Is That a "Bar" over "Thar"
"Bar" Over "Thar"
It was the year of our Lord, 1982. I just finished my third year of university. I was working during the summer for KImberly Clark (KC) of Canada's Longlac, Ontario Engineering Office as a Road location Party Chief. John McMahon (Chief Forester) "ran" the Engineering Office and this being my third summer working for his office we had developed a camaraderie; primarily because John McMahon had worked his summers as a university student (way back) and loved to share his stories with me and others. Now, I had stories to share and he loved to hear them. In his eyes I had developed from a green city - slicker to a pretty-good woodsman who could hold his own.
It was early-June, I believe it was our second of 10 adventures planned for this summer. The chopper flown by the late Barry Gibbs, a former Vietnam chopper pilot (Barry survived Vietnam yet he would crash and burn in the summer of 1985; that is simply another story) would be dropping us off at our base-camp on Lake Kenomagiski approximately 10 miles from the nearest logging road and about 30 air miles from Longlac. As Party Chief I had selected the drop-off point and pick-up point using aerial photography (1: 15,840 scale). Back at the office (my previous summers had furnished me with the ability to interpret aerial photos accurately) I had planned where to set-up camp to facilitate locating about 10 miles of logging road; our primary objective.
I was confident that we could easily accomplish this in 8 days and I had allocated a 2-day buffer to ensure it was done (although you may see this as an incentive to complete our work ahead of schedule; therefore, adding recreational time for fishing, swimming, hiking and exploring...). When we were finished we would have 4 days leave which usually resulted in a trip to "Thunder City" (Thunder Bay) for some "wild encounters of the other kind."Little did I know, that we would not have to wait until Thunder City for a "wild encounter of the other..."
We disembarked from the chopper with all of our gear and 2 coolers filled with blood-red t-bones, hamburger meat, ham, eggs and enough milk and juice to last us for 12 days. After 2 chopper trips all of our gear and personnel were unloaded. Myself, Rodney, Ralph, Bill, and Patrice set up our 2 tents and quickly cut a kitchen area using our husqvarnas(chain saws). We built our camp-fire and cooked dinner (hamburgers and freshly peeled potatoes diced into fries). After clean-up we sat by the campfire (for warmth-it did snow that day and camaraderie) before turning in.
The next morn we were up at sunrise (around 6 A.M.). We cooked and ate bacon and eggs with coffee to (literally) "heat and boot" and left our base-camp to start cutting line. We would eventually profile/reconnoiter and cut a 4 to 5 foot swath 10 miles long. We would begin this 2nd day and try to get 3 to 4 miles cut and then walk back to camp and devour our blood red t-bones and other stuff.
When we got back to camp something had visited our camp something quite big. There was damage, a ripped tent-wall and a cooler's lid was missing. Thankfully to our great relief this animal did not touch our meal, the blood-red steaks were saved. Other than the damage to our one tent, the missing cooler lid and a punctured aerosol paint can nothing else had been vandalized. I went searching for our cooler lid while the others prepared our meal, sewed the tent and secured our food in a tree to prevent this from happening again. I found our lid about 3oo yards from our base-camp. It was destroyed; it had teeth marks all over it and had been ripped/shredded into pieces.
I contemplated while I walked back to camp; yes, it had to be a bear (black); there was no doubt; however, why the lid? Back at camp our fresh blood-red t-bones were untouched and the aerosol can was punctured/bitten? Then I remembered one of (John) McMahon's stories; he said that a black bear's primary sense is his nose their eyes are weak. He related a bear encounter in which he simply threw his jacket off and the bear left him and started eating his jacket as he carefully left the scene (exit stage right). When I got back to camp it was all making (primary) sense (no pun intended). I discussed this with my crew and then radioed the Engineering Office, Bob Forbes answered (he was the engineer that had interviewed me and decided to hire me 3 summers previous). I told Bob that we had a bear come into our camp and I would probably need a rifle (thank God my father had taken me hunting when I was immature brat back in high school). Bob asked me if I could shoot and I replied yes and reflected on the 3 trips with my father -years back. He said he would get a rifle to me in the A.M. The boys (at camp) were a little worried; we did have a rifle coming yet it would not be here until the A.M. I asked Bill to help me lay-out our early-warning BTC defence system that is after we constructed it. The system was laid out and was operational; thank God, it was silent that night.
