This is Memoir Chapter 5 from The Bear Hunting Obsession of a Driven Man, by Bill Wiesner.
As a bear hunting guide, I took only bow hunters and never had a problem filling my schedule. However, one year a rifle-using big game hunter from Michigan’s lower peninsula called. He was determined to hunt with me even though I told him I did not take gun hunters. He offered double the price of a bowhunt; that made the decision to accept him much easier.
One evening while other hunters in camp and I sat around the campfire telling 100 percent true hunting stories, in pulled a new pickup truck and out stepped a portly gentleman. As he walked up, we all noticed he was dressed like he had just stepped out of a Cabela’s catalog.
He joined us at fireside and as stories were told by other hunters in camp, he always added a bigger and better one.
He was soon nicknamed One-Up and referred to as such in our conversations when he wasn’t around.
- One hunter said he had hunted the Big 5 in Africa. One-Up said he had done that twice.
- Another hunter mentioned he once killed a whitetail at more than 500 yards. One-Up commented that he shot one at more than 1,000 yards with a custom bull-barreled .375 Magnum.
- A third hunter mentioned he had been hired by his state’s DNR to help eliminate coyotes in the urban area where he lived. One-Up said he had been commissioned by an African government to kill a rogue lion.
As the fireside story-telling ended, One-Up stayed back to ask a question. “What do you do if a bear tries to climb your tree?”
Without missing a beat, I told him everyone knows you sprinkle pepper around the base of your tree. He acknowledged my reply and walked away.
Soon after this…real soon…I talked to one of the hunters in camp, explained what happened and suggested he bring up the bear-climbing-your-tree topic at the pre-hunt meeting coming up.
Later that evening at the introductory here’s-what-to-do-and-don’t-do meeting, we went over judging bear size, when to shoot and not shoot, shot placement, what to do if you hit a bear … and things of this nature.
Then came the set-up question: “Does anyone know how to prevent a bear from climbing your tree?”
One-Up’s hand went up immediately. “Everyone knows you put pepper around the base of the tree.”
Gotcha! But I don’t think he realized it.
As a couple of days passed, hunters were seeing bear and taking bear, all except One-Up. So one night I followed him to his stand, made sure he was in place and left. An hour before dark, right at the perfect time to shoot a bear, I came back to make a from-the-road check. As I approached his truck I could see him sitting in the truck munching on a snack. Rather upset, I held my cool and told him that if he wanted to tag a bear he needed to sit until dark.
His explanation was that he wanted to eat a sandwich before prime time. It already was prime time. Who knew the real reason he was sitting in his truck at that time.
When he came back to camp, suitably after dark, he told us he had heard the dominant bear, not just any bear, circling his bait but never saw it so had no shot. To know that he heard the dominant bear, he must have had great hearing and been clairvoyant regarding the pecking order of bears in that area.
The next night at dark he drove right past our cabin, where we were to meet, drove to his cabin, grabbed his gear and was gone without a backward glance. We never saw him or heard from him again. He hunted no more than four nights, and I doubt whether he really hunted them.
There’s a good chance he was afraid of bears, but that’s only a guess since we never talked to him again. People react differently to bears. They can bring grown men to their knees, so to speak. For instance:
- One hunter carried his bow, a .44 Magnum pistol and a .300 Winchester Magnum rifle, just in case. He could have held off an army of bears with that firepower.
- Two brothers always hunted together. They stood back-to-back on one stand so no bear could sneak up on them.
- Another hunter would wait to get out of his stand until he saw the beam of my flashlight as I approached on the trail to his stand. He stood in the dark a long time, because I had seven hunters to pick up over a 75-mile course, and he was the last one.
- A friend told me about a hunter he saw coming out of the woods after dark. That hunter’s flashlight beam never hit the trail he walked on, but it did hit all the places he thought a bear might be waiting off the trail, ready to pounce.
- Another outfitter/guide told me about a client who would wait on stand until he saw the headlights of the truck coming to pick him up. Then he would climb down from his stand, run down the trail from his stand to the road, then stand in some bushes and wait. As the truck pulled up, he would saunter out of the bushes, acting nonchalant.
“Kinda difficult looking nonchalant when your tongue is hanging to your knees,” the outfitter told me.