speak English. He must have understood my tone because when I put the shovel back down he climbed on, climbed to the top and looked at me for a sec before jumping down and scrambling away. Flying squirrels are one of my favorite forest creatures. So cute with their huge eyes, so fluffy, so amusing when they “fly” across the road in the headlights.

Skull Identification – Answered

From observation listed here, we know this is part of the skull of a raccoon.

This is part of a raccoon skull

This is part of a raccoon skull

Reconnect with Nature: Skull Identification

Skull: What do I know?

Skull: What do I know?

“Hey Rob…I brought home a piece of skull for you.” We have interesting conversations around here. Steve handed this to me this morning.

What do I know? It’s a question I ask myself often.

I know it’s a predator. Look at those canines.

I know its bottom teeth fit into the gap between the front teeth and canines. Imagine being bitten with those teeth!

I know there’s one inch between the canines.

I know it’s a nocturnal animal. Note the size of the eye socket compared to the rest of the skull. What big eyes it had.

Do you know what it is? The answer is posted here.

Bear Hunt Diary: I Shot My Trophy Bear…but it’s probably not what you think

Bear Hunt Diary: I Shot My Trophy Bear

So much to do, so little time. I can barely make time to write these days. Bear hunting is time consuming. I’ve been walking to my bait every day to make sure the Three Musketeers and their mother have a donuty snack. There’s firewood to finish, food to pick and put up for winter, seeds to plant for winter greens, blah blah blah. I was frustrated over the amount of time I spent hunting. Five years of failure weighs heavily on your mind when you’re sitting in the woods, doing nothing, and making mental lists of all that waits at home for you. I developed a “get a bear and get this over with” attitude.

On Wednesday Steve brought home photos of the big bear at his bait site during the day. Big bear was there almost every day during daylight, especially on Tuesday, the day I spent shopping in the city. He came to the bucket five or six times that day. He was there again Wednesday morning before Steve got to the site. I studied the photos, picturing where he usually stands when he’s eating, what direction he comes and goes (to the right of the bucket), how long he’s gone when he leaves (two minutes), and where I’d shoot him (behind his left shoulder). I spent hours looking at photos and putting this together in my mind.

Thursday morning I woke with new determination. Big bear. My bear is big bear and it didn’t matter how long it took. I was holding out for big bear. If I had to sit there from sun up to sun down every day I didn’t have an appointment, well then that’s what I’d do. Dammit. I’ve put in five years. I deserve the bear I want and thanks to Steve for setting up this bait, I had a really good chance of getting it.

I expected there to be a lot of photos on the game camera. Unfortunately, there was only one. I will share that photo. It will upset some of you. It’s a large dose of reality. I’m being honest about this process. Please stick with me through the story, including the photo.

I arrived at the site at 2:45 pm and I’d missed him. I looked at the pics of the game camera and settled in behind the ground blind.

Text to Steve at 2:51 pm: Empty bucket. It’s the big one. 9:50 am.
Text from Steve at 3:07: Fbomb…need more bait. And at 3:10: Will bring in something….
To Steve: Awesome pics of him sitting in the hole while he eats. I put the lid back on. If I don’t get him today I’ll start cooking tonight (Kristin’s bridal shower was Saturday and Taylor is away at school so I did the cooking.) and come back in the morning.

Big big, the one I planned to shoot

Big big, the one I planned to shoot

The bear above is the one I planned to shoot. He’s sitting in a hole that is two feet deep so you can’t tell how big he really is from this photo. One bear, a lot of meat.

At 7:15 pm, while messaging Jamie and Kacie about Kristin’s bridal shower, I wrote “I’m hunting right now but the bears aren’t cooper….”

CRASH! Here comes a freight train!

You don’t usually hear bears walking. You’ll hear them ripping stumps and logs as they search for grubs, and you might hear a stick snap if they step on it but in general, black bears are silent. There was so much crashing and snapping as the bear came up over the bank to the left of the bucket that I knew this was big bear. My bear. I was sitting on the ground halfway behind the sheet of fabric. The little seat I’d been sitting on for hours hurts my butt so I’d moved over an hour earlier.

I relived this story as I wrote notes and got a small adrenaline rush and I have one now as I write. It was an emotional day.

I turned the phone over and set it face down on the forest floor. The sun had already set so any light from the phone would give me away. I clicked the safety off and waited. Snout. Head. I leaned a couple of inches to the right. Yes. Yes, brown face. It’s big bear. I had less than a half hour of legal time left.