The next morn at 6 we were up and cooking breakfast (bacon and eggs with our jolt of coffee -heat). The chopper landed at about 7:45; Barry handed me a shot-gun (Russian -made) and ammunition (buck shot and slugs) and left. I checked out the gun (a little disappointed that it was a shot gun) and we left for our trail again. We cut another 3 miles and hiked back to camp. There was no sign of a bear invasion and our early warning BTC defence system was not breached. Things were looking up; well so I thought. We had a wonderful dinner we finished up the rest of our blood-red steaks and potatoes. We sat fireside as we chatted and I cleaned the gun and fired a few shots (slugs) to test my aim.
It was about 7:30 P.M. when our BTC early warning system sounded off. This sophisticated new-technology had indeed worked! Oh, I forgot to mention BTC stands for (Bear Tin Can); if you add fishing line to it, you indeed have our hi-tech system. It was still "light-out" so I investigated (with my gun) and air force pen flair-location device. There in front of me was a black bear (the so called "bar"). He did not look ferocious or even the least bit intimidating. He merely seemed curious; I was about 20 yards away from him and instinctively loaded my gun with a slug and aimed my gun. I did not fire; as he got closer it appeared that he was not threatening me (he wasn't charging); just rambling closer and closer. When he was 1o feet away I still did not feel threatened; however, my fear over-took my spirit and I aimed (not the gun) but my pen-flair at the bear and fired it into his chest at about 6 or 7 feet. He took off back into the bush like a Bat out of H-E-double hockey sticks. I surely had scared him away "for good" Right? Wrong!
I was now sitting by our fire (well illuminated for the "bar"); approximately 1 hour had passed since I "flared" him. He was back; he still did not appear threatening or angry; he was just on a mission-his mission was food that his nose had detected and had a "fix" on. I then had a revelation, I now was beginning to understand his behavior. He really wasn't interested in us just the smell that was emanating from our camp. Although if that smell was on us; he would not be able to discern the difference until after-bite. Since his dominant sense is olfactory (smell) he sniffs then he bites. It is indeed interesting that olfactory is the only sense that is directly connected with our brain; all other senses are indirectly connected. The ancient Egyptians understood this when they mummified bodies...You see that smell was on the cooler lid and aerosol can because of our hands. Our hands are the device that transfers the scent to other places throughout the camp etc. Hands are the harbinger of scent.
He appeared to be coming towards us; although he may have been going towards the tent by us. I reloaded the gun with buckshot (I knew it would sting him yet not harm him); maybe this second deterrent (stimulus) would cause his behavior to change. As he got closer it was again time for the stimulus -response. I fired buckshot into his chest from about 10 yards. It would definitely sting him yet not hurt him (I thought to myself). Again he took off like a bat out of h-e- double hockey sticks! Would he stay away (I was beginning to lose hope that he would stay away). Keep in mind I had no fear of the bear attacking me (I simply was beginning to understand that his olfactory system was ruling his brain). His attachment to the scent was significant. I asked and then pleaded with everyone in the camp to wash off their whole body in the lake including their cloths and I began to wipe down everything that we handled from tent entrances to pots and pans...
Well the sad news is that the "bar" did come back. At about 8 P.M. he came back into our camp after our early warning system alerted us. We were all sitting around the campfire except Bill he was snoozing in one of our two tents. We had all washed and I had scrubbed most of the places our hands had touched. It was running through my brain, did I miss any areas? Did I? I didn't think so; yet the bear seemed to be on a mission-the same mission. Although I did notice he was rambling about like my daughter's (Katie) Walker-hound does when she is trying to find a scent. You see she simply sniffs everything until she finds what she wants...This was a red flag for me I immediately got up loaded my gun with two slugs and stood well in-front of my crew and waited for the bar to come within 5 yards of me before I unloaded a slug between his eyes. The bar (who we named Yoda-for all the knowledge we gained from him) was killed instantly.
I called in the kill and asked John (McMahon), where the "best meat" was located on a "bar." He replied that the rump was like "Fillet Mignon" It indeed was. We all ate bear and toasted him in honour... After skinning him (Ralph asked if he could have the pelt), beheading him and boiling his head and bleaching his skull for the rangers so they had proof of his age from dental evidence (with the exception of his 2 canines that I kept). We buried Yoda lake-side and placed a camp-made wooden cross over is grave (I am not sure why...). I wonder if Yoda's grave is still marked?
Footnote: The reason I wrote this story in July of 2010 was primarily because we had a black bear in our neighborhood ( about a block from our house) in Orlando, Florida in June of 2010 (the bear is in the tree in the picture I have placed on this hub). This brought these long-term memories back. As the memories resurfaced I felt the urge to write them down...