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A Bear Hunter’s Slow Descent into Madness


In my dreams I see bears. Armies of bears. They are holding paws and singing songs of peace and freedom. They celebrate now because the spring season has ended and I am eating tag soup. They have won. 

All their hard work has paid off … their secret bear meetings, their sharing of intel, their pooling of resources and organizing against me—it worked. By now they have most likely developed strategies and early warning systems for next Spring … Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself here …  I’ll just start from the beginning.

I can’t explain what made me want to hunt the bears of Western Oregon. I do recall that it began innocently, as a strong desire to witness bears in the wild. The first time I saw a bear, I was driving through the state of Washington and one was running across an adjacent field almost as fast as I was going in my Jeep. The second and more defining time I encountered a bear in the wild, I was in Oregon and it was charging at me. When I stood to wave my arms and scare it off, it turned and crashed off through the bush to my right. That’s when I first felt the itch. It climbed up my spine, it poked at my gut. I wanted to experience a bear— again.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) estimates that there are 25,000 to 30,000 black bears here in the beaver state. Basically, the only state in the union that has more bears than Oregon is Alaska. Think about that. To a meat hunter, that’s a lot of Yogi-burgers. The SW spring bear tag is a first-come, first-serve sort of thing over the counter in Oregon, which is wonderful. Frankly, if you pay attention to your “regs,” you can hunt bear almost year round here and that is one of the privileges we Oregonians share. 

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