So, I was fortunate enough to be selected to go on a spring bear hunt with Send-a-vet. It was a total adventure. When I arrived at camp, I was greeted as if I was family, then showed to my quarters while there. I got settled in quickly because I had to get the license signed and go reconfirm my zero at the range before dark. That night, other hunters showed up from their hunt. One had a bear and the other missed the opportunity due to fading shooting light. I had high hopes for my next morning’s adventure to start at 0330. I barely slept due to the excitement got up to the blind.
Jose, Lacy, and I pushed bears off the bait on the way in. So I settled in for the hunt, knowing that the bears were hungry and around. Jose instructed me before he departed to stay completely still and quiet as possible, due to the bears having the high ground and smarts to know when a hunter was emplaced. I was as still as possible, but the bears decided to wait me out until the evening. Crows and ravens where on the bait site all day so the crashing and squeaking is a normal sound to hear. I was covered in my poncho liner laying do to peak a key hole that I could see the top front of the bait.
The bear that was frequently there liked to sit on top and enjoy the peanut butter, bread, and strawberry jam bait. I am specific to say what was in the barrel due to it being the exact meal I made for lunch. Now as I laid on my side waiting for this bear, I heard a crunch of a branch about ten meters or so from the back of the blind. I thought nothing of it due to the birds. It was the crunch at the back of the blind that got me to turn over to see this younger blond bear entering the blind to share my lunch. We locked eyes and as I turned to retrieve my pistol on the ground to my right, he was high tailing it out of the blind. I got three shots off and only hit trees. It was the end of the hunt for that evening.
It was suggested that the next day we would go to an evening blind due to it not producing in the morning hours. So we got to the site and it was a small hike to the blind. I am not as young and healthy as I was before, so the lead guide was watching bears in the bait for 10+ minutes waiting for me to show up. The bears just ran a short way up the hill and waited for the barrel to be filled. This was it, time to get a bear. I got set up and they took off down the trail. Not twenty minutes after they left, I start smelling skunk really strong. This bait had a group of three that enjoyed sweets. So I was expecting to see a skunk when trotting down the hill come this solid black bear. I get behind my rifle and watched as my target was coming to the barrel. I was instructed to wait for it to start feeding so a clean ethical shot can be made.
I waited as she came ten meters from me not even knowing I was there. She looked to the barrel and then turned to my right and faced down the trail. She stepped forward and extended her body to give me a perfect double lung shot. I aimed and the .300 win mag sounded off. She spun around a full 180 and headed to the brush. I waited a couple minutes and gathered my stuff to try and catch the guys at the bottom of the hill to help recover the bear. I got on the radio to report a bear down but I was in a valley, no line of sight. I hiked a short distance from the valley’s end to the cabin so we could find this bear in the last light of the day.
When I show up, there is a group of successful hunters sitting around the fire pit to greet me with cheers and excitement. We decided to go as a group to recover my first bear. We all jumped into a truck and off we went to the bait site, only to find my bear only twenty yards or so from the barrel. She was a solid black bear with red stripes running down her jawline. I was elated to have harvested such a beautiful animal. We got her strapped up into the skid-co and off we went down the valley to the truck. Jose then showed how much of a master he is at skinning the bear and did a wonderful job at it.
This opportunity to hunt has helped me as a soldier heal my mind and soul. I don’t get out much due to the circumstances of my injuries. Send-a-vet helped bring me together with like-minded people to have camaraderie and heal. I am so thankful to the hard work of Mark, Jose, Rick, and all the volunteers of Send-a-vet for the blessing of this experience I will never forget.