When bear hunting…stealth and patience is the name of the game

So as I said in my last post, I have been at bear camp with an old friend. I left off with us tucked in for the all nice and cozy in a well-outfitted cabin provided by Tucker Ridge Outfitters.

The next morning, after about 61, or 62 minutes of broken sleep…(I had forgotten my CPAP machine, and every time I fell asleep I would startle myself awake when I snored…) I heard Bob get for the third of 4th time since around 10 PM the night before, and glanced at my watch. It was 3:30…Still very dark out, but this was bear camp, and I had breakfast to cook. Things get started early in bear camp!

Our guide, John Floyd was popping in for a quick breakfast of bacon and eggs before we were heading to our baited site, a couple miles down the road.

I had been “uptah camp” last year with my son William for a guided deer hunt on Youth Day and knew my way around the cabin.

John had asked me a few weeks ago if I would consider being hired on as a live in camp cook for the final week of bear season, and I had agreed.

I knew people like bacon, and I knew cooking bacon for more than one person in a frying pan was NOT fun, so I had requested a flat grill.

When Bob and I got to camp the day before, the grill was sitting on the table right next to the homemade coffee cake John’s wife made for us. Coffee cake is a tradition for all guided hunts up on The Ridge.

When John knocked on the door promptly at the agreed upon time of 3:45 and found me at the gas range cooking 9 strips of bacon in a giant skillet while trying to make toast fry eggs at the same time he asked the obvious question.

“Why aren’t you using the griddle?”

“It’s got the wrong plug with it. It has 1 prong on the cord, but the pan has 2 prongs on the receiver.” I showed him.

He apologized as I slid a pair of eggs onto his plate. I cracked another pair of eggs into the pan as I heard the toast popping up. I told Bob and John they were on their own getting their toast and getting it buttered.

“It’s all good Bubba!” John said with a genuine smile.

“Gotta butter my own toast…And WHAT HAPPENED TO THAT YOLK!? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH THAT? I TOLD you, I like MY eggs over easy buddy!” boomed Big Bob.

“I know you like your eggs over easy” I said as I handed him a perfect plate of eggs, “That’s why I am eating the ones with the broken yolk…” I said loudly…(Bob is a bit hard of hearing)

“WHY do you talk SO loud Dougie? Every thing you say is SO friggin loud!”

“All this frigging complaining already…12 minutes of broken sleep…Haven’t even had my coffee yet…running late, no time to make extra coffee for my thermos…he’s crying about broken egg yolks on eggs that are not even his…I’ll show him friggin egg yolks” I mumbled.

“WHAT!?” asked Bob, confused.

“The bacon is on the table!” I replied loudly.

We inhaled our breakfast, climbed into the truck and made it to the bear stand only a minute or two behind schedule.

John told us that in the past there have been bears on site around 7-7:30am, and that he would be back after us around 8:30-9am but to call if we shot a bear.

A moment or so later, he vanished into the darkness, occasionally you could see his head lamp through the thick brush. But soon he was gone, and the woods were as quiet as the grave.

I sat there in the blind with my shotgun across my lap staring out into the gloom, just about to doze.

“WELL?” Bob whispers loudly.

“Well WHAT?”

“You gonna load that shotgun, or just wait and thow it at the bear? Loading those things is LOUD, and I’m telling YOU mister…Those bears can hear reeeeaaaal good!”

“I was waiting for legal light.” I whispered as I loaded my 12 ga with slugs. “I don’t see what it matters anyway…Can’t shoot the first bear I see…why even bother bringing my gun in the first place?” I mutter under my breath.

“HUH?” Bob whispers loudly

“I said I wish I had some coffee!” is my whispered reply.

The woods are so quiet, we can hear a logging truck a mile or more away as it down shifts, rattles and clangs over bumps, and revs its engine to make steep grades, heavy tires humming on the pavement. It seems like it goes on for hours, as the sounds echo off the ridges.

Soon enough it passes and all is quiet again.

Meanwhile, Bob is unzipping his back pack. The sound is deafening in the silent black woods. He pulls out the holster holding his semi automatic .22 pistol. He takes the gun from the holster, puts the holster back in the bag, and zips it shut again. It sounds like he is ripping the very fabric of space and time. Then he loads the magazine, and racks a round into the chamber, then makes sure the safety is on.

“WHAT do you plan to do with that little thing?” I ask in a normal voice.

“HUH? WHAT?” Bob asks cocking a hand to his ear.

“That! What are going to do with it?” I whisper loudly and point.

