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 with Rob Miskosky

A Frightening Experience

As an outdoorsman, I often think about bears. In fact, I’d bet most folks that spend considerable time outdoors think about bears quite a lot. We think about what we’d do if we were to encounter an aggressive bear, one at a food source or kill, or a sow with a cub or cubs. We think about our bear spray and how we’d use it; in fact, I’m quite sure most of us practice shooting off our expired sprays, I know I do. We’ve probably even practiced shooting from the hip, without actually shooting our gun, just to get the feel. So, it would be fair to say that bears consume a lot of our mental energy when we’re in the bush. And why not? It’s been said that a bear is either coming from trouble or heading to trouble, so we’d be foolish if we didn’t give bears our utmost attention and keep them top of mind when we’re hunting, fishing or trapping.

As a trapper, I spend a considerable amount of time in the bush after most hunters have put away their gear for the season. From September through to spring, a trapper can always have reason to be in the bush. Yes, most bears are sleeping during the colder months but most trappers, me included, have had bear encounters even in January, especially of the grizzly kind, as they tend to wake up on those occasions when the weather warms up for a day or two, no matter the month.

But my most recent bear encounter was of the black bear kind and something entirely unexpected.

It was early evening and I was sitting at the firepit outside of my trapline cabin when something black caught my eye from across the small lake my cabin sits near. Picking up my binocular, I watched as a big sow and her cub slowly fed along the opposite side of the lake. I watched them for a couple of hours before they finally disappeared.

The next morning, I ventured by quad across to where they had been feeding—I wanted to see what it was that had their attention. What I discovered was an incredible amount of cranberries growing all around that side of the lake and bear scat that was full of the red berries.

After spending the day cutting wood for winter and doing odd chores, I once again found myself sitting at my firepit. In short order, the big sow again showed up across the lake with her cub, filling up on cranberries. I watched the pair for at least another two hours before they slowly disappeared into the trees. I stayed around my firepit enjoying the pleasant evening until dark, and then I made my way into the cabin for some much needed shuteye. It didn’t take long and I was fast asleep.

I’m generally a sound sleeper so it takes a fair amount of noise to wake me up. So when I was aroused from my slumber by something pounding on the side of my cabin, I shot straight up in my bed. Then I could hear something up against the main cabin window. Being pitch black inside the cabin, I grabbed my flashlight, shining it at the window. Not being able to see anything but blackness, I got out of bed and ventured closer to the window, shining the light outside, but it was still too difficult to see anything in the dark of the night. The sound had stopped at the window but now I could hear something on the deck at the front door... and I could tell it was big without even seeing it. My heart began to pound as I realized I had a bear just a few feet from me; albeit, on the other side of the door. Then I heard the recycle container that was full of cans and bottles go crashing across the deck.

By now I had my bear spray in hand and a shell loaded in the chamber of my gun. That’s when the bear began to push against the front door, trying to get in the cabin. The door groaned against the weight of the bear, as it pushed in a rhythmic motion against it. In the light of my flashlight, I could see the door straining hard. At that point, for just a second, I thought about firing the gun through the door and into the bear. Realizing that might not be the best idea I’ve ever had, I moved closer to the door and with my hand, I pounded once on my side of the door and began hollering, “Hey bear! Hey bear! Get outta’ here bear!” at the top of my lungs. And then... silence.

With my heart pounding at full tilt, I listened hard at the door, bear spray in one hand, rifle in the other... silence.

I’m not sure how long it took me to get back to sleep, but it was quite some time—looking at my clock, it was 1:29 am.

The next morning, I cleaned bear prints off the door, the side of my cabin and the window, and cleaned up the recycling that was strewn about the deck. I then spent the better part of two hours building bear pads (heavy plywood with nails pounded through and sticking up) to lie at the front of the door and under each of the two windows a bear could reach.

I’d never given it any thought before, but being inside a small building that a bear is trying to get into is not a pleasant feeling; in fact, it’s quite frightening.

For previous Outdoor Pursuits click here.

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