Little Brother’s First Bear
When I was a kid, I always wanted a little brother. I remember asking my parents for one throughout my childhood. No matter how much I asked though, it just didn’t happen. That was until one morning when I was 12 years old. Just about to head out of the door to go to school, my parents gave me the news that I would indeed be having a little brother. That morning, as I swung on the swing set with my best friend, we chatted about how awesome it was going to be, me having a little brother. We talked about the things we would teach him as he got older. We looked way into the future and gazed at the days we would share a campfire together. It’s hard to believe that was almost 20 years ago.
From the moment my brother Jake developed a personality, he has had a fascination with hunting and the outdoors. He wasn’t playing with X-Men toys, he was playing with toy bowhunters and pickup trucks, in conjunction with watching our Dad’s Primos hunting DVD’s. I remember him trailing behind our Dad and I as we deer hunted being a young child. As you can imagine, right when he was old enough to come out with big brother, he started tagging along. That was about 4 years ago and he has been coming out with me ever since. 2 years ago, he helped me pack out my first bear, followed by my second bear, the year after. Therein began his drive to harvest his own.
This year felt different to me. I hunted one day on my own and actually missed a bear twice with my bow. It was a day I won’t soon forget. That day I had seen 10 bears. I came in above a bear working the base of a bluff feeding. My rangefinder read 18 yards, but I knew the bear was probably 40 yards below me. Long story short, I watched both of my arrows sail right over the bear’s back. I was filled with both disappointment and contentment. From that point, I found myself caring more about my brother harvesting a bear than I cared about tagging my own. I’d had my opportunity, and sadly blew it. He had helped pack out bears for me the past 2 years and more than deserved his opportunity at a big Arizona Black Bear. So, the following evening, I would be giving Jake my rifle and putting him in the driver’s seat.
This season’s acorn crop was nothing short of awesome and the bears knew it. The morning before bringing Jake into the area, I had seen another 4 bears. That makes 14 bears in less than 24 hours and the most bears I have seen in that amount of time. It would be my Dad, Jake, and I heading into the spot that evening and I was oozing with confidence that my brother would be laying his hands on his first bear. Jake expressed how nervous he was to me. Neither of us are that much of rifle hunters and he was just praying that we wasn’t going to mess up. If you mess up a shot in this area, finding the bear can be next to impossible. This is something I learned all too well a few years before. You can read about that in my post called “Canyon Bruins.”
We arrived at our lookout Saturday evening. I knew the bears would be slamming the acorns hard, so our plan was to search every acorn filled hillside in the vicinity of us, hoping to find a bear feeding through the dense oak brush. Not long into our sit, our Dad called us over to a nearby hillside that I had spotted a beautiful chocolate bear on that morning. As if this bear had read a script, there he was, feeding on acorns, just as I had predicted. This was a very large jet black bear that demanded respect. The way he sauntered up the steep mountainside without effort proved his dominance over the canyon he called home. Number 15 had been spotted.
My rangefinder read 300 yards. An easy shot for some, but remember I said that we aren’t much for shooting rifles. I knew that I wanted to get my brother closer to make sure he put this bear down as quickly as possible. So it began. 270, 250, 230, 186. “Yes, now we are good,” I said to myself. I softly rested my pack down on a boulder for Jake to use as a rest. My brother lay prone with his eye on the prize. Jake kept asking me if he could shoot yet. I said, “no.” The bear was slightly quartering to with his head covering his vitals. I wanted to make sure it was right before he pulled the trigger. Once the bear turned his head back to its original place, I gave my brother the OK. The canyon echoed from the shot and the massive bruin bulldozed his way through the oak brush for a short while and then…….nothing.
“Did I just kill my first bear?” ~Jake
Once we confirmed that the bear had taken its last breath, my brother broke down in tears. So much hard work and patience all built up in one moment. Jake gave our Dad a big hug and told him how happy he was that he was the one to find the bear for him. Jake is usually spending his time behind a camera and oftentimes misses out on opportunities. He knows that is just what comes with the territory though of running a camera. It was my absolute pleasure to return the favor and help him pack out a bear for once.
Bringing everything full circle, my best friend was there to help pack out Jake’s bear, with his little brother in fact. The very best friend that I spoke with on the swing set back when I was 12 years old. The first person I told about Jake’s expected existence. The one I plotted with about the things we would teach the boy. Between now and then, we have shared many campfires together, gone on more than a fair share of hunting/fishing trips, and don’t intend on stopping. Watching my brother pack out his first bear brings me back to that swing set before we went to our classrooms for the day. As I sat in class and contemplated what the future would hold as far as my “brother to be” was concerned, I never imagined that I would be helping him pack out a bear almost 20 years later. What was once a dream, was now a reality, and whom was once a boy, was now a man.