“Bob gets a clever look on his face and whispers, “When a bear comes in here to rip our faces off I am gonna shoot him with this!”

I just roll my eyes.

Before long, the woods start to wake up. Birds and squirrels creak, tweet, flap, squeak, and chip all around us.

Bob lets out a heavy yawn, and ends it with “Ho-hum!”

Then he whispers to me that he wishes he had brought his heavier jacket. I’m sitting there in camo pants and a long sleeved camo T-shirt. I just roll my eyes.

A few minutes later I hear him fidgeting as I am peering into the ever brightening woods. I glance over at him. He has his pistol again. He checks the safety, clicking it off, and then back on again. Then he slides the chamber open slightly to make sure there is a round in it, before placing it back down on the back pack by his feet.

Then another yawn followed by “Ho-hum-hyah!”

We’ve been in the blind just about an hour. Legal shooting is only minutes away! A hungry bear will be here ANY SECOND to get his breakfast, and I will BLAST him! ANY SECOND NOW…

“It’s CHILLY isn’t it?” Bob whispers, “What time did John say he was coming back?”

I roll my eyes. “Around nine,” I whisper back.

“I’m gonna text him in a bit, and have him come back around eight I think…I should have worn a heavier coat!”

First light has come and gone. Visibility is good. We see a few blue jays.

I glance some movement off to the left that turns out to be a snowshoe hare.

ANY MINUTE NOW, A bear is going to come! I can feel it! That’s why that dog is barking in the distance!

Bob is fidgeting again…He has his phone.

“I think I am gonna have John come get us early Buddy!

I hear John on the other end…”What’s up Bubba? You get one?”

Bob says, “No…I think I’m going to have you come get us. I didn’t really dress for the cold this morning.”

“Really?” I hear John’s surprised reply.

I glance down at my watch….It’s 7:15 am.

Bob finishes up the call, and apologizes to for pulling the plug so early.

“It’s your hunt buddy! If you’re not comfortable, there’s no sense sitting here freezing! We’ll get em this evening!”

We get back to camp, Bob cranks up the furnace for a bit, then shuts it off and heads in to take a nap, and warm up.

A few hours later we head into Lincoln so Bob can find a sweatshirt that isn’t as heavy as the coat he has brought.

He also suggests I get in touch with my wife to see if she can meet us in Old Town, with my CPAP machine. My wife agrees to make the trip but suggests it would be better for her to come to Howland to save us a little travel time. (That is because MY wife is AWESOME)

When we get back an hour or so before our planned time for the evening hunt, John calls us over into the shop

Note the time stamp in the lower right…

When he picked us up that morning, he refreshed the bait in the barrels and pulled the memory card from the game camera. He he wants us to see the bear that had been having his breakfast at the same time we had been eating ours!

We hoped he would come back for dinner, but the day time temps were in the high 70’s so John told us not to get our hopes too high, and remided us that the bears don’t like heat. The morning hunts would be our best bet.

We get back to the blind and settle in. Bob is nice and warm now…And tells me so.

Then he decides to get a snack…from his zipped pack! And again, after he gets his snack he rezips the pack!

His snack? A few Fig Newtons wrapped in a plastic shopping bag! He rattled around in the bag for his Newton…Offers me one. I shake my head no and stare out into the bushes. Bob wraps his reamaining fig bars BACK UP in the crinkly bag and enjoys his snack.

Fidget, rustle, rattle, creak, yawn, swat, bump, brush, sigh!

Then the 4 wheeler comes and picks us up.

On the ride back to camp, John asks us what time we want to head out in the morning. Bob speaks up and says we were going to skip the morning hunt, and go out around 4pm the next evening.

Bob and I fixed outselves something for dinner, and settled in for a move on the camp’s DVD player before heading off to bed.

I had no idea what the next day would bring, but one thing was certain! THERE WOULD BE NO BAGS WITH ZIPPERS, OR COOKIES IN GROCERY BAGS!

Doug Alley

About Doug Alley

I grew up in Bath, Maine in an upper lower class family with 3 step sisters, a step brother, and a little sister. After high school I spent 3 years serving in the USAF at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage AK. I've competed in, and won, demolition derbies. I've competed in, and never won, stock car races. I am the 47-year-old father of an 11-year-old boy who is pretty sure he is smarter than I ever was. We live on a little less than an acre of land in a 1973 mobile home in Stetson with my wife Jen, some cats, a few chickens, and rabbits, and a couple of goats. I hunt, fish, camp out, dabble in photography, gardening, and I cook in variable degrees of near success.