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Author Topic: Story of a Bear hunt - by Jeff Berberick  (Read 270 times)

Offline Terry_Green

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Story of a Bear hunt - by Jeff Berberick
« on: April 05, 2003, 01:11:00 PM »
Story of a Bear hunt - by Jeff “Bowhunter4life” Berberick

 

While hunting deer in January ’02, a friend of mine, O.L., followed a fresh set of deer tracks right to a fairly remote stock tank. The tank is actually located on Forest Service land, but blocked pretty well by private land. O.L. had gotten access through the public land for us to hunt deer up there, and secured it again for the ‘02-‘03 hunting season.  It's a natural spring fed stock tank, probably 400 gallons in the tank at all times. Surrounded by an old eight-foot wooden plank fence with a gait open at one end, and several of the 2”x6” boards missing where we figured the critters were entering to get to the tank. Due to both of our schedules, we couldn’t get up there to check it out until the Bear season actually opened on August 1st.  While we were up there we found the most likely spot to set the blind, which was on the north west corner of the fenced in area, and left the area undisturbed.

There wasn't very much sign to be seen in there at that time of our first scouting trip, but it had just rained the night before and the whole area is full of matted down grass.  With the season opening in August, a time when it is very dry in New Mexico, we knew the bears would be hitting any sustained water source.  Due to my schedule, I was unable to get back up there until Wed the 14th.  I set my Double Bull blind up where we had decided the best place was on our previous trip in on the 1st.  About a quarter to two in the afternoon, I looked over and there was a little 100 pound bear standing in the northeast corner of the fenced in area, about 20 yards away facing me.  He was rubbed up and down both sides, with about 4” of hair all down his back (I, jokingly, called him the "Mohawk" bear from then on).  He proceeded to go back out the way he had come in and circled around the north side of the tank, outside the fence through thick brush.  He came to a little trickle of water that was flowing out of the fenced in area (unknown to me!). He was maybe 5 yards from me, but there was a board from the fence blocking his vitals. He proceeded to drink his fill (sounded like a darn dog drinking from a dog dish!), then left. I figured that was my whole season.  Good story in itself, five yards from a Black Bear, but unable to get a shot.  Especially since until the moment I saw him standing there 20 yards away, I didn’t really believe there were Bears in New Mexico anyway.  I figured, “what the heck”, I should sit the rest of the day out anyway.

Long about five o’clock I actually heard behind me: SNIFF-SNIFF-SNIFF and looked to the left out the window of my Double Bull blind to the west, and saw a Bears nose!  4 feet from me on the other side of the fence!  He then proceeded to sniff up and down the side of my blind and actually stuck his nose right in my little viewing window up to the bridge of his nose, 18" from my face! It was that same little “Mohawk” Bear, and he just backed out and walked away. I believe that could be a record for being as close to a Bear as anyone has ever been without getting a shot!  

Anyway, now I was trying to figure out a way to shoot that way through the boards in the fence, and watched for him to come back.  After about 15 minutes or so, out of the corner of my eye, I caught movement coming from the north.  A little Cinnamon Bear (about the same size as the little “Mohawk” Bear) comes in and sat down on a rock facing me at about 20 yards. After about 10 minutes the Cinnamon Bear did a back flip and ran out of there. I figured there must be another Bear coming into the tank behind me, because it had obviously smelled me and didn't seem to care for the 10 minutes prior while it sat on that rock 20 yards from me! Out of the corner of my eye, to the south, I saw the “Mohawk” Bear walking up the fence-line right to my position. So I knelt down and got ready for a 1-2 yard shot through the gap in the boards of the fence, out the southwest window of my blind. I came to full draw and I saw his nose enter the window at 3 yards.  He stopped, looked past the blind back to the same northeast corner of the fence that he was in when I first saw him earlier, did a back-flip, and ran out of there.  All I said, in my head, is “There has to be another Bear over there behind me.”

Without turning around, I glanced over my right shoulder and saw a big old boar walking past the north east corner of the fence.  Three hundred pounds if he was an ounce!  He had a big blocky head, tiny ears, and a butt that was about three-foot wide!  There is no doubt when you see a big bear; you just know it’s big when you see it!  I figure he was headed to that little trickle of water where the “Mohawk” Bear had tanked up earlier, and he would be big enough to have his vitals over that board that was blocking the “Mohawk” Bear’s vitals earlier.  So I turned around to that north east window of the blind, and was ready to draw as soon as I see his nose come into the window.  Waiting... Waiting...... Waiting...... then I saw his shadow on the west wall of the blind behind me!  He didn't go into the little trickle of water!  He wanted to come through the fence right were my blind is!  I'm cussed myself out in my head, and looked over my right shoulder to the southwest window (The same window I was just at full draw on for the “Mohawk” Bear!).  That 300+ pound brute's vital area is the only thing I saw out the window, at 2 yards!  

