THE BEAR HUNTER
by Ken Fischman
Published in The Sandpoint Reader, 1/31/05
The phone rings in a plush office of a high rise Boise office building. An elegantly dressed, middle aged man, answers it at his desk. He hears a woman's, voice. “It is now 0900 hours on the ninth of September, year 2005. Your Super Remote Teletronic Animal Harvesting Device has made a bear-kill at 0700 hours of this day in sector B345 of the Payette National Forest. Please refer to your electronic map for the best route to this location".
The man is delighted. This hunting season he will get his trophy head. He cancels his appointments for the rest of day and heads home, where he exchanges his vintage red MG sports car for his $45,000 Mitsubishi pickup, which is carrying a John Deer Special remote-control all-terrain vehicle in its bed. He hastily loads it with a sealed package containing, among other things, a canvas bag, rope, and small chain saw, and heads north on Rt. 55.
During the two hour ride he reminisces about the vicissitudes of the old days of bear hunting, when he used bait and dogs, and the failed campaign by those "lunatic animal lovers" to infringe on the rights of hunters to hunt bears in the most efficient manner possible. He chuckles, and thinks “You cannot stop progress", He muses further on how primitive man used to hunt huge cave bears with only spears and pit traps, and how physically exhausting and dangerous it must have been.
What a great improvement these new high tech methods over the 1990s hunting methods. Now the odds are more on our side, and there is no need to get up at 5:30 AM, bundle up, trudge into the mountains, get cold, wet, dirty, and then sometimes not even get a bear.
In his mind, he goes over the new high tech hunting methods, such as remote sensing devices, laser-aimed, computer-controlled weapons, and satellite tracking game locators that can be set for any kind of animal. He then remembers with chagrin that the previous model he had sometimes misidentified the game animal. One time he took off a whole day to go up there, expecting to harvest an elk, and instead found a cow! However, the dealer had assured him that glitch in the harvesting software had been.
corrected in the new model that he had recently purchased. It had better be. He had paid a mint for it!
He arrives at the trail head, and still in his business suit, he unloads the ATV, places the package in it, and climbs in. He turns on the computer, punches some keys, and away he goes, automatically being driven to his "kill". The ATV's computer ascertains the shortest way to the kill and maneuvers expertly, using its universally jointed, independently suspended wheels to get over and around all obstacles. The man sits, back, mixes himself a drink, and turns on the TV. Not finding anything interesting, he switches it off and his mind turns to how he and his wife had argued about this new hunting device.
“I really will never understand that woman, how she can prefer to hike into the forest, insisting that she enjoys 'experiencing nature first hand." Several times she had actually tried to entice him to go with her! No way. He did not want an that effort and discomfort. He saw with distaste the way she had to bundle up with boots, gloves, down coat, and her silly red wool beret.
The ATV arrives at a shallow but steep ravine, that it cannot negotiate and cannot find a good route around due to heavy alder thickets. The ATV's computer informs him of this, and that the kill is located only thirty feet away. "Damn", he thinks, "I should have spent the extra money and gotten the model with tree-cutter capacity." He curses, because it has become obviously windy and colder. He gets out, unzips the packet, pulls out and puts on Mylar coveralls. He starts to carry the canvas bag and chainsaw down into the ravine. His patent leather shoes slip on the scree, and he tumbles to the bottomtwisting his knee and hitting his head on a rock.
He regains consciousness, minutes or perhaps hours later, finding himself at the bottom of the ravine and in a full-scale blizzard. He cannot see more than a few feet ahead. He realizes that his knee is hurt badly enough so that he cannot walk, and he feels panicky. He tries to calm himself but soon begins to drop into hypothermia. He thinks “I’ve got to get back in the ATV, and order it to get me back to the trail head. I can also radio for assistance, and the satellite tracker will guide the Medic copter to me." As he drags himself laboriously over the lip of the ravine, he lifts his head and sees a beautiful fox standing in the snow, looking at him. He feels a strange kinship with it, but the fox just flicks its tail and calmly trots into the storm. "Wait, don't go," the bear hunter mumbles.
He looks ahead and dimly perceives a snow-covered form lying on the ground ahead of him. "Damn" he says. "It's the bear. I climbed up the wrong side of the ravine!" He reaches out to the form and grasps something that comes away in his hand. He looks at it. It is a red beret.
He lapses into unconsciousness again. The storm grows in intensity. It will be very cold that coming night on the mountain, just as it has been for millennia