By Mac Moad Jr.
-- I left my house tired but excited at 4 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, to meet up with my friend, Brad, in Booneville, Ark. I couldn't sleep the night before, so I spent most of the night watching Buckmasters deer hunting videos. My ATV, climbing stand, bow and backpack were loaded in my truck. There was nothing left to do other than rest for the drive the following morning.
When I finally hit the road, I had a feeling that something good was going to happen in the woods. I arrived at Brad's house and noticed that the temperature was cooler due to the fact that he lives close to the Ouachita Mountains.
After a brief conversation, we loaded my gear on his trailer and headed off to the wilderness. Driving the truck to Flood Mountain was no problem. However, driving our ATVs up Flood Mountain was no easy task. We drove as far as any sane person cared to go, parked the ATVs and located our first flag, which we'd set out during the previous month's scouting trip, and began the mile-long walk along the mountain. By 6:30 a.m., we were at Brad's spot and had him set up in no time.
My stand location was two more draws farther down the mountainside. I walked slowly toward my spot and set up for the morning. For me, the highlight of every morning hunt is watching the forest wake up. The morning passed with no bear sightings. My radio buzzed around 11:30 a.m. Brad wanted to scout another area 8 miles away that he thought would be productive. I agreed but something told me to keep my climber on this tree.
Our scouting trip proved to be fruitless, and we were back at our morning location by 4:30 p.m. for the afternoon hunt. As I listened to acorns hit the forest floor, I heard what sounded like a tree crashing to the ground; almost as if someone was cutting down trees with a hand saw. I could not believe what I was hearing.
By now I was not motivated to hunt, but I stayed in my seat. Ten minutes passed, and I saw what was making the racket - a 300-pound black bear! The sow breathed deep as it climbed up the draw from where the trees were crashing.
Out of breath, the bear sat down just 24 yards away from my tree. I watched in amazement and realized that this was the first bear I had ever seen in the wild. My heart pounded harder as the bear began to close the distance. The closer she got, the bigger she got and the more nervous I was.
I waited for my opportunity to draw, and was pleased when I was at full draw, sights on the bear and it had no clue I was there. At 11 yards the bear stopped, looked to its left and began to turn away from me. I picked my spot, breathed shallow, squeezed the release and BAM!
The 2-inch mechanical broadhead did its job. The arrow passed through the bear as it jumped, spun around and bolted away to my left. I watched her crash and the forest was silent. Ten seconds after the shot, the bear was down.
Brad buzzed my radio and asked what all of the commotion was about. You could hear the excitement in his voice when I told him that I just connected with a 300-pound bear.
I climbed down after memorizing her location from my stand, then waited on Brad to show up. He arrived pretty quickly and had a big smile on his face. We talked about the events that had just taken place and then walked to the bear. Seeing her, I became very cautious and checked from a distance for any sign of life. Then a calm came over me as I began to realize what happened.
I had conducted my first bear scouting trip, bought my first non-resident, 3-day bear license, saw my first bear in the wilderness and harvested it on my first hunt. That was an amazing feeling. I have harvested some really nice white-tailed bucks in my life, but never had I engaged in this kind of hunt. No baiting, no calls, no hunting guides, nothing but me, the wilderness, the bear and good old-fashioned hunting.
We regained our senses and realized we should have had a plan in the event that one of us actually harvested a bear. We were stuck on the side of a mountain with no way of dragging a large bear to our ATVs. Five hours passed and we only moved the bear 5 feet. Eventually, I had to cape the bear and bring it out of the woods even though I wanted to keep some meat for the table.
Finally, we made it back to our ATVs and by 4 a.m., we were at Brad's house. He snapped a few photos of the bear of and me before I was on my way back to Oklahoma. Twenty-five hours had passed from the time I woke up to drive to my buddy's house until I was back in my driveway.
I don't know about you, but I think I will take a group of pack mules with me the next time I hunt really big game on the side of a mountain.
Mac Moad Jr.
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