Lessons From a Grizzly Bear Hunt

I just received this from a friend of mine. (H/T to tailfeathers). Here are some good lessons–lessons for life as well as for hunting Griz. Read, learn, heed.

Lessons From a Grizzly Bear Hunt

by Doug Giles

I just returned from a grizzly bear hunt in Alaska. I was unsuccessful, however; I didn’t get a shot (luckily for the grizz and PETA). I hate to ruin your private party, PETA freaks, but before you skip off to go autoerotic with the current issue of National Geographic, I thought I’d mention that I’ll be back after them and their black cousin in the spring of 2010. I will, sooner or later, score on the horrible one.

Even though I did not shoot a bear on my recent hunting trip, I did learn something while amongst the alders, icebergs and the devil’s club that I’d like to pass on to you, my rowdy God and country loving reader:

1. Grizzly hunting is expensive. Yep, this sport of kings is not cheap. Just the equipment costs and travel expenses needed to get to where Ursus arctos horribilis dwells costs more than most are willing to spend on a hunt. Fortunately for my wallet and wife, this hunt was gifted to me.

However, there were other costs involved that didn’t entail the outlay of Benjamins, such as the mental and physical costs of hunting deadly game in adverse surroundings. Both the animal and the elements can kill you. You need to be okay with that and willing to ante up and do whatever needs to be done in order to get your trophy.

What’s the life lesson to be gleaned here, my little children? If you want a truly awesome “trophy” it will exact from you a pound of flesh. The best and baddest in life always demand the massive expenditure of the mind, will and emotions. A great nation, marriage or a functional family will cost you retail in blood, sweat and tears. If you’re going to get your “grizzly” in life then you need to realize it’ll cost you dearly and demand an extravagant expenditure of your time, talent and treasure. Period. Great things are expensive in fifty different ways. You’ve got to pay the dues if you wanna sing the blues, and you know it don’t come easy. Cheap punks need not apply.

2. Use Enough Gun. Grizzlies can go from 0 to 40 mph faster than the fastest street car. They can fly uphill and downhill, sail through a swamp, cruise through snow and swim like fish. The big boars will reach ten feet in height, have 28” biceps, 29” skulls and can tip the scales at 1,500 lbs. A puny man with a puny gun is no match for this ultimate predator—especially if he decides to take you on.

While we were there we saw several eco-tourist anti-gun morons with cans of bear spray holstered to their hips to use if a grizzly should decide to snack on them. Bear spray? Are you kidding me? A 1,000 lb bear coming at you at 40 mph will blow right through a cloud of cayenne en route to stomp a mud hole in your chest. Screw bear spray and 30/06s. As for me and my house, we will use at a minimum a .375 H&H Magnum, thank you very much. I recommend the big .40 cals. You see, when I interface with that which can kill me, not only do I want to kill it first, but I also want to stun it, break its bones and knock it down and out as I send it on to bear heaven.

What’s my ham-fisted spiritual lesson from this point? In life if you are going to go for your “trophy,” whatever it is, you’d better go big. Bring your big guns to the table of life. Life is brutal, and if your goal or desire is truly noble, you’ll encounter plenty of opposition in your path ready to pummel you into a grease stain. Never go after your prize under-gunned because you could have your butt handed to you. (Y’know, kinda like the pea shooting GOP did in the last election.)

3. Follow Your Master Guide. One thing that I’ve learned in nearly 47 years of schlepping this pebble is to bow to the true experts in their fields. That’s why I don’t try to teach my wife how to cook, or my Tae Kwon Do instructor how to fight and why I didn’t advise my master bear guide Wayne Woods on how to do his job. As stated, grizzlies are deadly (ask Timothy Treadwell), and some of the terrain we trod was dangerous. It would have been arrogant, stupid and fatal to turn a deaf ear to this man who regularly interfaces with death.

This is why I don’t listen to the Liberal statists or the numb nut RINOs who are currently mucking up our nation and party and instead turn my ear to our nation’s original framers and fathers; they’re the master guides who spawned this amazing American experiment. Our current crop of dweebs thinks we can blow off our Constitution and principles of liberty and not be turned into bear crap. Screw them. I’m kicking it old school with Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison and Paine. In addition, as a Christian, I’ll stick with Moses and Jesus and summarily ignore the capitulating crowd of evangelical weenies who for cash and praise have dissed the ancient path and are headed for the jaws of the beast.

Wolves Returning to Wyoming.

Here’s a picture that is floating around the internet of two of five wolves killed legally near Pinedale, WY. That area in Wyoming has/had a legal season on wolves who raid livestock. These two were reportedly killed killing penned livestock. Look at the size of them! They were reportedly near 200lbs. I don’t think a .223 would be enough for wolves this size. Here is the text accompanying the photos. The picture above is from last winter, 2008.