He sniffed the air and looked around. My heart started to race. “What the hell,” I thought. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t scared. I’d been through this in my mind a million times. I knew what I needed to do and I knew how to do it. I wasn’t excited. What’s up with my heart?? I’ve been disappointed way too many times to get excited. I’d get excited when I had my transportation tag on him but for now, he legally wasn’t my bear yet. He could turn at any second and walk away. Why was my heart racing?

And then my legs started to shake. “Oh my gawd. What is WRONG with me?” Not nervous or scared, but obviously more excited than I realized.

He took another step closer to the bucket so I leaned to the right again.

Small bear. It was small bear. That’s okay. I pushed the safety back into the On position and watched. Every time I see a bear I learn something. I observe with passion. If birds sang, squirrels fussed…if more sirens blared from Route 1, I did not notice them. I wasn’t shooting this bear. I’d watch and wait for tomorrow.

Small bear stood to hunch over the bucket to open the lid but couldn’t pry it off with his paw. He sat down and pulled it with his mouth and gently, carefully placed it on the ground. He didn’t toss it as I’d imagined so many times. He didn’t drop it. He carefully placed it on the ground. He was being as quiet as possible, I think, to avoid alerting the two other bears that frequent the bait. I looked through the scope and took aim behind what I thought would be a good spot behind his right shoulder. Brush blocked part of my view but I thought “If I were going to shoot him I would aim here.”

Small Maine black bear

Small bear

He had a few bites then looked up at the maple syrup dripping from a container hanging from a dead branch. He stood and sniffed, reaching with his right paw. Too small to reach, he placed his left paw on the tree and made the slightest jump to climb the tree. I raised my rifle, safety still on and finger no where near the trigger, and took aim. I placed the cross hair on the center of the back of his head. “If I were going to shoot him I could aim here.” Learning. Always learning. The photo below was taken several days earlier. Notice his left paw.

He wanted the maple syrup (real, not pancake syrup) dripping from a container above his head.

He wanted the maple syrup (real, not pancake syrup) dripping from a container above his head.

He returned to the bucket for another bite before an ATV started up the dirt road nearby. Small bear left the same way he came in, down over the bank, loud and slow. The ATV passed. I was ready to leave as soon as I was sure the bear was far enough away to not give myself away. He hadn’t seen or smelled me and I wanted to keep it that way. I took that opportunity to quietly move back up to my seat. He came into partial view on the right side of the bucket, walked to a dead tree, stood on his back feet and clawed the tree with his right paw. Wow! Not many people get to see this in person. I’m still in awe and replay the scene in my mind several times a day.

He turned to his right and rambled up the bank to the overgrown skidder trail. He wasn’t leaving yet so neither was I. He got a little tangled in the raspberry bushes before stepping out of them and into the brushy opening on the wide trail.

Small bear was limping badly. He took small, hopping steps on his left front leg, sometimes dragging that paw. I then understood why he was so loud and moved so slowly. He was suffering. I pushed the safety off. The true meaning of “trophy” was happening, and it’s probably not what you think.

Part Two is here.

 

Moving In Season for the Red squirrels

Red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus). Something so small and kinda cute and so able to make me utter words I shouldn’t write here. A female raised a litter in the shed. I don’t know how many kits there were but it seems only one survived. He’s still hanging around though his mother has moved on. She’s probably one of the chatters living in the woods nearby. I’m thinking now about pests in the house. It’s about time.

As soon as I start filling the bird feeders they’ll swarm from the woods. We listen to squirrel Olympics in the attic, the dogs barking until I open the door and yell (usually not loud enough to be heard the first time or two), “Stop barking already!” The young squirrel is hanging around because it likes the donuts in my bear bait barrel. There’s little bait left and that’s a problem for the squirrel. He gets in, eats his fill, then has to work very hard to jump from the bottom of the 50 gallon barrel to the reach the edge and pull himself out. I’ve let him out so many times he doesn’t run away from me. One day last weekend he jumped out after I tipped the barrel and sat on the ground near my feet – until Ava spotted him and gave chase. He sprinted up the wall of the barn, onto the metal roof and ran. He had enough momentum to make it half way up the roof before he lost ground. Metal offers nothing for the squirrels to dig their claws into. I could hear his claws trying to dig in as he ran cartoon style. And then, slowly at first, he slid down the roof. If you’ve ever seen snow slide off a metal roof and plop to the ground you know exactly what happened to the squirrel. He hit the ground, stunned for a few seconds. It’s a long drop from the edge of the roof to the ground. It was his lucky day. Ava was on the other side of the barn waiting for him to leap into the cherry trees so their chase could continue. He’s fine, still getting into the barrel, still being turned loose, still not afraid of me.