So, I thought to myself, “I might as well try and get turned around and put an arrow into him, if he will let me.”  I got about half way around and he went "Whooomph!" and started running away. I turned quickly and saw him running out the west wall’s viewing window.  He ran out to about 30 yards and whipped around and started jumping up and down on his front feet and blow/Whoomphing at me. He didn't know what he was mad at, but he was mad! About 20 or so minutes later, and a lot of Whoomphing, he finally left. I packed up and left also.

The place we had decided was the best spot to place the blind was the place where the Bears wanted to enter the fence! So the next day I just moved the blind 10 yards further south along the west fence-line.  Making sure there were no missing boards in the fence where the Bears would possibly like to enter.  At 2:15 in the afternoon, I saw a completely different bear coming up the draw from the north to the same northeast corner in the fence.  He saw the blind and went “Whoomph!” ran about 30 yards up the hill and spun around for a better look at the blind.  He proceeded to meander around up on the east hillside, and back down to the northeast corner of the fence.  Then proceeded around to where I had the blind set up the day before. I figured he would step through the hole in the fence right there and head for the tank, but he wanted to check the blind out.  He walked to within three yards of the northwest corner of the blind only on the other side of the fence.

I was just sitting as still as I could have possibly been, and not looking in his direction. He turned around, walked back to the opening where I had the blind set-up the day before, and stepped on through the missing board in the fence. He was now 12 yards or so from me inside of the fenced area and still wanted to check out the blind.  He proceeded to walk straight to the blind to within about two yards off the northeast corner of the blind, and stops. He turned broadside, facing east, and all I can see is his chest area. I bring the bow up and start to draw, but I think he saw the tip of the bow in the other window, and went "Whoomph!"  He ran over to the tank and stoped quartering away facing to the northwest. By then, I’d come off my stool to a knelt position to get a better angle out of the window, and I was at full draw concentrating just off of his elbow, and let fly at 8 yards. At the shot he lunged forward, I could see the arrow tracking right on line with where I wanted it to go, but he dropped and lunged at the same time. The arrow caught him a little far back and a little high. He bolted right back and slammed into the fence where he had come in.  He couldn’t figure out how to get back through the fence, so he went to the northwest corner, scaled the fence itself (like it wasn't there!).  When he got to the top he just leapt off in full stride, and he hit the ground running directly away from me to the north.  When he hit the ground I started counting 1...2...3... then he turned a corner to the northwest and I couldn't see him anymore...4...crash, crash, crash, and I heard about a 3 second moan, then nothing.

I pulled out my watch and checked the time, 2:30. At 2:45 or so, I got out of the blind quietly and looked to see what I had.  Blood at the shot sight, and all the way to the top of the fence.  I went back to where he was standing at the shot, and the arrow had passed completely through the Bear and careened off one of the boards in the fence.  The broadhead stuck in a tree 1/4" up the hosel part of the Wensel Woodsman (or about an 1 1/2" into the tree!).  There was good blood on the arrow end to end, but I wasn’t sure of what I had actually hit.  My guess was the top of the liver, possibly the arteries/veins running just under the spine, and possibly the lung on the far side.

With a shot of that nature, I had two possible scenarios.  Either he was out where I heard the crash and moan for good, or he was out there, not so much for good, waiting for me.  I didn’t want to track a possibly wounded Bear with just my bow.  I am a hardcore bowhunter, but I’m not stupid!  So, since the gun season was open also, I packed up my stuff and made a mad dash back to Roswell to get O.L.’s 44 magnum to do the tracking.  I needed to get there quickly, since O.L. was teaching Hunter’s Education that night and the gun was in his safe.  I got there in time, grabbed the gun and headed out again.  About halfway back I realized I hadn’t grabbed the lantern, but I had a couple of flashlights in the truck and I should be fine.  When I arrived, I grabbed the flashlights and checked the batteries.  The big 3-cell Maglite was dead, so now all I had was my AA Maglite with questionable batteries.

