Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Barney and the Bear

Some of my friends and readers have asked how I got my bear. They wanted details, and I promised them I would tell the story.

Mary wouldn't let me hunt bear until after we had tasted bear and knew that our family would enjoy the meat. Pastor Joshua Scheer gave me a roast just before he took his call to Wyoming.  

It was delicious. Red meat like beef, but with a really high quality pork texture and flavor.

So, last year I tried to hunt bear. I got skunked. No Oso! But Seth and Shane Vettleson gave us an arm and shoulder of one Seth got last year. It was great. Thank you guys, very much.

In our area we are allowed to take two bear during hunting season just to keep the population down. The license for two bear is under $40.


That's really a good price for meat, especially if the bear is big. And that sounds like a really good way to feed the family to me.


This year, thank God, I got one. Not a really big one, but large enough.


But, my getting the bear happened in an unusual way. And because of just one tiny detail, now the bear hunters in our area have that silly Pastor Abrahamson to talk about.


I am now called Barney. As in, Barney Fife, the deputy of Andy Griffith who was allowed to carry only one bullet. And Barney had to ask Sheriff Andy if he could load his bullet.

The season started great with Bear Fest at the Bjerklies. I even got to play bass guitar with the band for a while. That was fun.

Normally the bear hunters that come from all over have these great stories. Like one lady this year who was in a bear stand and the bear came up after her and she shot it.

Wow, what a blood pumping way to get a bear. And she got a medium/large boar to boot! It just volunteered--though in a scary way.

In the United States, bear hunting has been romanticized by television and movies. Me, well, I just wanted to put good food on the table with low cost.

I'm not Fess Parker. Nor am I Davy Crockett. And because I have a desire about how to do things on my own, I've been called Jed Clampett. From canning, to raising domestic animals and birds, to making my own bows, to my hunting and eating rabbit and hare, to my mis-adventures with skunks; they seem to think the reputation was well deserved.

But this year's bear hunt gave me a new name: Barney Fife.

The romantic version of bear hunting in the U.S.  is in the theme song for Fess Parker's character for the television series "Davy Crockett". "He kilt him a b'ar when he was only three!"

Yippee! Davy Crocket! King of the Wild frontier!

Only, I'm not.


It happened two ways. One was the way I was feeling, the other was the way the neighbors enjoyed it.

It was a Saturday morning, I got up and went to conduct Divine Service at Mt. Olive in Trail. I had a wedding rehearsal Friday evening because this same Saturday I had a wedding at Nazareth in the late afternoon. After church service I had Saturday School for the youth. At the end of class Gus Vettleson came in and asked: "Pastor, do have a little time?"

I said, "Well, I have a wedding this afternoon, why?"

I asked because Gus and I have done a few very time consuming hair-brained projects together. Some have turned out very nice (like canning Elk and other foods), others not so much (like trying to pour molten metal into moulds to make Christmas ornaments--we really should have checked through the bullet casings for the accidental live rounds).

Gus said, "There's a bear treed in my brother's yard! Do you have a gun?"

I had a lot of guns. I had just taught Firearm Safety class for the Department of Natural Resources. My trunk was loaded with guns.

6 handguns, 4 rifles, 3 shotguns.

And I had 4 bows!

But I had no arrows, and no bullets, except for the pistol I was wearing and my .357 Mag that I wear as a safety against bear while bear hunting or bow hunting deer.

We zipped over to the farm. Gus called his dad and his brother to try to find ammo. I could use .223, .30-30, .30-06, and 20 ga. But there was none of that at the farm.

On the other end of Gus' phone was laughter. His dad said, "What, did you bring Barney Fife to hunt bear?"

Mind you, I was still wearing my church clothes. Khaki pants, dress shirt, sport coat, etc. I took off the sport coat and dress shirt and put them in the trunk with the guns to keep them from getting stained.

Finally we found a .308 and matching ammo. A Winchester 70 bolt action belonging to Gus' brother. That was waaaayyy better than my .357M SAA Colt revolver.

