The Standoff

This is a true story of an encounter I had with a bear one day. Written and illustrated by Tim Livingston. 

black bear, bear
“This one sized me up trying to decide if I was on his menu.”

The deep impressions in the skid trail were unmistakably that of a large black bear. He had walked this trail so many times that his footsteps had created permanent depressions in the earth. Bears often walk in their same footsteps on their favorite paths. It’s quieter that way. A quiet bear is a well fed bear. This trail hadn’t been used for skidding logs for forty or fifty years judging by the trees growing there. The Bear owned the trail now. 

I came up the trail for the same reason as the bear. I too was hunting. I carried my bow with an arrow nocked at the ready. Trying to be as silent as I could, I stepped where the bear stepped. It was so dry in the August woods that everything cracked and snapped under my feet. I moved along the edge of a steep ravine. Pausing every few steps to listen to the sounds of the forest. Suddenly, crashing sounded through the brush, and then a loud whooshing huff came from across the ravine. There was another huff and then another.  I’d been made.  It was the alarm sound of three black-tail deer.  Deer were what I came for, but my element of surprise was lost.  I couldn’t see any of them through the dense forest of Douglas-fir, pine and oak.  I hoped they might move into an opening so I could. I sat down on the edge of the trail to quietly wait for things to settle down. 

The huffing gradually subsided. The group of deer moved off never once revealing themselves to me. I waited a few more minutes hoping for a straggler.  Then another huff sounded far up the draw. It seemed odd that this new deer would have detected me at that distance.  The huff was followed by more huffing along with crashing in the brush. The crashing didn’t seem like deer. Quickly and quietly, I got to my feet and looked up toward the sound. Soon, a black bear foraging down the ravine came into view. I could tell by its size it was a big boar.


I couldn’t legally hunt this bear because my bear tag had been filled a week before. I didn’t want him to know I was here.  His reaction would alert other deer in the area to my presence. Searching around, there was no way out of the ravine that wouldn’t attract the bear’s attention. Climbing the steep slopes through the leaves and duff would have been very noisy. I waited hoping he might go off on another trail, but he didn’t. He kept coming. I was downwind so he couldn’t smell me. Finally, when our encounter was inevitable, I had to alert the bear to my presence. I picked up a baseball sized rock and hurled it yelling, “Get outta here bear!” My throw missed, and the bear froze in his tracks about fifteen yards away.

When most black bears encounter people they run away fast, but boars in August are different. They are the most dangerous. They’re famished and will attack people, especially in the back country. This one sized me up trying to decide if I was on his menu. He didn’t know what to make of me dressed in camouflage and full face paint. I kept yelling at the bear. Telling him to leave, threatening him and even cussing his mother failed to move him along. The bear tipped his head back and with lips curled out, tried to find my scent on the breeze. Fortunately, the wind was in my favor. The bear was uncertain. Seconds ticked by and then minutes, but the bear wouldn’t budge.  I moved slowly to my right past some tree branches. Now I had a clear shot at him. I knew at this range I wouldn’t miss him, but he could easily reach me before I could nock the next arrow. At that moment my arrow just seemed like a pointy little stick. I didn’t dare turn my back. 

I was down to one last desperate bluff to convince the bear to leave. I raised my bow up as high as I could without taking my finger off the trigger. Then with a guttural yell I lunged toward him. Mama bears often bluff charge people or other bears to make them back off. Any bear should instinctively understand. He didn’t move. I repeated the lunge. Again, the bear didn’t move. He didn’t even twitch. We were now only ten yards apart. What had seemed like an okay idea at the time was suddenly feeling like a really dumb idea. Drawing my bow for what was to come next, I was ready to fire if he took one step in my direction. The seconds slowly ticked by as we stared each other down.  Abruptly, the bear turned and bolted up slope away from me. Then, just as quickly turned back around and sat down. We were now at the more comfortable distance of thirty yards apart and still staring each other down.

Taking a chance, I laid my bow on the ground with the arrow still knocked. Then, slipping the pack off my back, I pulled out my camera. My eyes never left the bear. I took pictures until he moved.  The bear circled to my right behind the cover of some bushes, but kept his distance. I had pushed my luck, so I stowed the camera and put my pack back on. 

