Bears In A Hurricane

On The Back Page With Daryl Gay, November 2020

Daryl Gay | November 1, 2020

Hey, lissen up, ‘cause I got a idear: Let’s DRIVE three hours in the MIDDLE of the night to go BEAR hunting in the Okefenokee SWAMP during a HURRICANE! Piece of cake; I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

Oh, I see; you’re just like my other woud-be-friends who are but acquaintances. Of little faith. So go ahead and begin enumerating all the reasons why I’m likely to never leave the Swamp in one piece.

Besides, I always got my ace in the hole: Dylan.

Dylan is me, you see. No, you don’t see, and neither do we. Just exactly. But exactly is what he is: me, on a younger scale. Neither of us has ever been able to quite figure it out, but if a man has ever truly been cloned, I have.

Comes in handy when you want to bear hunt the swamp during a hurricane. For instance, I could round him up and propose, “Let’s go mammoth hunting south of Macon with flyswatters.”

And his reply would be along the lines of, “Well, I’ll have to stop by and pick out a new swatter; what time we leaving?”

Then we’d call the genius of the family, Myles, for consultation on appropriate flyflap calibration. He can figure it to the exact grain of plastic and pot metal, plus proper twist in the handle. After all, one should never go off under-flapped for mammoth.

Getting back to bears—hopefully—there’s so much about this type of hunting that 99.8% of the population doesn’t understand that I’m only going to mention a mere modicum of aspects.

First, we only get 12 days, broken into four three-day Thursday-Saturday weekends. Myles did the math and informed me that it leaves only 353 days each year to drool in anticipation. Which explains why I DON’T CARE if a hurricane is bearing down on opening day! Besides, if you don’t get drenched, blown down and knocked around, you ain’t bear hunted the Okefenokee. Even without a hurricane.

The drive down wasn’t at all bad, with even a break in the rain. The first perplexing part was the initial pond across the dirt road. As in, “Does it have a bottom?”

In Dylan’s words, “Ain’t but one way to find out!”

And it did, as evidenced by water flying above both sides of the cab as we, thankfully, exited.

We arrived at bear camp deep in the swamp well before first light. The Oke, by the way, is dark. This ain’t exactly Peachtree on Saturday night. The nearest street lights are way up the road in Homerville. Which, by the way, is where the rain picked up again.

Oh well, we’ve been wet before…

Meeting old friend Don Butts in pre-dawn darkness and dripping was worth the drive. He introduced us around, including another father-son duo: Preston and Kaden Cox. You likely wouldn’t think it, but this bear hunting business is very much a family affair. Kaden, at 15, had worked like a sled dog all summer and EARNED—good word to pass along to your kids—this rite of passage. He would take his first bear before the day was over.

But first, there were several to pass up!

As if seeing Don wasn’t enough, when it finally got light the old goose bumps began doing laps because we quickly found a bear track. The dogs ain’t paying no ‘taintion to a tempest neither and had a bear treed in 30 minutes!

I’ve been making this trip for over 30 years and several times have gone two days without a bear…

Sow bear, so we took a look and left her alone. Hour later, another treed bear, another sow, another long, tough trip in and out only to leave her swaying in the treetops…

Oh yeah, they’re plenty legal but… we just don’t… I know it’s hard to understand; have to be there.

And that afternoon, when the 350-lb. boar bear decided he was big, bad and bold enough not to have to climb and got too cheeky with the dogs, Kaden connected. See the smile on that young man’s face? That’s bear hunting…

Kaden Cox with a 350-lb. boar bear taken in Clinch County on Sept. 17, 2020.

Order your copy of Daryl Gay’s books, “Rabbit Stompin’ And Other Homegrown Safari Tactics,” $19.95 plus $3 S&H and “Life On the Back Page,” $14.95 plus $3 S&H from or 16 Press, 219 Brookwood Drive, Dublin, GA, 31021.

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