Adventure Begins when Plans go Wrong.

Bowhunting Bears fill the bill if you’re looking for that adrenaline rush! Knowing that what you’re hunting can hunt you always makes things a little edgy, especially with a primitive weapon. I’ve had many “hands-on” experiences with brown and black bears, and things can go south on the count of one if you don’t have a backup plan. Years ago, one of my buddies and I came up with a saying after being stranded off the coast of Alaska for six days. “Adventure begins when plans go bad.” On a recent bear hunt in Canada, things went south quickly on the first night. This is when being prepared matters.

After tying down our coolers and camo tubs, my buddy, Tim, set the GPS for Vermilion Bay, Canada. We hit the road for a two-day drive, arrived at camp midafternoon the following day, and immediately unpacked our food, weapons, and gear. I’ve learned over the years to have things packed so that it’s easy to find when you’re anxious to head to the stand. Once we got everything unloaded, we were called to the outfitter’s cabin to sign in and for important instructions before the hunt.

Each stand setup is different and requires one of the guides to take you to your location before hunting. There are wolves in this area, and you could be left standing in the pitch-black, waiting for your ride for an hour or more, so the more you know about your stand location, the better. Things look different after dark, and when the sun goes down far from the nearest town, you might as well be blind.

The first evening, I arrived at my stand about six hours before dark. I heard a constant humming sound within minutes of setting up my camera arm. Bees. I hate them more than Indiana Jones hated snakes. Two days later, while tracking a bear, I ended up stepping into a ground nest of bees and getting stung almost a dozen times. Just a couple of years prior, one of my closest friends was tearing down a tree stand when he accidentally stepped in a ground nest of hornets. Unfortunately, he was stung so many times that he went into anaphylactic shock within a couple of minutes and passed away before he could be taken to the hospital. Like I said, adventure begins when plans go wrong, so you’d better have a plan in case of emergencies.


As I looked to the right of my ladder, only a few feet from the base, thousands of bees were swarming out of the ground. I tried to ignore them, nocked an arrow tipped with a 100-grain Grim Reaper Pros Series 3 blade broadhead, and settled into my stand. I trust Grim Reapers to do the job as I’ve hunted massive animals everywhere, from Alaska to Africa and everywhere in between. I didn’t think I’d have any activity that first night, but that’s when things typically happen. Out of my peripheral, I saw a lumbering black shadow slowly meandering toward the bait site. When I determined it was an excellent boar and was about to come to full draw, something spooked him. He showed me his butt and walked back the way he’d approached. It was the last bear I’d see that night, but things were about to get interesting.

Once legal shooting was over, I packed up my stuff and headed for the remote dirt road where Tim would pick me up in hopefully a few minutes. Once he pulled up, I threw my stuff in the back of the truck, and we headed to pick up one additional hunter who’d come with us. As we slowly approached him in the dark, he stood alongside the road with a slight grin. He’d shot a bear before dark but hadn’t tracked it yet. Did I say how dark it was? For the next two hours, we followed that bear through chest-high grass, across a winding creek, and through some of the thickest brush I’d ever seen.


Tracking bears in the dark will make the hairs on your neck stand up. I’ve returned to my tree stand in the dark to escape a bear, heard them sniff my two-person tent at night, and had them tear open a tire cover on the back of the motorhome. I’ve walked the banks of the Russian River (loaded with brown bears) in the pitch-black night trying to locate a missing person. If you run into a problem bear, it will probably happen if he’s been wounded or surprised…especially at night.


After not finding much blood, we decided not to push the bear, marked the spot, and returned to the truck. Tim’s phone lit up before we were a mile down the road. “Guys, **** stabbed himself.” That’s all we got. We didn’t know if he’d fallen out of his tree stand and landed on his knife or if he’d cut himself gutting out a bear as he’d shot one before dark. At first, communication was vague and sporadic as there was a tiny cell signal. As we headed in his direction, we were passed by an ambulance and two police cars, and we were nowhere near a hospital or town. This wasn’t looking like a gutting accident.

As we stopped on the road and talked to one of the officers, he could give us directions of where to find the rest of our hunting party. It was midnight, and as we pulled up to their location and shut off the engine, it was deathly silent. It was so dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. It was eerie. As we stood outside the truck, we heard several men calling out to each other in the dark. They were tracking the wounded bear the injured hunter had shot and would call out to one another every minute or so to make sure that what they were hearing was each other and not the wounded bear. If you’ve ever been in that situation, it’s a little unnerving. The crazy thing was that there was more blood on the ground from the hunter than there was from the bear! It is evident from the amount of blood he’d lost that they had to get him out of there quickly. Only minutes before we’d arrived on site, they’d carried him out on a WWII gurney typically used for carrying out harvested bears from difficult spots.


So, what had happened? While tracking his bear, he’d tripped on a log, and a broken branch had gone into his leg. What made this injury so deadly was that he was on blood thinners. They were able to get a tourniquet on his leg to slow the bleeding, and it was the quick thinking and planning of fellow hunters that potentially saved his life. After they found his bear, the gurney was once again being put to good use. Like so many of our military heroes, four exhausted hunters showed up and sacrificed their time, energy, and safety to complete the mission. It would be almost 4:00 in the morning by the time we got to bed, but without a plan and good men showing up, that night could have ended much differently. Adventure begins when plans go wrong, so you’d better have a plan!”