While accepting an invite from Andy Larsson, owner of Skinner Sights, to go on a spring bear hunt, I had no idea what to expect. Funny things have a way of developing whenever venturing out of your comfort zone. With truth being stranger than fiction, or should I say, funnier than fact, we had a ball. We would be hunting in Andy’s home state of Montana.
Admittedly, I was nervous about trapsing through Montana’s rugged back country. To prepare, I was walking 3 miles, five to six times a week, and felt pretty good about things, even with two titanium/polymer knees. It was going to be a “spot and stalk” style hunt in some of the most beautiful mountains Montana had to offer.
Andy later called it a “laugh and gaffe” hunt. I had Andy laughing so hard recalling my antics he aspirated a noodle while slurping chicken soup during a midday break. He finally managed to pass it, as it slithered through his sinus passage and out his left nostril. Those are anyone’s risks when hunting with me.
Being from Maryland, I was walking on relatively flat ground, something Montana is relatively void of. It’s either up, or up some more. In a nutshell, it kicked my butt. But it’s good getting your butt kicked every now and then. It’s humbling, making you face the facts. I know I’m no longer 25 … 35, or even 55, anymore.
GoPro Assist Bikes
Andy had an idea to help us negotiate the mountains. He brought along a couple of GoPro motor assist bikes to assist us in gobbling up miles of logging roads. He briefly explained how the gears and motor assist worked on the bikes.
I thought I understood — on the first steep incline, he pulled away as I was pumping the pedals for all I was worth. After 10 minutes, Andy was gone. “Where’d he go? Where’d my seat go?” This is going to be a long week. Turns out I had my gears and motor assist set backwards. Motor assist was on 1 and the gears were on 5. I should have had motor assist on 4 or 5, with the gears on 1 or 2. After things were figured out, it was much better … until we hit the snow drifts.
I figured I’d just cruise right through the snow. Andy did. Wrong! Hitting the snow, I went into a violent fishtail, front wheel death wobble. My mind was yelling, “eject, eject…” and suddenly I was making snow angels. The snow felt good as my steaming body got a much needed cool down. Laughing, Andy’s panicked face lightens up. After my first snow crash, I managed to wreck only three more times. The bike and I managed to survive.
Law Of Larsson
One of the first bears we saw was a huge boar with a beautiful shimmery black coat. He ran across the road as we made a turn around the bend. Andy stopped the truck and I bailed out after the bruin, following him down a steep embankment. Seeing a beautiful, rolling creek below, the bear disappeared. Coming back up the bank, Andy reached over to give me a hand up.
Straining, he started teetering, and I feel myself slightly edging back. Fighting both weight (mine) and the laws of physics, Andy was in the tug-o-war of his life. Taking one for the team, I released my grip and summersaulted backward down the embankment. “Taannnkkk! Are you okay?” are the only fading words I hear as I toboggined down the embankment. That statement would become the battle cry of the hunt …
In all, we saw seven or eight bears, passing on two smaller ones. We made a nice stalk, but I couldn’t get a shot because of a deadfall in the way. During the hunt, I carried Andy’s Ruger Bisley .480 in a Simply Rugged pancake holster. The gun never left the holster from my shenanigans and nary a mark was left on it after my “field test.” Rob Leahy’s holsters are indeed sourdough tough, better yet, they’re Tank Tested Tough, and I’m rough on gear, whether I want to or not.
Towards the end of the week, after a hot meal and shower, I made it to bed. I was beat up, sore, and my back was tight. When rolling over, I must have let out a death moan because Andy shouted, “Tank, are you okay?” Either Andy thought I was having a heart attack or was having a nightmare? Either way it made me laugh myself to sleep before another day of being a simply rugged test dummy.