The Partner

Even when you're alone, you know someone else is helping you do it right.

THE MINNESOTA BLACK BEAR season opened September 1, with legal bear baiting starting on August 13. My husband and I started our bait stations on that date. Since my mother and father-in-law would be joining us for the hunt on September 1, we had established 11 bait stations. We baited the following weekend on August 20, all of the time keeping a log of every station, carefully observing which stations were being hit, and what each bear was eating. Some liked meat better than the sweets or bread and vice-versa. Out of the 11 stations, we had seven being consistently hit. On August 27 we came up to bait and to stay until the season opened on September 1. Keeping the journals helped us give each bear what his or her palate desired.

We all hunted from the opening day until September 5 with no success. Either the bears had already been there, didn't return at all, smelled us, or they came in after legal shooting hours. We had named all the bait stations for ease in identifying locations. On Monday, September 6 (Labor Day) we decided that I would try the Forest Road station where, two nights before, Jim and I had seen a mature, yet average-sized bear. Jim would sit at station #495. I dropped Jim off and proceeded to my stand about 11 miles away.

By the time I reached my stand and settled in, it was 5:22 p.m. All the while I was sitting there being patient and waiting to see what the beautiful northern woods might produce. I was visualizing myself shooting a bear, taking video and pictures, and then dragging the prize out of the woods to my truck. I had read articles on being confident, believing, and visualization. I was just trying to apply what I'd learned.

At 6:35 p.m. I saw the bear that I would soon arrow and bring back to camp that evening to show my husband and my mother and father-in-law. The beautiful sow carefully approached my bait area from behind my stand, coming upwind. As her head went behind some branches, I stood slowly. She then circled in back of me for several minutes. I couldn't turn and watch her, fearing she might see me move and run off. I stayed frozen, just moving my eyes and my neck slightly to see where she was and what she was doing.

Her eyes watched me while she smelled to see if she could figure out what that strange blob of camo in the tree was.
She finally approached my shooting lane, 8 long minutes later. Putting her nose to the ground, she followed the scent I had left behind when I walked to my stand. She then stood straight up on her hind legs, looking right at me with her nose in the air. Her eyes watched me while she smelled to see if she could figure out what that strange blob of camo in the tree was. It made me a bit nervous, but then I remembered my husband telling me that at some time in my bear hunting career I may experience a black bear doing this out of curiosity. So I guess in a way I was a bit prepared. I really didn't think that it would happen this time around. Satisfied that there was no danger (so she thought), she returned to the ground and proceeded to the bait, which was 6 yards from my stand.

The beautiful black sow once again approached my shooting lane. She was broadside with her right front leg forward. I was thinking, Now is my chance! I drew back my 48-pound bow. At that point her right leg went back, blocking the kill zone! Holding my position at full draw, I waited a few seconds until she shifted her leg forward giving me the broadside shot that I had hoped for. Making sure my sight was behind her right leg and in line with her opposite front leg, I sent my arrow through the air for a perfect hit.

She jumped and growled and ran off a short distance of 50 yards before I heard what most people call the "death cry." That is when I realized I had made the perfect shot! Hearing the death cry didn't disturb me, because my husband had told me that the death cry is just the air being released from the lungs after the animal has expired.

With my heart racing from all the excitement, I sat down for a minute to gather my fanny pack and gear. I took a deep breath and realized that all the visualizing I had done may have actually happened! I slowly proceeded down the tree and went to the area where she was standing when I released my arrow. There was a very good, deep red blood trail. Only 2 yards away I found half of my Easton arrow with all four blades of my Satellite Titan broadhead in place. Four yards farther along I found the other half.

I returned to our truck, which was only 100 yards or so from my treestand. Gathering my camcorder, camera, 5-gallon bucket, saw, and a rope (for dragging my bear), I was ready to return to the woods. As I began walking I became a little nervous realizing I'd be in the woods by myself with no backup weapon, just in case another bear were to come into the area while I was field dressing my bear. So I let my border collie, Hana, out of our truck to keep me company. She goes with me almost everywhere and makes a great watchdog when we are away from the truck.

I went back into the woods to pick up on the excellent blood trail. Even my color-blind husband could've followed it, had he been there with me. The bear was lying only 50 yards from my stand!

I very badly wanted to do everything myself to surprise my husband. To start, I needed a stick to use for dragging my bear, so I cut down a small poplar tree. I then set the camcorder on the 5-gallon bucket and took some video of my bear and me. Next I set my camera on the bucket and took some still photos.

It was now time to begin field dressing my bear! I had only field dressed one buck, in 1995, and that was with a bit of guidance from my dear friend Don. In the past I've been spoiled, because Jim is so fast at this task that he has field dressed my other bow kills. So now, years later, here I was field dressing my bear with no guidance. But I proceeded with confidence and got the job done .

Now came the hard part - dragging my 125-pound sow 163 yards to the truck. The woods were rough and swampy, and trees lay across the path every few yards. It was warm, I was sweating, and the mosquitoes were having me for dinner. I don't know how, but I did it! I'm sure the adrenaline that was flowing through my veins helped tremendously.

Now, after 35 minutes of dragging, I was looking at our truck and the bear thinking, "How in the world am I going to get this bear into that truck by myself?" Even though Jim had placed a 5foot-long, 12-inch-wide board in our truck for this very purpose, I didn't think I'd be able to get the bear into the truck myself.

I laid the board against the tailgate, lined up my bear with the board, and slowly inched her up the board, pulling, pushing, and holding her in place every time I made some progress. I then took hold of her hind leg and pulled and pushed her onto the tailgate. I'd done it!

It was now 8:15 p.m. and the perfect time for me to go pick up my husband. I was anxious to see if he had been as successful as I. On the way, I had decided to surprise him by acting as if I had got nothing.

He was hunting about a mile back in the woods. We had decided earlier that day that if he didn't shoot one, he would walk out to the main road and wait for me. There he was waiting for me, not a good sign.

I stepped out and said, "Did you see anything?"

He said, "No!" and then he quickly said to me, "Did you get one?"

I mumbled "No," and as I opened up the topper and turned on the light, I said, "EXCEPT FOR THIS ONE!"

He was so excited and proud of me. He kissed me twice and rubbed my back saying, "Good job, Sweetie. I knew you couId do it." Then he said, "Well, tell me what happened?" So, as we were driving back to our rented cabin I told him the very same story I've just told you.

What a very memorable, exciting, and rewarding hunt! All our hard work had paid off. I owe it all to my wonderful and very educated bowhunting husband, who has taught me everything I know about bowhunting. If it weren't for Jim, I wouldn't have the wonderful animals that I now have. I couldn't have a better coach and partner.

Michele Leqve has been hunting for 7 years, exclusively with bow and arrow for the past 5 years. She and her husband, Jim, live in Minnesota.

Reprinted With Permission Bowhunter Magazine
© 2004