“Yes. I think he’s your bear.”
“I’m afraid he’s got away. The hounds took another bear down the canyon. What’ll we do?”
“Come on down,” I said.
Fifty yards or more down the slope we met. I showed him a great splotch of blood on a flat stone. “We’ll find him not far down,” I said. So we slid and crawled, and held to brush and rocks, following that bloody trail until we came to a ledge. From there I espied the bear lodged against a manzanita bush. He lay on his back, all four paws extended, and he was motionless. R.C. and I sat down right there on the ledge.
“Looks pretty big—black and brown—mostly brown,” I said. “I’m glad, old man, you stuck it out.”
“Big!...” exclaimed R.C. with that same peculiar little laugh. “He doesn’t look big now. But up there he looked like a hill.... What do you think? He came up that very way you told me to look out for. And if I hadn’t had ears he’d got right on me. As it was, when I heard little rolling stones, and then saw him, he was almost on a level with me. My nerve was all right. I knew I had him. And I made sure of my first shot. I knocked him flat. But he got up—let out an awful snarl—and plunged my way. I can’t say I know he charged me. Only it was just the same as if he had!... I knocked him down again and this time he began to kick and jump down the slope. That was my best shot. Think I missed him the next three. You see I had time to get shaky. If he had kept coming at me—good night!... I had trouble loading. But when I got ready again I ran down and saw him in that bush. Wasn’t far from him then. When he let out that bawl he saw me. I don’t know much about bears, but I know he wanted to get at me. And I’m sure of what he’d have done.... I didn’t miss my last shot.”
We sat there a while longer, slowly calming down. Wonderful indeed had been some of the moments of thrill, but there had been others not conducive to happiness. Why do men yearn for adventure in wild moments and regret the risks and spilled blood afterward?
The hounds enjoyed a well-earned rest the next day. R.C. and I, behind Haught’s back, fed them all they could eat. The old hunter had a fixed idea that dogs should be kept lean and hungry so they would run bears the better. Perhaps he was right. Only I could not withstand Old Dan and Old Tom as they limped to me, begging and whining. Yet not even sore feet and hunger could rob these grand old hounds of their dignity. For an hour that morning I sat beside them in a sunny spot.
In the afternoon Copple took me on a last deer hunt for that trip. We rode down the canyon a mile, and climbed out on the west slope. Haught had described this country as a “wolf” to travel. He used that word to designate anything particularly tough. We found the ridge covered with a dense forest, in places a matted jungle of pine saplings. These thickets were impenetrable. Heavy snows had bent the pines so that they grew at an angle. We found it necessary to skirt these thickets, and at that, sometimes had to cut our way through with our little axes. Hunting was scarcely possible under such conditions. Still we did not see any deer tracks.