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A Bear for Grandpa

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By Clark S. Ross

-- I know everyone has a story to tell when it comes to hunting. I'm no different. I could tell you some very successful and funny stores as well as some unsuccessful stories. But this one is about an unsuccessful success story.

I have a new saying, and I believe in this saying as of the 2007-2008 Pennsylvania firearms deer season and extended bear season. That saying is, "When you make a mistake, don't give up on the day, keep hunting away."

It was Monday morning Nov. 26, 2007, the first day of what we Pennsylvanians call buck season. There were four of us Rolling Rock Cabin members anticipating the opening day. We got up at 3 a.m. to get into our hunting areas by 4:30. The first day of firearms deer season weather in Pennsylvania, has, over the last few seasons, been mild to warm with rain. This was the case this year. I had not decided where I wanted to hunt, because I had scouted a few areas, and I hadn't really observed any significant signs in any of them. One of the cabin members, we'll call him Kevin, suggested that I join him in walking the mountaintop back to the cabin or parking a second vehicle on the road half the distance back to the cabin. 

I thought about his suggestion and agreed to walk parallel to him. He would walk between the top of the mountain and first ridge down, and I would walk between the third and forth ridges. We left the cabin in three trucks; two members went back the CCC road. Kevin and I went to the top of the mountain. On the way, we dropped off his truck along side of the road halfway up. We arrived at the parking area, and because it was now pouring down rain, we decided to wait until daylight to start our walk.

We walked the fire/game trail for about a quarter-mile and then moved down into the woods. It was still raining steadily but it was the first day, and we thought that the rain would allow us to move through the woods quietly. We split up. Kevin started walking out to the first ridge, and I walked down to the fourth ridge.

While I was walking , I noticed there seemed to be a lot of deer droppings in the area. I started thinking that maybe this area was a place I should spend some time in. I spotted a nice deadfall and went over to it and settled in. I called Kevin on the radio and told him I was going to hang around the area for an hour and then move slowly out to the mountain again.

It was around 8:30, so I decided to stay at the deadfall until 9:30. About 10 minutes went by, and I decided to snack on some of the food and water I brought. The rain was still falling and I was looking around, but I wasn't really paying attention to my surroundings like I should have been.

As I was returning everything to my pouch, I noticed movement about 15 yards to my right and it was coming from behind me. I could see it was a deer and it had antlers. I raised my rifle to shoulder it. By the time I got the rifle to my shoulder and the deer in the scope, it disappeared over the side, down toward the next ridge. With the quick glimpse I got, I could see it was a legal deer. In our hunting area a legal deer has to have 3 points or more on one side.

Within a minute, I heard two shots. I just shook my head in disbelief. I said to myself, "Man did I mess that up." I thought about going down to see the deer that I missed but decided I didn't need the disappointment.

I called Kevin on the radio, and he asked me if I had shot? I told him what had happened, and being the supporting person he is, he laughed at my mistake. I told him I was going to continue walking and see if there were more deer with the one that went past me. I walked about 50 yards and stopped. I spotted three does to my left and watched them for about 20 minutes as they scrapped the ground for acorns.

Keep in mind, Pennsylvania has an exended bear season in areas that have high concentrations of bears during deer season. The cabin members don't shoot does until Wednesday of the first week. I thought that if I could move out on the ridge another 50 yards, I could see down the small ravine I was viewing out in front of me and still keep an eye on the three does. I worked my way out to the top of the ravine without spooking the deer.
 
While I was standing there, I kept glancing down the ravine and out the side of it. I could see some of the flat that was above the ravine and a group of deadfalls that were close together on the flat. After about 10 minutes of watching the does behind me, I looked up toward the deadfalls. As I was looking at it, I noticed a black head sticking out of the middle of them. I did a double-take because looking directly at me was a bear.

I have seen bears in the woods but never when they were legal to shoot, and I have hunted for bears over the last 8-10 years without taking one. As I un-slung the rifle from my shoulder to get it into position, the bear climbed out of the deadfalls and started running toward the does. I pulled up the rifle and led the bear. I had a broadside shot about 15 yards way.

I squeezed the first round off, and the bear rolled in my scope. The bear lay there on the ground and looked back at me, and I dispatched a second round to the head. I was so excited that I started to shake from the adrenalin pumping through me, because it was the first bear I had ever shot.

Not knowing a lot about bears, I tried contacting Kevin and the others over the radio to tell them the news of my success and to ask how to field-dress a bear. I was unable to reach anyone so I field-dressed it the way I though it should be done. The bear wasn't large; it was just the right size for me to drag out of the woods by myself.

We took it to the Pennsylvania Game Commission check station in Dallas, Pa. The PAGC estimated that the bear was a 2-year-old male with an live weight of 163 pounds and a field-dressed weight of 138 pounds.

The added bonus to this story for me is that no one in the 55-year history of Rolling Rock Cabin has ever shot a bear, which gives me the distinction of being the first one to do so. I only wish that the man who passed down to me the legacy of the Rolling Rock Cabin, my grandfather, who died in February of 2007, could have shared this hunt with me, my father and the club's current members. 

Clark S. Ross
Easton, Pennsylvania

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