Fact is stranger than Fiction!
By Dave Samuel (Field Editor)

Bear Hunting Magazine
May/June 2005

During the 2004 bear harvest season here in Wisconsin, we had one of those fact is strange than fiction incidents I though you might enjoy hearing about.

I had planned on making my annual elk trip to Wyoming during the first week of October. Due to a business meeting scheduled right in the middle of the week I was forced to make a tough decision. Hunt or tend to work? That has always been a tough one for me, but since I had already enjoyed the complete summer off from work to run my hounds during our training season in Wisconsin, I felt it was better to attend the work meeting this time.

I sent an email to a bunch of friends offering to guide hunters in a non-trophy hunt scenario at no fee just so I could keep on hunting. In Wisconsin, during harvest season, we must have an open harvest permit to run our dogs. I had several responses and lined up a few more hunters for the next couple weeks.

The gentleman with the tag showed up as arranged and we headed out to see if we could catch a bear. He had been hunting over bait at another guiding service in Northern Wisconsin and had been unsuccessful at filling his tag. The catch was, if they came and hunted with me at no charge, I was not going to keep trying for an extra large bear for them. I agreed to take the largest track we had at the baits each morning and try it for them but if we treed a legal bear I wanted it harvested for the dogs sake.

Please do not misunderstand, I am not a houndsman that wants to see all the bear shot or thinks that every bear treed needs to be shot down to our dogs. It had been a long season for the dogs and they had performed extremely well for me. In a hunt like this we were going to hunt some of our younger dogs and concentrate on getting them on a harvested bear. It seems when we are after a big bear, most of the time the older and more experienced dogs get on the track and a lot of the younger, up and coming dogs, do not get a reward for their hard work all summer.

We found a nice track and guessed the bear would dress out at the 130 to 140 pound mark. Dogs were turned loose and the race was on. The bear stayed on the ground for a couple of hours and at times we were not even sure what the dogs were doing. One theory was the bear had bayed up and was just walking with the dogs.

We hunt an area that is extremely rough and full of many steep ridges with deep valleys intersecting them. At times the dogs may not be that far away but you cannot hear them or hardly get a beep on them.

After a couple of hours of chasing dogs and signals around, the bear was seen crossing the road with my better half’s new Black and Tan right on the track, actually ahead of many of the more experienced dogs. We were able to catch some of the back dogs and replace them with younger dogs and the race was up and going again. This time the bear was in an area where we could hear what was happening. About 30 minutes later, someone hollered that they thought the dogs were treed. In we headed with the hunter.

Sure enough the bear was sitting up about 20 feet in large pine, just as content as could be. This bear had run in front of the dogs for about 2 1/2 hours and then climbed a tree 20 feet up. This is important to remember when we get to the fact and fiction portion of this story.

The hunter was more than happy to harvest the bear. Pictures were taken, dogs were praised for a job well done and tied back. The hunter loaded his muzzleloader and shot the bear. The dogs zoomed in at the bear and thought they were the toughest pack of dogs alive. They had the bear on the ground and were biting him and the bear was not fighting back. That really boosts a dog’s confidence and helps to make better dogs.

As we took pictures at the harvest site, we notice the ear on the right side of the head had a large slit in it. With closer examination we noticed that there was also a cut on the head between the eye and the same ear. We decided it looked like the bear had been fighting with another bear. Dogs do not cut the hide on a bear so that was ruled out. The hide is just too tough for a dog to penetrate the hide with its teeth.

We posed the hunter and the bear and took several pictures then headed out to the trucks, dragging the bear. The bear was registered and then we headed back to my house to skin it and send the hunter and his trophy on the way home.

After hoisting the bear up, we started skinning. When I got down to caping the skull, things got very interesting. I noticed on the left hand side, right above the eye itself but below the bone surrounding the eye, there was a piece of metal projecting itself out of the corner of the eye about a 1/16 th of an inch. Still nothing came to mind what it could be. As I caped the other side I found what appeared to be a hole in the skull plate between the ear and the eye on the right hand side. Now this was getting interesting and we had an idea what it was but could not believe it.

I finished caping so we could get a good look and we still could not tell for sure what it was. I took a small hammer and a punch and inserted it into the hole in the skull on the right hand side. We started to tap and sure enough, the point that was projecting itself by the left eye began to move. As I drove the punch in further the tip started to show on the far side. We took pictures because we knew that no one would believe what we were seeing or doing.

What we found was an arrow shaft with a full razor three bladed head, razor sharp, attached to a section of carbon arrow shaft inserted under the skull cap. The arrow had entered from the rear of the skull, piercing the ear, causing the slice in the ear, but in back of the eye. The entrance hole in the skull itself was about halfway between the ear and the eye. The angle of the penetration brought the tip of arrow out just above where humans have the tear duct in the corner of the eye.

The eye was in perfect shape and was not cloudy at all. There was no infection from the wound around the entrance or exit hole. Basically, this arrow had penetrated about an inch below the top of the skull and followed a path through the skull, without cracking the skull plate, exiting above and in front of the eye on the opposite side of the head.

This bear was healthy, was eating at the bait site, plus he had been feeding on acorns. He then ran for a number of miles ahead of the dogs and climbed a tree about 20 feet. It definitely did not act like it had any ill effects from an arrow being lodged in its skull.

If anyone would have bet me you could drive an arrow through a bears skull at that angle and not hit the brain or kill it, I would have bet them with no hesitation. I wonder what the archer who placed the shot was thinking when the bear ran off? This hunt took place in the northwest part of Wisconsin in Zone A close to the A-1 border. If you know of an archer who has a tail to tell of a bear that he shot in the head and it ran off, I can verify the hit for him!

Fact is stranger than fiction.