Bear With A Bow On The Cohutta Mountain Wilderness
Hunter's Journal: GON readers share their favorite hunt stories.
By Robert Nash
After four long years of waiting, it happened. I was able to finally catch up to one of the elusive black bears that roam the forests of Cohutta WMA up close to Ellijay.
Every year around the first full week of bow season, me and my buddy Reece Abernathy head up to Cohutta WMA. The country is absolutely beautiful this time of year, and the temperature on top of the mountain is a lot more enjoyable to bowhunt in than it is in Cobb County where we are from.
This year, we headed up on Tuesday, Sept. 17 with plans to stay until at least the weekend. Usually the first couple of days of the hunt are used for scouting. We just start hiking the trails and looking for acorns and bear sign, whether that be some clawed-up trees or the occasional scat pile. If we get lucky and find some sign, we usually will pack our climbers in and hunt. Each year, we always make it a point to hike somewhere that we haven’t been before to look for sign and explore a new area.
After all the hiking and scouting, it seemed that the bears were going to be hard to hunt this year because we couldn’t seem to find any fresh bear sign in the areas that we were in. Even though we usually put right at 10 miles a day on our boots while up there, we always seem to come back to hunt one spot that we found the first year that we came up to Cohutta that usually has some sort of bear sign in the area.
To describe the spot a little, we usually sit on top of a ridge that slopes down quickly into a small creek at the bottom. On the right side is a shear drop-off. The left of the ridge slopes down into a small creek that wraps around the bottom of the ridge.
On the evening of our third day, we decided to sit there. We didn’t see a bear, but we figured we should give the spot one more try in the morning.
Friday morning came with a cold front. It seemed like it was in the high 50s or low 60s that morning, and it was a welcomed change to the usual 90-degree days that us bowhunters usually experience during September.
We got up and got our stuff together and started hiking in. We finally made it to the spot we had hunted the night before and began to climb up and get settled. It was a rather quiet morning, but you could tell the cold front definitely had an affect on the wildlife in the area. It seemed like there were a lot more animals up and moving in the form of squirrels and small finch-like birds, and we even had a hawk come in and maneuver through the trees like a jet. It was definitely a cool sight to see.
Around 8:45, I noticed a large black spot moving 40 yards from me behind some thick cedar trees. I couldn’t tell if it was a pig rooting around or a bear looking for dropped acorns. I grabbed my Bowtech Invasion to get ready if it happened to be a bear.
The medium-sized black creature slowly worked its way out of the cedars to the right and toward the shear drop-off, and it was then I could tell that it was a bear. By that point, the bear was probably 25 yards from my stand, and there were a million things going through my head in regards to making sure it was big enough and that it wasn’t nursing cubs.
The bear continued to work around the side of the ridge quietly until it was about 15 yards from my tree. I was amazed at how quiet the bear was while it was walking. I proceeded to draw my bow and get settled in to try and take a shot. About the time I was ready to release my arrow, the bear took a couple of steps and stopped right behind a small tree, leaving me with a small gap to shoot through. I calmly started to squeeze on the trigger of my Carter bow release and sent the arrow into the side of the bear right through the shoulder bone into the top of the lungs. The sound from the arrow hitting the bear sounded like a .22 rifle going off.
The bear started to run to the right about 40 yards around the drop-off, and you could hear it crash and start to slide down the steep side of the ridge for about 30 or 40 yards. I then heard the death roar that I always hear bear hunters talking about. That is when the adrenaline started to kick in and my knees started knocking from what we call buck fever, or in this case I guess you could call it bear fever.
My buddy, who was about 50 yards up the hill hunting, knew exactly what I had shot once he heard the infamous death roar of the bear. We were pumped. It was an awesome feeling just to get to see a bear that close after four years of hunting up there.
At about 9:30, we decided to climb down and begin to start tracking the bear. We had a little bit of trouble finding blood at first, but once we found it, the blood wasn’t but just a few drops at a time. The farther we tracked, the bigger the blood spots became, and we were able to get a general idea of the direction the bear was heading. As we were tracking, we would occasionally look ahead and down the hill until we saw a black figure laying on its back.
When we got down to where the bear was, we could see that the only reason that it didn’t keep sliding down the mountain was because it had gotten lodged under a small log. Once we got it situated, we could see that it was a female, and that it was a lot bigger than I had thought. We estimated that it weighed between 190 and 210 pounds.
Little did we know, but this was only the beginning of a long morning. We thought through our options for how to get the bear out. The best thing we could think up was to pole the bear out by tying her feet together and carrying her out on a pole by holding her on our shoulders. This would prove to be a lot easier said than done. We made it about 100 yards and were about give out.
We ended up having to call a couple of friends who were camping at a nearby campsite to help, and it still took until 1:30 p.m. before we hiked the bear out of the woods and back to our camp. From there, we skinned the bear out for a rug and quartered her up to be processed.
Throughout our time hunting and camping in Cohutta, I couldn’t help but think that there was no place that I would rather be. This is one trip that I look forward to every year whether we are successful or not. Each time we make the trip up the mountain to hunt for a few days, we always learn something new, whether that is about ourselves or about the land that we hiked upon.
Cohutta will always hold a special place in my heart, and I hope that its beauty never changes. I can only hope that many generations will get to experience the same feelings that I have when I walk through the trails there in search of the illusive black bear that occupies these mountains.
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