To be Frank:
There he was, fifty yards, and coming in on a string. I wasn’t expecting this, but for some odd reason I also wasn’t surprised. Throughout the entire sit, I felt as though it was going to happen, even though I continued to try to convince myself that what I was feeling was from just some unknown expired snack I had eaten the day before.
It was the first black bear boar I had ever laid my eyes on in the woods. He was silently closing the distance, and fast. What had started as a hopeful summer had quickly turned into a bleak, depressing week prior to opening day. I had put in countless hours and countless miles, packing in bait every other day to three different sites on three different public properties. Maintaining bait sites forty minutes from home was more work than I had ever imagined. An ongoing battle fighting off raccoons, bugs, and dehydration during the dog days of summer, but it paid off…initially.
A sight I had only dreamed of. I knew he was a big bear. I knew the opportunity was coming. After having two of my bait sites hit consistently for weeks, they suddenly went cold, both at the same time and for an unexplained reason. The third bait would never get hit, and two weeks before season opener, my high hopes came crashing down. I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know what to do. I just hoped and prayed that something would change because anything this close to the opener would be better than nothing.
He stopped there, broadside, at twenty yards, framed perfectly in a natural clearing of green oak branches. Here it was. This was it, the opportunity I hadn’t earned.
You read that right: the opportunity I hadn’t earned. The thing was, I was hunting a bait site I had never been to before. I was in the woods because I was supported and encouraged by family and friends I don’t deserve. Blessed with a God given opportunity to be in His creation; to be still while taking in His incredible handiwork. I was there because of very little work of my own. I was there because of three main reasons: Faith, Family, and Friends.
Faith: I am an imperfect, sinful, saved by grace Christ follower. I am beyond blessed to know a God who cares and who created the breathtaking wilderness that I have a passion for. I understand that how a hunt ends is incredibly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I also realize that every time I step foot in the woods, it is an opportunity to be still and know that He is God. Every breath of fresh air and every whisper of breeze through the pines gives me the ability to reflect and take in His beauty. Every minute in the woods as the birds sing His praise is another minute to grow closer to Him, to recognize and thank Him for all of the blessings that are continuously provided. Every animal I have the opportunity to harvest is a God-given, organic meal for my family and an opportunity to thank and glorify Him. This is the reason.
Family: My Dad is my hero. He introduced me to hunting and has always been incredibly supportive of the passion that I have for it. But I wasn’t introduced to hunting because it was something he did or loved to do. My Dad started hunting when I did. He took time out of his incredibly busy work schedule, to miss sleep and get up at 4:00 AM, to take his boys into the woods. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it wasn’t to go shoot something. He was intentionally investing time into us. He is my role model.
My opportunity to live up to his example is quickly coming. Having a beautiful wife, a two year old who “wants to eat a bear”, and a newborn at home, my time in the woods is not easy to come by. Even when afternoons this summer were not going the smoothest, I had a wife who encouraged me to go check and fill the baits. A wife who is constantly supportive of my passion for hunting and inspires me to become a better man. This is the reason.
Friends: There have been countless friends who have helped make me the outdoorsman I am today. Friends that have encouraged me to push past my comfort zone and go after an animal I have never pursued before. Friends that gave advice, information, and provided help with bait sites. A friend who told me he had placed a bait site on his land even though he didn’t have a tag for this year but knew I did. He wanted me to have the option to hunt it, and this is where I found myself sitting opening day. This is the reason.
Not yet,” I thought. The camera was running but pointed at the hollowed stump full of trail mix and chocolate covered cherries. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this is where I blew the opportunity I didn’t deserve. The wind was perfect, the bear was headed to the bait. Self-filming isn’t easy, but this, I thought, was going to be a cake walk. It was all going to happen on film at the bait site. Until suddenly, it didn’t.
Having a sixth sense, he quickly turned and began walking away. Something wasn’t right and he knew it. One mistake led to another and I panicked. I thought I could pull off the shot I should not take. An extremely hard quartering away shot left me with an arrow that only had a light two inches of blood on it, nowhere close to hitting anything vital. More than likely a glorified paper cut to a bear, but a mark I didn’t want to leave. This was on me.
He was gone. Strangely running off almost as quietly as he had walked in. Leaving with painful memories and lessons learned. But to be frank, he left me with a deeper appreciation of Faith, Family, and Friends, still thankful for the opportunity I didn’t deserve.
About The Author
Tyler Franks serves his community as a Law Enforcement Officer. He is an outdoor enthusiast, family man and follower of Christ. Tyler welcomes you along on his hunting journey this year.