Since I’ve had the cabin property I’ve had numerous interesting, and sometimes scary, encounters with wildlife. Just recently, I unexpectedly ended up nearly face to face with a rather large bull moose. Fortunately this encounter ended uneventfully and I walked away only with a huge adrenaline surge and a very rapid heart rate. Now this type of encounter does not happen every week but it does happen regularly. But, to understand why that is requires a little background information.
My cabin property has always been somewhat isolated and very private. I purchased the property in 1996 and to this day I still do not have any neighbors. My property is part of a quarter section, which is 360 acres, that is completely surrounded by National Forest. The property is 9 miles from the main highway. Access is off a spur road and through a portion of National Forest. The last mile is a private road.
You have to go through three locked gates in order to get to the cabin. The property sits on top of a ridge so even if there are other property owners using their cabins, I never see them. Needless to say, no one wanders by. Even now, it would be possible for me to go to the cabin for weeks at a time and never see another person.
Hopefully by now you get a clear picture as to why I see more wildlife than people. Bear, mountain lion, deer, elk, moose, bobcat, fox, and many other critters wander by on a regular basis, not people.
When first living on the property, I was living in a 200 square foot insulated wall tent fitted with a nice wood stove. It was a nice shelter but not very secure. Fortunately, the only things that got into the tent regularly were the mice and the bears. The only way for me to secure my food supply was to store it in a large metal chest that was locked and chained to a tree. Several times a week I would come home and find evidence of yet another bear trying to pillage my food supply.
Some of these issues were resolved once I moved into the cabin. At least I had a secure bear proof shelter and I could stop sleeping with the Colt 45 and the Winchester. However, my bear and mountain lion encounters were still so frequent that I constantly carried some sort of firearm or had something within easy reach. Although the cabin was secure, I fixed bolts in the wall on both sides of the door and would attach a large chain across the door at night before I went to bed. Occasionally I would awake to having a bear trying to push in the front door. Also the bears still loved to get into the tent, which was now only used as storage.
When I would get up in the morning, I would walk out on the porch with a cup of coffee in one hand and the 30-30 in the other. On one such morning, I was standing on the porch deciding what project I wanted to work on for the day. I sat for a few minutes and after taking a good look around, I left the 30-30 on the porch and walked down toward the tent to retrieve some tools. Little did I know, there was a bear in the tent.
As I approached the door of the tent, carrying only a cup of coffee, the bear obviously heard me coming and decided to exit. He suddenly came out the door and runs right into to me. I spilled most of my coffee on his head. He was just as startled as I was and for a few seconds, we stood there eye to eye frozen in place. Then simultaneously we both had the same reaction, which was to run in the opposite direction.
Fortunately for me, this was a very young bear. He still retained the fear of humans which obviously worked in my favor. That was not always the case with some of my other encounters.
One bear in particular, would come to the cabin during the day and actually sit on the hillside and watch me for most of the day. One of my classmates, who was a well traveled and experienced hunter, told me this was very unusual behavior. In fact, he told me that I’d be better off shooting this bear before he got me first. I always disagreed because I was actually living in the middle of their territory. But, more on the fate of this bear a little later.
On one particular occasion I had some friends over for dinner. My friend Michael was a former chef. Between him and I we cooked up a fabulous steak and lobster dinner with all the trimmings. In retrospect, I think all the good smells were yet another thing to attract the bears. Anyway, after they left, his wife sat a partially empty bottle of wine on the porch. I left it there thinking surely this would be of no interest. Wrong!!!
I was awakened in the middle of the night after the bear tipped over the bottle and it was rolling across the porch. I laid there in the dark listening to toenails clicking on the wooden planks. The bear was also pushing against the door trying to get in the cabin. I came out of the loft with the Colt 45 and started making all the noise I could in the hopes of scaring him away.
After I heard him run off the porch, I slowly opened the door. I was wearing a head lamp and could see that he was no longer on the porch. When I stepped outside, I saw this rather impressive large male standing less than 20 feet away. He was approximately 5 feet tall at the shoulders.
Once again determined not to shoot him, I stepped off the porch and picked up a baseball sized rock. I nailed him in the shoulder, which of course only pissed him off. So, I did it again. He started snarling, pacing back and forth, and slowly getting closer. I loaded the Colt with a high capacity magazine containing hollow points and stood my ground. I fired one shot over his head. He kept coming. I fired several shots in the ground in front of him. He then stopped but continued to snarl and growl.