Red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus)

Removing the squirrels gives us temporary relief. It’s quiet for a few weeks and then another squirrel moves in and invites its friends over. We don’t seem to have hawks or martens in the area that hunt squirrels. They can’t live here so as I anticipate Moving In Season I think about how I’m going to prevent it from happening, or at least put an end to their tenancy.

Bees on Autumn Flowers

A glimpse of autumn flowers in the yard. The sunflower is free range, planted when birds and squirrels missed a seed last winter. Just a couple of flowers and some bees today. I’ve picked a half bushel of tomatillos that need to be cleaned and frozen, a blog to write for Homesteader’s Supply on time (which I’ll be writing about here also), laundry to wash and hang and applesauce to jar and hot water bath before I leave for the afternoon and evening.
bees 2 bees

 

Maine Bear Hunt: About the bear I hoped to shoot yesterday

I’ll give you a break from bear hunting next time and write about something else. I’ve been working on firewood, putting up vegetables, preparing for a bridal shower and two weddings, ad lots more.

One sheet of fabric separates me and the bears.

One sheet of fabric separates me and the bears.

I was behind the ground blind by 3:15 pm. The first time I sat behind a single sheet of fabric I was nervous. I’m sure my jitters sent every bear for miles even further away from me that first day. Now I sit behind that sheet like I own the forest. Bears? Bring them! (Please…bring them…) Time and experience – good things. Steve sat beneath a huge hemlock 15 feet behind me. Annoying mosquitoes buzzed around me, the Thermacell forgotten at home. I don’t know why it wasn’t in my backpack. There were times I thought “bite me and go away already.” I wasn’t overly confident I’d get my bear, oh how I know better than that, but I was more hopeful than usual.

Thunder rolled in the distance. Excuse me? There was no rain on the radar! I started counting when lightening flashed in sight. One one-thousand. Two one-thousand. Three one-thousand… Seven one-thousand. Eight one-thousand. Boom. Steve hates lightening and I knew he must be uncomfortable. I don’t like it and I was a little concerned. We were surrounded by a lot of very tall trees.

Determined to stick it out and listen to the rain music (rain hitting the leaves and thunder), I moved a little to my right and sat on the ground behind some bushes to gain a little cover overhead. I would have to be a little more careful there but I could still make a good clean shot from the ground.

rainAn hour later the lightening was closer and struck more often. One one-thousand. Two One-thousand. Boom. A few minutes later, the sky opened up and sprinkles turned to torrential rain. We headed for the truck. One one-thou BOOM! By the time we go to the dirt road it was washing away. I changed into a dry shirt in the truck but without a towel I was so wet the shirt was damp.

“If you could stick it out I could too. I didn’t think you were ever going to get up!” I should have been a little less stubborn and quit 10 minutes earlier but I really thought the storm might go around us. HA!

Steve turned on the heat and we hydroplaned once on the way home. Disappointing but it was nice to have chores done and eat supper at a reasonable hour for the first time in a week. I’ll try again Wednesday.

 

Maine Game Warden Kris MacCabe talks about Maine’s bear hunt

Maine game warden Kris MacCabe (Northwoods Law – you know who he is) talks about Maine’s bear hunt.

Kris and his fellow wardens will have to deal with the increased nuisance bears and human/bear encounters if we lose our hunting methods. Here’s what he has to say.

Maine’s bear hunting methods are under attack by HSUS and animal rights activists who think we’re being cruel and inhumane. I’ve invited anyone who’d like to go with me to learn the process to participate fully with me, including hunting if they have a license. If you’ve read this blog long enough or you know me in person or online, you know I am anti factory farming because of the animal cruelty involved. I’ve compared baiting bears to feeding my pigs and to what factory farmed pigs in Nevada are fed.

