Oh, hey there, bear
One of the cool parts about hunting deer from a treestand is you’re pretty much forced to pay attention to the world around you. The idea is to see deer, of course, but I’d argue the opportunity to see all sorts of other wildlife is an important part of the whole experience.
For a long time now, bears have been one of my favorite animals. My interest is partly morbid, because in the early 1990s I read over and over books about bears attacking humans. This was during a drive to and from Alaska, when for a week both coming and going we primarily camped in tents. And when we were in Alaska, we did a lot of salmon fishing, and I marveled at the guns other anglers wore on their hips – just in case a bear showed up and had something other than salmon on its mind.
Several years after that I was sitting in my deer stand in the pre-dawn darkness. I heard a bunch of rustling off to my right – I couldn’t see what was making the noise – and had myself convinced it was a monster buck. But as the sun began to rise, I realized it was the animal(s) of my dreams. Perhaps 30 yards away – and coming straight for me – were two bear cubs and a big sow. They drew closer and closer, the cubs oblivious but their mother well aware of the intruder in the tree. I got the rifle ready to fire, just in case, not wanting to end up on the pages of one of those books.
They meandered away, and soon all was quiet again. Yet there were nerves that night as I made my way back to camp in the darkness, walking right where the bears had walked hours earlier.
There were no nerves the next time I saw a bear in the wild. This was during a muskie-fishing trip to Lake of the Woods, and we came around a point and saw a black bear moseying along the shoreline. We continued to cast as we watched the bear, which didn’t seem to give us a second thought.
I was tossing a topwater bait, and really hoped a fish would strike as I stared at the bear. Alas, it wasn’t to be, but I’ll never forget the sound of the bait chugging through the water as the bear walked along the rocky shoreline.