I wanted to thank you so very much for the awesome bear hunt that Ham and I had last week. It really could not have been better.
Jeff, it started a year ago when you were kind enough to allow Ham and I to roll our hunt forward a year because of an internship that he had. You also recommended the 2nd week of June as the best week because of the rut. So, we pushed our trip back one year and one week. I am so glad that we did so.
As you observed, Ham is a very quiet young man and I consider it divine providence that your hunters from Kentucky cancelled and that we had the entire lodge for ourselves. I think this gave Ham an extra boost of confidence which he needed. He didn’t feel intimidated by a bunch of hunters bragging and swearing which is always a risk in hunting camps.
Instead, he had the opportunity to hear about faith in action from his hunting guide. As I am sure you are aware, young men put their hunting guides on a pedestal and how they act can have a profound effect upon them. In this case, Ham could not have been blessed with better role models!
Instead of the crotchety type or the condescending type, Ham had the opportunity to observe and learn from two servant leaders. He also had the opportunity to hear someone that he viewed as larger than life (or at least the life he knows) who had a love and a daily walk with Jesus. As you all know, Ham is in BYX, which is a Christian fraternity which allows him to spend a great deal of time with other young men committed to the Lord; but, it is always a positive experience for these young men to see others who share their commitments do their passion. You all, as Ham’s guide were in a perfect place to provide him that special leadership! And you did!!
Gary worked his tail off from the first afternoon working with Ham on the sticks to the first night when he got Ham in perfect position to get his first bear to the 4:00 AM drive to the airport on Saturday morning. Killing that first bear was huge for Ham! He already has photos of it up.
When I saw Lana reading the Shack, I thought we were definitely in the right place. Then the 2nd Gary mentioned that you, Jeff had been a leader at your church and I knew this was going to be a great trip. I do not think you all realize what a great witness you all were for Ham on the trip!
As I mentioned, Gary worked his tail off after you all headed back to get your back examined. (We will pray that your health is restored.). It makes for long days when you are cooking three meals which were all great on top of hunting; and then, as the bears were failing to cooperate, I could tell that Gary was feeling pressure and began lengthiness our hunting sessions starting earlier in the mornings and in the afternoons.
We encountered every obstacle from much more frequent trains to the forestry trucks on a non stop schedule. But, none of this deterred Gary from stalking our Bears.
Finally on the last night after a morning and early afternoon of cold rain, Gary returned to our initial spot and hit the mother load. Bears were out in many places. We saw a big beautiful light brown one that disappeared into the woods too quickly for Ham to get in position for a shot. However, the next Bear was very cooperative. Gary spotted a boar and as he and Ham walked along the road to get in position, Gary popped the sticks and as soon as the bear showed, Ham pulled the trigger. Turned out that there were at least two other boars in that same area although we couldn’t get a shot. We definitely heard them!
Then, as we were driving home with me starting to pack away the equipment, Gary and Ham spotted a couple of bears by the side of the road. I have to admit, I didn’t really have my head in the game. Whether it was the fact that I kind of peaked last summer killing my lion, or I have never had a passion about shooting a black bear or my broken bow or that I had checked out to come home, I don’t know; but, I simply wasn’t concentrating as we stalked the bear. When Gary mentioned to be careful that it might be a sow and a cub, I really checked out.
Gary had me in perfect position on the sticks 34 yards away and I went off safety as he continued to scan the area. A few seconds later, when he said to fire, I proceeded to take my gun off safe (which I this case meant putting it back on safe) squeezed the trigger and nothing. The bear was a big beautiful monster! Chocolate brown with a massive head, it would have made a great trophy! I believe Gary said well over 7′ and 400 pounds.
I told Gary that other than my contributing to his obvious disappointment after working so hard, I am really at peace with it. I am convinced that had I shot that bear, it would have completely changed how Ham had viewed his first bear hunting experience. His two bears would have been second fiddle to my giant one. And for me, this trip was all about Ham! I have had my day in the sun. And while I am at peace with it, I have to admit that last night was the first night that I didn’t see the bear in my scope as I laid down for bed.
Now his trip was about his killing two bears while his dad whiffed. I also think that it gave ham an opportunity to see his dad miss and face up to it with grace and honesty instead of making excuses like so many do. It has been a great teaching moment. It also has allowed me to emphasize the importance of being mentally prepared for a hunt! I clearly wasn’t and it showed.
Sorry to be so long winded, but, I wanted you all to know what an extraordinary trip I felt it was! Thank you all for everything! It was awesome and couldn’t have been better!