Biologists find snared bears asleep. The snare isn’t painful, it’s snug. People tie their dogs out by the neck daily but find a tie on a paw offensive. Makes no sense to me. Bears climb trees (imagine that!) to get away from dogs. If it’s not a harvest-able bear it’s left alone. And as I’ve said before, no bear is ever forced to eat from a bait barrel.

Twenty-five percent of Maine’s bear hunters were successful last year. That number will drop if HSUS wins this and thinks we’re going to spot and stalk (they are useless when it comes to the realities of hunting bears in densely forested Maine) thousands of bears a year. How many do you see when you’re in the woods, and see long enough to assess and make a decision on shooting, then have time to shoot?

Please think long and hard about this if you are thinking of voting to ban our hunting methods. If you’re still inclined to vote in favor of banning our methods please tell us your plan to control Maine’s bear population.

Bear Hunt Diary: The black bear I hope to shoot today

Maine Black Bear Hunting

This is the bear I hope to shoot this afternoon.

Maine black bear

Maine black bear

I’ve been putting in the work for three weeks so far this year. I’m walking two+ miles a day. I lug bait a half mile through the woods and if the bait hasn’t been hit, I lug it a half mile out, regardless of weather. I’ve been doing all of this for five or six years and not yet shot a bear. Surely I’ve put in enough time by now.

This is one of seven bears we have pictures of, and there’s an eighth we know nothing about other than it’s very big. The sow and triplet cubs are not options, of course. There’s one bear of average size that came to my bait once during legal hunting hours, but it was before hunting season opened. Last, there’s what I refer to as the new bear; at my bait twice and both times at night.

The smaller bear and this bear at Steve’s bait round out the seven, and both have been there during the day. They are my best chance this year.

I’ve studied the photos and the patterns of both bears, and I’ve made my choice. This is the bear I hope to shoot today.

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The Limb Grip Sale - One day only

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I use The Limb Grip six days a week when I’m in my tree stand to hunt. It’s an important part of my hunting gear and does a lot to help keep me safe. When I’m not hunting I’m using another The Limb Grip in another tree stand while I’m watching wildlife and taking notes to create scenes for writing. I’m pulling my rifle and backpack up on a regular basis. I’m not pro-staff for the heck of it. I’m a satisfied customer.

I’m a member of the pro-staff team because I believe in The Limb Grip, Rhino Force Industries, and Jennifer and Ryan Brockman. Jen and Ryan are hard workers, small business owners, and hunters.

Bear Hunt Diary – August 29, 2014

I’m posting yesterday’s entry even though I haven’t caught up with prior days. Let’s start off with a Maine black bear sow selfie. She’s much better at selfies than her cubs. Isn’t she beautiful? Mother of the triplet cubs. She’s not as big as I thought but she’s a good 300 pounds. I thought I was going to see her in “person” yesterday.

Maine black bear sow does a selfie

Maine black bear sow does a selfie

I still have a lot of firewood to split and stack and some freelance work to write so I wasn’t going to the tree stand yesterday. I changed my mind when I couldn’t figure out (!!!) how to open the gas container (!!!) to fill the wood splitter with gas. It’s an adult proof container and I had no children around to open it for me. I took it as a sign to stop working, changed into camo and headed to the stand. It was 5 pm by the time I was seated.

Wooo hooo! Crashing in the woods! “Here they come,” I thought. My heart started pounding. I thought I was going to watch the sow and her triplets by the sounds of what was coming through the trees.

I saw legs storming through the brush on the back side of the barrel. Long, thin legs. Cow moose and her calf legs. The calf was a couple of seconds behind the cow. And then three blurs – coyotes.

(please excuse photo quality – phone cam, dense woods)

Behind the barrel

They were out of sight for a few seconds, then the cow and calf turned left and headed toward the small stream.

To my left

To my left

The coyotes followed until the moose stopped. I couldn’t see much because the dense woods. The cow charged the coyotes and made contact with one. It yelped, and all three ran off.

I listened to the moose breathing hard for a while. It was quiet, then I heard them walk back up the trail to a small clearing. They bedded down about 100 yards from me. I left the stand a little early to be sure I had good light going through the woods. They were on my left and the trail out is on the right so I wasn’t too nervous.

See the bird nest?

See the bird nest?

More happened in the two hours I was in the stand yesterday than the previous four days combined. Sometime in a little more than two hours from when I walked in to when I walked out, a bear trampled this raspberry batch. Apparently it didn’t get the “Donuts ahead” memo. There weren’t any raspberries so I don’t know what it was doing.