I was ready.

Now for an ethical/public morality explanation.

The bear was treed.

That means the bear was afraid of the dog in the yard and climbed up a tree.

And it was high.

Very high.
It was 60 feet up (20 meters up for those of you outside the U.S.) a tree which had several forks.

Obviously I wasn't going to grin it to death, nor was I going to get it with my bare hands.

I'm not Davy Crockett.

And there is this ethical idea among some hunters about something called "Fair Chase."

What they mean by this is that they think hunting is a sport and that the hunter should not shoot, for example, a sitting duck. Why? because it doesn't allow the duck to escape. But for some reason the same people do not encourage hunters to scare deer into running before allowing themselves to shoot deer.

Whatever, I guess I can respect the romantic ideal of "Fair Chase" for those hunters who only hunt for sport. But I hunt for a more basic reason: food.

Add to this a very serious ethical consideration: This bear was treed in a yard where two little boys play every day.  It was also a threat to those children.

Well, Gus and I were checking the bear out and I was looking for the best line of sight. We debated what to do if it fell into one of the tree forks. Gus knew where the chainsaw was to cut the tree down if we needed to.

Then Rick Bjerklie and Greg Melin drove up.

"Hey, how's Barney doing? Did you find your bullet? Ha Ha Ha Ha!"

Rick had let me hunt a few days earlier on one of his spots. It was great, except for the fact that I didn't dress warmly enough. I sat in the bear stand  from just before sunrise until after 10am. The temperature was in the twenties F (below 0 C), and by the time I left the temperature was not above 40F (4 C).

Some of that time that day was wonderful. I had squirrels literally running over me while they played with each other. I had an 8 or 9 point white tail buck within bow range--but no bow or arrows. There were ruff grouse running all over the place. Sparrows landed within 3 feet of me.  But no bear wandered in that morning. By the end I was shaking from the cold due to my own stupidity in clothing. I was in the first stages of hypothermia. So I got warm and went home.

So having a bear in a tree on this Saturday after Church was a gift from God. Food on the table.

Rick brought a gun and ammo in case I needed it. But we already had the .308 ready.



So the question was, how do I take the bear without getting it stuck way up in the tree.

Rick is a bear guide and has guided for many years. Bear Fest is for the hunters that he guides.

He suggested I shoot the neck to let it drop.

I did.

It climbed down another 20 feet.

Rick shouted "Shoot again Pastor!"

I did, it fell. Stuck in the fork of the tree about 5 feet off the ground.

We got it out. Greg took the nice photo. We have the whole thing on video from first shot until the bear fell into the fork.  I don't think I'll post that on Youtube. Too many people don't appreciate the realities of where food comes from and would raise a stupid whiny animal rights cry.

The bear is food for my family.

It was not big. 160 lbs. About the size of a large white tailed buck. That's good for me.

Rick, Gus, Greg and I brought it over to Ricks to clean and dress.

I locked my keys in the trunk of my car accidentally over at Gus' brother's place.

After dressing it out, Greg said something that I thought was a great compliment. He said, "I don't think we've ever thrown away so little of the bear after cleaning it."

Thanks, Greg. I want to use everything I can.

I called Mary to help me with the keys. She asked if I had borrowed pants from Gus before I started hunting and cleaning the bear. "Huh? No. .... oh."

When she got there she had the little ones. They all wanted to see the bear parts. She commented on the blood spatters on my church pants. I did take off my dress shirt and sportcoat. My keys were in the coat pocket, and that was in the trunk. In my excitement I had closed the trunk.

Then she reminded me that the trunk could be opened by a button on the dash of the car.

Drrrrrr. Hey, I'm Barney!

We were home by 2pm. I was ready for the wedding (which started at 5pm).

But Mary said, "Joe, you wash the blood out of your church pants! I'm not going to do it."

Hey, I'm Barney. I did clean the pants, the bear. And the bear is now cut up and packed in the freezer.

Now, I have the skin and head to clean and tan. Who wants to help with that? (Jed Clampett talking.)

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