I’m not afraid, but you may choose to not view the pictures I took. Therefore, I will explain big game hunting in southwest Oregon first and save the photos for the end.
I realize that hunting is a sport. My own father was a hunter until he brought home a rabbit he shot and my 5-year-old little brother, Ken, was horrified that our Dad had killed the Easter Bunny!
Deer hunting prevails in Ohio because these animals are over-populated and their meat, venison, is enjoyed by many. As a child I cried every time I watched the movie, Bambi, and his mother was killed. But somehow I understood the “reasoning” behind shooting deer and I wasn’t appalled seeing pictures of dead Bambis. Maybe this is because I watched a lot of black and white TV westerns growing up and became de-sensitized to pictures of killed deer? After all, Native Americans and the first settlers were hunters and gatherers. There were no grocery stores to supply their daily sustenance.
Jeff and I do our homework before applying for the Camp Hosts position at Remote Outpost RV Park and Cabins. We know there are plentiful birds to watch, abundant fish to catch in the Coquille River, and that hunters set up camp here throughout the year to travel up the back roads of the mountainsides to find and kill the game of the season.
Within a week of our arrival, Dean and Shane show up in their RVs and hunt black bears all day in Bone Mountain. Early mornings and late afternoons I get to know them better. Their lust for bear hunting becomes contagious. I wait everyday for their return, hoping to find out that they have bagged a bear. They explain to me that they kill bears for the organic meat and the thrill of the hunt. Dean and Shane clarify further that skilled, responsible hunting is more humane than the slaughter of cows, pigs, and chickens that we purchase in sealed packages in the grocery store. Apparently bear meat tastes like a mix of beef and pork and can be eaten like a steak or made into sausage or jerky.
So, the bear hunters I know kill bears with the intention of eating what they shoot.
According to huntingnet.com, bears have no natural predators, except other bears, so hunting is a way to control the bear population. Also adult male bears are known to prey on cubs, elk and moose calves, and deer fawns.
Native Americans used bear fat for medicinal purposes, as cooking oil, and as lamp fuel. Early American settlers also made bear fat into oil and fuel. (en.m.wikipedia.org)
The heavily timbered forests of Oregon are a welcome environment for black bears to thrive. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife highly regulates the hunting of these game mammals. According to dfw.state.or.us, black bears can be hunted in the spring and fall. Spring bear hunting season is from April 1st or April 15th – May 31st. A limited number of Southwest Oregon spring bear tags are sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Fall bear hunting season lasts from August 1st – December 31st and only 1 black bear per issued tag is allowed. Furthermore, it is unlawful to kill bear cubs less than 1- year-old or sows with cubs less than a year old.
Other regulations include a mandatory check in for all bears. This means that the skull must be presented to an ODFW office or collection site within 10 days for the purpose of data gathering and removal of a pre-molar tooth for aging. By counting rings on sectioned and stained teeth, biologists can estimate the age of each bear which is then used to help determine black bear populations and help the management of black bears in Oregon.
The reproductive tract of female bears must also be checked in to the ODFW field office to help estimate birth rates and litter sizes.
These mandatory check in requirements also provide the ODFW with the date and location of the harvest along with information about the hunter supplied by his or her tag. (dfw.state.or.us)
Below are the pictures I took. If you have ever seen a bear-skin rug or watched a butcher cutting fresh meat, I don’t think these photos will upset you.
This is 19-year-old Jeff’s first bear.
He saves the head of the bear per regulations.
The skinned bear is ready for filleting into steaks.
Jeff is a culinary student at the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute in Coos Bay. He plans on cooking the bear steaks in class on Monday.
The second bear is harvested over Memorial Day weekend by an even younger hunter, either Dean or Shane’s 11-year-old son. He approaches me and asks if I would like to see his bear skin that will be made into a rug. Of course!