First two wolves of the first five wolves (shot legally) near Pinedale and Big Piney, Wyoming after the season for wolves was opened up. I would venture to say they are ‘just a little bit bigger’ than the local coyotes! These were caught, with two others, in a calving pen, killing livestock…..not eating the livestock, just killing it. I’m thinkin’ my 340 Weatherby isn’t too much gun for one of these critters.

It’s no wonder the elk and moose calves only have a 20% chance of making it to 6 months old in the Yellowstone area with these big boys around! Amazingly, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has requested anyone catching a wolf or wolverine in a leg hold trap to “please try to release it alive”……. that could be a pretty good trick! I was expecting much smaller wolves to be in the ‘not safe for wolves zone’ …… wonder how big the wolves are that ran these two out of the ‘safe zone’?

Don’t think I want to snowshoe or cross country ski in Wyoming anymore…….. expect to see these critters in Colorado pretty soon…..coming to a favorite deer or elk haunt near you!

Watch yourself if you’re into cross-country skiing in Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Colorado or Utah. Go armed.

Duck Season

I saw this cartoon on Brigid’s blog and I had to steal barrow it. My brother-in-law Dick Harriss was an avid hunter. When the weather turned cold and duck season arrived, Dick would arrive early on Saturday, gather up Dad or me or whomever was available and off we’d go hunting. Grandma even went once and bagged a couple of Mallards.

The usual spot for ducks was along the Big Muddy River that flowed not far from the farm. The river was thickly forested on both sides from the highway between Benton and Christopher down to near Zeigler in Franklin County, Illinois. There was a lot of game in the river bottom lands as well as swamps, sloughs, side creeks and thick brush.

Mallards and Pintails would often land on the river. Our hunting tactic was to walk along the river moving upwind, downriver in this case, watching for ducks. When we reached a bend, we’d split up. Some would go forward, cutting across the bend of the river. The remainder would move forward. If ther were ducks taking shelter in the bend from the wind, the ones who stayed behind would scare them into flight. If they flew upwind, we’d get a shot at them. If they flew downwind, the others who had moved ahead, would get a shot.

On this expedition, Dick and I were alone. Dick carried his J. C. Higgins 16ga bolt-action. I had my Dad’s 12ga. Remington Model 11. (See prior posts.) We had been hunting for about an hour. The weather overnight had dropped into the low 20’s and had been at that temperature for a couple of days. The ground was mostly frozen and crunched as we walked.

So far that day, the ducks heard us coming before we could get close and would fly away before we could get a shot. Fortunately for us, the wind was picking up so the ducks would only fly to the next bend in the river. We had been chasing a batch (whatever you would call a group of a half dozen ducks) for most of the morning. The temperature had been rising all morning and by noon was near forty. The ground previously hard as cement, was now becoming soft.

Dick and I had reached another bend. It was Dick’s turn to move forward cutting across the bend to get down-river from the ducks. It was a big bend, so I waited about ten minutes before walking forward. I’d gotten within 25yds of the ducks when they took off. I fired at the lead Mallard and missed. They took off downriver so I waited for Dick to fire.

Nothing heard.

I waited a bit longer but Dick didn’t fire. So, I continued forward walking along the river. It didn’t take long to reach the spot when Dick should have been, but he wasn’t there. I hollered, but it was into the wind and didn’t carry very far. Dick was missing.

I backtracked to the spot where Dick had moved forward and followed his tracks. It wasn’t long before I could hear Dick talking—he was not happy. The area at the neck of the river bend was low and during warm weather would have been marshy. When the temperature had risen, the ground began to thaw. Dick had broken through the frozen surface and was stuck, waist-deep in mud. He couldn’t get out. It was like being stuck in quicksand.

I was lighter than Dick and I could approach him without breaking through. He gave me his shotgun and I took it back to solid ground. I always carried a small hatchet with me in the woods along with some other stuff.

I didn’t have any rope. I used the hatchet to cut a small twenty-foot sapling. Dick grabbed one end and I the other. After some time, Dick got out of the mud, less his boots, socks and pants. It took a little longer to extricate his pants and boots. We never found the socks.

Dick washed his pants in the river to get the mud off while I used the sapling to start a fire. The fire kept Dick warm and dried his pants and boots. We finally got back to the farm around dusk. My Sister Mary Ellen had arrived with their two kids and they all stayed over for the night.

Duck season lasted another week. The following Saturday, Dick showed up again for another duck hunt. Like I said, Dick was an avid hunter. A little mud, cold and embarrassment didn’t stop him from hunting.

Quail Hunting

The first time I was allowed to use my Dad’s shotgun was for a Quail hunt with my brother-in-law in 1960.

My brother-in law, Dick Harriss, was a bit older than me, an Air Force veteran of the Korean War. I was a surprise that arrived to my mother when my sister was fifteen. Dick married my sister in 1954 and was an avid hunter and fisherman and was outdoors at every opportunity.

Dad owned a Remington Model 11, 12 gauge shotgun that he’d acquired at some point. It was one of the early models and most of the bluing had worn off. The stock and forearm bore dings and scratches from years of use. Dick received a J.C. Higgins bolt action 16 gauge shotgun from my sister on their first Christmas together. It was the first shotgun I’d seen with a variable choke.

