When veteran hunter Jerry Hause, 60, went out bowhunting on Washington’s September 1 season opener, he expected a quiet day in the woods with his son and perhaps a chance at some elk. What he did not expect was getting into a scuffle with a black bear while hanging off a tree branch.
“I was thinking, ‘If it gets me out of this tree I’m a dead man,'” Hause told The Daily News.
The encounter occurred while Hause was driving elk toward where his son, Jeffrey Hause, waited in a treestand near Abernathy Creek. The hunter said he was taking a break when he noticed a black bear about 80 to 100 yards away. Hause originally thought the bear was a cub, and decided to leave the area before its mother came around. However, he soon realized that the bear was no cub, and estimated it at upwards of 250 pounds as the animal began charging at him. Armed with only his bow and a few arrows, Hause decided it would be better to climb a nearby tree for safety.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years and I’m not confident enough to be flinging arrows at a charging bear,” Hause told KPTV.
While fleeing up a tree may have been a good idea with most other predators, black bears are agile climbers. Hause said that the agitated bear followed him up the tree where he was hanging from a branch, and began biting him in the leg. Male black bears occasionally fight for dominance while in trees, and are known to throw each other off, often to fatal effect. Hause knew that if the bear managed to peel him off the branch, he would be in considerably more trouble. That is when the hunter decided to use his position over the bear to his advantage.
“Unconsciously or not I pulled myself up enough that I kicked with my right foot. When I kicked with my right foot I think I hit him right in the nose and he let go instantly and dropped down,” said Hause.
Hause watched the bear leave and then waited another 10 minutes before he dropped down. He had sustained lacerations and a deep puncture mark to one of his legs when the bear bit him, but was able to hike back to his truck and call his son, who drove him to a nearby hospital. Hause has since been treated and released.
Wildlife officials say that bear attacks are rare in Washington, which hosts a population of 25,000 to 30,000 black bears. Almost all bear attacks are the result of a surprise encounter or conflict with a sow and her cubs. State wildlife officials advise that if attacked by a bear, try to fight back aggressively and if overpowered, curl into a ball on ground and try to protect your head.
Hause says that next time, he will bring along a gun during bow season.
Image courtesy Gary Carter/National Park Service