As Told By Nathan Jones
Oregon, 2009, DIY, Public Land
Spring bear season is the perfect excuse to shake the dust off the bow or rifle and put the glooms of winter behind you. All winter, we reflect on the previous season’s adventures, successes, failures, and missed opportunities. It’s also a great pre-archery season warm-up that will ensure a jump on much needed fitness training.
Halfway through the season I got a call from my brother-in-law, Jacob Tidball, informing me that he would be in town for Mother’s Day weekend. Not wanting to waste a perfectly good excuse to go hunting, we quickly made plans for that Saturday.
When Jacob rolled into town, we quickly loaded our packs with essentials and set out on our long journey through the brush. After two miles of crosscountry climbing, we came to an old gravel road that led to our first vantage point, which overlooked several lush green draws.
Just as we were sitting down, I caught a black dot on the horizon. I skidded to a stop, and Jacob collided with me. It took him only a second to realize why I had stopped so abruptly. It was a bear - definitely a shooter.
Talking was no longer needed. Jacob instantly swung into action, shuffling to a worthy stump for a shot. I tossed him my pack to give him a temporary shooting rest and then ranged the bear. Jacob is a skilled marksman and spends many hours at the range, so I knew he’d hit his mark.
The bear fed to a standard quartering away position and Jacob unleashed a round. Before we even heard the distinct “whop” of the bullet hitting its mark, we saw the bear jump in the air, spinning in one fluid motion. Once all four were back on land he wasted no time charging into the dense thicket 50 yards to his left.
We raced across the big draw, and as we peered into the dim underbrush, we noticed that this bruin had not just been passing through. He had been living in the confines of the dense trees and had torn the ground up 30-40 yards in every direction. It was hands and knees for Jacob and I as we crept down the alleyways looking for fresh sign or a blood trail. Talk about perfect conditions for a wounded bear looking to settle a score.
It didn’t take long before we stumbled upon a dark mound in the fading light; a mound that was made of muscle, claws, and teeth. What we originally thought was an above-average bear turned out to be the biggest bear we had ever seen. He was so big that we could barely roll him over.
Jacob’s bear had everything a trophy hunter sought in a coastal black bear. His massive scar-covered head took on the appearance of a warrior’s armored helmet. His body was long and athletic, with huge shoulders and gigantic clawed paws. His hide was a perfect black, the only defects being deep scarring inflicted by unfortunate past competitors seeking to claim his title. He was amazing; a true predator and king of the mountain.
Later that week, the biologist who completed the mandatory harvest report judged the bear at only six years old but a whopping 550-600 pounds. After the required drying period, we taped the skull at an unbelievable 22 inches.
Although it was Jacob who punched his tag on this bear, it was a great accomplishment for both of us as DIY hunters. I look forward to telling this story a hundred times more and maybe next spring I will be lucky enough to stumble across another king of the mountain.
For a full account of Jacob's adventure, go to page 46 in the October/November 2010 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.