Spring bear hunts aren’t just about hunting

When I was a kid, both my dad and I always got antsy to get outside this time of year. Spring bear season was just the excuse we needed to shake off the cabin fever.

I don’t know when we started going spring bear hunting, or how many years we made it an annual tradition, but it was one of the things I looked forward to for months each winter. Dad would take a few days off each spring, and we’d pack up the truck and go looking for black bears.

We started bear hunting before I was old enough to hunt myself, but I went along to help Dad anyway. We used the spot-and-stalk method, but in all the years we tried, we failed on the “spot” part. That definitely made the “stalk” piece harder, too. We never saw a bear while we were out there.

We talked several times about increasing our chances by hunting over a bait, but we never took the steps necessary to do it. Using a bait certainly makes it more likely you’ll get a bear – or at the very least see some bears – but we were good with just trying to find the bears in the woods, even if we faced long odds of ever seeing one.

But that’s not to say our hunts were unsuccessful. We both thoroughly enjoyed the hunts. We got to see some great country, we got to spend time together, and we had a lot of fun on those trips. Even though we never got a bear, we had a lot of laughs, practiced our woodcraft and honed our survival skills.

For instance, we learned that if Mom had packed our snacks, there was a good chance she sent us with the low-sodium versions of Wheat Thins. That’ll never do. So we made sure we each had our own salt shaker, so that we could lick the cracker, sprinkle some salt on it, and then eat it. That’s an advanced survival skill right there. You don’t want to get caught out on a bear hunt with low-sodium snacks and not have the proper gear to make them edible.

I think it’s time for another spring bear hunt. I wonder if Dad’s got time. I’ll bring the salt.

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