Dare the Bear

| April 07, 2005

Trucker Bill Piktel poses with his kill and the bow he used to take it down.

Bill Piktel lifted the mosquito netting from his face. Wedged in a portable tree stand, he drew his bowstring back to his cheek and aimed at the 300-pound black bear just 40 yards away. But he needed it to come closer. He was confident of his aim at that distance but concerned that even a slight error would leave his prey wounded. So he sat motionless.

It was dusk now and Piktel, 42, could hear the mosquitoes rising up out of the damp Quebec lakeside below him. The mosquitoes attacked his bare face. He would later count over 50 bites. But still he sat motionless, the bow drawn. Then the 6-foot-tall bear with the rich black fur suddenly turned and bounded away up the slope behind him.

Disappointed, Piktel, who drives a 2002 Century Class Freightliner for Transport America, relaxed. Maybe the bear would return, but he doubted it.

The Canadian lake was a regular fishing destination for Piktel and some buddies. But this time, after paying $450 to fish, Piktel paid another $200 for a chance at a bear and another $75 for a license. He’d brought along his Hoyt bow and carbon-shafted arrows with Jackhammer heads. It was late May and Piktel thought the bears would have been long enough out of hibernation to be seriously seeking food.

“The ice was off the lake, and it was starting to warm up. It had rained, and it was very cold at night,” he recalls. “The first night I tried it was real windy and my tree stand was only 7 feet off the ground. My scent was being blown into the trees. But I was there to hunt so I stayed. I sat watching some pine martens playing for hours. It was like watching happy little kids.”

Next day Piktel set his tree stand almost 30 feet up a trunk and further back into the woods from the shore. He also tossed out the odiferous thawed remains of some fish he had caught the previous season, hoping to trigger a bear’s curiosity. He climbed into the stand about three in the afternoon. Three hours later, nothing. Then Piktel heard something unusual.

“I heard rocks flipping over in the water. I figured a bear was looking under them for a meal of mud suckers, fish that eat algae and stuff off the bottom,” he says. “He was coming down a little stream to my right, and finally I could see him. He was a big boar and he was beautiful.

“I drew the bow. But he never came closer than 35 yards. I don’t feel a hundred percent certain at that range. I will only shoot if I am absolutely sure I can kill. I sat there with the bow pulled and those mosquitoes really lit me up. But the bear was very cautious. After about 10 minutes he just bolted and I thought I’d lost him.”

Piktel dropped the mosquito net back over his ravaged face. He sat dead still as dusk began to fall. He was hoping the bear would be attracted back by the scent of the fish. But there was no movement in the woods.

“It was silent. Then, about half an hour after he ran off, I heard one little twig crack to my left. I saw him about 40 yards away,” he says. “He sat down, his chest facing me, smelling the air. Fortunately I’d gone high enough and he couldn’t smell me. He just sat there sniffing, but again he was just too far away for me to be completely sure of the shot.

“I drew on him and waited. He stood up and came in, and when he was about 20 yards away, the wind suddenly changed. That bear was real quick; he turned and moved behind a bush just a few feet away and then he stopped. All I could see was his nose.”

Piktel kept the bow drawn. The bear was 25 yards away. He intended to shoot if the bear walked forward and exposed his chest when he extended his foreleg.

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