Chapter Twelve

Arty jumped, and the bear growled

The bear was busily gorging himself on blueberries and seemed oblivious to the intensifying storm. For a large animal, it was unbelievable how hard it was to see in the gloom, only the top third of its body showing above the scrub.

A mixture of fear and excitement charged Arty with exhilaration. He was in the zone; nothing existed but him and the bear. Troubles, disputes, worries and Mac were as far from his mind as the East is from the West. Looking up at the storm he knew he needed to move quickly, the wind was intensifying and blowing in his favour, but he that could change in an instant.

A flash of lightning revealed the bear had moved North.Arty took a mental bearing and began his stalk. He carefully wormed his way through the scrub, monitoring the wind and counting his paces. He estimated the bear was 220 yards away and wanted to get within 40 feet of his target. The thunder and lightning show was spectacular, yet Arty was oblivious to anything except the bear and the wind. He knew that if it caught his scent, it would either be gone in a heartbeat or seeking to end his.

The storm masked the sound of his progress, allowing him to move quickly. Soon he had covered 180 yards, and slowly lifted his head seeking his quarry. Nothing, his heart sank, maybe the bear had bolted. He held his position for nearly 5 minutes, his eyes dancing over the landscape, trying to pierce the gloom and uncover the bear.

He felt sure it was gone, but Arty was a hunter and knew the unexpected was sometimes his greatest ally. He slowly stood to his full height, despondent but not defeated, his senses still on full alert, his excitement slowly giving way to thoughts of dishes and cooking a feed.

A bolt of lightning hissed through the air, blasting the cottonwoods with a thunderous explosion, Arty jumped, and the bear growled. It was less than 50 feet away, hidden in a depression. The bear hadn’t moved as far as Arty had predicted, perhaps it had taken shelter from the storm, it didn’t matter. He knew where it was and quickly closed the gap, every fibre of his being was focused on the hunt.

The depression was obscured by some stunted scrub, forcing Arty to get closer to the bear than he would have liked. Nocking an arrow, he slowly stood, making sure there was room to draw without getting hooked up in the vegetation. The bear was only 20 feet away, busily licking his paw. The sight of a dangerous animal at such close quarters filled Arty with awe. The arrow sliced through the air, striking the bear full in the chest. It leapt into the air, bellowing with rage as it sought the source of its pain. Lightning flashed again exposing Arty to the glare of the enraged animal. There was nowhere to run, all he could do was draw another arrow, defiant, as the bear staggered across the few feet between them. The arrow struck just as the bear collapsed 5 feet away. Tears of joy filled Arty’s eyes; he had stared death in the face and survived, no one could ever understand how good he felt that evening.

Arty examined his prize; it was a magnificent animal. He knew this would be a trophy he would treasure for the rest of his life. Not because he craved a bear skin rug or the admiration of other hunters. No, the bear represented a moment in his life that he never wanted to forget.

It was late when he got back to camp; he intended to head back and skin the bear in the morning. Ernie chided him good-naturedly for not having tea ready. Mac sulked. Two hours later they were fed and watered and ready to hit the sack. Mac  made a few snide remarks about Arty’s tardiness and lack of cooking skills. Arty couldn’t have cared less; he had bigger fish to fry. Tomorrow the plane would be back to whisk their corpulent guest away, and Arty had a bear to skin.

“What are you so happy about?” smiled Ernie as Arty headed off to bed.

“I’ll tell you tomorrow, sleep well.”

“You too, things are looking up.” Ernie winked at him as he said it.”

He wasn’t going to miss their guest either.

But Mac was far more devious than either of them could ever have imagined.

More on that in the next blog.

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