No lions, no tigers, but yes — Louisiana has beaucoup bears, oh my!

I know. It’s fishing season. But bear with me…

My oldest grandson tapped me on the knee and said, “Poppa, there are some squirrels out in the shooting lane!” They were scampering around in a little area where we had strewn some corn to attract a little wildlife action.

He was facing one way out of my 4 by 8 foot Tiger Bend deer wooden box stand down an old woods road and I was in a chair facing the other way. I told him if he saw anything, just tap me on the knee, tell me what he saw and I’d turn around and look. I told him if it was a deer, to tell me quietly and not to move. I don’t do heights any more and my stands are only four feet off the ground.

About 30 minutes later, he tapped me again. Two turkeys. Nice. But they didn’t stay long. A few minutes later, he stood up, hit me on the shoulder like the Karate Kid trying to break a wooden block and exclaimed, “Poppa! There’s a huge black bear looking at us and it’s not far from the stand!”

I turned around, saw the big black clump of hair staring at us from about 40 yards away and eased my grandson back behind me as I moved to the door of the stand. The bear, which was bigger than me, rambled a little bit closer. I reached out the window on the door and beat on the side of the stand. He just looked at us. Then I hollered “Hey Bear” loudly. Twice. Maybe thrice. I think I saw John Candy do that on the “Great Outdoors” movie. Anyway, the bear changed course and sauntered off into the piney woods.

I texted my son about 200 yards away in another stand and told him and my middle grandson to be on the lookout for a bear headed their way. It was two hours till dark, but in a few minutes he texted back and said he didn’t feel comfortable walking through the woods after dark with the kids knowing that thing was out there. I understood.

More bears than deer

That was several years ago. It was my first encounter with a black bear in the deer woods. It wasn’t my last. A couple of years ago, I gave up that hunting area in Union Parish because I had trail camera pictures of seven different black bears from a huge boar to moderately sized cubs where my stands were. I had pictures of only five deer.

This past season, 107 miles away in Tensas Parish, my middle grandson hunted patiently the entire year to make sure his first deer was a good one. The final weekend of the season, it paid off. A big 8-point walked out 70 yards away in a food plot and he dropped him while hunting with his dad. They agreed to wait a few minutes to make sure he was down for good.

In the meantime, here comes a big black bear out of the thicket, moving in to take the downed deer like somebody had called his number at Arby’s. It took quite a bit of commotion and noise to make the bear leave. As it began to get dark, it was a harrowing experience loading the deer onto the ATV and getting out of the woods, knowing the bear was peeved about missing supper.

No big deal, right? Wrong. There are a growing number of human/bear contacts and conflicts which are becoming more scary each year. We cover the basics of that in a feature article in this month’s magazine.

The intention of this “Today’s a Good Day” column was to keep it as entertaining as possible, telling old stories and adding a bit of humor to the serious side of outdoor pursuits.

This month is an exception to bring to the forefront the need to address the situation. It doesn’t affect everyone. But it is affecting more people every day.

Not an expert

I’m not an expert. I’m just a guy that loves to spend time in the woods, wants Louisiana’s outdoor legacy preserved for his kids and grandkids and isn’t afraid to say, “Hey, wait a minute, something needs to be done here.”

Today’s a good day to do that. 

Black bears are a part of Louisiana history. Because of previous endangered species status, bears have been shielded from action and even shunned in most wildlife management and political discussions. Their numbers and range appear to be growing faster than anybody wants to admit. Six years ago, the state worked diligently with federal wildlife experts to take steps delisting the black bear so populations could be managed, not sheltered. They were delisted from being endangered species, and rightfully so.

Here’s what I do know from my boots on the ground in the woods experience. It’s time to address the elephant in the room and admit it is the black bear.

They’re not Teddy Bears

Of course, as always, there’s another side to this story. It’s the story of people and groups that want to protect them. All of them. No matter how many of them they are. It seems the dividing line is those that actually spend a lot of time outdoors and those that don’t. There are real concerns there, too. But please don’t say, “Oh, how cute. Leave them alone. They were here first.”

No. No they weren’t here first. Dinosaurs were actually here first. When bears conflict with people and cause damage on a regular basis, it’s a dilemma. And no, these are not cute little Teddy Bears. They aren’t just sparsely populated in hardwood bottom forests and bayous. They are in areas that don’t have the habitat to sustain them and other wildlife, too.

Then there is the legal system. Protectionist groups have filed suits to stop management efforts, swooning at the mere thought of a hunting season for bears. I understand caring about bears. It’s cool to see a bear. Occasionally. The black bear is the official mammal of Louisiana. Of course, there isn’t much competition other than the Big Brown Bat, the West Indian Manatee and the Long-Tailed Weasel.

Hopefully courts will allow biologists and wildlife managers to do their job. Now. 

The purpose of this month’s coverage of the black bear is to help bring attention to this problem. It’s an emotional issue. It’s a divisive issue. But there are solutions and we have to come out of hibernation, find them and get them implemented.

About Kinny Haddox 529 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.

1 Comment

  1. I agree Kinny. I also hunt in Tensas parish and as we have seen the black bear population grow unchecked, we have watched the deer population decline and the turkey population nearly wiped out.

Leave a Reply