Field and Stream - - CHEERS & JEERS - —AS TOLD TO JOE AL­BERT

This Septem­ber, elk hunter Tom Som­mer, 57, was mauled by a griz­zly bear near En­nis, Mont.

In all the years I’d hunted that area, I’d never seen griz­zly tracks be­fore. My buddy Dan and I were bowhunt­ing back in the moun­tains and no­ticed them dur­ing the first day or two of our trip. But we didn’t think too much of it. The third morn­ing, we left our mules at camp and walked about a mile to where we’d heard an elk bugling the day be­fore. Af­ter a while, we de­cided to sneak into some re­ally thick tim­ber. We were maybe 2 feet apart when Dan stopped and whis­pered that there was

a griz­zly bear 20 yards away. I raised up my arms and yelled, “Hey, we’re over here!” think­ing the bear would move away. In­stead, it charged right at us. It jumped over piles of brush like an Olympic hur­dler, and I could see its long claws as it closed the gap be­tween us.

It’s a bluff charge, I thought. But Dan and I had both got­ten our bear spray out. Dan clicked off the safety and shot a stream of spray right to­ward the bear. But the griz hit the edge of the stream, veered around it, and then set its sights on me. I tried to fire my bear spray, but the safety was en­gaged, and I didn’t have time to click it off. The bear was com­ing right at me. I ran around a tree twice, dodg­ing the bear, which bought me enough time to grab my .44-cal­iber hand­gun. I turned to fire at the griz, but it was too late. He rolled me like a pa­per bag.

He bit my thigh and then went for my head. I could hear his teeth rak­ing across my scalp. I thought the lights would go out any sec­ond. But I tried to get the bear off me. I couldn’t see out of my left eye be­cause of all the blood, but my right eye was maybe 4 inches from his neck. I still had my hand­gun and brought it up to fire. But the bear pinned down my arm, so I couldn’t get a shot. This isn’t good, I thought. But sud­denly, I felt the bear re­lease my head and lift its chest off mine. Then it darted away. Dan had run right up to the bear while it was on top of me and sprayed it in the eye with bear spray.

My face was a mess, and for a sec­ond I was afraid that my left eye was gone, but Dan said it wasn’t. Luck­ily, he had blood co­ag­u­lant in his pack and poured it on me. We used some cheese­cloth to wrap my head and then cut off a piece of my shirt and used it to wipe my face. We knew we had to get out of there, so we headed back to camp as soon as we could. I couldn’t hike the full mile, so Dan went ahead, fetched our mules, and came back for me. We rode the 5 miles to the truck, only to find it had a dead bat­tery. So we jumped it, then drove 50 miles to the near­est hos­pi­tal. I didn’t feel any pain from the lac­er­a­tions be­cause my adren­a­line was pump­ing so fast. The bear at­tacked at about 8 A.M., and it was 2 P.M. be­fore we reached the hos­pi­tal, where I got more than 90 stitches in my head.

I don’t be­grudge the bear at all. He was just do­ing what bears do. At the end of the day, I’m happy I was at­tacked in­stead of Dan, since I was the one who alerted the bear to our pres­ence and had been lead­ing us through the woods. I like to think I took the hit pretty well, too, all things con­sid­ered.

Fa­mil­iar Fields The men had hunted the area be­fore but had never spot­ted bears.

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