Saturday, October 22, 2011

Barrys Bear

One for the Bucket List
By Barry Plouse 

It all started with the end of the 2009 PA bear season.  My hunting friends were disappointed with not seeing any PA bears.  Though there are random black bear sightings in our Tri-County area of Northwest PA. We had to go east to have any chance of seeing a bear.  Having lost both of my parents within a two year period, I started to realize how short life can be, so I started a Hunting Bucket List for myself, my brother and some fellow hunting friends.  First on the Bucket List is a Black Bear Hunt for all of us.  We decided to make it a Maine Black Bear Hunt.

Since I am a C5/6 quadriplegic and use an electric wheelchair,  we needed to find an accessible Outfitter in Maine.  I did the search on the Internet and found one advertising accessible hunting and lodging. (  I contacted them, got their references, checked them out and made the reservation for the 2nd week of the 2010 season.  This Outfitter goes above and beyond in all aspects of the hunting experience.  It was like lodging at a 5 star Hotel while hunting. 

After a year of waiting in anticipation, we were over-packed and loaded for “bear” and heading to Maine with a trailer in tow.  Did I mention we were over-packed?  At the last moment I changed my firearm of choice to my crossbow.  After a phone call with my Western Maine Outfitter guide Dave Jones, he said “bring the crossbow, it’s a 17 yard shot!”  We arrived 5 hours early and were greeted like old friends.  We meet everyone with a handshake and it was returned with an open hand, a smile and big welcome to Maine Bear Hunting.

 After a good nights sleep with the Maine bruins running through our dreams, the guides educated us on the Maine Black Bear habits, actions and how to hunt over bait.  We are hunting the 3pm—sunset time slot.  Our group of hunters were divided into two groups. 

My brother Cecil and I were assigned to guide Dave Jones.  We had to drive miles into the baiting sights over old logging roads into the Maine forest.  I am the first to be dropped off since I am in the electric wheelchair and would need help to the ground blind.  The trial to the ground blind was rocky and my lock down bolt on the bottom of my wheelchair for driving my van kept scrapping the exposed rocks and creating a loud scrapping noise. 

My thoughts were every scrapping noise lessens my chances of seeing a bear!  My guide and brother helped me to get set up for the evening.  I am in a doghouse tent type of blind with only the front window open toward the bait area.  I took notice of the denseness of the forest and how it was like tunnel vision to the bait area. My guide Dave refreshes the bait area with their secret combination of goodies and he and my brother wish me luck and leave for the evening.  The crossbow and me are cocked, locked and ready to rock! 

 After an hour or so the nature show begins!   Maine red squirrels are about the size of our Pennsylvania grays.  They start their chattering and the investigation of the fresh bait.  I was out numbered 10 to 1 easily by red squirrels!  A raven landed next to the bait area; they are 4-5 times larger than a crow and just as noisy.   Then like a drone attack a red tail hawk tries to take out the raven on the bait.  They battle as they fly through the dense forest and making enough noise to scare a New Hampshire bear! 

Another hour passes and red squirrels are back to the bait area.  Without a warning a red tail hawk was back and on a red squirrel clenching it in his talons sitting on the bait barrel.  The hawk leaves the bait area and perches on a nearby branch on the blind side of my ground blind.   I can hear the squirrel squealing while clenched in the talons until the hawk finishes him off.  Am I watching a nature show on Discovery through my ground blind window? 

 My only concern being in a wheelchair in a ground blind with 3 sides covered is what if a bear comes behind me and wants to check me out?  With that thought embedded in my mind, a red squirrel falls from a tree, lands on my head, slides down my back like a bear nose sniffing a new bait barrel!  I lean forward throwing nothing but elbows and thinking here we go my only fear is here!  But the red squirrel lands behind me and enters the ground blind with me and now I am leaning over pushing the squirrel out!  Time to regroup because the magical hour is upon me.

The daylight is slipping away and forest has quieted down.  Now the mosquitoes have come out to play and feed!  I left my Thermo-o-cell behind to help control my scent and less chances of making noise.  As the magical hour of dusk approaches, I am second-guessing my decision of using my crossbow.  But I love the challenge and the thrill of my crossbow.  

While battling the mosquitoes I look back out of the blind to see a bear silhouette appearing like a black ghost without a sound within 25 feet of my blind.  I feel the rush starting, but I remember the guide’s advice to slow down, to analyze the size, to observe the actions of the bear and to not rush a shot.  I immediately start thinking of my situation, I am 25 feet away from a hungry Maine black bear in an electric wheel chair, zipped into a ground blind, armed with a one shot pointed stick and miles from anyone, wow this is good stuff!

The bear looks my way and looks at the bait area, lucky I am well concealed and holding my composure.  The bear decides to approach the bait; he goes to the left side of the bait and smells the goodies.  I am now looking at the size of the bear since I can use the bait barrel for a prospective and decide he is a shooter bear. 

This is my best shooting side of the bait area but the bear does not give up a high percentage shot opportunity.  After the bear whacks the rock holding the lid on the bait barrel it makes a loud metal on metal noise and spooks the bear backwards.  Now the bear approaches the right side of the bait and stands just like a 3D target. 

Daylight has now almost disappeared and my time is running out.  I have to readjust me and my crossbow to the opposite side of bait area.  While readjusting I create a new noise in the woods and bear looks right at me!  I quickly find him in my red dot scope, find the 20-yard dot and place it the kill zone and pull the trigger.  I hear the whack, that whack of exploding lungs, the bear jumps and grunts and turns to run away from me.  Then the crashing noise through the dense Maine forest , this was the loudest noise I heard all evening.  I am noticing the crashing noise is getting closer and closer, then it stops 15 yards from me.  Then the next noise I hear is the bears last 3 breaths.   An expiring black bear makes a death call that would send shivers up Daniel Boone's spine!

 Now the loudest noise in the Maine forest is my heart!  I am now sitting in the darkness with the mosquitoes buzzing me.  With my heart pounding, I start to recap just what has happen in a matter of the last 2-3 minutes, I can’t believe it; a C5/6 quadriplegic just harvested a 190 lb., 4-year-old black bear boar with my crossbow. 

My thoughts turn quickly to thank God, to thank my Dad and thank my brother for being by side in the woods and giving thanks to my lovely wife and daughter for allowing me to keep active in my love of hunting.  

After an hour waiting for the guide and my brother, they show up to retrieve me out of the darkest dark I have ever been in.  I decided to play it cool and wait for them to ask me if I had any luck.  I’m noticing the flashlights coming closer, then the zipper being undone behind me.  They ask me if I saw anything and I calmly reply, “Yes, he’s laying right over there.”  They quickly abandon me in the Maine dark forest once again and rushed over to where I was pointing at yelling out nice bear, nice bear!  Next the dragging of the bear and me out of the woods ends the hunt, but the memory is etched in my mind forever.

 A special thank you and recognition is needed to Western Maine Outfitters, without them creating an accessible hunting opportunity none of this could have happen!  FYI all five hunters saw Maine Black Bear during our week long hunt.

 I now think that my “Bucket List” might be upgrade to a “ Barrel List”!

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