Two Bears, Two Bowman

Stephan Richardson

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.

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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.

“I had seen one with a white chest, but I didn’t realize how big he was until I saw him,” McKamy says. “I looked behind me, and I saw this huge bear coming up. He was an absolute monster, just milling around eating the bait. After I took my shot, he ran down into thick briars and tangles, and it took about four hours for Stephen and I to get him out, plus it was raining.”

The pair saw several other bears that afternoon but none to compare with his “monster,” which weighed 415 pounds, measured 7 feet long from nose to tail and making it into the Pope and Young Trophy Book with a skull measurement of 1911/16 inches. To attain a skull measurement, the length and width are added together to the nearest 16th of an inch. It only takes 18 inches to be recorded in the book, and McKamy’s bear exceeded that by almost 2 inches.

Although McKamy does not have any family members who hunt – yet – he says he grew up in the country going hunting with a lot of younger friends. Believe it or not, the first animal McKamy ever took down with a bow was his “monster” of a bear.

“It’s interesting that the first thing I got with a bow was this huge bear,” McKamy says. “The first thing I did was show the video to my 3-year-old, Chloe. She sat in my lap to watch it, and she was so interested that I think she will be a hunter.”

Both McKamy and Richardson say they enjoyed every part of the hunt, including the bear meat.

“To tell you the truth, I was kind of leery about eating a bear at first, but it doesn’t have a gamey taste to it at all,” McKamy says. “To me, it tasted somewhat close to a high-grade beef with a sweet flavor. The meat is very tasty.”

Both Richardson and McKamy had their bears mounted. Hunting bears in Arkansas is not something many are fortunate enough to do. Arkansas is divided into two bear-hunting zones, and only 200 bears per zone (one per person) are allowed to be killed. Although the season runs from Oct. 1 to Nov. 30, bear season is officially over when the zone quota is filled.
Next year, McKamy plans to cut back on the number of bait stations he runs.

“This year I ran all the bait stations, and I put a lot of work and money into it. It was a chore keeping three 55-gallon drums filled with old pastries, dog food, cooking grease and more,” he says. “They would eat those jelly doughnuts up like crazy, and they could eat a 55-gallon drum down completely in two days. I’m going to run only one bait station this year in an effort to keep all the bears going to one location, because I think there are more bears out there than we first thought there were. I captured 12 bears alone on the one camera I set up, so there were obviously a lot.”

After they get a few more bear hunts under their belts, the two men plan to invest in a professional-grade camera, edit the tapes and convert them into a film, and then sell it as an instructional video for those wishing to learn more about bear hunting and bow hunting in general.

The owner of Hurricane Express told the men that if they killed a bear, he would split the cost with them to have it mounted, and they could keep it in the office. It is a full-body mount and stands somewhere between the fax machine and the water cooler.
Kathryn Tuggle

Off-Duty Destinations: Welcome Home
You see them every day on stamps, bills, coins and television, but do you really know who they are? Our presidents can seem elusive at times, as untouchable figures of the past, but they don’t have to be that way. It has been said that nothing brings people together like spending time in one another’s homes, and although our past presidents can’t visit us, we can still visit the places that shaped our nation’s leaders.

More than 40 presidential homes are scattered throughout the Eastern United States and make for excellent stopovers when you’ve got time to kill. Fewer presidential homes are found in the West, because U.S. civilization had not yet spread that far in the founding days of our nation.

Mount Vernon, the home of our first president, George Washington, is in northern Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., off I-95. Washington himself had a hand in the construction of the house, which was his home both before and after his presidency. Today, Mount Vernon is still a showplace.

“Washington spent most of his life in pursuit of returning to Mount Vernon. He and his wife Martha are both buried there,” says University of Alabama professor and presidential historian Glenn David Brasher. “Mount Vernon has such a homey feel to it, and tourists are encouraged to sit on the back porch and relax in rocking chairs while gazing out at the Potomac. It’s hard not to feel close to Washington when you look out at the same view you know he saw.”

The home of John Adams, our second president, is located in Braintree Mass., just south of Boston on I-93. The Adams home sits on the 14-acre Adams National Historic Site, which is run by the National Park Service. Five generations of the Adams family, including two presidents and first ladies, lived here, and it is the birthplace and gravesite of presidents John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, the sixth president.

Perhaps the most immaculate presidential residence is Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, in Charlottesville, Va., in the foothills of the Shenandoah Mountains on I-64, about 30 miles east of I-81.

“Jefferson’s home is an architectural innovation of the mind that features all kinds of his inventions, including the first copy machine ever made and a clock that could not only tell time, but the days of the week,” Brasher says.

This is a “must-see” presidential home. The view from the estate and Jefferson’s interesting gadgets make it the most visited home in the United States. Perched high in the mountains, Monticello overlooks the university that Jefferson, our third President, founded in the early 1800s, the University of Virginia. As with many of Jefferson’s constructions, he designed the university’s campus layout and buildings himself. The trees on top of the mountain stay trimmed year round to expose the incredible view. A tavern located on the grounds provides excellent traditional American fare. If you can’t make it by any time soon, just take a look at a nickel, and you’ll find Jefferson and Monticello in miniature on either side.

If you’re headed toward Nashville on I-40, keep an eye out for the Hermitage, the home of our seventh president, Andrew Jackson. The Hermitage is even grander in style than the more colonial Monticello or Mount Vernon because it is a true antebellum mansion. Most of the furnishings at the Hermitage are original to the house, and the colors on the walls are precisely matched to the originals, which were extravagantly bold, as was the fashion of the day. Because each of the rooms was photographed, historians know exactly how to set up the home the way it was when Jackson resided there.

Unlike some presidential homes, Jackson’s Hermitage is located in the middle of the suburbs, not set away from civilization.

“Jackson was known as the president for the common man, and his home seems to exemplify this with its high ceilings and a very open atmosphere,” Brasher says. “Jackson was the type of man that would have loved being in the center of everyday life with the people of his country.”

Just 100 miles north of St. Louis, Mo., in Springfield, Ill., off I-55, you’ll find the home of our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. This humble home was where Lincoln lived before he was president, and it is smaller than some presidential homes.

“Because he was simply a country lawyer before he became president, Lincoln’s home is less presidential than some, but it is still an impressive old home by anyone’s standards,” Brasher says.

But Lincoln is not buried there; he lies in a cemetery nearby in Springfield in an above-ground crypt.

Other impressive presidential homes include the residences of Chester A. Arthur (#21) in Fairfield, Vt., Grover Cleveland (#22) in Caldwell, N.J., Dwight Eisenhower (#34) in Denison, Texas, Gerald Ford (#38) in Omaha, Neb., Ulysses S. Grant (#18) in Richmond, Ohio, and John F. Kennedy (#35) in Brookline, Mass.

The next time you’re counting out your dollars, take a long look at the faces staring back at you. Can you see Washington as the wizened old man sitting in his rocking chair and gazing out at the Potomac after dinner? Can you picture Jefferson hard at work on his latest invention in his study? If you can’t, then the next time you find yourself near their homes, take a minute to get to know the men who shaped our nation into what it is today.

For a complete listing of presidential homes, prices and contact information, visit this site. Admission varies to every home, but for a tour of the homes and grounds, most presidential home admissions are about $15.