It was just another typical day of setting cameras in the heat of summer.
My wife was trying to sleep in at the camp, but with the pups barking to go play once the sun came up, that would be impossible. So, as I often do, I took the dogs along for the adventure.
But we would soon have more than we bargained for when I learned two valuable lessons: bears don’t necessarily scare off if you yell at them, and they don’t like being called Mr. Frisky.
I actually don’t see bears that often, but being in the woods about 100 days a year, they do pop up from time to time.
My first close encounter came several years ago when a small bear drug off a doe I killed and buried it under leaves after eating some guts. The bear stood up on its back legs when I approached, but soon ran off.
Two years ago, I was stalk hunting when two baby bears actually walked to within 15 yards of me. Soon after, momma bear was standing on her hind legs and snorting 40 yards away as a cute cub was peeking out from behind the base of a tree looking at me. The babies eventually ran off behind momma bear, and they all meandered away peacefully.
Those experiences gave me respect for these animals, but I never got a real sense of danger — until my third, most-recent encounter at Richard K. Yancey WMA.
I was riding my trail bike down a long overgrown field road with my leashed dogs jogging alongside.
We saw several bunnies and two groups of deer. One young deer 150 yards away started heading toward us, so I stopped and it eventually got within 50 yards before taking off. Two deer even jumped out and cross the road just 10 yards in front of Shasseh.
The road eventually got too bad for a bike, so I laid it down and we kept jogging to my camera spots. As usual, the dogs were having a blast seeing all the animals and jogging with me.
Then I noticed a big black hog crossing the road in the distance. As always, we fear nothing and kept running, and I turned on my GoPro.
Suddenly, when we got about 50 yards away, the hog stood up and my heart sank.
The hog wasn’t a hog at all, but a huge black bear. I yelled for the dogs to stop, and the bear took off into the woods and disappeared. The dogs trotted on and continued to sniff where the bear had been on the road as I stood there catching my breath, thinking of how thankful I was the bear ran away.
I was about to start taping some commentary on what had just happened when I a saw the black figure running back through the woods toward my dogs. I rarely get scared for myself, but in that moment, I was definitely scared for my dogs. My 42-pound Vizsla and 70-pound standard poodle were probably looking like tasty treats to this bear.
The dogs tucked and turned tail back to me as fast as they could. I peeked into the thick undergrowth with my Go Pro, and the big creature was standing on its hind legs snorting 15-yards from the woods’ edge. Just like I had always done in previous instances, I yelled at the bear, and it took off out of sight. That was definitely a rush.
We kept on jogging and set cameras for more than an hour, and even got to see a pack of hogs at 20 yards. I decided to go back and get my bike instead of taking another road out that would have made the trek several more miles and prevented me from putting out the rest of my cameras that night.
As we neared the spot where the bear had been, I looked into the woods and didn’t see anything. Relief - until I looked over my back shoulder. Suddenly, the black figure appeared out of nowhere behind us. I yelled at the bear, but this time it paused and moved - but not in the opposite direction.
The bear advanced inside the tree line angling toward our direction at a much faster pace than we were walking. Now the bear sounded really mad and once again was snorting and clacking its teeth. I tried calling him Mr. Frisky in a friendly voice to lighten the mood, but that only made him start foaming at the mouth.
At the edge of the woods, he walked parallel to us for about 50 yards. I took a few pictures with my Canon camera, but I was more interested in getting out of there as fast as possible.
As much as I wanted to document the experience, I didn’t want to run and give the bear something to chase.
I also didn’t want to venture off into the head-high overgrown field and have him follow us into a death trap where he wouldn’t be visible, so I stayed put a while taking pics then slowly crept along the far side of the road staring him down. Luckily, the bear stayed put behind some thick vines.
It was the biggest bear I’ve ever seen in person, and looked to stand 6 feet tall with a really large girth. The head was much wider than I ever imagined.
But it was us who ran up on the bear first, so the animal had every right to be angry. Though the dogs and I were doing what we always do — legally running trails together as I prepare for the seemingly impossible feat of qualifying for the Boston Marathon as a 200-pound-plus Clydesdale runner.
I’m uncertain if it was a male or female, and I didn’t see any cubs, but it certainly was being very territorial. Even as we walked off, I peeked back at the road and saw the bear 150 yards off in the distance standing on its hind legs claiming victory, just like T. rex at the end of Jurassic World.
It was one thrilling experience which the pups and I will never forget.
I was able to set out all 20 of my cameras and got home at almost midnight that day. Despite this encounter, I still fear for Shasseh more with big gators when we swim across river ponds during training.
Unfortunately the GoPro footage isn’t the best and I didn’t run it the whole time because of a low battery, but it was much more intense in real life than any article, picture or video can ever portray.
However, even though I’ve experienced such an amazing event, I’m now even more excited about my upcoming Colorado public land bowhunting trip, where I hope to stalk black bears within 15 yards with only my longbow.