The Three Bears

Nope – This isn’t about Goldilocks. This one is very real.

September is for one thing – primitive weapon hunting in Colorado. The weather is gorgeous. The golden trees are beyond description. And the bugle of a bull elk is always thrilling. It was that kind of day in mid-September, 2010, when this story took place.

As I was walking to a favorite spot, bow in hand, a young Black Bear hopped out the bushes about 40 yards ahead. I’ve encountered bears before and found the little guy interesting. He was fat and slick and ambled up onto a ridge where he took a position in some trees and made soft grunting noises. It was one of those moments that outdoorsmen love. I stood still and thought, “Neat.”

A moment later a second cub came out of the bushes and joined the first cub on the ridge. Even though I was fascinated by the scene before me, my aging Aggie brain kicked in. Two cubs, mama bear was nearby! I could feel the adrenaline begin to rise and strung an arrow onto my bow.

Sure enough, here came a large female from my front left at about 30 yards. She was the opposite of the cute cubs. She was thin, ragged looking, and her grunts and smacks were much more troubling. Add 50% to the adrenaline level.

The cubs were about 50 yards away ahead and to my right. The female came across gazing intently at me and making huffing and grunting noises as she closed to about 20 yards. Once she was situated directly between me and the cubs she turned squarely toward me with a few more smacks and grunts. I remember thinking that once the cubs were properly guarded she would lead them away. Adrenaline level down by 10%.

For what seemed like a long time, we both stood there. Now I was thinking that this thin, desperate bear was looking at me as a tasty morsel for her and her cubs. I knew not to run though it was tempting. Finally, I decided it was time to try to discourage her. Standing tall, arms up, bow in my left hand, I yelled pretty loud, “Hey Bear.”

Everything I knew from a lifetime of being around animals made me think this wild animal would flee from a human, take her cubs to safety, and continue looking for food. Wrong answer! She intended to find food alright. That would be me in her estimation. She immediately bounded directly toward me stopping at less than 10 yards, bouncing a little, with more grunts and smacks. Adrenaline level to 100% plus all reserves!

All I could think about was trying to frighten her. I pulled the arrow and sent it into a rock pile by her right foot. It struck with a twang as I reached for another arrow. Then it hit me that she could get to me in less than a second. There was no time to clumsily restring an arrow and get my release put back on the bowstring. I just held the arrow in my hand thinking this wasn’t a good hunting experience. Adrenaline levels on Major Overload!

I guess the twang of the arrow and my fidgeting with the bow distracted her. Her nose ducked a little and for the first time her large eyes looked to the side and away from me. It was almost like a parting gesture. She simply stepped a few steps to my right, got a tree between me and her, and began softer grunts directed at her cubs.

A few backward steps down the trail for me. A few steps toward the cubs for her. It was over. As we put distance between us I could still hear her grunts.

All who know me know I’m pretty tight with money. A few yards down the trail it dawned on me that my high dollars carbon arrow with a fancy hunting tip was still up there in the grass. The thought didn’t last long. It seemed the rocks had probably ruined it anyhow. Maybe I’d just leave it – Oh well!

After a few days the encounter became a little funnier than it was at the moment. It does pain me a little when I think the bear might have gone back and gotten the arrow as a den wall trophy of the experience. If so, I hope she enjoys the trophy.