Oh my did Sam and I have our work cut out for us, no pun intended! We took a few pictures and then asked one another if we've ever skinned an animal out so as to make a rug out of the hide? We both had the same answer. . . No, I've only read about it and seen pictures. Well we begin the daunting task of skinning my spring black bear. It took us 3 hours to skin it with the head and feet in tact so he can be made into a beautiful bear skin rug. He was to big for us to hang whole, so we separated the front and hind quarters. Even doing that he was still a lot to lift. We rolled up the hide and I lashed it with parachute cord and bailing twine to my pack. I sat on the ground and got into my pack then asked Sam to help me up. By the time my legs came to weight bearing I thought my knees were going to explode, and I said put me down. There was no way I was going to carry that green hide on my own. Sam tried carrying it and was having a tough time too. I suggested we put it in my pullover, tie off the bottom and tie the sleeves together and then each grab a side and see how that works. It was better, yet still challenging. I am 5'6" and Sam is 6'4" and we were traversing a steep side hill. Not only that but it was slick from the rain and difficult footing with rocks interspersed. We'd set our sights about 50 to 75 yards ahead of us to the next little bush, or rock until we finally made it to the last steep downhill pitch. The weather was still holding out and we were thankful. It took us 2 hours to go a little over a mile to get back to the rigs. The last steep pitch we went straight downhill by- passing the switchbacks. We slid and rolled to the bottom where our rigs were, while keeping a firm grasp of the hide in my pullover.
It's 9 p.m. and we're exhausted, scratched up, mosquito bitten and tick covered. Oh and hungry! Just as we get our gear put away and crawl into Sam's camper it starts to rain. We look at each other and didn't know what to do first, eat, get out of our tick infested clothes or go straight to sleep. I still had to go unfurl the hide and lay it in the back of my truck. While I did that Sam made us some sandwiches. I returned after my job and was so tired I could barely move my jaw to chew. Next we got out of our wet yucky clothes and into some dry gear. That felt so much better! Now I was wishing I'd brought a second set of hunting clothes, 'cause the thought of having to put those back on in a few hours was less than thrilling. We gave each other a tick check and hoped for the best. Then tried to get some sleep knowing tomorrow was another big day.
Sleep was fleeting as the rain hammered and pounded the camper all night. In the brief moments we caught a wink, we were awoken by our paranoia of either a tick burrowing in or hopefully only a mosquito getting a quick bite. We got up at daylight after a miserable night and I was determined to go to the nearest town for breakfast and to get some DEET! Sam was in complete agreement and we had a great breakfast at a hippy joint with some strong coffee followed by a quick stop at the local super market for insect repellent. Then we were on our way back up the mountain to go and get the bear. We took only necessities such as cardboard to lay the carcass on while de-boning, some food, Sam's 41 Ruger Redhawk and some water. When we got to where the bear was hanging there were a hand full of Turkey Vultures flying low and waiting their turn. That was all, no other animal signs at all, phew what a relief. I was nervous about Cougars and was glad to have Sam and his 41 cal. with us. We began the work and it took us 2 trips packing meat out estimating our packs at about 40 lbs. each per trip. We didn't pack heavy cause we were whipped from the day before and it was only about a 40 minute trip one way. By the time we were finished we had over 2 dozen Turkey Vultures (TV's) circling and walking in on us and countless Ravens. We were glad to be done. The weather held with only a few light sprinkles beginning as we broke camp at 6 p.m. and headed home. Lucky or what? I'll take either!
My shot had hit his spine just in front of his right shoulder and boy was that lucky. Turned out it was 220 yards downhill and we had figured about 150 yd. at tops. Good thing we have rangefinders now. It was my first day out ever hunting bears and my first shot at an animal with my(then new) Rem. 7 mm Mag with a Nosler 160 grain Accubond. I was able to recover the bullet too. The skull scored 19 7/16 just missing B & C's new cut off at 20". The hide measured 7' 6" green and is still right at 7' wide and a touch short of 7' long. He was 11 years old and had not been to any bait stations. The ODFW uses tetracycline as a marker at their bait sites which is identifiable in the animals teeth when they are aged. His back molars were rotten and cavity riddled. He had a few scars on his face and otherwise was in excellent condition. I was quite surprised at how lean he was and the fact that he hardly smelled. In talking with the biologist in Oregon who studies bears, he estimated his live weight to be approximately 400 - 450 lbs. Also telling me that the average age of bears harvested in Oregon is 4 to 6 yrs. old with a few in the 20 age range annually, with the oldest being 30 that he's ever recorded.
I spent 4 days cleaning the meat 1 piece at a time of fat and sinew. When I was all done I weighed it and had 125 lbs of very clean meat. I tried cooking a steak and that was a bit like a superball. So then I marinated a steak and after several days still had the same results. I finally decided that it was time to have breakfast sausage and summer sausage made. That was the best tasting of both. It was really good and I hope my knee will be good enough here this spring to take me on a few walks to do some sitting and glassing. It was well worth with it. Next time I will deet up and be better prepared with an additional set of hunting clothes too!
This was an experience I will never forget. I only hope that I'll at least have the opportunity to harvest another bear. It may be a long time before I see a bear like my first one. Going to be a tough one to top, that's for sure.
I want to thank Sportsman's Taxidermy in Bend, Or. for making a beautiful rug. Owner George Coyle is an exceptional artist and takes great care and pride in preserving each and every animal. His attention to detail is of the highest caliber and I sincerely thank him for all his work.
If you're hunting in Oregon and need a top notch taxidermist, I highly recommend him. You won't be disappointed!
National Taxidermist Association
Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt