"At last I thought I could shoot by guess, and kill him; so I pointed as near the lump as I could,
and fired away. But the bear didn't come, he only climb up higher, and got out on a limb, which
helped me to see him better. I now loaded up again and fired, but this time he didn't move at all.
I commenced loading for a third fire, but the first thing I knowed, the bear was down among my dogs,
and they were fighting all around me" – Davy Crockett
Five Years Ago
A streak of lightning cut through the night sky and was followed almost immediately by a ground-shaking
clap of thunder. Sheriff James Andrews pulled the brim of his hat down lower on his head as he ducked back
into the cave. He looked down at his Plott Hound, Colt. His dog was a gift to him many years ago by an uncle who was visiting from North Carolina. He reached down and scratched Colt behind his ears.
"Its okay boy," He said in a low voice. The dog turned its head and stared up at The Sheriff before it turned its head back to stare into the darkness. "What's out there?" The Sheriff asked almost as if he expected a response. He knew better of course. He knew Colt would never answer him because dogs don't talk. On nights in the wilderness, though, talking out loud made him feel better.
The rain fell in large drops. The constant down pour made visibility almost nonexistent.
"Remember the last time we were in a cave?" He said to the dog. Sitting on its haunches, the dog stared out into the nothingness while the Sheriff rambled idly.
"It was a storm like this. We were hunting that bear—that one that killed the Campbell's livestock. We got caught in a cave just like this. Turned out the bear wanted to be in the cave with us. That was a damn vicious fight. I didn't know if we were going to make it. If you didn't tree him, we wouldn't have."
The Sheriff lowered his body to the ground and reached out for his dog. He touched for his dog and stroked behind its head while he listened to the storm. A lightning flash cut through the night sky again followed by another loud blast of thunder. The dog growled at the sound.
"We've been through a lot, haven't we boy?" he said softly as Colt settled down into a laying position. The Sheriff pressed his hand into his own knee, rubbing at the stiffness that had begun to build. Age has not been kind to the Sheriff's joint. Age and hours spent in a saddle and the times he had bullets dug from his flesh have left his body stiff and prone to soreness. His hand moved to his shoulder and massaged the joint tenderly, "Back before my body hurt constantly?"
The Sheriff knelt in the dirt. His right hand traced the outline of a large print. "It's a big one," He said to
his dog Colt. Most men didn't hunt with just one dog; at least not when they were bear hunting. Bears were
dangerous to hunt because not only were they prone to fight back, but they were big, strong, vicious, and
incredibly tough to bring down. A man who was a good shot could bring down a deer, wolf, or coyote with one shot—but unless one got a direct shot to the heart or the brain of the bear it wasn't going down. Since bears were so difficult to kill, most men used teams of dogs to hunt. A team of dogs could surround the bear and get it to climb a tree—where it was much safer to shoot.
The Sheriff hated hunting with a team of dogs. He liked the idea that he was battling an animal with his own wits and the assistance of one dog. It was also why he rarely hunted in a group. It was him and Colt—the dog named after the gun manufacturer.
Colt lowered his snout to the ground and sniffed to try and pick up a scent. The Sheriff just studied the ground. Bears were significantly harder to track than most wild animals. Unless a hunter was really seasoned, he would never be able to actually track a bear. Bears walk on the soles of their feet and rarely leave discernible tracks unless it was muddy or snowy. A person had to know what to look for because there weren't toe prints, there were only soft dents in the ground from where the paws pressed against the ground.
The Sheriff's eyes scanned forward. When a bear leaves tracks, the front paws leave a wider track—but
the rear paws are longer. The Sheriff shifted forward as his eyes picked up the direction the bear was
heading. It went deeper into the woods—deeper into a place it could hide or could launch an attack at the man and his dog.
Colt was staring ahead. His ears had almost flattened back and his wet nose was flared. He had caught the scent of something. "Let's go boy," The Sheriff said while sliding his rifle off his shoulder. He double-checked that he had the tube loaded into it. While most men on the Western frontier preferred the 1873 .44 caliber lever action Winchester, The Sheriff still preferred the lever action rifle by Spencer. He trusted it. He knew it inside and out.
Colt took off towards the deep forest and was followed closely by The Sheriff. The Sheriff made sure he was several paces behind his hound. His head was on a swivel and turned every which way. He was checking to make sure a bear would not blind-side him. Then he heard it. The distinctive low bellied growl of a black bear. He heard Colt's distinct bark. He pulled the hammer back as he crept closer. He stopped in his tracks.
About a hundred yards in front of him was the biggest black bear he had ever seen. Most black bears were a little more than five feet long, a little more than two feet from shoulder to ground (when walking) and somewhere between two and three hundred pounds. This bear was much bigger. It had to be at least six and a half feet long and three and a half feet from shoulder to the ground. The Sheriff sucked in his breath as he studied the bear—it had to be four hundred pounds. This was the biggest bear he had ever seen in his life.
The bear's fur was matted to its body and its head was massive. Colt was about twenty-five yards away from the bear. He always stopped short. The bear was still down on all fours when it snarled at Colt. The Sheriff moved closer while he raised his rifle. He closed one eye while he sighted the bear. His finger pressed against the trigger and the first shot rocketed towards the bear. It managed to graze the bear's shoulder but it did not do any real damage. Instead, the mighty bear stood on its hind legs and let out a deafening roar.
Colt backed up. The dog was not quick to be afraid but he was not a dumb dog. Colt barked back. The bear bellowed once more before it dropped onto all fours and charged forward towards the dog. The dog leapt out of the way as The Sheriff fired a second shot. This shot pierced the heavy bear's shoulder. The bear's head turned towards The Sheriff. He roared again. The bear charged again—this time at The Sheriff. The Sheriff dropped and rolled out of the way before the bear could get hold of him. In the process of rolling, The Sheriff lost the grip on his rifle and leapt to his feet. The formidable bear turned to face him once more. The two of them locked eyes. They stared at each other for a long moment. The bear ran forward again and once more, The Sheriff had to roll out of the way.
