First off, let me start off this post by saying that it is not an anti-hunting post. I don’t really have an opinion either way when it comes to hunting. It is simply the story leading to the reason why I don’t hunt.

I’ve only been hunting once in my life. My dad and uncle took me along on a guided bear hunt in the late summer of 2001 (some much more “portly” days) up in Northern Idaho. I was really excited at the thought of bringing down a black bear. Spilling the blood of a mighty and carnivorous beast would be thrilling, I was sure of it.

We were bow hunting. I had practiced for months with my dad and uncle, shooting targets on hay bales and dirt mounds. I learned quick that I was a pretty damn good shot for having never done it before. If I could get close enough to a bear, it would be mine for the taking

The big hunt came and we packed into camp via a 4-hour horse ride deep into the forest. The guides had been setting bait out all season, and would hopefully lure the bears to us. Our only job was to sit up in tree stands all day every day and take the shot when it became available.

The guide gave us all very strict instructions that we should barely move during the day, and if we must move, we mustn’t make a sound. “Bears can hear you or see you from two miles away,” they told us. “And if they do, they’ll book it on outta here faster than a slipnot on a bungee cord.”

Day one… I sat twenty feet up in a tree. Halfway through the day I saw a beautiful and majestic black bear appear over the peak of the hilltop in front of me, and he disappeared, never to appear again. I sat even more still, and was careful not to make a sound in hopes that another bear would appear.

No bear ever came and eventually 8:00 PM came, the time my guide said he’d be back to pick me up. Tomorrow will be my day, I thought as I willed the black bear to come back.

I began (very noisily) storing my arrows, harnessing my bow into its Velcro straps, and making all sorts of noise. I stood up and sat down repeatedly to try and get the blood flowing back into my legs again. Starving, I ripped into a couple of granola bars and began chomping away while I waited for my guide to appear.

While I sat in the tree making all the noise, and after I had completely stowed away all of my hunting gear, I heard the bushes shake twenty feet to my right. I froze. The movement got closer. Could it be a bear? That would be impossible with all this sound I’m making! I thought. I soon heard loud snorting coming from the brush only a few feet away, and then she appeared. A beautiful, rare-colored black bear (did you know they’re not all black? I didn’t.)

She wandered out of the bushes and stood next to my tree. Don’t look up here, I thought. Just go get your food. 

She stood under me for what seemed like ages and finally made her way to the barrel of bait. We were allowed to shoot the bears with bows or guns, and since pulling out my bow would mean undoing all sorts of Velcro, I pulled out the teeny, tiny pistol that I was carrying for protection. The bear was about 35 yards away, peacefully chowing down on whatever they had left out for her.

I raised the gun and aimed it as carefully as I could to try and hit her in the kill zone. With a gun like that, and as far out as I was, it would be a tough shot. I took a deep breath and slowly pulled the trigger.

The gun went off and the bear dropped. The sound the gun made (with as short a barrel as it had) was deafening. My ears pierced with pain, ringing violently. Smoke billowed lazily from the end of the gun.

I sat and stared at the pile of fur on the ground. And it started to move.