The bear was now sitting on a small ridge above me and I had to pass right below him to go on my way. I faced him as I moved slowly past with my bow at the ready. Immediately ahead was another ravine. It was small but deep. I kept looking back to see if the bear had moved. He had not. As I was trying to sort out how to cross the ravine with a big black bear looking down on me, there was loud crashing. I wheeled around to find the bear was gone. He had run down the other side of the ridge.

Seizing the moment, I scrambled through the ravine and quickly moved along the trail. After a short distance I stopped to listen. I could hear the bear on the slope below. He had finally gotten downwind to scent me. I wondered if he would follow now that he knew what he was following. As I went on my way, I stopped to listen every so often. My hunting partner was waiting for me down the trail and she had a bear tag. If the bear followed it would be at his own peril. I would lead the bear to her.

Every little noise after that seemed like it could be the bear, but I never saw him again that day. In seasons to come I’ll return to those mountains and probably to that same ravine. The bear will likely still be around and I may see him again. Hopefully next time he’ll be the hunted.

Forestry Friday…The Fire Salvage Begins

This fire season in California has been epic in the worst possible way. Not only did we have the state’s largest recorded wildfire, the Ranch Fire, but we’ve had the most destructive fire, the Camp Fire. During any prior year the Carr fire would have been the most destructive fire in California, but this year has been exceptionally bad for wildfires.

I was out checking in on one of our salvage logging contractors on the Carr Fire last week. The timber salvage operations are well under way. Click on the gallery of images to read about it.

Since I wrote this post the rains began in earnest. Our fire season has come to brutal end.

Wild Wednesday … Downy Woodpecker

I drew this pen and ink while Mary and I were sitting in a ground hunting blind two deer seasons ago. It’s of a female downy woodpecker that I photographed earlier that season. I took it when we were in another blind. If you consider that I completed the drawing while waiting for deer you can probably deduce that no deer were harmed during the drawing of that picture. We always do most of our shooting with a camera.

Downy woodpecker

Downy woodpecker.

The Smoke Has Finally Cleared

I was out in the Carr Fire burn area today. It’s quite devastating to see the thousands of burned acres of forest. This fire destroyed over 1600 structures, but it also killed millions of trees. We are faced with an epic fire salvage operation that will take years to complete. That will be followed by an equally epic reforestation program

Wild Wednesday … Hunting Season 2017 Revisited

This hunting season has been postponed for us. The Carr Fire has resulted in the area we hunt being closed due to the fire danger. So we wait. I prepared this post months ago and this seems like a good time to post it. There are a couple pictures of some of the game we harvested, but mostly it’s images from our season.

When we hunt big game we immerse ourselves into the experience, always. We don’t just experience nature we participate in it. We hunt to for food. Each meal we prepare we reminisce over our experience and appreciate where that food came from. We observe things that time of year we don’t always see the same way during the rest of the year. As a result we take a lot of pictures. This gallery is a small sample of the sights and sounds we enjoy each season.

Our bow hunting season started mid August and rifle season ended in late October. It was grueling and difficult hunting in rugged country. The weather was hot much of the time and we had to contend with constant smoke from the wildfires during bow season. We cover a lot of ground on foot and spent hours in ground blinds. One of the benefits is we never know what might show up near our blinds. The cameras are always handy.

 

A Rose By Any Other Name Is Just Wrong

wildflowers, Yellow Tarweed

Yellow Tarweed

Just look at this late summer flower. I took this picture near our home and happen to find it beautiful. What I would like to know is who came up with this name, yellow tarweed. That’s a terrible name and it just doesn’t do this flower justice. My favorite flower name of all time is indian paintbrush. That’s a name. It cries out ART! Tarweed cries out stick pest plant. Yuck! It needs another name. How about starburst or golden glory! What do you folks think? Give me some names.

Rattlesnake Attacks Puppy

It’s shocking to watch and not what we expected.

Sneaking Bliss

When we first found the puppy bitten by the rattlesnake, we assumed it happened in the tall grass by the bird pen while on a walk with puppy owners.(See http://sneakingbliss.com/2018/08/26/rattlesnake-strike/) It just made sense that the puppy surprised the snake and in defense the snake bit. Yesterday, I reviewed footage of the puppy cam to see if I could observe any odd behavior after the puppies returned to the playpen following the walk. What I saw was unsettling to say the least. As the video plays, keep an eye on the right side of the ball pit.

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