February 5, 2023

An Angry Bear in a Shrub Thicket

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I have been attending the same family owned hunting camp in rural Maine for nearly 40 years now. There are many stories to be told and I have been able to share some of them here and in my other books and writings. My memory fails me to know whether I have shared this particular bear story, so I’ll attempt to refresh the memory cells and see what I can do with it.

It was many, many years ago; perhaps 25 years past. My details of this may be sketchy for two reasons: one, I was not in the woods with my hunting buddies when the event took place, and, it was 25 years ago.

Like myself, the majority of those who I choose to hunt with at hunting camp, don’t set out into the forests to hunt a black bear. Oftentimes, with the onset of the fall whitetail deer hunting season in Maine, bears have entered hibernation or are seriously thinking about it. Combine this with the fact that it is rare to spot black bears in the woods of Maine at any time of the year, it isn’t often that a deer hunter encounters a bear. In the 50+ years I have hunted, I probably can count on one hand the number of times I have seen a bear or bears while deer hunting.

I believe it was late morning, a time when the morning hunt had concluded and most of the hunting camp members were returning to camp for lunch – more than likely red hot dogs – a power nap and then it would be time to hit the woods again until dark.

One hunter (I’ll not attempt to provide names) spotted a young bear crossing his path ahead. He contemplated whether or not he wanted to take a bear. I believe he fired one shot at the bear and the young bruin ditched himself into a patch of spruce and fir thicket, making lots of noise; enough that the hunter knew the bear was quite angry.

Two of his hunting buddies, one a brother, on their way back to camp for lunch, joined in the fracas.

The bear, still in the thicket, was ripping up small fir trees with hands and mouth and basically acting mean, wild and very unpredictable. I should point out that at this time I don’t believe the hunter who actually fired one shot at the bear had actually hit it, although in his mind the bear was acting as though he had been hit.

All three hunters surrounded the bear in case he tried to make an escape. But then came the decision(s): How to get the bear out and/or who would go in after it?

There was a certain amount of teasing and having fun as the younger of the two brothers had a phobia about bears and really wanted nothing to do with any thoughts of being near an angry bear.

I believe the story goes that the first guy to fire a shot, crawled on this hands and knees, as well as his belly, into the thicket until he could see the bear and take a clean, killing shot.

Upon dragging the young bear out of the thicket, the actions of the bear prior to this, began to be explained. It was concluded that perhaps days before the hunter spotted this bear, somebody else had shot at the bear and half blew his testicles off. The entire area was gangrene. The bear was suffering, thus the reason he was in the thicket ripping up shrubbery.

The hunter tagged the bear, took it home and butchered it. As it turned out, the meat was so terrible, i.e. tough, rancid, etc., that it was not edible. Several different attempts were made to come up with some way to make the meat palatable but it was not to be. He ended up discarding the entire bear.

People often discuss about whether bear meat is good to eat. I believe it really depends on several factors. First, it depends on what the bear is eating. Wild game always has a flavor to it you can’t find in a grocery store and that flavor is most often influenced by the diet of the bear and the amount of fat on the animal.

Second, I would imagine the amount and length of stress involved in killing the animal. In this case, this bear was under great stress, probably for several days, essentially rendering the meat lousy.

Third, how the meat is prepared and cooked. I think, other than extreme cases like the one I just described, that how the meat is prepared and cooked is the key to eating bear meat, or any wild game for that matter.

Forth, it’s all about acquiring a taste for bear meat or any other wild game we chose to eat.