Alberta’s Literary Bears

Atlantic It was an improbable sequence of events that I suspect has never happened before and I seriously doubt would ever happen again.

As I usually do, I took some reading material into the stand with me last night. I’ve gone through all the books in camp so I had a couple of magazines that I picked up during the last trip to High Level—specifically the latest issues of Harpers and the Atlantic Monthly.

It’s a fact of life that when hunting from stands stuff falls and I hadn’t been up there long before my copy of the Atlantic sailed off the perch. (The night before my knife fell and the night before that my headlamp made the leap.)

Toward the end of legal shooting light a medium-sized bear approached the stand. He looked an awful lot like the bear that had visited me earlier that afternoon but I wasn’t certain whether it was the same animal.

He didn’t show any interest in the bait and instead walked underneath my stand and sniffed at the magazine. He lay down next to it and started rubbing his head on it, flipping through some pages in the process. Really.

I was amused by this spectacle up to the point he grabbed the magazine in his mouth. I hadn’t had a chance to get through much of the issue and it was the last copy in the store and I experience a certain level of panic when I don’t have anything to read.

I was tempted to throw my binocular at him, the Swarovski 7x50 I mentioned earlier, but rejected this thought almost immediately because (a) the Swarovski’s are very, very expensive, (b) they are really heavy and I didn’t want to break them or hurt the bear, and (c) they aren’t mine.

Instead I grabbed the small tree next to the stand, which the bear was resting against, and pushed. It was a dead white poplar and it broke with a loud crack and fell over on the startled bear. The boar jumped like a scalded cat and scooted about 30 feet away. He stopped and gazed back over his shoulder at me with a reproachful look.

It just so happened that right under his nose was a subscription card from the magazine. He took one sniff, sat down again and ate it.

Less than a minute later my guide came to pick me up on his ATV and I climbed down to recover my magazine.

—John Snow