It’s late archery season and pouring rain. We drop the kids off at their grandparent’s house and make the hour and a half drive to an area that we’ve heard the elk are. By the time we get there, we’ve missed the daylight hour, so we spend a few hours driving the mountain roads to glass and scout the area to decide which spot we should hike into for the afternoon hunt. Not really seeing anything much from the road, we make a plan to head back down and nap in the truck for a few hours and later we would go to the highest peak and bugle to try and locate and go after them in the morning. On the way down, we notice this tree with two magpies and about ten crows on it. Corey and I look at each other, nod and pull the truck into the brush to get out and see what kind of carcass they are eating on. This would give us information of what kind of animals or predators are in the area, since we had not hunted here in about two years.
Now it’s important to note, Corey and his dad had logged this area fifteen years ago and did logging and road construction here over the years. Now they both said to me, they’ve never seen a bear in this drainage, ever.
I get a bit unnerved when someone says they’ve never seen a bear here. Because now that I am here, you’ll see your first one, believe me.
So with my .40 on my hip, and Corey’s in the safe, we get out to go look at what we assume is a carcass. I take one step out of the truck and look down.
Now, my mother and most of my family think I should have gone into forensic work. They thought this way before CSI or any similar shows. I have an acute sense of details of my surroundings, so acute sometimes I get turned around, or get so focused on looking for one thing that I can be in the right place and just not realize it. While hunting, my guard is never down, and I’m always scanning and looking for something out of place, or that one detail to tell us which way to go when tracking.
So, I get out of the truck and look down. It looks like the deer and elk had a party and decided to use this 20 yard circle as their bathroom. And fresh. Corey and I silently walk back to the truck, while I grab my bow, he reaches for his call. We follow the trail about 150 yards into the brush to sit and wait. At this point the rain has stopped but everything is soaking wet and nothing is making a sound. It’s quiet, eerie quiet.
Now a little bit of background on the area we hunt. The elk aren’t as vocal as they used to be due to the predators, so a lot of times they will come in silent. And a gunshot has brought in a pack of wolves or a bear, more than once.
Corey lets out a few cow calls and we wait. Nothing. A few more chirps. Half an hour later, still nothing. After deciding to hang out for a few hours Corey heads back to the truck for some lunch and I head off to explore around this area a little bit and just see where some of these trails lead. About forty yards from where I was sitting earlier, I come across berries, well what looks like berries that had been thrown up. So thinking to myself, what in the world, oh wait, that’s fresh bear scat that’s gotten rained on. Hmm, now might be the time to turn back. I have a bear tag, and would have no trouble harvesting one. But I am hunting elk at the moment, and I know myself, I get so absorbed in tracking or paying attention to all the little details that I will miss a cow standing in front of me; as I did when I “rattled” one, but that’s another story. Following this trail further my attention to surroundings is now on alert. Another 100 yards down the trail, and a second pile of bear scat. Yeah okay, time for this mom to turn around.
I get back and tell Corey about my find. We talk and go over strategies of what we think the elk are doing. Have you ever tried to think like an elk? Our plan was to drive down to this gate about a mile down the mountain, closer to the river, and walk in. This area looks amazing, there’s deer and elk sign everywhere and trails going up each bank. I even find a nice shed, which was very easy to spot, making me think that no one had really hunted this area this year.
The farther we go, the more sign we see. Then it stops. There’s one pile of bear poop. Eyes get wide. Oh wait, there’s another. Unclip holster. And another. Now there’s a shell in the chamber and the pistol in one hand and my bow in the other, begging Corey to turn around. When I see the bear poop with pieces of a garbage bag in it (I’m dead serious) I totally lose my shit. I’m too scared to leave Corey’s side and he’s pushing on to a clearing. This went on for about half a mile. Literally stopped counting after twenty large piles.
We reach the clearing, its only about 100 yards across and 50 yards deep, but looks like a perfect place for something to come out right at dark. I sit quietly trying to calm my nerves but keep looking over my shoulder into the deep dark trees. Suddenly, something starts crashing down below us. We both jump up and run to the edge of the old road and look down the hill. It’s so thick there could be a moose and you’d have trouble seeing it. Back to our seats. It’s getting close to that perfect time for bow hunting, right at dusk. And with every passing minute, it’s getting darker and darker. I turn to Corey and tell him its time to head back to the truck even though it’s not dark and we might be missing an opportunity, I honestly can not sit here another minute. I’m still calm, but fear that I’m really going to be attacked by a bear. The panic in my eyes must have told him that I’m not joking and we made the trip back to the truck. Never knowing if the bear was close by or not, I felt a wave of relief hit me once I closed the truck door.
