1/28/2015 12:11 PM
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Welcome to the Louisiana Black Bear Network
Years ago, I had the privilege of witnessing a Louisiana Black Bear feeding in a live oak tree. I was squirrel hunting in the Atchafalaya Basin in the early part of the season. The woods were so dry that I elected to walk on an old, seldom used road where I was able to walk pretty quietly.
I normally squirrel hunt with a 22 caliber rifle, but on this occasion, it was in the shop for repairs, so I was hunting with a borrowed 5 MM. Hunting squirrels with a rifle is a different style of hunting that requires a more stealthy approach than hunting with a shotgun. My technique is to move short distances as quietly as possible, stop and spend some time looking for movement and for signs of where and what the squirrels are eating. A hunter should listen for the scratching sound that squirrels make when running through the trees or the sound of dew hitting the ground as a result of a squirrel shaking the leaves while feeding.
This particular location was in an area I had not previously hunted or even had the opportunity to walk around. Around nine that morning, I was surprised to happen upon a pretty wide cane break. The cane was so thick and tall that it was difficult to see to the other side. I was barely able to see the tip tops of a live oak and thought I noticed some motion. The tree was about 80 yards just off the old road on the other side of the break.
Moving as quietly as possible, I very slowly eased through the cut using what was left of the old overgrown road. I assumed that the movement that I thought I had witnessed was that of a squirrel feeding. As soon as I had a little glimpse of the tree, I stopped near a small sapling to use it as a rest. At this point, I was still unable to see the tree and was keeping my face down to avoid being seen. Moving extremely slowly, I took the last couple of steps to the sapling while I slowly eased my rifle up to look through the scope. All I could see was black.
I was surprised and looked around the scope. That is when I realized that I was in the presence of a Louisiana Black Bear. My heart started thumping and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. The first thing I wondered was if we had company. I slowly surveyed my surroundings and realized that we were, indeed, alone.
I didn't know much about these creatures, so I was thinking that there might be more of them close by. Based on the size and the fact that the bear was in a tree feeding, I believe it was a female. Of course, I cannot be certain. I slowly got closer and closer until I was practically under the tree where she was feeding. At one point, she stopped feeding and climbed down a branch or two and looked right at me. We stared at each other for a few minutes, and then she turned around and went back up and resumed feeding. She would literally tear a small branch from the tree, scrap the acorns off, stuff them into her mouth and repeat the process.
I was really surprised at the technique used. I guess I thought that bears would get the acorns off the ground rather than actually get them while still in the tree. I felt like she was not intimidated by my presence at all. I did back away about ten to fifteen yards, sat down, and just enjoyed one of the most exciting experiences of my life. I had gone hunting with two other people that day, and we had agreed to meet back at the vehicle by 10:30 A.M. About five minutes prior to that time, I decided to run back and see if I could get the others to show them the bear.
When we returned, she was gone. I realized how lucky I was to have witnessed such a magnificent creature in the wild. I guess I was like the majority of people in the Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas area. I never considered that these magnificent creatures lived among us. Of course, I have now learned how difficult it is to see a Louisiana Black Bear.
The place I was hunting was leased by a hunting club that had a huge parcel of land. When we got back to the camp and went into the main kitchen area, one of the club's most affluent members and one of the self-proclaimed leaders, was there in the kitchen area.
He was a pretty gruff old fellow and expected a report from everyone when they returned from a hunt. This man was a successful business man from the Baton Rouge, Louisiana, area. When the member, with whom I was hunting as a guest, told the older man that I had seen this bear, he looked at me and actually scolded me for not shooting that "blankety blank" bear. I can remember thinking that I wouldn't have shot that bear on a bet. Here I was in my late twenties, hunting since I was old enough to go out, and I had never seen a bear ,and this guy is fussing at me for not killing it.
This bear would have done almost anything to avoid human contact. I did not feel threatened in any form or fashion. However, here was a man whom I had previously respected for his successful station in life, advocating that I kill this creature. The only reason he could muster was that they were pests and stated that they killed young deer.
I have since learned that this is simply not true. Most bear s seldom take live animals and prefer to eat nuts and berries. This is why bear education is so important.
Hopefully, this site will help in that endeavor.

by Bill Taylor
LBB Network Web Master