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By Tom in Oregon

Having grown up in Southern California, I had few opportunities to hunt game. My friends and I tried our hand at rabbit and carrier pigeon. Great on the former, poor on the latter. When I moved to Oregon at the age of 19, I took up archery and became fairly proficient at slinging arrows.

I dreamed of exotic hunting, like the kind Ox Ranch offers, with its multitude of game animals, all within reach and a possibility.

When I was invited to my first archery big game hunt, I discovered something unreal. I could hunt deer, elk and bear all at the same time! Bonus: the season is a month long starting in late August. But I had one major issue . . .

I had read about Fred Bear and others who hunt bear with a bow, but there’s no way I am that comfortable. Or that confident. The rules stated that you can hunt bear with a gun during Archery season, but you couldn’t carry both gun and bow at the same time.

Caring more about my wellbeing and longevity more than I do some stupid rule, my solution was to carry a handgun anyway. Specifically, a Smith & Wesson model 27 with a six-inch barrel that delivers particularly potent .357 pills. Being somewhat innovative, I chose to carry it in a shoulder holster under my camo coat.

I hunted this way for years on end, enjoying great success on mule deer and elk. While I saw lots of signs of bear, I never saw one in the wild. Complacency had taken hold.

A couple of years ago, my best friend and I were hunting a favorite spot in the coastal mountain range. We had discovered an old abandoned farmstead with an abandoned fruit orchard. We were nonchalantly walking in from where we parked, as we had well over a mile to go before we needed to start stalking our game. We came to a split in the road and as usual, we went separate ways in order to check for game trails and other signs of the elk herd that frequented the area.

The road split around a deep drainage in the rough shape of a football. The pit was about 50 feet deep and about 100 yards across and was chock full of blackberry vines, raspberry vines and salal plant. Unless you’re a walking brush hog, it’s all but impassable. The raspberry grabs your shoes, unties them for you, then tries to remove them. While tripping you. The blackberry vines grow over 10 feet high and have piercing thorns that rip your clothes and leave you bloody.

About half way around the pit of horrors, I hear a racket similar to several trees falling in a forest. It becomes quickly evident that my buddy is hearing it too. He yells “ELK!” I nock an arrow and make ready.

That’s when I see my buddy drop his bow and draw his Ruger Blackhawk .44 mag and take aim at something below me. I’m thinking what the…? He can’t shoot an elk with that. Then I hear him yell BEAR! just before he got off his first shot (Remember Mr. Complacency? My buddy had switched to a hip holster after Oregon law changed and allowed hunters to carry handguns while bow hunting. I still carried mine in the shoulder rig.)

I unbutton the second button of my camo jacket, reach in, and unsnap my Smith, grab a handful of goncalo alves and yank. A second shot rings out. Dang it, I can’t get this…. Bang! A third shot breaks. Crap. I’m at the top of a game trail that comes out of the pit. I drop my bow just as a rather large black black bear comes fogging it up the incline. Straight at me. He sees me at the same time I see him. He jukes right. I’m still struggling to get a 6-inch object out of a 5-inch hole.

Boom. Another shot gets my attention. I’m hearing brush getting torn up about a hundred yards to my left. I finally realize my dilemma, let go, unbutton, re grab and yank.

Boy am I ready for nothing. I finally have my bear killer out, and the bear is gone. A total of about six seconds has elapsed. My buddy has fired four rounds. I have a bow on the ground and a hand full of steel, lead and copper. No gunpowder smell for me.

We get together at the last sighting point, side by side. We follow a kind of trail where the grasses have been laid flat. About 80 yards later, we find the bruin. Piled up over a log. Best of all, it’s not breathing.

As it’s about a 300 pounder, we decide to at least gut it before trying to carry it out. That done, we find a stout branch about 10 feet long to hang it from so we can carry it over a mile back to the truck. This took a sweaty long time.

Once home, we skinned it. We found that it had been hit twice. As my buddy alternates hollow points and jacketed soft points in his hog leg, we determined that a hollow point round had hit the back left knee. The round did little damage. The second hit went into the right arm pit, took off the top of the heart, then exited the left arm pit. A 50% hit ratio on a running bear? Not bad.

