Black Bears, Bad Cubs, and A Change of Luck

The story of Achilles’ heel is that of weakness despite overall strength. It refers to the physical vulnerability of the mythological figure. Why the history lesson? Hunters are great at making excuses when challenged in the field. It is associated with superstition or belief that luck is related to an activity, something physical, or even fantasized.

My buddy Mark Sidelinger sported a long, silver ponytail for most of his adult life. Mark’s coveted hair symbolized his lifestyle and outdoor pursuits growing up in Pennsylvania. However, the main reason was that he thought it looked great. Without warning, Mark cut off his cherished ponytail for an above-the-ear hairstyle.

The new look suited my old friend, but Mark encountered a string of bad luck that he blamed on cutting his hair. While hunting hogs in Florida, a hog ran at Mark and knocked him to the ground, biting and shaking his leg before retreating to safer ground. Mark, dazed by the encounter, blamed his calamity on the loss of his ponytail. Next, laMark went on a mountain mule deer hunt and had a motorcycle pin his ankle against a log, tearing ligaments. He limped around for months and once again blamed his mounting hard luck on having cut his hair.

Mark and I hunted spring black bears in Alberta, and the tale of the missing ponytail continued. On the second evening of our bear hunt, Mark got another taste of “missing ponytail bad fortune.” Sidelinger sat silently in his ladder stand and watched a massive black sow show up with four of the worst behaved cubs imaginable. The tyrannical cubs tore the place up under the protection of mom, who paced back and forth like a prison warden.

Mark had placed Wildlife Research Center wicks dipped with Ultimate Bear Lure, and the little furballs proved it worked, finding each one and shredding them. One of the cubs noticed or smelled Mark up in the tree, and a second later, the cub was in the big spruce tree. With needle-sharp claws, the cub pulled at Mark’s pack and slapped at the safety strap with the hunter locked in the tree. Mark leaned out as far as possible on his safety harness to avoid the cub’s claws as it swatted at him. Mark had left his pack open and hanging in the tree, and the cub took it upon itself to rummage through the goodies. The sow walked to the base of the tree and watched her cub, squinting at Mark as though warning him not to mess with the youngster.

A giant boar showed up when the show was getting good, and mom sent all the cubs up into trees before chasing off the potential cub killer. The sow swatted the ground, popping her jaws and making noises that made what was left of Mark’s hair stand on end. The boar was determined to take control of the area, and after a full-on fight, chases through the woods, and a lot of flashing teeth, the boar finally won.

The sow ran off in the woods, and as the boar moseyed into view. Mark shouldered his Traditions Outfitter G2 rifle and shot the massive bruin through the vitals. The boar crashed off through the trees like a freight train. What makes the story even better is that Mark swore he wouldn’t shoot a black-colored bear.

I showed up with our guide, Cam Morrison, and Mark’s eyes were as big as saucers, and his hands trembling. He started to tell us the story, and when we suggested that the events were slightly exaggerated, Mark pointed out the four cubs still in the trees around us. The claw marks on his safety strap and pack were enough to solidify the story, and we decided to get the boar and get out of there.

If there was any doubt about the story, the memory card from the Stealth Trail Cam we had set up showed the mischievous cubs trying to eat the lens. To make things even better, we set the camera to shoot video. It captured all of the action, including the sow violently defending its territory. Somehow the camera captured a video of the boar walking in and getting shot. The entire ordeal was hard to believe, but knowing the sow was still watching, we wasted little time finding the downed boar and getting to safer ground.

Mark’s evening might have started with short-hair superstitions, but the rest of us knew his luck had changed. It didn’t take long for a big grin to give way to Mark’s sinister side of continual teasing and joking. The bear was an absolute monster, and there isn’t a hunter that would have turned down the trophy-class bruin.

Mark hoped to fill his second tag with a color-phased bear several nights later. To his dismay, a big black bear showed up, noticed Mark in the tree, and immediately stood up and postured with aggression. The bear approached the stand, stood on its hind legs, and roared at Mark like it was going to eat him. Mark was 12 feet off the ground, but the bear was close to eight feet tall, leaving its front paws just short of getting hold of the hunter. Mark could see a pronounced scar on the bear’s nose as it snarled and growled. The bear climbed the stand, and as Mark described it, the bear looked into his soul and shook the hunter to the core. The bear moved back down on the ground, and Mark wasted no time shooting the dominant old boar.

The bear was only five yards from the stand, and the Outfitter G2 ended the territorial dispute. Mark refers to his bear as Scarface, and it was bigger than the record-book black he shot a couple of days earlier. It isn’t often a hunter can put two black bears into the books and say he didn’t want to shoot either. The encounter with Scarface was a turning point for Sidelinger, and he no longer looks at the loss of his long hair as his Achilles’ heel.

Truglo OMNIA6

The Truglo OMNIA6 riflescope was perfect for a close-quarters black bear hunt with 1-6 X 24 magnification, wide field of view, and illuminated reticle. There is nothing worse than a black reticle on a black bear in the dark forest. The illuminated reticle allowed for pinpoint accuracy. It was easy to access a target quickly, even at five yards, with the scope set on the 1X magnification. Built on a 30 mm tube with a 24 mm objective lens, the scope gathers light in challenging conditions, making it a clear and bright choice.

Traditions Outfitter G3 Rifle

The Outfitter G3 Rifle is lightweight, compact, and easy to maneuver in the stand or tight spots. The muzzle brake tames the lightweight nature of this firearm, even with larger cartridges. The Outfitter G3 is a second-generation rifle, upgraded from the G2 with the Traditions Elite Trigger System that breaks with just over three pounds of pull. The G3 is a break-action, single-shot cartridge rifle that features a 22-inch Lothar Walther barrel that is accurate and dependable.

Walker’s Razor X-TRM

Walker’s Razor X-TRM is a digital, low-profile muff to enhance and protect hearing. Four microphones help detect sounds and enhance hearing. Active dynamic sound suppression kicks in when noises reach a certain decibel. The digital reaction is so fast that your hearing is never compromised. There is built-in gain and wind noise reduction. The unit runs on two AAA batteries and has auto-shutoff to ensure future use. Hearing protection should be standard equipment when using any firearm, especially with a muzzle brake.

Stealth Fusion X Trail Camera

I am still running Stealth trail cameras over a decade old but look forward to new models that continue to impress. The newest Stealth trail camera is the Fusion Wireless Camera which can be used with cellular activation to transmit photos in minutes. The unit takes 26 MP images with a 0.4 second trigger time. The camera ranges 80 feet and has 1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Image set up, and download is quick with a QR scan. Combined with Stealth Cam’s new data plans, Fusion offers affordable options for every budget & need. Available on AT&T & Verizon. Of course, the camera can be used without a cellular package.

Ultimate Bear Lure

Wildlife Research Center Ultimate Bear Lure is a great way to attract bears. When set up strategically, it can produce the perfect shot opportunity. It is made with a powerful, extremely intense, burning, sweet-smelling attractant with hints of fruit, anise, and other aromatics that force you to keep sniffing the bottle. Besides hunters, bears cannot resist it and often come straight in when deployed on a wick. Use with a Pro-Wick High-Intensity Scent Dispenser designed to hang in a tree. It will disperse scent and draw bears from a wide area. The wicks come in a four-pack and resealable zip lock bag.


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