It all started while trout fishing at Rock Creek in the Blue Ridge WMA on Memorial Day weekend 2008. I had my limit of trout and was riding the back roads looking for places I might want to try and harvest a mountain buck on a future deer hunt. I came upon the local game warden named Dale, who is now retired. We talked for a while, and I told him I’d been fishing at Rock Creek since I was 5 years old in 1968, and that I was thinking about hunting there in the fall. I remember asking him, “How do you kill a bear?”
To my surprise, he said, “There’s nothing to it.”
He just so happened to have been plowing food plots that morning and had planted sorghum and corn in a few areas.
“If we get good rain, these food plots will draw in the bears,” he said.
Then he did something no other game warden had ever done for me. He hand drew a map and showed me the places he’d planted and some other areas to check out. I immediately went and found the areas and marked them on another WMA map I had.
Later that summer on a couple of occasions, I drove to my new spots and checked on them. The food plots looked great, and the white oak trees around the edges looked good, too.
I didn’t say anything to my two hunting buddies about what I was planning until bow season started. We were at the hunting club opening weekend, and I told them I was thinking about going up to the cooler mountains to hunt a bear with my bow. One of the guys kind of laughed and made a sarcastic comment about that.
So the next Saturday morning, I drove up and signed in for the hunt and went to one of the food plots. Just as the game warden had told me, some guys from Florida were hunting the same area. I didn’t see anything that morning, but I did talk to those hunters from Florida. They had seen some bear sign but had not seen any bears the last two weeks.
I hunted a bigger food plot that afternoon, and about 30 minutes before dark, I saw a bear feeding in the sorghum patch along the back edge. After dark came, I climbed down quietly and eased out to my truck and came on home.
The next week I told a co-worker I was going to shoot the bear, and he would run down the hill right to my truck. I was off by about 80 yards.
I took off at lunch on Friday, Oct. 3, 2008, still not telling my hunting buddies about what I had seen. I got up to the mountains and set up my camp and tent along Noontootla Creek. Then I took off to the hunting spot.
When I pulled up to where I usually parked, there was an elderly man just down from me at a small camping spot. He was scouting for a muzzleloader hunt that was opening the following week and was waiting on his grandson and some other men to meet him. I thought my hunt might be messed up because of all the activity in the area, but I then headed off to find a good tree to climb at the back corner where I’d seen the bear the Saturday before.
The only good tree to climb without cutting a bunch of limbs was next to a maple tree, but I could only get about 10 feet high. I eased up the tree as quietly as I could. From up in the tree, I could see where that bear had been tearing the food plot up. There were several circles where he would sit down and reach out and tear down the sorghum stalks to eat.
About an hour had gone by without seeing a thing. Then, all the sudden, I heard something running through the stalks in the food plot. I could see the stalks moving, and finally I could see the bear’s ears sticking up, and he came all the way across the food plot to the edge where I could see him good now. My heart was pumping, and the adrenaline was flowing. I just needed him to turn and come up the edge, which he did, but he got behind some big limbs. I drew back my Hoyt Havatek Bow, and when the bear came out from behind the tree, he turned broadside and stopped 10 yards away.
I released the arrow, and it made a loud crack. The bear roared, fell to the ground, got back up to run and fell again. I had hit him high. He did that several times and went about 100 yards to the lower edge of the field.
After a few minutes, I was so excited that I called a friend of mine that I’d grown up hunting with and told him as quietly as I could that, “I just smoked a bear with my bow.”
Then, I then heard the bear get up and move through some woods breaking limbs as he went. I got down to mark the trail as I was tracking him. I was nervous as a cat on a hot tinned roof, because I was in the middle of nowhere hunting by myself.
I came to the road and crossed it but lost the trail. I could tell he was headed to the creek in a mountain laurel thicket. I decided not to track him any farther that night. I went to the truck, and to my surprise the elderly man proceeded to tell me that after he and I had talked, he left to do some scouting. When he came back, a bear had torn down his old and faded one-man tent that he had camped with in 35 states. The bear had ripped it to pieces and pulled it down to the creek. He picked up the tent and put it in his small Honda car and left to go scouting again since his friends were still not there yet.
He came back, and the bear had been back a second time and climbed in the window of his car and chewed up the seats and dash and totally destroyed his car. The bear had also gotten a plastic tote with food and cooking oil out of the window and had pulled it all the way to the creek again.
By this time his friends had shown up. After him telling the story like only a mountain man could, I was about to die laughing inside. I finally said, “I think I’ve shot your terrorist bear.”
I believe when the man came back the second time to his car, he must have spooked the bear, and that’s when he ran up the hill and across the food plot toward me.
“Where is he?” the man asked.
I showed them where he had crossed the road, and that I felt like he might still be alive, and that I didn’t want to push him any at night. So I left and went back to my camp and didn’t get much sleep that night and was back in my tree stand before daylight the next morning.
It was relaxing, but I didn’t see anything, so about 9 a.m. and good daylight, I got down and followed the blood trail again across the road, but I soon lost the trail. I was getting hot, and I decided to go back to the truck and get some water to drink and remove some clothes. The mountain man saw me and asked if I’d found him. I said not yet. He decided to join me in the search.
I hurried up the road and went in the woods behind him. He went to the right, and I went to the left when we hit the thicket.
Soon afterward he yelled, “Here he is, and he’s still alive in the creek.”
I had gotten in a hurry following him and forgot my bow at the truck. So I had to go through some woods and run about 200 yards down the road to get my truck and bow. I drove back up and jumped out with my bow and got to the bear as quick as I could. I was able to quickly shoot the bear with my bow.
From all of the excitement of running and being on the ground in a mountain laurel thicket with a live bear, my blood pressure must have been out of sight. I eased up to the bear to admire him and was scared, even though those guys were with me. I was about to go back to the truck to get a camera and a game cart.
The older gentleman said, “Son, have you ever drug a bear out of the woods? They’re like a bowl of Jell-O.”
After taking some pictures, I got the game cart in there, and we strapped the bear on, and the four of us had the bear loaded in the back of my truck in 10 minutes with no drag marks on the beautiful hide.
I thanked the men for helping me, and that I was sorry the bear had caused so much damage to his car and tent. I left and called my friend and told him that I’d found him, and he was about a 250-lb. boar and was in the back of my truck headed to the check-in station.
After signing the sheet at the check-in station, I headed home to show my wife and oldest daughter, who was going to a formal dance that night. Several of her friends were at our house getting ready, and we made their pictures with the fancy dresses and the bear.
I wanted to make a bear rug out of the skin, but I realized I had no idea how to skin him. So I called my taxidermist Darrell McMicken in Cartersville, and he graciously offered to skin the bear for me. I also met with a WRD game warden, who removed a tooth and checked the hide to confirm a legal kill. The tooth confirmed the bear was about 3 years old. The bear weighed approximately 225 pounds. Darrell did a great job on the bear rug, and I get to see it every day in my home office.
It’s been 10 years since I met the game warden, and he helped me fulfill a dream of harvesting a black bear right here in north Georgia, but it seems like yesterday every time I think about this hunt.
I really got a kick out of telling my two hunting buddies this story. They said you really kept that quiet, and the one who didn’t think I had a chance of getting a bear claims I’m just lucky. I’d have to agree, but like many have said before, “I’d rather be lucky than good any day!”
Now when you’re up in those mountains this spring trout fishing, take time to talk to the game warden, and you might find a lifetime memory like I did. Many thanks, Dale!