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Maine Fly Fish
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The Bear Incident

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Kevin McKay

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I slowly rolled open my window as my sister asked, “What are you doing?”

I replied, “ I heard a noise outside the camper!”

The cans were rattling and the night was very dark but, what light was left from the slowly dying campfire, showed a silhouette of something moving directly below my window. I whispered to my parents, “Mom, dad!”

“What?” said mom.

“I think something is right outside my window.” She told me to go back to sleep but, before she got the words out of her mouth, the cans rattled again!

By this time, we were all quiet and my sister and I both had our windows open, trying to see what was out there. My dad thought it was a raccoon but, when the big, black bear tore into our camper, we knew he was wrong! He quickly rolled the windows up and the bear slowly moved onto the next campsite.

Earlier in the day, I was down on the dock casting worms for sunfish or, anything that would bite. I was having a great time wasting the summer day away. The sunfish would use the protection of the dock and eat the small minnows and insects that found their way under the dock. Well, the first siting of the bear was when someone came into the store and said there was a kid down on the dock fishing and the bear had walked out a few steps on the dock but decided to keep moving on! I had no clue because I was so focused on those sunfish!

Back then, Baxter State park would capture the bears that got too friendly with people and would bring them down to the Jo-Mary Lake area and release them, hoping they would become wild again but what would happen is, they would find the dump. The dump was a place where the campground and loggers would dump the daily trash. Soon, this became the place to go at dusk to watch bears. This was one of our nightly traditions. We would all pile into the back of the pick-up truck and drive to the dump. So, there we were, in the back of the truck, with these black bears going through the garbage.

Later that night, we were lying there talking about the bear and how exciting it was to see one up that close. It seemed one of the bears found its way into the campground and started going through the campground’s garbage cans. We heard a few vehicles drive by and not long after that, we heard a gun shot. We knew immediately what had happened. The campground owner and some others had heard of the siting of the bear and were out hunting it.

That was my close encounters of the Bear kind!

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In 1967 my Dad rented a Dodge motorhome and loaded us up for a cross country vacation.I turned 12 on that trip. In Yellowstone we stayed at Fishing Bridge campground. The sight of those big cutthroats idling in the current below the bridge was amazing. I couldn't get them to take any of my eastern streamers until a nice older guy gave me a muddler minnow.I had never seen one before. It must have been right around the time that the muddler was developed. I managed to catch a few good fish and brought a couple back to the motorhome for dinner. I didn't pay attention to the do not clean fish signs in the campground and put the guts in the nearest "bearproof" trash can. In the middle of the night there was screaming and a lot of noise right out side our door. A local bear had found the trash can with the fish in it, ripped the can from its post and destroyed the can to get to the fish. The next morning my old man broke camp in record time and we hit the road.

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I used to fly fish the Deerfield when I first got married, 15 years ago, and camp at the state park on the Cold River. You always had to be watchful of bears when walking at night. Saw alot in the campground. One morning while wading there was a loud trampling coming through the woods next to me, I was ready to go swimming. Turned out to be the noisest beaver I ever heard. I now have instructed both my daughters that if they see a bear what to do. Most times back away slowly, especially if cubs are present. I always used to wave my arms and yell, my wife laughed (as she locked herself in the truck), but it worked.

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