We took the meat to a butcher. Aside from a few roasts, the majority was turned into sausage. Summer sausage and breakfast sausage. Best breakfast fare anywhere!

The skin? While not anything close to a state record, it’s still impressive. The current Oregon records are 469 lbs. for archery and 490 for rifle. At around 300 lbs. he was still impressive.

A few months later, it was back from the taxidermist. As it was considered a tag team effort, we agreed to share the rug. After a round of rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock, my buddy got to hang it the first year in his home. Now it’s on my wall…


Mind you, that’s an 8 foot ceiling.

I give it a good luck touch on weekends, as I head out to find another. There are some impressive tracks again in the old orchard.

Though the meat has long since been consumed, I get to see it every day, a reminder of an awesome hunt.

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    • I carry my .44 Magnum bear killer on the front of my chest with straps that cross on my back. It stays right in front for easy access and I never conceal it under clothing … that way I will never have the trouble that Tom had.

    • I prefer drop holsters all around but they’re only really practical while hunting. Honestly in my opinion there’s just no reason for anything else when you’re openly carrying in the woods.

      • A drop leg holster is an excellent choice … and almost a necessity when carrying revolvers with really long barrels. Of course you cannot conceal a drop leg holster (not sure why you would want to) and your firearm would be fully exposed in bad weather.

        I like having either option. Carrying on my chest allows me to put my coat over it in wet weather … at the expense of accessibility of course. In fair weather, I like the drop leg holster.

  1. Nice hunt Tom, wished I was able to still able to get out in the woods. The radiation treatments keep me with in a few minutes of a bathroom.
    I have made a couple sets of pistol grips from goncalo alves. It really looks good on a blued gun.
    I have some of the wood laying around, if you want want to trade for some of that sausage you were talking about, and I don’t even care what the calorie count is!

  2. That’s pretty impressive, I’ve been hunting the Oregon coast for elk for over 10 years and I’ve never seen a bear, wouldn’t pass up a shot on one if i did though

  3. I went deer hunting in WI and accidentally hit a farm cat that ran out in front my mom’s van. Does that count?

  4. Carrier pigeons?

    They went extinct long before you were born!
    Are you sure you guys didn’t bag a dino?
    Or maybe a Saber toothed tiger?

    • They were regular pigeons flying north out of the Tijuana area and had bags hanging from their feet. Always assumed it was dope of some kind. Never did get one.

    • i think there were still some alive when ghost dog was filmed.
      we’ve got some eastern europeans around here that keep a genetic mutation of carriers called roller pigeons. fun for some. weird, too.

  5. Here in CA multiple open seasons are things like quail, rabbit, squirrel, yotes and pigs. Going quail hunting again Sunday. Lotsa fun.

    Saw tule elk the last day of deer season. But I’d have better luck hitting the powerball instead of the elk lottery.

  6. Oh, now I see why you used the word “carrier”!

    That explanation made it a much better story!

    As long as you didn’t shoot any “Delivery Storks”! (<: )

  7. Love the elk photo. Reminds me of a hike my wife and I took through the Ho rain Forest. We came upon a herd of perhaps twenty Roosevelt Elk. Beautiful.

    In Pennsylvania we have (usually) a 4-day bow-or-rifle bear season. The record boar is 772 lbs, set in 2013, and the cull seems to run approx. 2,800 to 4,000 bears, depending on the year. No grizzlies, but frankly that’s just as well.

  8. Gots to watch those berry patches!!! I know a few people that have been surprised by bears while small game hunting, all focused squirrels and rabbits, right up till Yogi and BooBoo come strolling out the bushes.

    Here in Armstrong/Butler/Venango/Clarion county area we got a LOT of bear running around, and the Game Com. is catching plenty around Pittsburgh and bringing our way, so it is going to be a pretty active bear season here.

  9. I do love a good hunting yarn. In my opinion we do need more frequent reader contributed hunting/close encounter stories. Thanks Tom

  10. Great article. My son and I are headed out the next four weekends for deer and the following two for elk. We will have couger and bear tags in our pockets at the same time.
    Thanks for making the days between now and then longer!

  11. I love the hunting articles. They’re not the typical “I’m the greatest hunter ever who paid $50,000 to hunt a deer farm and buy my new camo or you’ll never kill anything” stories you get from the usual hunting outlets.

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