In order to identify my most outdoor scary story I first had to make list of a number of incidents that had occurred over the course of several decades. Like the time I was buried in a snow avalanche up to my neck in the Chugach Mountains of southeast Alaska, or the time I was on a wildfire on the Umpqua/Divide Wilderness and the fire decided to BBQ me. That was a really close call and caused some major puckering. Or, the time in Turnagain Pass Alaska when I was scouting the potential of a new ski area and I fell on a extremely steep slope sliding down through some tag alder and my skis caught suspending me vertically. I was unable to wench out of my bindings and was unable to reach the releases. I was alone, far from any help, the temp. was 8 degrees above. I was in a real fix. But my most outdoor scary story occurred on top of the breaks of Hells Canyon on the Oregon side a few years back.
I was archery hunting for elk during the regular season. At the time it was unlawful to carry a firearm while bow hunting in Oregon. It was dusk and I was heading up a gentle hogback toward where my rig was parked. I had an arrow nocked even though I really was not seriously hunting at this time, but intent on getting to the road before dark. I skirted a small group of young Ponderosa Pine and came face to face with a full grown Black Bear only about 25 feet away.
My initial thought was what a neat surprise as seeing a bear up so close and personal was a real treat. But then I noticed that his neck was bowed which is not a behavior you want see when he is only a few feet away. He lunged at me and stopped. I immediately went into full Adrenalin mode with all the accompanying puckering and thumping while the world went into slow motion mode. I quickly moved back several very long steps. Again the bear lunged so that we were still the same distance apart as when we started. For a second time I backed away and for the third time he lunged. In my mind this activity seemed to last an eternity but I knew it was really only a few seconds. By now I was convinced this bear meant me harm so I drew my bow to full draw aimed just behind his front shoulder and momentarily considered what his response might be when the arrow hit him, but before I could fully answer my question the arrow was on its way. It buried itself so that only the end of the fletching was visible. My unanswered question was answered when the bear wheeled and ran off.
It took a few minutes to gather my wits about me. As I calmed down and began to observe the area other than the microcosm that had entirely been the focus of every bit of my being for the previous eternity I saw a large pile of grass and sticks about five feet high and maybe seven feet across and protruding from the bottom was the legs of a calf elk. Understanding dawned immediately – the bear was only trying to make me leave in defense of his kill. We had experienced a real life communication failure. I had misunderstood what he was trying very hard to tell me. He had no way of comprehending that I was not a threat to his groceries. And I was unable to interpret his actions as a warning only.
I still hunt the same ground but now the experience occurs in a heightened state not knowing what lies beyond the next rise.
ps – I found the bear the next morning.
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