Steve Davis tapes his farewell as a bear inches up the tree closer to his stand.
Death by bear attack was a horrifying prospect.
Steve Davis swallowed hard, looked into the video camera, and spoke from the heart.
“This is the scariest thing I’ve ever encountered in the woods,” said the young bowhunter, holding the wide-angle lens at arm’s length. “I’ve already had two bears come up the tree, and I may have to shoot my way out of here…in the dark. If this tape is found, please say goodbye to Mom and Dad. I love you!”
Canadian bear hunts are always exciting, yet Davis had no idea of the drama in store when he and three friends booked a Manitoba bear hunt. Their guide met the Davis party at the airport in Winnipeg on Sunday morning.
“So that you become familiar with the size of bears, you’ll use video cameras tonight,” said the guide—a plan welcomed by the group since some of them had never seen a wild bear.
That night, the hunters reviewed the tapes, talked about the size of bears, the best angles for archery shots, and general bear behaviors. Davis had dreams of making a professional video. Although each man felt the fear that comes with bear hunting, at this point it seemed cute and funny, a situation that would dramatically change.
The outfitter suggested that Davis try a stand on the edge of the Riding Mountain National Forest. Although the area had never been hunted, large paw tracks and piles of giant scat were abundant at the stand site. Davis carried his bow and a camera, while his buddy Daymude carried a bow. Whichever stand Daymude selected, Davis would take the other.
As Daymude approached the first stand, he noticed that the seat had bite marks and casually walked to the alternate. Davis was alarmed about the chew marks, but had no other option. The evergreens were so thick around the stand, he could not see his buddy or hang a bow. Since his primary goal was videotape, he laid his bow at the base of the tree and climbed up.
At 7:30, a medium-sized bear showed up. It fed at the bait, left, and then returned several times. Davis noticed that the bear seemed to pass in front of his partner’s stand, yet he couldn’t see how close because of the thick evergreens.
“When the bear came back the third time, it suddenly stood up, looked around, and walked to the base of my tree as I ran the camera,” remembers Davis vividly. “It sniffed at my bow, leaned against the tree and then looked up. This is great, I remember thinking. A bear right under my tree, standing on my bow. In a split second that bear’s jaws were level with my feet. I yelled and the bear backed out of the tree.
In a panic, I saw another bear coming into the bait.
“It stood on my bow, leaned against the tree, and up it came. This time I was more worried about saving my life than getting bear footage,” said Steve Davis of his encounter with this bear.
“I filmed that bear for 10 to 15 minutes until it took the same path. It stood on my bow, leaned against the tree, and up it came. This time I was more worried about saving my life than getting bear footage. I yelled again and, thankfully, the bear backed down. “As I sat down Daymude yelled, ‘Are you OK?’ Both bears had come to the base of his stand as well, but did not climb. Just behind him was a pile of 150 or more bones where the bears devoured the bait. “Unsure of whether I would leave this place alive, I extended my arm and the camera, looked into it and said ‘farewell’ to my parents.
“At 9:45 I still had plenty of light, and since he was the hunter I should give him a chance to say when to leave, hoping it would be any minute. Finally, I convinced myself that 10 p.m. was the absolute deadline, just five more minutes. Suddenly, out stepped a 300-pounder.
“The big bear came to the bait, offered a perfect shot, yet my buddy didn’t shoot. The animal took the bait and ran into the woods. ‘Why didn’t he shoot?’ I wondered. The bear returned five minutes later offering another perfect shot. Nothing. I noticed a second 300-pounder standing on my bow. Now I’m filming with my right eye and with the left, watching the bear at the base of the tree. Suddenly, another big bear showed up about 10 yards away. My God! I’m surrounded by half a ton of bears.
“I thought I heard Darren cough, but realized the sound wasn’t human. It was a bear making a woofing sound. The noise seemed to make the other bears uneasy. Like a huge coal truck, the biggest bear I could imagine walked into the bait. It was one and a half times the size of the others.
“A cold chill ran down my spine and I began to shudder at the thought of what could happen next. Any moment, Darren’ s arrow would release. Which of those other bears would end up in my lap? I kept the camera on the big bear. Long seconds went by and Darren finally shot, catching the bear perfectly. It made half a dozen leaps into the bush and gave a death roar.”
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