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Bear Emergency Mode

Bear Emergency Mode

Editor's Note: For this #ThrowbackThursday, we go back to 2011, when the author was 16 years old. He's now a student at the University of Edinburgh!

“How many knives have you got there, Jack?” Dad laughed.

“Four. Plus the Junglas.”

I was referring to the 2-pound, 16-inch machete on my waist. Three hours later, even that wouldn’t be enough.

The four of us, including my dad, his wife, Amy and my co-host at Kudzu’s World of Adventure, Justin Kozsan, left at 6:30 p.m. to go for “a quick hike” up at Bear Creek in the Madison Range of Montana. Dad had a gun and a black bear tag, but we didn’t expect much. We even brought our three-month old puppy, Paul.

We walked for about an hour; stopping and sitting and walking again. We almost turned around once, but decided to climb one more hill to a grassy spot looking down into a forested valley. It was dense, black pine with thick, bright-green underbrush, and all of it had a wet shine from the day’s early rain. The hunt had formally ended when we considered going back a few minutes earlier, so we were talking, eating and playing with Paul.

I then went into “Bear Emergency Mode,” a mode I previously did not know I had:

Down in the valley, there is some brown.

It is looking at me.

With eyes.

Shaped like bear.

Bear.

Black? Brown.

Face round? No.

Hump on back? No.

Why brown? Cinnamon phase.

Black bear.

Raise hand, tap Dad.

Speaking now, hurried whisper, to Dad:

“Hey, there’s a bear.”

Lean back, hands to ears, shot.

Bear flexes, bounces backward, runs three steps left crouched low to the ground, stands up, runs out of sight.

Speaking now to Dad:

“You hit him.”

Gear on, stand up. Follow Dad downhill.

“You two stay here,” he shouted back as I exited B.E.M. “Jack, come with me.”

I went to check for blood, constantly looking back to the grassy spot, identifiable only by the two blaze-orange vests through the trees. Dad went left, like the bear. He disappeared into the underbrush, then called me to the spot where the bear, smaller now, lay dead.

“Congratulations.”

“Congratulations.”

I felt like I had shot the bear.

We set to work photographing, rolling and skinning the bear. Justin held and pulled fur and paws back, Dad cut, and I skinned. The fat on it noticeably dulled the blades again every square foot, so we would switch knives every few minutes.

“Is it snowing or fogging up?” Amy asked. We all stopped and looked up. A ridge I had seen through the trees five minutes earlier was barely visible under the white. We went back to the bear.

We were using all available knives, trying all different methods of paw removal. We used the Junglas (Supplied to Kudzu’s World of Adventure by ESEE Knives) to cut the head, and began the single-file march back to the car through the dark rain, each carrying our respective gear and bear part. We got back to the car four and a half hours after we had left on our hike.

Only now we had hunted bear. 

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