May 21 ē 08:52 PM

Bowhunter's opening day experience more exciting than taking a big buck!

The ease and speed with which the bear killed the doe was amazing. Richard P. Smith photo
December 01, 2007
Although Iron River attorney Steve Polich didn't bag a whitetail on opening day of bow deer season, he went home with a far more exciting and unique experience to talk about than most bowhunters did that day. He got the rare opportunity to witness the strategies of two of the Upper Peninsula's top predators -- wolf and black bear -- in their efforts to secure an injured doe.

Who came out on top?

You might be surprised by the answer.

Polich set out to hunt from a treestand on the east side of a food plot on a large chunk of private land during the afternoon of October first. As he approached the food plot on foot around 2:30 p.m., he noticed four deer were already feeding in the opening planted with clover. He could tell two of the deer were small bucks and he didn't want to spook them, so he remained where he was, hoping they would soon finish feeding and return to nearby woods.

A third deer was obscured by brush and the fourth was a doe. Polich said she was looking intently at him and he was sure she could see him. He was surprised she wasn't leaving the field, but he later got a better idea of why her behavior wasn't normal.

The other deer eventually moved off, so Steve kept watching the doe. After about 10 minutes, the doe turned and a gash was obvious on her flank, with body parts hanging out of a large hole. The bowhunter's initial reaction was that someone had wounded the deer, but, upon looking more closely with his binocular, he figured the wound was too large to have been caused by an arrow.

After a long wait, the doe left the food plot and bedded in a berry patch nearby, allowing Steve to climb into his tree stand about 3 p.m. The injured whitetail was 125 to 150 yards away. The doe didn't remain bedded for long, according to Polich. It kept getting up, would move a short distance and lay down again.

Steve said, "In the meantime, various deer were coming and going from the food plot, her presence made them nervous. I had an inclination to shoot the doe, but I didn't want to mess up my first day of bowhunting. I decided to wait until late in the day to take care of her since I normally leave my treestand before it's too dark to shoot anyway.

At one point, there were 10 to 12 deer on the food plot," Polich continued. "By then, the injured doe had moved to a second berry patch. All of a sudden, the deer in the opening were all alert to something. The next thing I see is a wolf.

The wolf was coming to where the doe laid down. Deer in the food plot were wired, just watching him. The deer finally ran and the wolf ran, too, going 30 yards, running right past the berry patch the doe was in.

After things calmed down, the wolf went back to the doe's scent trail and resumed following it. When the wolf got five yards from the berry patch, the doe charged him and he ran away. That really surprised me. I thought the more than 100 pound wolf would have grabbed the deer and finished her off.

The wolf simply meandered off, going up a nearby ridge and out of sight. It just made no sense, based on what I thought I knew about wolves. Then I thought he might go get a couple of friends and come back.

About 20 minutes from dark, all of the deer in the food plot got alert again," Steve said. "I thought wolves were coming back. The deer bolted and within a few minutes, here comes a black bear in the 300 pound range. I've shot bears between 150 and 500 pounds, so I'm familiar with judging their size.

He looked like he was coming in to eat clover in the food plot. Then he got downwind of the injured doe and turned into the wind. He didn't change pace. He continued moving at a casual gait like you often see bears walking through the forest.

The bear homed right in on the doe. When he was almost to her, she started to get up and, with lightning speed, he grabbed her by the neck and flipped her around. The bear was making a growling sound and the deer was screaming. Then there was a crunch like if you took a dry one inch piece of maple and hit it against a tree. Then the doe was silent.

I thought the bear was going to rip her apart and eat her right there," Polich continued, "but he emerged from the berry patch, dragging the doe between his legs, with her neck in his mouth, and went back across the food plot and off the way he came from. It looked awkward the way he was dragging the deer, but he was not having a problem doing it.

I was amazed with the ease and speed with which the bear handled this. It was all over in 15 to 20 seconds. Witnessing what I did that evening was an amazing experience. When I got home, my son asked me if I got anything. I told him, 'I got a much better experience than shooting something."

It's a matter of speculation what was responsible for the doe's original injuries. A wolf such as the one Steve saw could have caught the doe and she managed to get away. She also might have injured herself while running through the woods as whitetails sometimes do. However the wildlife drama started, a lucky bowhunter was able to witness the final acts of a show that seldom has an audience.

Even though Steve didn't get a deer that day, the season is long enough that he has plenty of time to fill a tag. He's not likely to see what he did that day again any time soon.

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