Two Bears, Two Bowman
For some, using only a bow to take down more than 700 pounds of black bear in two days might seem impossible. But for two trucking company managers from Arkansas, it’s all in a day’s work.
Stephan Richardson and Jason McKamy both work for Hurricane Express, a family-owned trucking company based in Springdale, Ark., running 60 units coast-to-coast. They have been hunters for most of their lives.
“I grew up in a hunting family,” says Richardson, an account manager at Hurricane. “My dad was a hunter, as well as my grandparents and brother. I’ve been bowhunting since I was 17, and it’s my preferred method because of the challenge of it. It’s much more personal because you have to get so close to the animals. It’s pretty intense.”
But this fall Richardson and McKamy, a driver relations manager, decided to take on new game – black bears.
It was a rainy October night at about 5:30 in Washington County when Richardson took down his first bear from 13 yards away. The two men took turns hunting so they could film one another in action.
“As long as it’s not a real downpour, the bears don’t mind the rain,” Richardson says. “They don’t like being out in the wind, so as the wind calmed down, the bears came out. I took mine down probably about an hour before it got completely dark.” Richardson’s bear weighed more than 300 pounds and measured 5.5 feet from nose to tail. On just the second day of bear season, Oct. 2, 2004, Richardson had made an impressive kill.
Richardson is a skilled bowhunter, and this year he filled his hunting tag quota using exclusively the bow. He prefers a Matthews LX bow when he hunts, and this year on his tags killed one bear, three deer and one turkey. When asked how often he practices with his bow and goes on hunts, Richardson replied, “More than my wife likes, but I never skip church to go hunting.”
Richardson and McKamy enjoy hunting on private land owned by mutual friend Kenneth Williams. Because the land is privately owned, McKamy was able to bait the bears leading up to the hunt. Bait is often used with the black bear because of their excellent sense of smell. With a nasal area 100 times more sensitive than humans, baiting them is an easy way to train them to frequent an area. Bears have a range of anywhere between two and 15 miles, and a life expectancy of 21-33 years. They also definitely have a sweet tooth, and their preferred foods are nuts, fruits, bugs and anything sugary.
After months of baiting the bears with pastries and other goodies in 55-gallon drums, McKamy killed his bear at 7:15 a.m. on the opening day of bear season.
“It was a Friday, so we took off work, and we got in our tree stands before daylight,” McKamy says. “Pretty soon we had two cubs come in and play around; then they took off at daylight, and we heard something that sounded big. I looked behind me and saw the biggest bear I had ever seen coming off the mountain right at us. It stopped about 15 yards from my tree.”
Richardson was filming the hunt, watching closely as his friend waited to make his move. From the time they sight the bears until they kill them, the men usually let 45 minutes elapse to ensure the bear they are after does not have cubs. If a female bear does have cubs, they will follow her closely, staying no more than a 45-minute walk away from her at any given time.
McKamy had an idea of what to expect from the bears they would see on their hunt, because he had set up motion-sensitive cameras to take pictures of the bears as they visited the baited barrels.