As I climbed into my stand around one o'clock, I said a silent prayer and was thankful just to be in the woods. The wind was perfect, and I could smell the lush green fragrance of the Minnesota forest in early September. The next few hours passed with no interruptions. Scanning the woods I tried to remember the exact spot that I had seen the huge bear in the year before. Satisfied that I had found the spot I imagined him walking up again, but this time all the way into range. I visualized myself making the perfect shot, and sending my arrow through the kill zone. Two years of hunting this same bear, and it would all come down to one shot.
Just then I heard a rustling in the leaves. I readied my bow and looked around to find the source of the noise was nothing more than a chipmunk. I hung my bow again and watched through my binoculars as the fuzzy little rodent filled his cheeks to overflowing. I turned to get a drink of water out of my pack and when I looked back, just fifty yards beyond the bait stood the one I was waiting for. With his massive head raised high he sniffed up into the air. He began moving toward me without hesitation. I thought to myself, "This is your moment Dan, make every move count." I reached out very slowly and got my bow into position. I clipped my release to the string and looked back toward the bear, and saw that he had reduced the distance between us by half. He walked passed the bait, stopped and sniffed the honey in the can and then the ground where I had stood. Facing me head on, he followed my trail from the bait to within ten feet of the base of my tree. I was trembling like a leaf. I knew I had to get a grip. I closed my eyes for just a second and tried to even my breathing.
When I opened them again he was slowly turning back toward the crib. I drew my bow just as he stepped back across the tiny stream five yards in front of me. I held at full draw as he reached the honey, waiting for him to turn. He paused there, turned to perfect broadside, looked right at me, and reached out to move a log off the pile. In a split second my arrow found its mark, and the monster bruin tore off faster than anything that large should be able to move. I sat frozen in disbelief. My arrow was half buried in the ground where the bear once stood. Then I heard the crash. He was down. A deep growl followed by another short interrupted one. Twenty seconds had passed. He was down! No other sound came from the forest. I checked my watch and it was 7:13 p.m. I sat fifteen more minutes taking in the moment. After seeing the sign on the ground and on my arrow, I was very confident the shot was true. Bright red and full of bubbles. Still shaking with adrenaline, I took a few steps past the bait and saw a blood trail that assured me of a recovery.
With nothing more than our flashlights guiding us, my friend Tim and I pushed into the thick cover alert as wolves. The blood trail was unbelievable. After we crawled through the nastiest brush in the forest for sixty yards, we found the most incredible black bear either of us has ever seen. The shot had entered his left chest and passed out the opposing armpit, rendering both lungs useless. He had gone on a death run, crashing into everything, and expired within 30 seconds. The Bruin weighed 500 pounds. He measured 6'1" from nose to tail, and his skull scored 21 0/16 inches Boone & Crockett. This world class bear was the largest taken in Minnesota by archery in 2002.