Trout Bums at Large is a monthly column appearing in the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Seattle Times. The column is written by Randal Sumner and Mark Littleton. We will be keeping an archive of these articles on this page.
A word about Bears by R.Sumner 08/25/2009
I was standing around a fly shop in Montana
this spring, buying a fishing license and having a conversation with a couple
of the locals when the topic of bears came up.
This is not the first time that I have been
entertained with horror stories of Big Bad Bears. It seems that if you spend
enough time in the woods you will have an encounter of the bear kind. These
stories always seem to end with the beast being dispatched with a large caliber
pistol at ten paces, much like shooting at charging dumpster. No mercy.
these tales of wilderness bear whacking, although I wouldnít bet the house on
there validity. If I decide to share my
bear experiences with macho, gun toting, bear slaying mountain men, I prefer to
go last as my stories are a little off the wall.
have run into a few black bear in the lower 48, all my serious bear encounters
have been in Alaska with the
coastal brown bears, affectionately known as Brownie. For years we would go to Alaska
on the 4th of July fishing for King and Red salmon, stay in a Forest
Service cabin or camp out in a tent. Great fishing, fabulous food, plenty of
laugh therapy and, of course, Brownie. These are the bears you see on Alaska
out door TV shows: huge, furry, fat, and ready for a long nap. In July however,
Brownie is a scruffy, thinner, summer bear, like a big dog, I mean a really big
dog, in need of some big time grooming.
As part of
the gear we always had a weapon in camp, either a .44 magnum or a sawed off
pump gun. The funny part is that none of us wanted to pack the extra weight and
I, for one, didnít want to be the one to make any shooting decisions. Seems
stupid now but you had to be there. Actually I found that a big stinky cigar
was the best Bad Bear preventative; bears canít see or hear all that well, but
they have a world class snout and they hate the stench of burning plant material.
bear- in- the- boonies story began early one wet, miserable morning when I
decided I had to get some space between myself and my companions. On this
particular trip, I didnít know three of the others before we met up at the airport,
then it was too late to change plans.
Two of these guys were California Clowns, they
had smuggled in a huge bag of Maui Wowie and they had enough ordnance to wage small
war. The first thing they did in camp was to set up a wire perimeter boundary
and attach bells to it. I was stupid enough to ask, what for??
It seems that when Brownie comes into camp at
night they would hear the tinkling of the bells and get up in time to have a
gun fight in the pitch dark with the beast. Luckily, these guys were so cooked every night
they could hardly operate the zipper on the tent door. This was not the Alaskan
fishing trip I had in mind, the fact is, these guys were starting to get to
meÖ..and that is NEVER good.
So on this nasty,
wet morning I decided to walk out the half mile and treat myself to the Forest
Service outhouse, anything to get some peace and quiet.With a heavy heart and my baby wipes I started
down the trail, through the dark rainforest, talking to myself.As I broke into the outhouse clearing with my
homicidal thoughts I looked over to my right and there sitting on the trunk of
a 1979 blue Monte Carlo was Old
Brownie himself. He turned and
gave me a dopy bear grin; we made some long, serious eye contact. I stood in
the rain with my baby wipes; no gun, no pepper spray, and no bells. Finally I
walked over to the outhouse and shut the door, when I opened it; Brownie had
disappeared. So too had my homicidal
I lit a
cigar and walked back to camp feeling pretty darn good , that old bear could
have killed me easily, but on that particular morninghe decided to let me live. When your life is
in the paws of someone or something else, it can make you stop and think about
the concept of mercy.