There was about an hour of daylight left and it was about an hour walk into where the tank was, so I really kind of ran up there to get as much natural light as I could.  I made it up there in about 45 minutes, talking and yelling all the way up the final draw to try and run out any other Bears that might be on the tank as I approached.  When I got 40 yards or so from the tank I heard Bears running everywhere!  They were flushing out of there like a covey of quail!  I know there was two for sure, since they went in opposite directions, but there was probably more from all of the noise they made when they exited the area.  

I proceeded to the Northwest corner where my bear had scaled the fence and tracked from there.  Found pretty decent blood for about 20 yards then it dried up.  From then on I just used the scuffmarks from his claws in the hard packed soil.  At the point where he had turned and I’d lost sight of him he’d went onto bigger softball sized rocks, so I lost the scuffmarks also.  It was pretty dark by then, so I took the gun out and just started searching on the assumption that he did in fact fall about where I’d last heard him moan.  While doing my grid search I actually walked by him four different times.  By the way, there are a lot of things that looked like a Bear in those low light conditions!  

Anyway, he did in fact go to where I’d last heard him moan, and was tucked neatly under a small pine tree about 60 yards from where he’d been shot.  I tended to the gutting process with the gun very handy and singing/yelling as loud as I could to hopefully keep the other Bears away.  Once I finished I wrapped him into a tarp and started dragging him away from that general area.  I was able to move him about 400 yards down the drainage before my Maglite finally died.  

So I’m now 2 miles from the truck without a light of any kind, on a very dark night.  I finally made my way back to the truck, and headed back to Roswell to get the lantern.  By then O.L. was done with his Hunter’s Education class, and jumped in the truck with out me even having to ask.  We got back up there about 2:00 in the morning and started dragging.  Within 200 yards or so, going over the rocks in the draw, we had ripped the tarp and rubbed up the hide pretty good already.  The tarp technique, O.L. had suggested, works well in the Pacific Northwest where you are dragging on pine needles, but not so well here in New Mexico on the rocks and sand.  So we took the tarp off and drug him out flat on his back.

When we got to the bottom of the draw and were working him out of it up the West Side, O.L. heard something and froze.  He said, “We either have a Rattlesnake or a Cattis fly”.  He panned around with his flashlight, and sure enough there was a 3-foot Rattlesnake not more than 2 yards from us all coiled up facing us.  “Keep a beam on him” is all O.L. said as he went and grabbed a 3-4 foot stick.  “I’m going to try and knock him out your way” was his next words.  Now my way was getting further and further away!  All he said was keep a beam on him, which I did, he didn’t say I had to stay put!  The snake went off into the woods anyway with O.L. chasing him down.  He got him pinned down with the stick, stepped on its head, and cut it off.  “There, now he isn’t so dangerous anymore” and proceeded to stuff the headless snake into his pack.   Being a custom bowmaker he planned on using the skin for someone’s bow, and the snake was just the perfect size for such a purpose.  I wanted the detached head for a back quiver, I reached down to grab it and O.L. said, “Don’t touch it, it can still bite you!”  So I reach down with my flashlight and touched the cut off end and the mouth opened full wide!  Darndest thing I had ever saw!  So the detached head remained where it was and we proceeded to drag the Bear.

It took us from 2:00 in the morning until 8:00 in the morning to get him out of there.  A long night in anyone’s book!  The Bear was a 5-foot male that weighed 200 lbs., and a very good eater by the way.  It was kind of disappointing to ruin the rug, but things happen.  I'll get the skull bleached and make a necklace with the claws for my “Trophy”, but the meat was really the most important part for me anyway.  I know we could have quartered him up and packed him out on our backs, but we didn't want to be butchering up there in the middle of the night with that many Bears around.

I was using my Morrison Dakota (58”, 57# @ 29"), with 30" tapered Lodge Pole Pine shafts (from Troy Breeding) with a Wensel Woodsman broadheads (tw: 585 grains).  The most important piece of hunting equipment by far was the Double Bull Blind!  There is no way I could have gotten that close to any of them bears if it were not for that blind!

This was actually my first Bear harvest of any kind, and I've hunted for them in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana, and Alaska in the past. Go figure that I actually harvested my first Bear in New Mexico!?
 
A very sincere thank you goes out to O.L., he is what friendship, and traditional archery is all about!  Plus my understanding, and loving wife Chris, for dealing with my bowhunting passion.  Thanks to both of you!

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