I have always enjoyed the opportunity to get out into the wilderness to spend time alone. For me, it is a time to reflect upon my relationship with God. “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10) The challenge for me is staying awake and focused. I am often reminded of these words: “Could you not keep watch for one hour?” (Mark 14:37)
Last year was my first adventure in hunting black bear. I joined a friend who had previously been to the Moose Horn Lodge and we drove to Chapleau, Canada. Once we arrived, we were guided to our hunting locations and set up our blinds for the hunt. Each day, we departed by 2:00 p.m. from the lodge to hunt our location until dark shortly after 9:00 p.m., and then walked the trial back to the main road to be picked up. Each day, I sat patiently at the bait site waiting to encounter a black bear. Everyone else was having success in seeing and harvesting a black bear, and I listened to their stories and sought their wisdom. I learned that that you have to remain still and that you will not hear the black bear as they approach, they just show up. If they get spooked they will probably return.
Every day, I sat quietly in my blind 14 yards from the bait site hoping to harvest a black bear with my bow and arrow. Nothing seemed to be working. The bears were not coming to my location. Doug, the guide, continued adding bait each day and I was encouraged to hang in there. On the last day of the hunt, I sat quietly. As the hours passed by, I began to doubt that I was going to see a bear. With 10 minutes of hunting light left, I gave up. I removed my release, put the arrow in the quiver, and placed my bow in the soft sided case. I began to zip the case closed, and then I looked up and saw a large boar (male bear) standing 25 yards from me. With my heart pounding, I hurriedly got the archery equipment back out of the case. By the time I was ready; the bear had approached to 14 yards and was standing next to the bait site, facing my direction, cautiously sniffing the air. I waited for the bear to turn towards the bait and was going to draw once he stopped. The bear passed behind the bait and quickly disappeared into the woods. I spent the last five minutes of the hunt waiting for him to return. My hunting buddy arrived and signaled for me. I gathered my belongings and departed the woods. I learned that you need to have confidence in your hunting location and never give up hunting until it is time to leave.
I returned this year with excitement. On the way to the lodge, we spotted several bears. Doug guided us to our hunting locations and we set up our blinds. The bait had already been hit by bears at each of our hunting locations. We settled into the cabin and prepared for an adventure. During the first two days of the hunt, most of the hunters had either harvested their bear or seen a bear up close. I had grown accustom to seeing and hearing squirrels and chip monks running and jumping onto my pop-up blind.
On the third day, the wind was blowing as a storm front passed. That afternoon, I sat quietly in my blind, listening to familiar sounds. As the wind quit blowing, the woods became very calm. You could hear a leaf fall from a tree. I sensed that I needed to get ready. After a long period of silence, I heard the sound of a leaf being crushed behind my location. I slowly turned my head to the left and saw a large bear approaching. He took two more steps and was standing outside the entrance of my blind, three feet away, sniffing the air. The only thing separating the two of us was the fabric of the blind. With my heart racing, I was reminded of the words of Genesis 9:2, "The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beast of the earth . . ." As I watched him, I wondered which one of us was going to flinch first. With my bow sitting beside me, I began moving slowly reaching for my weapon. The bear bolted and ran away into the woods. As I sat there with my heart pounding, I was thinking that was an exciting experience, a close encounter of the furry kind.
Just as soon as I finished that thought, I spotted the bear approaching the bait from the direction he had run. He was walking to the bait site that was located 14 yards away in a dominating manor. He kept looking my direction as he began to claim his food. I quickly said a prayer and asked the Lord to guide my thoughts and actions. As he stood sideways at the bait, I drew my bow back, anchored, aimed behind his front leg, and released. The arrow flew true and passed through the bear for a double-lung shot. He ran twenty yards and crashed into the dense forest. There laid my first black bear; a seven foot – 300 pound bruin. It scored 18 7/8 inches (green) and should qualify for Pope and Young entry.
As I returned home, I reflected upon these events and the subject of close encounters. I was reminded of Moses who first encountered God in the form of a burning bush. (Exodus 3) Later in Moses’ life, he would meet regularly with God in the tent of meeting. “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” (Exodus 33:11) Moses asked God, “If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you.” (Exodus 33:13) Moses also asked to see God’s glory. God responded by directing Moses to a place near him. God placed him in a cleft in the rock, and as His glory passed by Moses, God covered him with His hand until He had passed by so Moses would live, and then removed His hand allowing Moses to see His back. (Exodus 33:18-23)
I was reminded of Isaiah’s encounter with God when he saw the Lord and was in fear because he realized that he was a man of unclean lips. He responded to God’s invitation and said, “Here am I, send me.” (Isaiah 6:1-8) I was also reminded of John’s encounter with the risen Savior and how he fell at His feet as a dead man, and was encouraged, “Do not be afraid.” (Revelation 1:17)
God reminded me of the many close encounters that I have with Him. How He saved me from my sin, and brought me into a relationship with Him. His continual guidance and leadership in my life as I seek Him daily through reading His Word (the Bible) and prayer. My close encounter with the bear serves as a spiritual maker in my life. It is my prayer that I would never take for granted my relationship with Christ and serve Him in fear and reverence.
In Christ’s Service,
Texas Baptist Men