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Bear hunt-wolf encounter

Jason Bradley with the 160-pound black bear he shot near Bessemer in the western Upper Peninsula. Photo provided. (click for larger version)
October 12, 2011 - After years of hunting, area sportsman Jason Bradley can recall some rather unique experiences in the woods.

Yet, the events of a mid-September bear hunt in some remote Upper Peninsula wilderness may be the most memorable so far.

Black bear season opened on Sept.10 across northern regions of Michigan and for the past eight years Bradley, 37, had made the nine and a half-hour, 550 mile trek from his Groveland Township home to Bessemer in Gogebic County in the western section of the Upper Peninsula.

Bradley, along with two local hunting companions, made the drive to Bessemer for two consecutive weekends prior to opening day to set out bear bait— a mixture of raw honey and cereal.

"We call it, 'sticky granola,'" he said. "We had trail cameras and could see bear were coming into the bait, mostly at night."

Bradley had taken two bear with a bow and arrow prior to the 2011 season.

However, while this season appeared to be promising given the activity around the bait pile, after seven days of hunting Bradley had yet to connect on a bear.

"I decided to switch to my gun—I figured my chances would improve if a bear did not come in close enough for a bow shot."

Bradley was hunting with a .308 Remington bolt action—plenty of fire power, he added.

His luck changed during the afternoon hunt.

"On my way out to my bait pile a grey wolf was watching me—he was pretty far away when I first saw him. But he was watching me—I'd say he was looking for a free meal—he came closer very slowly within 15 yards—he even tried to make eye contact. The wolf was acting sneaky, pacing back and forth, not to mention it would be dark in about two hours. My concern was there could be 20 more wolves nearby. He was just standing there looking at me."

Climbing into his tree stand about 20 feet over the forest floor, Bradley saw a bear sow and three cubs come into the bait.

"That mama bear was right under me. A few minutes later, a fifth bear came in to the bait," he said. "I shot it before it got to the bait."

The sow ran away and her cubs went up a nearby tree.

"Now I not only had a wolf in the area, I also had three 80-pound cubs up a tree near me with the mom nearby," he said.

By the time Bradley located the downed bear, a wolf had torn about 25 percent of the hide off the underside of the 160-pound bear.

"The sow stayed off until we dragged the bear out of the area," he said. "The cubs were still up in the tree, I'm certain their mother was not too far off, either."

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