“Is There a Bear In Your House?”

(As in most of these accounts the names have been changed to protect all parties.)

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”  Gal 6:7-9 (NKJV)

The sow charged from the brush without warning and with her speed would be on top of Scott in seconds. Scott lived to hunt and fish. He had an attractive wife and three beautiful girls, a great job, a good boat, and plenty of time to pursue his passion, hunting and fishing. Scott’s family were members of my church, but Scott’s worship usually occurred somewhere between Juneau and Admiralty Island.

On this particular day Scott had decided to take his skiff to Young’s Bay on Admiralty Island and hunt for Sitka Blacktails. Most guys hunted with at least one other person if for no other reason than being able to drag the skiff down to the water in case you misjudged the tidal change and came back to a high and dry boat. With tidal ranges over 22 feet it was more common than not. A hunting partner also gave you a better chance of keeping all your major body parts if you ever ran into an unhappy brown bear.

Unless you have a partner like George. His hunting partner did not do him any good when he was killed by a brownie on the south end of Admiralty. The pink salmon run never showed up in 1988. By October the brown bears were facing a long winter without the fat they needed. So when the brownie heard the bleat call of a blacktail he reacted like mom had just rung the dinner bell. He was probably surprised as he leaped off the ledge onto George and discovered he was not a deer. By that time George’s rifle was jammed into the ground up to the trigger guard and the meal was there for the taking. George’s hunting partner heard the screams but was unable (or chose not to) to come to George’s aid. The seven man search team followed the bear’s trail up the mountain side 1500 feet and along the ridge line a quarter mile. They stopped the brown bear’s charge by emptying their rifles into him. Considering all the men were packing .375 H&H Magnums, .458 Magnums, and a couple of .338s, it is remarkable how much distance the bear covered while technically dead. A bear’s heart beat so slow that he can run a hundred yards and treat you like a Mr. Potato Head after you have blown his heart out. The boar was in perfect health, in his prime, but lacking his winter fat. The searchers found George stuffed under a blowdown serving as a pantry. I have never had to kill a brownie, but friends of mine with first hand experience say you have to break them down by shattering their shoulders. You stop them and then kill them. Alaska Department of Fish and Game test revealed that even the largest magnums had little effect with a head shot on a brownie. Sloped like the front end of a Panzer tank the thick skull bone protects the brain from everything but the perfect shot.

It is a fearsome thing to have eight hundred pounds of fur coming at you faster than a quarter horse. Brown bears possess a phenomenal sense of smell and equally bad eye sight so they often run toward something until they identify it. I have had them come within twenty or thirty yards before they turn and run. So, you can’t start blasting away at one hundred yards. You have to wait. Of course from twenty yards you only have one good shot. There is a major clue to an approaching bear’s intent. If the brownie’s teeth are clacking and slobber is flying then you had better be a good shot, ready to volunteer for one of those extreme plastic surgery shows on TV, or stand before God.

Scott’s bear was clacking and slobbering and broke out of the brush at less than twenty yards! Scott should have been a statistic. Each year some hunter gets chewed up or killed by a bear in Alaska. Several years ago one Southern Baptist pastor from North Pole made the Outdoor Life Network channel for his mauling on a moose hunt. For some inexplicable reason (also known as divine intervention) the sow spun with the impact of each of Scott’s shots. Reloading as quickly as he could work the bolt Scott emptied his rifle. With an empty magazine the bear could finish him off, but instead ran back into the brush. After Scott had reloaded the bear again charged and again spun with each impact. The bear dropped after the seventh shot.

Scott now faced a dilemma. He had to recover the bear hide or be cited for wanton waste and up to a $10,000 fine. The green hide and skull weighted over a hundred pounds. And if he reported the kill as self defense he would be subject to an investigation to substantiate his claim. If proven to be a valid case of self defense the state would then confiscate the hide and it would end up in the office of some bureaucrat in Juneau. If they ruled against self defense Scott faced major penalties. At that time Alaskan residents could shoot one brown bear every four years. Scott had never shot one, but he did not have the $25 tag. So, Scott skinned out the bear, packed the hide, the skull, and a ten pound tracking collar the bear was wearing down the ridge two miles to his skiff, returned to town, and bought a tag. According to state regulations he had a period of time before he had to submit the hide and skull to Fish and Game for sealing.

The story should end there except that same afternoon two fish and game researchers flew their weekly tracking flight over Admiralty. They located all their subject bears except “Sally.” She was their longest running subject. They looked everywhere for her but she had disappeared. Even if she had been killed by a boar or a landside the collar would still be transmitting. The bear researchers could not figure it out. The collars are just about indestructible.  Finally resigned to the loss of a major research animal the men flew back to Juneau. Imagine their surprise when the tracking system registered Sally’s signal as they flew the down wind leg of the airport traffic pattern.

Imagine Scott’s wife’s surprise when she answered the door to find two men standing on the front steps with their tracking antenna and gear. When she opened the door one man asked her, “Do you have a brown bear in your house?” Sally told them her husband had been hunting and had placed a hide in the chest freezer. Scott had left town for a few days and would finish the required paperwork when he returned.  She gave the men permission to enter the garage and retrieve the tracking collar.

The Fish and Game guys were unhappy. Positive that Scott had purchased the tag after the shooting they wanted to bring every charge possible against him. However, knowing and proving are two different things. After a few weeks they finally gave up trying to make Scott a resident of Lemon Creek Jail. Several months later my wife and I had a number of friends over for a Christmas party. Things were going well until I introduced Scott to another friend. Ralph worked for Fish and Game, Sport Fish Division, and a close friend of the bear researchers. Needless to say things became awkward when Ralph said, “So you are the guy who shot Sally!”

The Genesis account reveals a key element of human nature; man thinks he can hide his sins. Adam and Eve scrambled into the bushes when they heard God approaching; Cain tried to act like he knew nothing of Abel’s death; Ananias and Sapphira counted on fooling the church about the amount of money they were holding back from their land sale while pretending they had given all of the proceeds to the church. Church people become experts at cover ups. If I cheat another businessman I am “shrewd.” If I loose my temper it is “righteous indignation.” If I act familiar with a person of the other sex who is not my spouse I am just being friendly. Self-centeredness becomes “self-esteem.” We rationalize our sins and think we fool others as well as we have fooled ourselves. Internet pornography is at epidemic proportions in the church today. One reason is its accessibility. It is easier to surf a porn site than going down to a strip club. It is also easier to hide. Someone may drive by and see you coming out of the “Adult Bookstore” or club. No one is looking over your shoulder while you work on your computer.

One of Satan’s most effective lies is, “No one will ever know.” You may fool everyone. However, two people will always know; you and God. And God promises that we will reap a harvest of whatever we have sown. Galatians six’s law of sowing and reaping contains either a wonderful promise of blessing or fearful warning of judgment. Another of Satan’s lies is, “You aren’t hurting anyone.” I am sure that Eve would have never disobeyed God if she had known that it would lead to one son murdering the other.

When we are tempted to sin we need to remember Scott and his bear in the freezer. We think we can hide our sins but they will come out at the worst possible moment with the greatest effect on our loved ones. Facing a couple of Fish and Game researchers can’t compare to standing before a Holy God.

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