The view when I reached pavement.

The view when I reached pavement.

It was 40* at 5 am. I hope the “new” bear that walked through the site two nights ago came back last night. I’m eager to check the game camera this  morning.

{this moment} Mushrooms

A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Mushroom Hunting

Mushroom Hunting

Mushroom Hunting

Chubby Cubs

They look good. Some of their “chub” is their winter coats but in general, they look like healthy, well fed cubs. They aren’t very hungry. They didn’t tip the barrel over to get to the donuts there and they didn’t clean out the bucket. Their scat (they sure poop a lot) is full of blackberry seeds so they’re filling up on natural food. Sometimes they nibble on donuts and other times they walk through without even sniffing.

Maine Black Bear Cubs

Maine Black Bear Cubs

Bear Hunting Diary: August 10

Maine Black Bear Hunting Diary

August 10, 2014

It’s a late start but it’s done. Steve and I set up the bait bucket and placed the tree stand. The stand is closer than I’m comfortable with but I’ll deal with it. I’ll have to act fast once I get a chance to make a good kill shot. I have no wiggle room, literally. The slightest movement by me is likely to be seen or heard by the bear. I’ll be sitting 25 yards from the bucket.

This is my view. I’m using the white five gallon bucket that hangs between two young birch trees. It’s wired to the trees. The lid sits on top to keep rain out. I wanted to close it but the bucket is stretched out of shape so it doesn’t fit. I might be able to get it on if we have a hot day and the sun shines on it and if I’m there while it’s warm and the sun shines on it, and I stick my tongue out just right.

View from my tree stand

View from my tree stand

Steve’s cutting branches that block my view. The blue barrel belongs to the landowner. I can use it but haven’t decided if I will. We’ll see what happens with the bears. I thought it would be dry and brittle after years of sitting out in the weather, but it’s not.

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Controlled Chaos Begins with Bear Hunting Season

Controlled (sort of) chaos begins in the morning with the first of the fall hunts. Bear season opens in the morning. To fit everything into one day I’ll be up early to start in on the day’s freelance work. I’ll do chores (pig, duck, chicken) and the garden work earlier than usual, then it’s off to check the bait barrel. I’ll be bow hunting for whitetail and shotgun hunting for turkey, grouse and woodcock in October. If I strike out with the bow I’ll be rifle hunting in November. Controlled chaos, late nights, early mornings. I love it!

Bear cub looks at game camera

Hey! What’s that flashing red light? Hello? Who’s in there?

Cubs checked out the game camera six or seven times. I’m grateful they didn’t play with it.

Back at home, I’ll figure out what’s going into the slow cooker or oven for supper and take whatever is needed out of the freezer to thaw. I’ll get some housework done (the housework tends to take a dive by early November), put up whatever vegetables and berries are ready, then settle down to write. I don’t know yet what will get less attention – the blog or book. We’ll see how it goes.

Sow at the bucket

Sow at the bucket

By mid afternoon I’ll be showered in scent free soap, shampoo and conditioner, and wearing unscented deodorant.  No hairspray. I’ve never managed to hunt pretty. I look a wreck by the time I get home.

My hunting clothes have been washed in scent free detergent and hung out to dry. I won’t put them on until I’m ready to go out the door. My camo wardrobe is pathetic this year – one pair of pants that fit, one that is a size too large, and a couple of long sleeved t-shirts. I get cold easily so I need to figure out how I’ll stay warm when the sun is low and the evening air changes. I can’t, or shouldn’t, move to put a warm shirt on.

I’ll spend the last half of the afternoon and all evening sitting in my tree stand, as still as possible. No swatting at mosquitoes, black flies or horseflies; Thermacell will keep me nearly pest free. I’m a little apprehensive about walking the half mile back to the Jeep in the dark knowing that the sow with three cubs could be in the area. I’ll make a lot of noise. The last time I watched a sow with cubs at a barrel I had to text Steve to come get me because she wouldn’t leave. I don’t want to have to do that again! He can’t drive close to this bait like he could that one.

If you’re hunting, safe shooting and stay safe in the tree stand. I can’t leave tomorrow until my safety harness is delivered.

{this moment} Sunset from the Boat

Joining in with {this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor, remember. To see more, check out the comments to Soulemama

Sunset on West Musquash Lake

Sunset on West Musquash Lake

Sunset on West Musquash Lake