Bear Facts

by Norman Schuchard

When I was 20  years old, a snotty nose kid who thought he knew everything, I worked for Oden Moe one summer in the Belt Mountains. It was near Daisy Peak on Forest Service land north of Martinsdale. My job was to pack salt to the sheep camp plus grub for me every Thursday. I had five pack horses and one saddle horse. I was the camp tender.

We moved sheep to a different location every week. That is, the sheepherder Slim and Slim. Slim was kind of nuts. But, they’re all crazy. If you’re not when you start, you are when you’re done.

I tended camp, so my life was a bit different than the sheepherder’s. It’s a lonely life like his, but I liked horses and liked to ride. So, it was a good way to spend a summer.

There were a lot of black bears around and I had orders to shoot any bear I saw. I packed a 30-30 rifle in the scabbard on my horse. I also carried two pistols - a 357 Magnum and a 22 caliber, having two belts hitched around my waist.

I rode a lot. Other than Thursdays, I wasn’t tied down too much. I just packed water back and forth, cared for the horses, and was around in case of emergencies. I had a lot of time on my hands. I slept in a wall tent.

Late one night lying on my cot with the tent flap open, I heard some rustling outside. I always slept with my 357 Magnum under my pillow. It was fully loaded. The flap was open so I could see the outline of the doorway.

I thought it could be a bear. “I knew it was a bear.” I got a little nervous. I grabbed my gun. Unlocked it and was ready to kill.

If the sheepherder had appeared, I would have killed him. But, it was probably a deer or a porcupine. Or nothing. It turned out to be nothing. I put my gun away and went back to sleep.

One day when I was out riding on the trail looking for some lost sheep, I saw something bright red in the distance. The red color really stuck out in the green timber.

I rode over and saw that it was the red blood of a live sheep that was being torn apart by a black bear. The bear was ripping off its hide and eating it alive.

The bear saw me, but looked away. I was about 50 feet off. I pulled one of my pistols and shot. But, I missed and the bear got away into the trees. I went over to the bawling sheep and put it out of its misery.

Then, I rode up to the top of the mountain still looking for lost sheep. I was gone about thirty minutes. When I returned, the bear had carried off the sheep carcass. If I would have just waited.

Another day in July, I was out riding again in the mountains and saw another bear in the distance. I pulled out my 30-30 and hit the animal in his front leg. He let out a big loud scream and climbed up a tree. I went over and shot him dead out of the tree.

Then, I heard this barking noise in the distance. The bear was just a two-year-old cub and I hadn’t seen its mother until she came running down the hill toward me. Barking at me as she came.

At the time, I only had one shell in my rifle. I turned and aimed. But I knew that if I missed, she would have my horse. So, I turned away and we loped out of there.

We rode up out of the mountains to the Huie Stewart ranch and I stayed there the night. Next day, I went back to the scene of the incident with more shells in my rifle. Hoping I would find the mother.

By then, the carcass was gone. But, I followed the trail which led into the trees. I found the mother sitting over the body of her cub. I leaned my rifle against a log, aimed and fired.

I missed and she took off. I never saw her again.

I packed up the bear’s body and tied it to the saddle, leading the horse to camp about a mile away. Then, I skinned it. Beneath the hide, the bear looked just like a human. Other people will tell you the same thing.

I salted the hide, rolled it up and hung it on a tree limb. But a week later, the hide was full of maggots.

I had taken a picture of the bear carcass lying across my horse and saddle. Otherwise, Huie would never have believed it. He said, “There ain’t a guy alive who could get a bear on that horse.”

End of Story