Last week I had one of those moments that I thought only happened to other people. It was just too good -- got to pass it on.
I was down on the coast helping a buddy get his brown bear. The area we were hunting was full of them, and we generally saw several bears per day. We finally settled on a spot, and I cut back some foliage to watch the river we were on. We were set -- a nice wide kill zone covering a shallows full of fish that bears transited, all at distances of 125-150 yards. My buddy watched the river, and my job was to be backup -- I had my 12 gauge loaded with slugs for close-in defense.
This was a serious concern -- a significant bear trail ran along the river bank through the brush right behind us. There was a little clearing where we set up, but it was just a few feet across, and visibility into the brush was limited. We relied largely on our scent to keep unwanted visitors away from us.
We'd been hunting the area for a few days, and pretty much had it figured out. On this particular afternoon, we'd been on the stand about an hour. The rain had let up, but I was starting to get a bit of a chill because neoprene chest waders just don't seem to breathe. We hadn't seen a thing, so I decided to put on my sweater.
Of course, putting on my sweater would require putting down the shotgun, taking off my pack, removing my jacket, and dropping my waders down to my waist in order to get the sweater on. I figured that I might as well take a leak while I had things accessible, rather than have to take go through all the hassle to do it all later. You can see where this is going -- I don't know why I couldn't.
So I got stripped down, put the sweater on, and stepped over to a fallen log about six feet behind our location on the river bank.
No sooner did I answer nature's call than I heard movement off to my right. I peeked around the tree by my right shoulder, and there was a sow and a cub on the trail less than 20 feet away headed in my direction. They were upwind of us and hadn't smelled us.
I couldn't believe that fate would be so perverse as to put me in a situation that bizarre. After days of carrying my 870 at the ready, I was face to face with a sow and cub -- with my shotgun on the river bank and nothing in my hands but the family heritage. What a ridiculous way to die, I thought. This was without a doubt the single most compromised position I'd ever found myself in -- at least I'd die laughing. But on the downside, I'd be a laughing stock at the pearly gates when I had to explain myself to St. Peter, of all people.
Luckily, the sow saw me about the same time I saw her -- and started to duck away into the brush as I started yelling at her. A couple seconds later, they were gone. My partner had turned around as soon as I yelled, but all he saw was brush moving. After I checked to make sure I hadn't dropped anything that should be attached, we had a good laugh.
The next morning my buddy got a really nice boar from that spot -- but for the rest of trip, he kept singing Jimi Hendrix: "Hey, Joe...where you goin' with that gun in your hand..."