HomePublicationsThe Tracker MagazineVol 1, No. 4, Jun-Jul-Aug 1982

The Tracker Magazine - Vol 1 No. 4, Jun-Jul-Aug 1982

Listen to Your Feelings
Medicine Bear

I live with my wife in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains on the West side in the State of Washington, not far from Mt. Rainier.

My wife is an avid horse fan and constantly rides the trails above our house, often with friends and always taking the dogs along for a little exercise at the same time. The dogs are always extremely excited while the women saddle up, knowing they are about to embark on another adventure.

The dogs usually run back and forth across the trail checking the new scents and exploring the trail ahead.

One day my wife and one of her friends went for a ride out from our house. The dogs were being very typical in their behavior, running ahead, diving into the underbrush here and there and checking all the new smells.

About fifteen minutes from the house both dogs disappeared into the underbrush off of the trail when the two women heard a horrible growling and both dogs came flying out of the brush, headed back towards home, past the women, tails tucked, and no interest in continuing their excursion.

The women decided there was a bear in the brush and decided they should probably leave too. So, home they headed.

About two weeks later my wife and another friend were riding in the same area with only one dog when they came upon fresh bear tracks. Not too much farther down the trail the dog froze in the trail ahead and began to growl, the hair on the back of her neck standing up. So, rather than take any chances, they decided to head for home again.

I had left for one of Tom's classes early on the same day, which was Friday, not knowing of this second episode with the bear. I had shrugged off the first incident with the bear as merely a coincidence.

On the following day, which was Saturday, I began to get an uneasy feeling. All I seemed to want to do was go home. This concerned me because usually I can really get into Tom's classes, but this time. I couldn't really absorb anything he was putting across.

I tried to shrug it off as maybe some bad vibes I was getting from someone in class or maybe the area.

On Sunday the feeling got worse, so I went to Tom and told him I was going home because of the feelings I was having.. We talked for some time trying to figure out what was wrong because Tom had wanted me to stay through the next week and help with a Standard Class that was coming up.

Tom took me outside, at about 3:00 p.m., and pointed out a high point in the landscape where I could be alone, overlooking the whole valley and possibly sort out my thoughts, quiet down internally, and get back into nature.

After arriving at the point and settling down, I began to calm down quite a bit, but about 6:00pm the feeling came back again. An uneasy feeling, a feeling that all I wanted to do was to go home.

After fighting this feeling for about half an hour I simply gave in, drove back to the farm. When I arrived at the farm, Tom I asked if I felt any better, and I told him I, felt the same, and asked if I could use the phone. Tom said, "Yes," and I tried to call home, but I didn't get any answer. I picked up my bedroll and headed for home without saying good-bye to anyone, which is unusual to say the least.

All the way home, I felt uneasy. I started to get thoughts about my wife, wondering if maybe she was in trouble. I tried to shrug these feelings off but they wouldn't go away.

Two hours later I rolled into my driveway. There were lights on so I was somewhat relieved. I walked into the house and my wife met me at the door. I asked if she was alright and she said, "Yes, but you won't believe what happened to me!"

She related what had happened, on Friday and then went on to tell me that on Saturday the bear had come down within a few yards of the house and had the horses all stirred up.

Saturday had been the day I began to feel uneasy.

On Sunday evening my wife had gone riding again, by herself, again taking the dog along. She had headed up the hill and part way up she began to cut across the face. After traveling about 200 yards across the face of the hill, she was looking down into a relatively cleared area with a few stumps which appeared black in the evening light.

She was thinking that this would be a good place to see a bear when she saw one of the stumps move. The dog picked up the scent of the bear and froze. The hair bristling on her back, she began to growl.

My wife, deciding to leave, turned the horse around and headed back across the face of the hill and down the trail back toward the house. Part way down the hill the dog stopped and wouldn't. go any farther. It was apparent that the bear had cut across the side of the hill to intercept her and was waiting out of sight beside the trail.

Deciding she was going home come hell or high water, she kicked her horse in the ribs and went down hill at a full gallop, never daring to look back.

This happened Sunday between 6:00 and 6:30 p.m.