I looked at him and said, “One more step and I am going to empty this into your face.” Not that he understood anything more than “Blah, blah, blah”. But, at that point he turned and ran up the hill. I like to laughingly say that I then went into the cabin to check my shorts. That is when I discovered I must be a brave mountain boy because at least I did not pee on myself!!!
Now back to the bear that would sit on the hill and watch me. This behavior continued for several months. In fact, I got to the point that I was paranoid about that bear. At the time, one of my clients was an officer with the Colorado Division of Wildlife. I expressed my concerns with him and he just informed me that it was legal to shoot in self defense. Being a lover of wildlife, that is not what I wanted to do.
At any rate, this bear kept harassing me by coming around at various hours of the day and night. I was constantly armed in one manner or another and getting more and more paranoid. One afternoon I left for a couple hours to run errands. I came back to find the storm door to the cabin in pieces. Only the hinges were still attached. That pesky bear had once again tried to get into the cabin. Needless to say, I had to build another door.
Shortly thereafter, on one chilly fall evening, I decided to have a nice bonfire. Once the fire was going, I pulled up a chair and sat down with a cold beer. After a few minutes, I heard some noise up on the ridge above the cabin. There were snapping branches and several squirrels started chattering. I assumed it was that damned bear again.
I went into the cabin and grabbed the 12 gauge. I chambered a round and as soon as I started to sit down I saw the bear at the edge of the firelight. He was in full charge. By the time I shouldered the 12 gauge and fired he was 10 feet away. He deflected long enough for me to get off a second round. He then ran off into the forest.
The next day I saw my client that was the officer with the Division of Wildlife and informed him of the incident. Because I was not injured and there was no bear available for examination, he did not seem concerned. I never saw that particular bear again. However, the bear encounters continued.
At one point, I decided to make major improvements on the root cellar. This required me to empty the cellar and use camping coolers for my refrigeration. This was early Fall so it was already cold and snowing on a regular basis. No problem leaving the cooler on the porch temporarily, except for the bears.
I had just gone to the supermarket and purchased chicken, sausage, bacon, and some vegetables which included jalapeños. I took a break from working and left for a few minutes to make a phone call. At the time, I had no cell service but had a land line along the main access road. The phone was about 1/2 mile away. I was gone for maybe 20 minutes. When I returned, the cooler had been ripped apart. All the meat and vegetables were gone except for the jalapeños. The bear took one bite of those and decided it was not worth it.
But, one other thing was missing, which was my dog. He was a 110 pound malamute. He was somewhat aggressive, which of course made him a good mountain dog. He never really seemed to be afraid of anything. At any rate, he was missing.
I assumed the bear had killed my dog. I got dressed in winter gear, grabbed the rifle and started tracking the bear despite the fact that it was snowing heavily. A couple of hours later I found myself in white out conditions well after dark. Any further tracking was futile if not down right dangerous. I returned to the cabin.
The next morning I resumed my search, of course not expecting to ever find him. After several hours, I was snowshoeing along the creek calling his name. He popped his head up out of a snow drift, completely unharmed. That was when I learned that he did not like bears very much. I am not sure to this day if he had a go at the bear and lost that fight. Interestingly enough, he always stood his ground with mountain lions but would run away from a bear.
Now for something really funny.
About a month after this episode, and several bear encounters later, I was still being very cautious and never ventured far without the Winchester. On one particularly cold and windy morning, I needed to take care of some “personal business”. At the time, I did not even have an outhouse. All I had was a hand made wooden stool that loosely resembled a toilet set. I laughingly called it the “poop stool”.
So, I would simply pick a direction, carry the poop stool a short distance into the forest along with a roll of toilet paper. When I picked my spot for the day, I would sit down and take care of business. The only real challenge was that on cold and windy days, it was never fun having a strong breeze blowing up your back side while trying to focus on important business. So………….
Try and use your imagination here.
There was plenty of snow on the ground. The wind is gusting strong enough to break tree branches. I am sitting on the poop stool taking care of business with the Winchester laying across my lap. All the while trying to keep an eyeball out for the bear.
As I am about to finish up, I hear a huge crash a short distance behind me. I assume it is the bear. I jumped up from the poop stool, wheeled about and chambered a round in the Winchester. I immediately discovered that the crashing noise was a large branch that had broken off due to the gusting wind.
So there I am, Mr Big Bad Mountain Boy. I am standing there with my pants around my ankles, Winchester in hand, and a two foot string of toilet paper hanging out of my butt crack and flapping in the breeze. When I realized my predicament, I looked down at myself and just had a good laugh.
I spoke to myself out loud and said, “Wow, I bet I look real intimidating about now.”
Go off grid and live well,
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