Bears, the picnic basket stealing, honey loving, fluff buckets that continually produce the winning move in our cat and mouse games each hunting season. Every time the sun goes down on the last day of bear season and I am left standing in the brush, un-punched tag lying listless in my camo pocket, I develop more and more respect for the animals that call the wild places home. This season was no different. My eyes spent many a weary hour scanning miles and miles of Montana mountainsides through Vortex Optics glass hoping somewhere in some bush I might catch the glimpse of a bear caught unaware. Although my laundry pile, dusty TV and dog hair covered carpet might disagree, these hours were not wasted.
Many of my trips in the woods this year were not alone. My daughter was there for a couple and my son was there for most of them. These kids are incredibly difficult to hunt with but at the same time these hunts have provided me more joy than if they had not been along. The comedic factor they introduce to otherwise calm, quiet hillsides is in itself a treasure. Kids become primal in the woods. Something about it releases a freedom to explore in their little minds that otherwise remains undisturbed beneath the trancelike stare at some electronic device at home.
My son Mason seeks the mud like a bee to sugar. Everything about the mud becomes fascinating…the way is sounds, the footprints left in it and by it when you walk away and how it smells when it is actually in your nose. This puddle that I would have never known even existed behind me, as I sat with binoculars glued to my face, was to my son entertainment enough to last over 30 minutes and even exciting enough to warrant telling grandma about later in the week over the telephone.
I watch as my daughter pulls the stalk of a grass between her fingers until she reaches the top and the seeds pop gently into her little hand. These seeds get sprinkled like glitter around her, performing the very purpose for which the plant was designed and filling the need for wild dexterous experiences in the mind of my little girl. I remember the feeling of the exact same seeds on my little hand when I followed my father along the deer trails and into the memories of the favorite parts of my past.
These are the experiences we remember, the little details, the cold biting wind on your cheek as the storm the weather lady warned you about that morning, makes its expected appearance and most likely sends into hiding, where the wind can’t reach and sweet sleep will comfort, the animals you are seeking. Spending time experiencing this life with a small chance that I might stumble upon a very unaware bear, as any bears that have any sense about them at all would never miss me and my troop entering the woods, is the best way that I can think of to use my spring.
The woods in spring are such a fantastic art display. The depth of the green and the sea of colors from blooming wildflowers are enough to take your breath away. The fall has its own allure but the glory that is the spring woods could be easily missed if not for spring bear season. It is the perfect excuse to break through the snow drifts, brave the mud slides and weather the storms. A life fully lived knows the wonder of the spring woods in bloom. Sharing the experience with my kids has been my pleasure and I cannot wait until next year when I can do it all over again.
Maybe someday Mother Nature will reward me with my Yogi. What a day that will be! That day I will finally have to address the question of what I will do with my kids during the gnarly pack out. Will I strap them onto the pack as well? I guess I will jump that hurdle when I come to it. Where there is a will there is a way and perhaps my lack of seeing a bear this season was just Mother Nature’s way of protecting me from my own excessive ambition. She probably laughed herself into an earthquake when I pulled up to my hunting area and opened the door to the sea of mini trucks and tractors, an etch-i-sketch, fish crackers, sippy cups, raisins, baby wipes and my pack frame perched precariously on top. She took pity on me and led the bears into the thickest brush knowing I could not help but shoot one in the bottom of the canyon if I saw it.
I love adventure and no amount of hardship or level of difficulty is going to stop me from chasing it. I have to have it. It’s like a drug and I’m slowly introducing my children to this tantalizing opiate named The Great Outdoors. I know it is working when my son spends 10 hours out bear hunting with mom and then cries when I pull in the driveway because he still wants to, “be bew huntin”. The inverted smile on his face was the exact representation of the feelings I had about having to call it a day. We understood each other. All good things must come to an end but if the experience leaves you yearning for next season and the excitement you know it will bring then I guess that is all we can ask for.