Nothing’s Easy Here

Life On The Back Page - November 2022

Daryl Gay | November 1, 2022

Luke McDuffie with one nasty female bear killed deep in the Okefenokee’s Swamp.

Somewhere out there in these 438,000 soggy, hide-ripping acres there’s got to be at least one EASY bear.

You know, lazy, sloppy fat, slow, mild demeanor, half asleep, pacifist at heart: “You horrid old hounds really shouldn’t be nipping at me and acting so silly with all that yammering. I’m just going to sit right up here in this tree for an hour until your bosses arrive, then tell them how awfully abhorrent you’ve been! They may even put you in time out…”

Hope I never find THAT one!

It hasn’t happened from deep within the Okefenokee’s recesses,  Folkston to Fargo, over the past 34 years, and I ain’t expecting it no time soon. The 2022 season is very recently behind me now, and I’m still trying to get a grip on it. Never had such a jangle of emotions in my life. There are so very few of us who get bit by this bug that it’s impossible for non-participants to comprehend. (For you, Jake, that just means that you can’t wrap your head around it. And I’ll write like that if I want to!)

I came very close to telling you that it was my best season ever. And it would have been except for one missing piece. You’ve heard his name here many times before when I mention a bear, so I’m not going into reverie. Just know that it was my most REWARDING season, about which you will read later on. Not on this page, and I’m not sure when my brainbox will even sort it all out. Give me a month or two. Maybe eight. We’ll see.

For now, let’s go back to the second (of four) three-day season, first Friday in October. Show you why I never expect things, mostly bears, to be easy.

Here’s the PG-rated version of what came over my hand-held CB: “Somebody better get their big-girl panties on and get ready to take a hike, because we got a bad female in a heckuva hole in here.”

Translation: one very peeved bear is fighting dogs, off and on, some 648 yards from where I’m standing beside a rather poor excuse for a dirt road. That’s GPS yards; they mean less than nothing to the Swamp. It has its own yardage.

I glanced at Dylan—who has hunted at my side here for the past 18 years, since he was 12—he nodded, and off we went. Folks, he was raised smarter than that, I’m’a tellin’ you. But he got bit by this same bug—and off into the muck we hie. By ourselves.

It was bad. Only two other hunters and a couple boxes of dogs. Luke McDuffie and Dale Wyatt were caught up in the midst of a whirling, black tornado: bear, Oke mud and dogs, and could use a hand or two. The bear would run like a squirrel up a leaning tree—picture five o’clock to 10 o’clock—rest, scamper down to slice up dogs, then go back up for another mini-siesta.

She put three out of commission for the rest of the season. While being so rude as to not offer a shot.

Finally, as Dylan and I closed in, things suddenly sounded like a dove shoot with very high velocity “WHOOMS” bouncing off every tree in the swamp.

And we still ain’t through.

That was one bad, uh, female.

Even after being blown out of the tree, dead as a horseshoe, she refused to hit the ground, hanging up 20 feet high in a tremendous tangle of vines and limbs. We had to cut a sapling, poke and prod until she did make it all the way down.


Now all we have to do is drag 300 pounds 648 yards. Or so.

And I love it like nothing else. But you already reckoned I was crazy. And you may not be misguided. But you ain’t heard nothing yet; the next trip out may well have been the highlight of my bear-hunting career. And maybe the closest I’ve come to not making it out…

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