A Desi Hunter In The West – By A. Khan
I still remember my childhood days when I used to hunt sparrows and doves with a Made in Sialkot airgun. Yes, the kids did tease me as a “Chiri-Mar-Shikari”, but, they knew that I seldom came home empty handed. God knows how many times did I get into trouble at the hands of my mother because I would be out in the sweltering heat of summer with my `deadly’ airgun, which hardly had a range of a few yards. I graduated to bigger and better guns over the years and it wasn’t my mother that I was getting into trouble with but the famous Game Department of Pakistan. According to the rules of our Pakistan Game Department in Punjab every decent animal or bird was either protected or not in season. However, the privileged were allowed to hunt at the national game reserves for wild boar, deer, partridges and other fancy game animals and birds with no restrictions.
These days I hunt in the very organized and tightly controlled Eastern USA. The big game is pretty good here but on the first day of deer season quite a few get shot – the hunters, not the deer. The species here are definitely what I used to dream of hunting but because of the trespassing laws, game regulations and countless hunters, I do not feel the same joy and freedom that I used to feel in Pakistan.
A few months ago I started looking North, way North, to Canada. It seemed like Canada was a much better place to hunt than the US; very few hunters and game limits and seasons much more liberal than the US. I found a guide through the net and after some correspondence I decided to go to Canada for a black bear hunt.
I started from Virginia Saturday afternoon and spent the night at a friend’s house in New York City. Early morning on Sunday I left NYC for Canada. By the time I got to the border town of Houlton I was tired. The Canadian customs officer told me to turn back and go to the US customs to register my rifle.
I turned back and got in the line of cars going towards the US customs office; there I met a very friendly customs guy who was also a hunter. He told me that sometimes guys bring back bears from Canada that are more than 500 pounds in weight. He also told me about the bear gall bladder and bear penis bone and that the Chinese have created a huge black market for such parts. He wished me luck and I was on my way back to the Canada.
After a long drive I found the lodge where I was to spend the next five days and caught up with Don the fishing/hunting guide who owned the lodge. Don and I talked about the wildlife in that particular part of Canada. He had spent most of his life hunting and fishing the waters and woods and after he retired from his job, he built this lodge.
Our first day, we drove down a small road, which went on for miles and had other small logging roads on its both sides. He turned onto one of these logging roads and drove for about a mile till he came to the end. There I saw a huge drum which was covered with alid heavy enough that wolves, coyotes and other small animals were not able to turn over but only a big animal like a two to three hundred pound bear could. Inside the drum was the bait, which included expired meat, peanut butter and bread. Next to the drum were two buckets half filled with used cooking oil. Since no other animals would stand the stench of the oil except bears it was safe to be left outside.
Don walked me to a tree stand, which was about sixty yards away from the drum. I got up in it and Don told me that he would be back in about five hours. He also gave me some bug spray and a face net to keep the insects off. After he left I tried to make myself comfortable up in the tree. From my past hunting experiences in the tree stands I have come to the conclusion that tree stands and comfort do not go together. To top it off the bugs were biting the hell out of me, neither the net nor the bug spray seemed to work. I waited and waited amid the stillness; all I could hear was the song of the mosquitoes that were having a great feast on my blood.
After lunch, Don took me back to the woods to a different site where he had a bait setup and my posting position this time was on the ground. The drum was about a hundred yards away. I was a bit uncomfortable with the thought that there really was no protection and if something were to go wrong the bear could seriously hurt me. With these doubts in my head I sat at my post and Don told me that he would be back after dark. Nothing except the mosquitos lively attacks took place until he returned.
The next morning Don and I went to check the place where I had been teh day before and I was surprised to see that the drum had been turned and the bear had eaten almost everything except peanut butter, a very encouraging sign. Don setup more bait there and then we went to a third place, which had a bait setup and a tree stand. It got a little cold that day and I sat there till lunchtime and did not see anything. Don came around noon and took me back to the lodge, After lunch, I climbed back up in the tree around one o’clock. That evening at around six o’clock, out of the corner of my eye I saw a black thing move and disappear behind a tree limb, by the time I looked up on the other side of the tree I saw a huge black bear walking towards the bait setup. His huge claws were clearly visible. He must have sensed me because the moment I moved my rifle he stopped in his tracks. I had the net over my face and I knew that if I made any move to take it off the bear would definitely disappear in the woods. I brought the rifle to my shoulder and took aim looking through the net and into the scope. The image was a little blurry but I could see him fairly well at about seventy yards away. As soon as I got a good heart shot I squeezed the trigger. The bear fell on the ground, got up, turned around and ran away.
From the time I saw the bear move to when I squeezed the trigger, no more than three seconds could have passed. I was shocked that the bear simply ran away. I knew I had not missed.
I used my cellular phone to give Don a call. I told him that I was at the tree stand and I had shot a bear but it had run away. Don got there in about half an hour and we decided to look for the bear in circles of a hundred yard diameter.
We started going through the bushes and trees but could not find a blood trail. Then we expanded the circle to two hundred yards but still nothing. It was about seven thirty that we decided to go back to the tree stand. I tried to trace the bear’s tracks and got to the point where the blood patch was, we had been looking on the right hand side, this time I turned to the left and after twenty feet I saw a pool of blood. I got ready with my rifle and then Don found more blood and broken bushes and not too far from there we saw the bear lying on the ground. We approached him very carefully: he looked dead but Don went around him to make sure that he was not moving. Slowly we approached the bear, it was huge. He had a big tree twig in his jaws which he probably chewed on when he fell to the ground. The bullet went in exactly where I had aimed, I guess years of practice with rifles and shotguns paid off.
Don congratulated me and told me that it was a good shot but since the bear was huge he was able to run away with his sheer strength. We had to get additional hands to drag him out of there. We went back to the town and he got two other guys and we tried to drag him out of the woods but he did not move. We had to get another person and all five of us barely dragged him out of the woods to the truck.
That night Don cleaned him up; the next day we took him to the department of natural resources to be inspected and weighed. The rangers took out one of his small teeth to send it to their research labs where they keep track of their game data. Then they weighed the bear on their scale. The scale went up to 500 pounds and the bear tipped the scale. The next scale worked nicely and the bear was weighed at five hundred and twelve pounds and measured at a total length of seven and a half feet.
I took the bear back to the US and now it is at a taxidermist getting turned into a rug.