This will be my 1000 post for the Monroe Evening News and “Hunting With Mike!” Sorry about the week long lapse between post, but I’ve been chasing bear around in the Upper Peninsula and haven’t had time.
I could make this post a three part series, but I’m super excited as to how my bear hunt went that I’m going to cut to the good stuff right away! I could tell you about the “to die for” Baldwin camp where we stayed, or the ground blind that rolled down-hill (with us in it!) Or the fall colors, and the beautiful golf courses we played. Maybee I could write about spending quality time with Gary, Dick, and Greg Baldwin, or the three grandkids that spent Saturday at camp? I guess I could write about brook trout, bald eagles, beavers, and deer, or the trip to the emergency room, but not now! Those stories will have to wait as this post is about “The Birthday Bear!”
I will cut right to the quick of this amazing hunting story, and try to keep it as simple as possible. Just so the readers know I am typing without the use of my right thumb! You know the one (I shoot left handed) that could stick up inside the glide plane of a crossbow string! Ouch!
My hunt started on Wednesday with the Marquette area experiencing some unseasonably warm temperatures. Not exactly what a bear hunter wants! We had set three baits Tuesday, with one of them already used from a hunt (nephew) two weeks prior. Wednesday was so hot that we didn’t hunt, and instead opted to go golfing. Thursday morning trail cams showed morning activity on one bait and late night activity on another. We hunted the pre-set bait, but saw nothing, as that bear (a sow with yearlings) was feeding in the morning. The next day we moved to a bait set in the hills, but due to a comedy of errors didn’t have a chance of seeing anything there! Friday we went back to the bait with the sow, but it had not been hit the previous day. Saturday was extremely hot, and we felt any self respecting bear would not venture out until dark, so again we opted to golf. That could of been a big mistake as the bear showed up at 6:44 pm while we were winding down our golf game. Bummer!
Well Sunday is my 68th birthday, and my pal Pastor Bob Baltrip and I thought how wonderful it would be to get a “birthday bear!” If we were writing a script for this story that’s the way we would want it to end right? We asked the Lord to watch over us, and thanked Him for all the beautiful creation that He put here for our pleasure. Actually we had such a great time together that it would of been a successful trip even without getting a bear. Well Sunday evening we are in the stands at 5:00 p.m. They are both double ladder stands with a camo netting around them and a shooting rail. I really needed a rest for my Barnett Predator crossbow, as it’s a little on the heavy side. I was shooting “Rage” expandable broadheads at 365 feet per second.
At 6:41 Bob whispers to me that there is a bear coming in right in front of us. I look down and don’t see a thing, and ask him “where?” He says right in front of the bait. I look out from my stand and at about 45 yards a bear is making it’s way into our position. The wind is in our face, so scent should not be a factor. The bear walked around sniffing the honey and stinky chicken before turning its attention on my trail cam. With it’s front paws on the tree it sniffed the camera which gave me a 20 yard broadside shot. Problem was I could not get the bow sight into position due to the shooting rail being to high. I was going to have to lift the crossbow over the rail ( I was shooting downhill) and hope he wouldn’t detect the movement. He then went to the main bait, that was covered with logs, and was thinking about moving them out of his way, when he gave me the quartering away shot that I wanted. The crossbow was in position and the sight was on his vitals. I slowly pulled the trigger! There was a loud “whack” as the bear whirled and bit at the “bee” that stung him, heading back the way he came.
In the meantime I am wracked with pain, as my thumb was above the string sliding rail when I touched the shot off. Blood was splattered all over my blind, and I thought my thumb was broken! The joy of the Birthday Bear was in competition with the need for an emergency room! As Bob was trying to access the situation we heard the last three moans from the now dead bear. This all took a matter of 10 seconds. The bear actually made it 100 yards after a perfect double lung/heart shot! Bob and I made the decision to get the bear out first, and then go to the emergency room. Dragging a 300 pound bear out of the woods is not a job for two senior citizens, especially through a 40 yard wide wet muddy swamp. Once we drug it out far enough Bob hooked his wench up to it and the Honda 4-wheeler did the rest. Gary Baldwin came out to camp and helped us hang and gut the bear; then led us to the emergency room (after some clean up) where I received shots and 8 stitches. The emergency room Doctor said “Mr. Ansel you had an angel looking over you today.” “Your tendon should of been cut, but it’s in fine working order!” He then called in his nurses and had them watch as I moved my thumb so they could view my little white tendon moving up and down. During this time I keep thinking about the movie “No Country For Old Men!”
This hunt may well have been my last hurrah, but what a great way to spent your 68th. birthday (minus the emergency room.) Bob and I did feel blessed beyond measure, and said a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for a special birthday. Neither of us take it lightly when an animal dies in the course of the hunt. In a way the bears life will go on as it sustains us with food and nutrition. There is a cycle of life for all Gods creation. My ancestors called God “Kichi-mani-to” and would thank the Great Spirit for the blessing of the Maskwa (bear.) Truly a birthday to remember.