So we head back to the spot with the birds from earlier, which we never found a carcass or anything. At this point, it’s dark, and thankfully fire restrictions have been lifted, so we fumble around for headlamps to get the lantern going and start a fire. A cold beer and warm mountain house sitting around the fire, makes all my troubles disappear. But still being conscious about bears, we didn’t leave any food out or burn anything except for wood in the fire. We crawl into the back of the truck and turn on the little heater and close the topper door to warm up a bit before bed. A kiss goodnight and alarms are set to go back out and look for the elk in the morning.
Three hours later I wake up, needing to use the bathroom.
I nudge Corey and tell him. He mumbles “Why are you telling me?” My response, “Well, I don’t know, I’m still a little freaked out from earlier.” “You’ll be fine,” he says.
Now I find it important to say, nothing is exaggerated.
I have my hand on the topper glass door, going to push it open, and there’s this “gggrrrrrrshh” (ok I totally need this to be in audio) it’s an unmistakable bear groan. Corey, grabs my arm, pulls me back, and whispers “Don’t move.”
It’s pitch black, but my eyes were as wide as saucers and I’m whispering back, “what the hell was that, that’s a bear, oh my god, my pistol.” I had on my insulated pants earlier, since I’m always cold and left my pistol in the holster, on my belt, in the front seat.
Then there’s this scratching tapping noise on the glass. And you can hear him walking around the truck. No weapon in the back with us, and the topper unlocked. Corey grabs the keys and sets off the truck alarm. You can hear him lumber off. Oh thank god, but I’m beyond panicked at this point. As tough as Corey is, I can tell he’s freaked out too, but trying to stay calm. After being married almost nine years, I can tell when there’s panic in his voice or on his face, and when that happens, you know the situation is bad. He uses the remote start on the truck and with the dim day time running lights on, we try to look out the fogged up glass and see if there was anything still out there. The truck runs for ten to fifteen minutes before turning off if you don’t put the key in the ignition. So the truck turns off. And we sit still and wait, just to make sure nothing comes back.
About three minutes later, he does. You can hear him breathing and then there’s this thump on the truck. Some choice words were whispered and now I’m literally shaking with fear. We set the truck alarm off again and remote start it. By now, I really have to pee and thinking we are going to get attacked by a bear, I’ll have no chance for clean underwear when they find my body. Not necessarily appropriate, but the exact thoughts that were going through my head.
We don’t hear him leave, but really cannot see anything. The truck goes off. And will not remote start again. (I later learned that you’ve got to wait about half an hour before it will start a third time as a safety feature). Weighing the options of breaking out the back window of the topper and truck, or getting out and getting into the truck.
So we throw on our boots and grab the two closest things to a weapon I had in the back: a 2’ shovel and a cruisers axe. The plan was, for Corey to jump out with the axe and keys in hand to unlock the truck and I would run to the front seat and grab my pistol.
I honestly wish this event was caught on film. We both scream and throw open the topper and what is normally a feat for Corey to get out of the small opening was done with grace and in about a third of a second. I’m right behind him, out of the topper and around to the front seat and with a round in the chamber, safety off and ready in another second and a half.
We rush back to the tailgate and while I’ve got the pistol trained on the darkness in front of me Corey lights the lantern and throws the heater and two chairs into the back of the truck. He then looks at me and says, “Ready to go?” I’m like heck yes, but I’ve still got to pee.
So we get into the truck and start it, looking around for signs of anything. By now, there’s no way I’m going back to sleep, much less hunting here in a few hours. So at 2 am, I drive us the hour and a half home.
On the way out, after twenty miles on gravel road, we hit the highway. I pull over and want to look at the truck, and unload the pistol that’s still in my lamp and put away the burning hot lantern that was in between Corey’s legs. My truck was a muddy mess from the rain and dirt roads, but you could still see the nose prints and where he had brushed up against the truck, along with a few new small scratches.
We get home at 3:30 am, and all we can do is laugh. We are both in shock of what just happened. Needless to say, I think this area has bears and I won’t be spending the night in the back of my topper again without my pistol.