After relating this story to me, I decided that I should go check this out and see if maybe the bear had simply by coincidence run the same way my wife had, or if it might be a real threat to people.

I called my friend Dave and we decided that Monday evening we would go out after work to see what we could find. We decided to take our rifles just in case.

I called Tom Monday at noon and told him the story arid he reaffirmed the idea that we should take our rifles. He was also relieved to know that my uneasiness was not a result of anybody at the farm.

Monday evening after work at about 5:30 p.m. my wife, Dave, and myself all headed up to see if we could figure out what we had to deal with. My initial thoughts were that the bear had merely decided to run or avoid man and had just happened to have run the same way as my wife in his effort to escape, and when she came down the hill had merely cut him off and he hid in the brush to avoid detection. I thought if we could find the bear and he ran off we could be fairly sure that he wouldn't bother anyone.

My wife took us up to where his tracks were and on first inspection it appeared it was a small bear. A little more looking turned up stumps and logs he had ripped open in his quest for food.

As the tracks we had were a couple of days old we decided to follow some other trails, making a big circle back to the truck to see if we could cut fresh signs. After making a full circle up the hill and back down to a place near the truck, the trail branched off and headed down hill to the house. After not having cut any fresh sign, up higher in the salmon berries where he should have been this time of year, we decided to go down and check out the skunk cabbage, another favorite spring food of bears.

My wife went to get the truck and was going to meet us at the bottom of the hill. After having gone only about 50 yards, the dog started sniffing the air but not really acting strange as my wife had indicated she would if the bear was near. There was virtually no wind that night so it would be difficult for the dog to pickup a scent unless it crossed the trail.

At the same time, the dog started testing the air I noticed bear tracks leading up hill off the trail. The tracks looked fresh but the woods were so damp it was hard to tell for sure. I decided I would follow the tracks uphill while Dave went down the trail, which at this point was generally crossing the slope. I'd only gone up the game trail about fifteen yards and Dave fifteen yards when I heard a noise in the brush between Dave and I.

I thought it could be the dog but decided to get a better look when Dave, seeing the dog on the trail, said that there was something in there. I didn't reply but crept up the trail about 2 or 3 more yards when I saw the bear, hiding behind a tree watching Dave and woofing at him. The bear hadn't seen me yet.

The rest was pure instinct. My gun came up and I fired two shots in two seconds from my Marlin 444. The first bullet caught the bear at I the base of the neck in back. He turned and faced me instantly with as fierce a look on his face as I ever care to see on anything's face. He then went into an instant frenzy, expending an incredible amount of energy in the five seconds it took from the time the bullet struck him until he lay dead.

Upon closer examination by Dave, myself, and consulting with Tom and others it was apparent that this bear did represent a real danger to both people and livestock.

It was evident upon examination of the bear's feet that he had recently come from high rock country several miles away to the lower land around our home. He had the smell of sickness in him and was apparently off his normal feed of berries and skunk cabbage. His head carried many scars. It is assumed that he was driven out of his territory by a younger, stronger bear.

In this frame of mind he would be quite dangerous as he would be willing to fight anything or anybody. He would also be willing to accept an easy meal of flesh.

I guess the incredible part of this story is that I was able to detect either/or both my wife's fear or her very real danger while 100 miles away.

I don't know how it happened or why it happened, I'm just thankful it did.

My only regret is that I tried to read something else into it rather than just accepting it and flowing with that inner voice telling me to go home because I was needed there.

Previous     Contents     Next

This website has no official or informal connection to the Tracker School or Tom Brown Jr. whatsoever


The Tracker magazine:   Vol 1 No. 1  •  Vol 1 No. 2  •  Vol 1 No. 3  •  Vol 1 No. 4  •  Vol 2 No. 1
Vol 2 Nos. 2 & 3  •  Vol 3 No. 1  •  Vol 4 No. 1 

Tom Brown Jr.    Tracker School    Publications    The Tracker Magazine
True Tracks    Tracks of the Tracker    Mother Earth News

The material on this page is copyright © by the original author/artist/photographer. This website is created, maintained & copyright © by Walter Muma
Please respect this copyright and ask permission before using or saving any of the content of this page for any purpose

Thank you for visiting!