EDITOR'S NOTE: Ralph Cianciarulo of Lanark, Illinois, professional bowhunter, the host of the "Archer's Choice" television show on the Outdoor Channel and producer of Archer's Choice hunting videos, is sponsored by Hunter's Specialties and enjoys the sport and art of stalking bears with a bow.
QUESTION: Tell us about some of the baddest bears you've ever taken.
ANSWER: Last year my wife Vicki and I were hunting with Wolf Creek Outfitters in Alberta, Canada, located in the far northwest corner. We were right on the territory and the British Columbia border. We had a bear come in when we were filming, and he literally came right to our tree stand, stood up on his hind legs and he started pushing on the tree. This happens a lot of times, especially when you start hunting these bears that aren't familiar with or accustomed to seeing a lot of people. You have to realize that when another bear comes into a base site or a territory with a more subordinate bear, the dominant bear normally will run the other bear up the tree.
Too, a bear's eyesight isn't as great as a white-tailed deer or an antelope. I think all this bear saw were some dark objects up there. The bear didn't think it was a human, but another bear so he came to investigate. A lot of times hunters panic in that situation. They think the bear is coming to kill or eat them. He's not; he's coming to investigate. So most of the time I'll tap the bear on the nose with my arrow. Sometimes I've had to get a little more aggressive and boot him in the snout.
But this particular bear came in and didn't climb because he was too big to climb. He put his front pads on the tree and pushed and panted (whooping). I don't care how much experience you've had hunting bears, when that happens and the bear is 10 feet underneath you, stop to think before you climb down. When the bear figured out that we weren't a threat, he turned around and went to his domain, which was a base site -- a very active base site. He had presented Vicki with a few shots, but we were waiting to see if there was another bear in the area. Well, the time to get down because it was almost dark, and we realized that we had a situation on our hands. This was a dominant bear. That didn't mean this was the biggest bear in the area because we had cut a pad print earlier that was bigger than this particular bear. However, this bear was an exceptional animal; not a dominant bear. The best thing to do was not give the bear our location.
So I threw my pack down. It didn't phase him. When I snapped a couple of branches, he stood up and looked around and went back down. So I grabbed a branch that I broke, a pretty solid branch, and threw it at him. He only ran about 10 to 15 yards. He stood up on his hind legs. That's what they do; they want to see a better scenario. When he did that, I told Vicki that we had to get down; so we got down, and he came right back.
I went forward so she could back out. Well as I went forward, he made another mock charge. He sort of turned off and climbed up the tree. He wasn't a big bear so he could only climb about 10 feet. He tried to hold all of his weight on the tree. We could've shot the bear then, but why? The thing to realize is that if you stand your ground, 99.9% of the time, the bear is going to back off. Let's not talk about that 1% of the time.
If you're not clear on the proper shot placement or if you don't know where you've hit the bear, the best thing to do is let the arrow, or whatever you're shooting, do its thing. Wait and give the animal time to do what you want it to do, which is expire. If you go in there and push the animal, you're asking for trouble. So, avoid those situations. Wait and give it time; then go in.