Sighting of a half century

Mike RaykoviczI had a math professor in college who once told us if an event is possible, given enough time it is inevitable. This was never truer than it was a week ago. For as much time as I spend in the woods I’ve never seen a black bear in either New York or Pennsylvania. Okay, okay, you people in the Adirondacks or Catskills who look at bears as simply a nuisance to be tolerated, put your pens down. Here in the Southern Tier bears have become more numerous, but they are far from common, so seeing one is something people talk about.

A few years back in our central Quebec fishing camp, we had a bear outside our cabin window and one Halloween eve not too long ago a mother and four cubs ambled down the street past our house. Still, I’ve never seen a bear in the woods, until the second day of this current archery season.

My trail cam photos showed numerous small bucks, and by my third trip out I already passed on two of them. I figured it was going to be a good year and since the season was still young. I was optimistic about my chances of tagging a decent buck. I headed out for an evening hunt and was in my stand early.

It was a few minutes after 6 p.m. and I already spent the last two hours in my stand hoping one of the nicer bucks I photographed would show up. I was set up over a small pond at the edge of the woods and knew deer often came out of the woods and up the bank of the pond to drink. I never heard a sound but I did manage to see the brush move on the top of the pond. Anticipating a deer, I picked up the bow, but instead a black bear emerged from the thick vegetation surrounding the pond. I couldn’t believe my eyes! It was a genuine, honest to goodness black bear and he wasn’t walking down our street nor sitting under the kitchen window at our fish camp. The bear stood at the dike, took two steps down and plopped into the water. He sat there like someone at a dinner table seemingly enjoying the coolness of the small pond.

Yes, bears are legal game here in the Southern Tier and the season is open, but this guy was safe. After more than 50 years of hunting and fishing I was actually watching a bear do what bears do in the wild. The show didn’t last long, though. After a few slurps of water the bear got up, turned around and stood at the top of the dike about 25 yards away. It would have been an easy quartering away shot and one I’ve practiced hundreds of times throughout the spring and summer. Yes, it would have been nice to say I took a bear with a bow and arrow, but I could never kill an animal I’ve never seen before just because it was open season. I wished him well and hoped he’d survive the rest of the season. My math professor was right. Theoretically, it was possible for me to eventually see a bear and after more than 50 years enjoying the fall woods it actually happened. 

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