A couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me where he should go to hunt bears in the Adirondacks. I told him he would be better off staying home, but he was rather insistent.
After a few minutes of discussion, I explained it this way. With all the leaves on the trees and overly-thick underbrush, he’d have a better chance of seeing a moose than he would a bear.
But if he had it set in his mind, then I’d open a map and just put my finger on it. After all, one place is probably as good as another. Then I’d find the nearest trailhead and start walking. Bears are rather lazy, so they’ll walk the same trails you do.
If you’re good in the woods and can use a GPS or a map and compass, I suggest climbing the hillsides in the hardwoods. There are a lot of beechnuts this year and bears love them.
The last time I hunted bears in the early season, I took my fishing pole and slowly wandered the trail to Long Pond. I did see some tracks in the mud, but I never saw the critter that left them. I caught a few nice brook trout, which made the walk worthwhile.
I’ve hunted and guided in the Adirondacks since 1969 and have seen just three bears in the woods. One was on Popular Hill in the Siamese Ponds Wilderness Area.
I had wandered back into the woods looking for a nice buck, but the leaves were so crunchy I never could have gotten up close to a deer. So I sat on some rocks that overlooked a large swamp. It was a beautiful day, so I just remained on watch for the better part of an hour.
All of a sudden I turned my head and there was a small bear not 30 feet below me. How that little devil got there without making a sound I’ll never know. I didn’t shoot him. Heck, once his hide was tanned it would hardly be big enough to make one mitten, and a pair of mittens is far more useful. After a while, he wandered off and so did I.
The other two bears already had been taken by other hunters. The bigger one was shot behind Black Mountain at about 8:30 in the morning. We dragged that 300-pounder all day and finally got it to the car just before dark. I vowed right then and there I’d never shoot a bear that was over a quarter-mile from the road unless I could drive right to it.
A bear is like a bowl full of Jell-O, without the bowl. They roll back-and-forth and catch on everything.
I did shoot a nice bear in New Brunswick, Canada, about 10 years ago. I sat in a tree stand for several hours before I even saw a bear. I have trouble sitting very long but realized that if I wanted a bear, I’d have to stay put and sit still.
After about three long, boring hours, I got the feeling that something was watching me. I slowly turned my head and there was a bear. It had obviously circled the bait and checked to see if anyone was sitting in that stand. He eased back into the forest and I never saw him again.
A couple evenings later, a bear wandered right into another bait like he owned the place. I decided then that he was the first and last bear I’d ever take.
My dad and I went on several bear hunts across Canada and down into Maine. He was thrilled when he took a bear about 100 miles north of Michigan on the eastern end of Lake Superior. We had a lot of fun on those trips, even when we didn’t get anything. It was something we did together, leaving us with a million memories.
And so, I wished my friend good luck. I told him to pick out something he’d like to see — maybe waterfalls or something — and hike to it. That way, if he didn’t see a bear, at least he’d get a nice, scenic walk out of it.
Rick Brockway writes a weekly outdoors column for The Daily Star. Email him at email@example.com.