Propping a bear up on a bar stool was something I never thought I would do. I didn’t think it was something anyone would do but this is the tradition among bear hunters in the Hoback Mountains of Wyoming. My first time bear hunting was an experience I wasn’t prepared for, to say the least. I had never hunted from a tree stand, didn’t have any idea what went into bear bait and had never seen a bear in the wild. I soon found out that I prefer ground blinds, bear baits consist of anything that once had a heartbeat and bears really are as quiet as everyone says they are.
During the time off between the spring and fall seasons I shot a bow for the first time. I had never been exposed to bow hunting but thought it was interesting and definitely worth a try. After a few times at the archery range, I had found a new love.
During my first weekend out during the fall season, with a borrowed Browning bow, we posted up behind a ground blind and waited in the brutal late August sun. I swatted at grasshoppers the size of frogs that decided my face was the best thing for them to land on and we were only an hour into the hunt when my hunting partner’s chair broke underneath him, taking him down to the ground. At this point, we couldn’t quit laughing and were making enough noise to draw attention at a county fair. I had begun to think this evening was soon turning into another fun, but unsuccessful hunt.
Hesitantly, we moved to another bait site about a mile away, mostly to get out of the sun and bugs, but also because we had nearly destroyed any chance of a bear hitting this bait again for a week, let alone in the next few hours. As I looked through the camera’s photos of weekends passed I realized how painfully boring sitting for hours on end can be as well as how much fun we had been having.
I casually set the camera back in its case and when I looked up, I was stunned to see a bear on the bait. As I slowly rose to my feet from behind our make-shift ground blind I realized that this was the real deal. Here’s my chance and if I blow it now, I will forever carry the reputation automatically assigned to most female hunters. Instead of thinking about what “the guys” would think if I missed I shifted my focus back to the bear. The target. I drew back my bow and all I saw were the paper targets at the archery range. I took a deep breath, and with the flick of my finger, let the arrow go. I froze again and time seemed to freeze right along side me as the bear ran in slow-motion back into the dense forest with an arrow stuck in its side.
The bear had only travelled about 200 yards before expiring which made tracking easy for all of us. We loaded it up and hauled it into Bondurant, WY. No sooner had we pulled into the parking lot, the bartender had the bar stool covered in plastic and ready for us. We tried with everything we had to get it propped on the stool, but at 400+ pounds of dead weight, it was nearly impossible. The terrible stench that had emanated throughout the bar caused most of the patrons to leave and started to irritate the bartender, so we called it quits. They still gave me the “Bondurant Bear Club” hat and a free beer so it was worth it.
The bear measured 6’ 8”, weighed 400+ pounds and was 16.5 years old. The skull measured 20 7/16” putting the bear in second place in the Pope and Young record books. Not bad for a first kill after learning to shoot only 6 weeks beforehand.