May 9, 2014: Bear Quest, or The Curse of the Tinned Sauce
Went out with Trent (Adam’s cousin) to check his bear bait. Trent, Adam and I piled into his small pickup (a great way to get to know people, by the way. Nothing like being forced into someone else’s personal space for an extended period of time to really break the ice.) and took off for the bait barrel in the woods.
I was comfortably wedged in the middle of the bench seat, but was happy to keep a lookout for moose. I know, not what we’re looking for this trip, but I couldn’t help myself. Half an hour of bouncing down logging (gravel pit?) roads and we pulled off to the edge. We still had a bit of a walk ahead, but now was a perfect time to get into our borrowed hunting gear: brown woodland camo boots and coats.
Now, it was just a question of getting to the bait and checking Trent’s trail cam. Baiting allows him to see pick and choose his prey more carefully. If he finds he’s attracted a small bear, he can move his bait site and try for a bigger one.
A ten minute walk from the truck and we were clambering in and out of a ditch and onto a small woodland trail. Trent’s trail cam was hidden about 20 feet in, near his bait: in this case, stale bread. Trent popped open the camera and removed the SD card. We’d brought our camera, so we could view the photos right away. Out of the 45 photos it’d taken over the course of a week, most had nothing. There were a few photos of Trent setting up the camera, and one picture of a moose cow’s rump as she sniffed at the bait.
“That sucks,” said Trent. He seemed more disappointed that he didn’t have anything to show us than about his failure to attract a bear. “Let’s try the cut.”
We picked our way out of the woods and back into the gravel road. Another ten minutes saw us scrambling over a ditch and into “the cut,” an area of partially regrown clear cut. We walked into the clearing single file, stopping a short ways in as Trent pulled a caller from his pocket. He put a four inch glossy black tube to his lips and let out a shrill cry. It was supposed to be mimicking the sound of distressed prey. We waited. Snow occasionally dropped out of the nearby trees and sent our heads swiveling in unison towards the sound. A long, silent five minutes later Trent called again. More silence.
“If that didn’t interest’em, they aren’t around” said Trent.
Depite our inability to find wildlife, I found it hard to be disappointed. I was thrilled to be out traipsing through the woods. We were also planning on doing some target shooting at a nearby gravel pit on our way out of the woods. I hadn’t shot a rifle since I was 12, and was looking forward to trying again.
Trent pulled a case of rifle shells. Three of the bullets had red tips painted on them. He handed them to us for safekeeping while he went to look for something to shoot at in the gravel pit.
“You don’t want those ones,” Trent said, gesturing at the marked bullets, “I overcharged ‘em, just to see what’ll happen.”
With that, Trent made his way down the steep slope and started scrounging for unbroken beer bottles. Adam and I waited at the top for a few minutes, before following him down. Trent managed to find the better part of a beer bottle and a mostly intact soda bottle. I, however, struck gold. I found my contribution stuck in the dried out mud of a long evaporated puddle. An ancient looking can of spaghetti sauce, still full. It was dented and mangled, but the seal remained.
“I found a can of sauce,” I said as I walked over to the slab of countertop someone had jammed into the dirt as a target. Trent was trying to balance his bottles on top of it with vary degrees of success.
“No way!” Trent said. I passed him the can and he set it down on the ground beside the countertop. “We gotta shoot this.” We headed back for the edge of the gravel pit, and clambered up the slope.
Trent went first, using his overcharged shells, and settled himself on a little slope behind a sapling, using the tiny tree as a brace for his rifle. He took aim for a gatorade bottle behind the rest of our targets and shot. Once. Twice. Three times. Little puffs of dust appeared around the gatorade bottle, but it escaped unscathed. Trent made a dissatisfied noise as he got up from his shooting perch.
Trent handed Adam the gun and gave him a brief tutorial. Adam used the same place Trent had.
But as he put the bullet in the chamber and tried to close the breach, it jammed.
“Uh...is there supposed to be resistance?” Adam said as he jiggled the bolt, trying to get the breach to close fully.
Trent took the gun back and tried to open the chamber. No dice. We now had a live round jammed in the a rifle where the bolt wouldn’t open or close fully. Adam looked a bit sheepish and Trent tried to figure out what happened. After some more jiggling, Trent pointed the rifle into the pit and fired. The shot cracked out, meaning the gun was now safe to transport. But the chamber wouldn’t open either, so shooting was off the schedule.
We squeezed back into the truck to bounce our way out of the bush. Our adventure into the great outdoors didn’t go as planned, but I still had a grin plastered across my face as we peeled off our camo gear at home.
PS. Trent, if you're reading this, and I've buggered it up, don't hesitate to correct me. My grasp of newfie is tentative, at best.