Colt charged forward and leapt at the bear. The tenacious hound sank its teeth into the bear's neck. The bear shook its head and reached a paw up to slap the dog off of him. The distraction gave The Sheriff enough time to grab his rifle. He lifted the trusty rifle up to his shoulder and took quick aim. It didn't take him long to fire another shot at the bear. The bullet sank into the haunches of the bear. The bear howled with pain as it turned to face the Sheriff once more. The Sheriff recocked the lever and fired the fourth shot at the charging bear. The bullet caught the bear just above the right eye. With another roar, the bear stumbled but it did not fall. It kept charging.
The Sheriff slammed against the lever once more and fired a fifth shot. This shot went wide. The bear was only a few yards away from The Sheriff. The Sheriff pulled on the lever again and fired the sixth shot. This shot caught the bear in the shoulder again. The bear growled as it rose up to pounce down on The Sheriff. With the bear coming down on him, The Sheriff fired the seventh and final shot at the bear. This bullet caught the bear in the heart and the bear fell. The Sheriff rolled away and just managed to avoid the bear falling on top of him.
The Sheriff rolled to his knees and looked at the now dead bear and let out a low breath.
The Sheriff pulled his hat off his head and rested it on the ground next to him. The rain still poured around him and he still stared into the darkness. Colt stirred on the ground next to him. Another flash of lightning and a clap of thunder shook the ground. "Should be a town posse that hunts down wild animals." The Sheriff grumbled to the dog.
The Sheriff gripped at his shoulder once more as he worked a knot out of it. "We're getting too old to be out here like this hunting bears. Sure, the ranchers will shoot the smaller threats like wolves and coyotes. They'll protect their livestock. Ask them to come into the woods and hunt a black bear and they'll say 'No, thank you.' Damn ranchers want you to keep all the peace for them but don't want to help you out and shoot a bear."
In the darkness, a roar cut through the rain. The sound shook both The Sheriff and Colt from their idleness. The Sheriff reached for his trusty Spencer rifle. He acted quickly to check and make sure he had it loaded—he always did but habit made sure he always checked before firing. Another roar cut through the air. It was loud. Harsh. The Sheriff looked down at his dog and it was like they were in sync with each other. "That's not a black bear," The Sheriff muttered to himself.
Another flash of lightning illuminated the night sky. The Sheriff almost faltered when he saw what stood only a few yards in front of the cave entrance. It was not a black bear. This bear was brown and it was much bigger than any bear he had ever seen. "Grizzly." He muttered in shock. "How the hell did this bear get here?" He whispered again. Grizzlies were not native to this area.
The grizzly bear rose onto its back legs and bellowed once more as another flash of lightning cut through the sky. This bear had to be in excess of eight hundred pounds. When it lowered back to all fours, the bear had to be over five feet from shoulder to ground. "I don't know if I have enough bullets, boy," The Sheriff whispered to his dog. The dog snorted in response and dug his paws into the ground of the cave.
Lightning flashed again and the massive grizzly charged forward into the cave. With only the light provided by the lightning, The Sheriff acted quickly to raise his rifle and shoot. The bear snarled—clearly struck by the bullet, but the sound of the bear only grew louder. The bear collided with The Sheriff and sent him flying back into the cave. He tried to hold onto his rifle, he tried to keep a hold of it, but he could not. The Spencer slipped from his grip while he was air born. He groaned when he hit the ground. His back arched in agony. The bear thundered again.
The dog barked and the bear growled back. The fearless hound ducked underneath a swipe from the bear and bounded towards his master. Propped against the cave wall, The Sheriff reached into his holster for his revolver. "This will have to do," He muttered and closed his eyes. With his eyes closed, he sniffed the air for the smell of wet fur. His ears tuned in to the sound of the bear's breath and his paws against the cave floor.
Swallowing hard, The Sheriff opened his eyes and raised his revolver. He fired the double action pistol and dropped to the ground to roll out of the way. The colossal bear slammed into the side of the cave with a bellow. Scrambling towards the entrance of the cave, The Sheriff holstered his revolver and grabbed at the rifle he nearly tripped over.
Exiting the cave, he turned and raised the Spencer, keeping it trained on the entrance to the cave. Another howl came from the bear and lightning flashed. The bear stood at the entrance of the cave, its fur wet with blood and rain. The grizzly roared and barreled into the storm towards The Sheriff. Colt charged towards the bear and leapt at it. The bear merely used its big skull to send Colt off to the side. The Sheriff fired once. Twice. Three times. Four times. Five times. Six times. Then nothing. The rifle was out and the bear had not dropped yet. The bear was only a few feet away—but its steps were labored. Scrambling for his revolver, The Sheriff was hit again by the thick shoulder of the bear. He skidded across the muddy ground and winced in agony. The bear roared and stalked forward. It was leaking blood from multiple places—but all of the bullets had just dug into the fleshy part of its body.
The Sheriff tried to raise his revolver, but his arm was in agony. The bear snarled and opened its massive mouth. It lunged down towards The Sheriff—but it never got there. Colt's teeth sank into the tender throat of the bear and the dog clamped down. The grizzly roared and shook its head, but the dog did not come loose. It just held onto the throat of the bear while The Sheriff managed to raise his arm and press his revolver into the chest of the bear. He pulled the trigger three times and the bear slumped to the mud lifeless.
Colt released the throat of the bear and limped towards The Sheriff. He groaned in agony as he crawled to lean against a tree. Rain soaking his body, he looked at his dog, "I think that was the last bear we're ever going to hunt."