Bowhunter Shoots Bear Running Straight At Him From 5 Feet
A Georgia bowhunter sitting on the ground shot a Dawson Forest WMA bear with a recurve from 5 feet.
The night before, and then again upon rising out of bed on opening morning, I considered not even going bowhunting since I have never shot any game on opening day of archery season. Finally, I decided to go ahead on and give it another try. After all, opening morning only comes once a year.
Not knowing where to go and having limited choices, I ended up heading to Dawson Forest WMA. It was close to my home in Dawsonville. With my gear loaded, I took off to the check-in station to sign in. There were pages of hunters already signed in before I ever arrived and I thought, “Man, there is a good crowd hunting Dawson Forest on opening day this year. Maybe someone will be lucky.”
I drove to a favorite hunting place that I’ve hunted for years on the WMA and knew I would have as good a chance at seeing deer there as anywhere. My hopes were for a fat doe to make some good ‘ol fashioned deer stew if luck were on my side this morning.
The morning woods were beautiful with the sun shining through the oak trees, and it was a little unseasonably cool, so I felt great about the morning hunt. I was a little late getting started but figured if I took my time and walked real slow, I could get back into my area and not spook any nearby game that could be unseen in the many thickets around there.
I had chosen to hunt on the ground so I wouldn’t have to bother carrying a treestand, as a lot of times I would make clanking noises trying to pack my metal stand in. I made it to my tree and hadn’t spooked any game or made any noise. Great! I placed my dove stool on the ground, leaned back against the oak tree and nocked an arrow.
Wanting to resemble a bush, I applied face paint and then put my head net over my face to knock out any shine so I would be completely camoed out and would not look like a human to the game. I was sitting very still for about 15 minutes and was daydreaming about how the Native Americans would put red oaker face paint on when they bowhunted, and how they believed the paint was magical and would make them invisible to their prey. I felt invisible just as they did many, many years ago. I thought about how old the sport of archery was and how archery really is a fair-chase sport. From Native Americans to Robin Hood, archery is as old as man himself.
All of a sudden, I heard a rustling of leaves on the forest floor coming from directly behind me. I eased my head around to see what the commotion was, and there was a very large black bear, and like a nightmare it was coming at me like a runaway freight train carrying a full load, and all I had was a stick and a string.
I didn’t have time to think, all I could do was react. I spun around out of my dove stool and drew my recurve bow at the same time. And when I got to full draw and saw those shiny white teeth and heard the clacking against each other as he was growling and charging at me… time froze. I did not breathe. My brain was telling my fingers to release the arrow. My fingers wouldn’t work. The bear came so fast, and then he suddenly whirled to my right at only 10 short feet in front of me. Somehow my fingers finally listened to my brain, and I let the string go.
My arrow found its mark! All I heard was a loud “thunk” and a growling like nothing I’ve ever heard before as the bear expelled its breath. To what seemed to me to be as loud as a locomotive steam engine, the bear churned its wheels to get up speed.
My mind was spinning. I was relieved that the bear was heading in the opposite direction. I could hear the arrow shaft clinking and clanking on the small saplings as he ran.
Then I began to run. My feet have never moved so fast since my younger days that I can remember. Instinctively I fled for the safety of my vehicle. All that ran through my mind as I was running was, “Thank you Jesus for watching out for me and protecting me from certain death.”
I felt like all the years I’ve practiced archery with my recurve had paid off, big time! I knew the shot was good as I had at least one foot of my yellow feather arrow fletching shaft sticking out of the bearʼs side.
I drove straight for my house. After the drive home I remembered that there was a big cliff where the bear was heading. I knew that if heʼd made it over the cliffʼs edge, it would take hours and hours of work to get him out of the woods.
My neighbor Dave Chadwick is also a deer hunter, and after calling him, he offered to help my son Clint and I track and retrieve the bear.
We went directly to where I shot the bear, but we couldn’t find anything. We slowly worked our way toward the cliff and still, no sign of a hit. We had covered all the ground where I thought the bear might be and still nothing. Before checking the cliff area, we climbed another ridge top that was heavily wooded in thickets. I slowly started down the back side of the ridge with my bow on ready just in case there was more fighting to come. A hunter never knows with a wounded animal.
I hadn’t gone very far down the ridge when I saw him lying right where he died in mid-stride while running down the mountain ridge. I called out to Clint and Dave that Iʼd found the bear and to stay back until I had a chance to verify that the bear was indeed dead. If not, I was going to give a finishing shot. Needless to say, my blood was flowing like the Amicalola River on a hot day in July.
I did the usual checks on downed game, and the bear was for sure down and out. Dave and Clint were dishing out pats on the back with congratulations on a “job well done.” Just like myself, they were in amazement at how large he was and that only my stick and string downed such a sizeable beast. We began the hard work of field dressing and dragging the silent, motionless, now non-threatening animal back to civilization.
Later I talked to Chuck Waters, a WRD region supervisor and a biologist who has worked with Georgiaʼs bears, about my bearʼs behavior. Chuck said he thinks I was downwind of the bear and in his attack zone — that a bear has a “run” or attack zone, and when he came over the ridgetop, there I was and all camoed out. Since I was downwind, there was no scent for the bear to realize I was human. The bear likely didn’t know what I was and charged out of instinct. Chuck said when I stood up and came to full draw the bear hit the breaks and realized he had messed up. Chuck thinks the bear was already coming down my trail and just freaked out from surprise of not knowing what I was and from me being so close to him when he came over the ridgetop. Chuck said bears sometimes make a bluff charge.
“Had it been a predatory type encounter, the bear wouldn’t have stopped,” Chuck said. “We tell folks, make sure a bear is aware of your presence. If it changes it behavior, youʼre too close.”
Chuck said that there have been millions of encounters between bears and people that are not dangerous situations.
“Obviously, bears deserve respect. They shouldn’t be fed. If you encounter one, you shouldn’t push it. But to be afraid to go in the woods because of bears is pretty irrational,” Chuck said.
After I recovered my bear I was beside myself and could only think about just how lucky I had been to harvest such a magnificent bear with just my stick and string. But, mostly, I was just grateful to be alive to tell my story. Iʼll remember opening day of archery season 2005 for the rest of my life.
I have truly lived a bowhunterʼs dream and lived to tell it—right here in my home state of Georgia and in the beautiful woods of Dawson Forest.
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