By: Bob Weller.
Going on a bear hunt was one of those, “I want to do that someday” ideas. Well this past fall “someday” arrived. Conversations about going on a bear hunt started to take place between me and a friend of mine named Joe shortly after he acquired some property in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I mentioned to Joe that my friend Andy and I had talked about going bear hunting for years but it just hadn’t happened yet. Joe had said that he thought all of us could go in together and have a bear camp of our own but as we approached the deadline this past year to apply for a tag or buy another point, things took a turn. Joe’s father was in poor health so he decided not to hunt, but he told Andy and I to go ahead if we wanted to. When I started having real serious conversations with Andy, I realized that he had done a better job making sure to buy a point every year than I had. If my memory serves me correctly, Andy had 11 points going into this season compared to my 5 points. After reading the bear guide, I quickly realized that if we put in for a group hunt, my lower points would be what they would go by. so, I told Andy that I did not want to drag him down and that he should go for a tag wherever he wanted to hunt. I told him that I didn’t need to shoot this time and that I was perfectly happy going along to video his hunt for him. Andy asked if I was sure that I wanted to do that, and I told him that I was positive.
Several weeks later, I received a text from Andy, informing me that he had drawn a tag and booked a hunt in the Red Oak BMU in lower Michigan with an outfitter. I asked him to find out how much it would cost for me to tag along and film. I was surprised at how reasonable the fee was and told Andy I was ready to go. We made plans to drive up to meet Gary Morgan with Wild Game Dynasty the Saturday that Andy’s hunt began. We arrived at camp that morning and were greeted by our host. After a brief introduction and some general conversations, I could tell Gary and I were gonna get along really well. Gary made sure that Andy and I were settled into the blind just after three o’clock that afternoon. We had made it, we were finally on a bear hunt. Andy had chosen to use his 450 Bushmaster in the AR-15 platform and I was eager to capture the footage of him dropping a bear with it. Those first few hours passed by very quickly as we sat patiently waiting for a bear to show up at the bait. I don’t think either of us knew what to expect. Would we see a bear? And if so, would it be a legal bear to harvest. We were both sitting silently just looking back and forth when all of the sudden, I noticed movement in the woods. I whispered “Dude, there’s a bear, there’s a bear!” as I tried frantically to get the bear in the viewfinder of my camcorder. We both lost sight of the bear in the tall ferns. It had been to our right about forty yards away. I began scanning to the left with my camera and found the bear moving right towards the bait. Just as the bear walked past the bait and turned around to have a look, I heard the click of the safety. I remember thinking that was loud. When I got the bear back in frame and in focus, I realized the bear had heard the click of the safety too. He was staring right at the blind. I think I could hear Andy’s heart beat over my own as we both hoped the bear wasn’t going to run off before offering Andy a shot. The bear slowly lowered its head and started to approach the bait. Andy’s breathing was getting heavy as he asked me if I was ready. I replied that I had the bear in frame, then I whispered “Take you time.” I had no more than whispered those words when the bear jerked his head up, whirled around and ran off.
Andy said, “Oh wait, there’s a bigger bear over there.” I’m not sure where the bigger one went but we never saw another bear approach the bait that evening. The great thing about video is the ability to replay it. Later that evening when we were at camp we reviewed the footage and we noticed a bear in the background after the one had run off. We were pretty sure that there was a very good possibility that there were three bears in our vicinity during our time in the woods that afternoon.
The following couple of days in the woods were slow, but camp life was very pleasant. I love to get up early and start the day enjoying the stillness of a quiet camp with a hot cup of coffee, or two, well maybe three. Apparently our guide and host, Gary and I are cut from the same cloth so he and I enjoyed a few very nice conversations on those quiet mornings while the others sacked in. I shared some of my deer hunting and fishing experiences with Gary and he shared stories of past hunts and previous guests with me. To say I enjoyed our morning chats would be an understatement. I found myself wishing I was at a time in my life that would allow me to come and work for Gary helping with running camps and baiting for bears. He’s just the kind of guy that you feel like you’ve known forever after talking with him for just a few minutes. Now folks, don’t get me wrong, I’m just shy of fifty and I’m not looking to age any faster than I already am, I just really appreciate it when I meet someone like Gary.
The last morning of our stay, Gary, Andy and I were talking about whether Andy should move or if he should stay at the bait site he had been at all week. Gary suggested a new location but it was a single man ladder stand which meant I would not be able to sit with Andy and film his last sit. Andy seemed hesitant at first but I was quick to tell him, “Hey, I don’t need to be there. Take your GoPro and self film the last hunt. I can add your footage to mine. You need to take this chance and change locations.” Andy agreed and so that afternoon we set out to a new location. Once we had parked the trucks, I stayed behind while Gary took Andy to the stand location. As I watched them disappear into the edge of the woods, I had a feeling that this was going to be the night my friend was going to get his bear. I smiled as I looked up and said a prayer asking God to be with Andy in the woods that afternoon. Gary returned a short time later and I spent the afternoon with him riding around and seeing the countryside while we visited all the bait sites no longer in use and pulled blinds. I could not think of a better way to spend the afternoon while I waited for the phone call from Andy telling me he had gotten a bear.
I called my wife and asked her to make the three and a half hour drive up to get me, as I had a feeling that Andy was going to be successful. And if he wasn’t, she and I would be able to hit the road a few hours ahead of him so I could get home a little sooner as I had to be at work the next morning. Gary and I had only been back at camp for a few minutes when my wife arrived and wouldn’t you know it, just after she got there, I got a text from Andy. It was a picture of the bait pile he was hunting over. At first glance I didn’t see it, but then a closer look revealed there was a bear on the ground right next to the bait. He had done it! My friend had gotten his bear! I probably don’t need to tell you that we wasted no time getting out of camp and making our way out to meet up with Andy to see his bear. We arrived on site and quickly hiked back to meet up with Andy. Of course as any good camera guy would do, I was rolling film and taking pictures. Andy had waited several years to build up enough points for this hunt and I was beyond happy for his success. After we took photo’s and the bear was loaded into Andy’s truck, my wife and I headed for home. In the following days I sent a text to Gary thanking him for everything and commending him on his professionalism. We live in a world that is full of negative people so it’s a real joy to meet people like Gary once in a while. It’s also a very nice reminder that there are exceptional people in this world and every now and then, if you allow yourself to make the journey, you might just meet one of them. What started out as me just tagging along to video Andy’s hunt, ended up being the start of a friendship with Gary that I am very excited about. I’ll be writing for The Wild Game Dynasty Blog on a regular basis now and I truly hope that readers enjoy my stories as much as I enjoy telling them.
As always, Happy Hunting, Good luck in the woods and God Bless