That Saturday, Dick arrived just before sunup. Today it would just be me and Dick because Dad wouldn’t be going. He would be working overtime in the mines. He gave me permission to use his Remington. My usual shotgun was a Stevens break-open single shot 12 gauge.

Dick’s brother raised Labs and Dick arrived with two for the Quail hunt. We finished off a quick breakfast, filled a couple of thermos with coffee and left the house. The hunting area was in the back of our farm—an area that bordered our neighbor and was overgrown with grass, weeds, briars and brush piles. The two Labs lead out nosing around the brush piles and briar patches. From time to time we could hear something take out through the grass and weeds but we didn’t flush any birds.

Around 10 o’clock, we’d covered the back of our farm and crossed over to our neighbor’s side. He had bulldozed a couple of acres free of trees leaving several large piles. A couple of times a year he’d burn them and clear a few more acres. These brush piles were the equivalent of a multi-story apartment giving shelter to various kinds of critters from Quail up to deer and an occasional feral hog.

Dick and I approached one. We sent the dogs ahead—one to the right and the other to the left. Dick approached the brush pile on the right and would shoot center to the right. I would shoot center to the left. The dogs sniffed up to the pile, something was hiding inside. We were stepping closer when the brush pile exploded!

Critters flew and ran in all directions. A covey of Quail rose in front of me scaring me half to death! I got off two shots dropping one Quail. Several rabbits took off running between us and a deer rose up in front of Dick knocking him to the side as it tried to jump over him. Dick went to his knees and jammed the barrel of his shotgun into the dirt.

I had one shotshell left in my shotgun when a second Quail covey rose. I fired and got two Quail. They must have been lined up for me to pick them off with a single shot.

Dick had gotten tangled in some old barbed wire that was mixed in with the brush and was not having a good time. He’d ripped his jacket, jammed the barrel of his shotgun, and hadn’t gotten any game. Just as he straightened up, one of the Labs ran over, got tangled up in amongst Dick’s legs and down Dick went again.

He finally gained his feet. His jeans were dirty, covered with dirt and mud. His hunting jacket was ripped from the barbed wire and his shotgun’s barrel was blocked with dirt. He’d not had a good morning. In addition to all that, he hadn’t gotten any Quail.

It was near noon by that time. I’d only brought the three shotshells in the shotgun. Dick’s shotgun wasn’t usable, so we headed back to the house. Dick spent a couple of hours cleaning his shotgun. The dirt had been jammed tight in the barrel. Mom sewed up the rips in Dick’s jacket. I got to clean three Quail. Quail are so much smaller after they’d been cleaned. Mom fried them for me for supper that night.

The next day I found a large purple bruise on my shoulder. It had been a great hunt.

Squirrel Season

This time of year I get a craving for squirrel stew. Growing up on a farm, I had plenty of opportunity to hunt—squirrels and rabbits mostly. Rabbit stew was alright, but for some reason, Grandma’s’s squirrel stew just hit the spot. The problem with this craving was acquiring the primary ingredient, the squirrel.

I would usually arrive home from school on the bus around 3:30pm. I’d get a half dozen .22LR cartridges, grab my old Stevens single-shot rifle and head out the back towards the tree line at the far end of our property. In that tree line stood a number of Hickory trees just covered with squirrel food.

I frequently walked through the woods after school while my Grandmother, who lived with us, prepared supper. Mom was teaching and Dad still worked at the coal mine the next town south of us. Neither would get home earlier than 5:30pm. That gave me two hours of freedom to do what I wanted.

When I approached the tree line, the squirrels vanished as I expected. Most of the area around the trees were littered with leaves, some freshly fallen. One large Hickory tree rose from a small rise amid a ground cover of moss rather than leaves. My favorite squirrel hunting position was to lie down on the moss near the base of the tree, lean the rifle against the trunk and wait for the squirrels to get over their fright and to re-appear.

In this particular tree was a colony of large, red Fox squirrels. They had run off all the grey squirrels and claimed the large Hickory tree and some surrounding ones as their private domain. A Fox squirrel was much larger than a grey one so they were my preferred prey.

After lying quietly for a few minutes, I’d hear nut shells and husks falling through the limbs and remaining leaves. They told me the squirrels were out again. I slowly loaded the rifle, cocked it and aimed generally at the tree top. When a squirrel stopped on a limb in the open, I’d fire. I rarely missed. After an hour, I’d have my limit.

I returned to the house a little before my parents and would have the squirrels cleaned and soaking in cold water just as supper was ready for the table. With the larder filled, Grandma would fix the squirrels for supper the following day. We ate a lot of game during those years; squirrels, rabbits, ducks and geese. I miss those times. The freedom of the woods. Listening to squirrels running through the trees or an occasional rabbit through the thicket. The smell of freshly fallen leaves.

I don’t hunt anymore, but I still have the memories.