Walking quietly through the woods under the cover of what remains of the night sky each morning is something every hunter does when pursuing they prey of choice. To gain an advantage over your target, employing scent control strategies and moving through heavily forested areas without being detected is the name of the game.
As such, in rare instances, we sometimes end up closer than expected to other wildlife, some dangerous, some not.
Such was the case for Seth Ziegler and his father in early September as they entered the mountains high above Dubois, Wyoming. With bows in hand, the pair were in search of bugling elk in an area in which they had enjoyed some previous success. As the Wisconsin natives took a seat on some downed logs, they sat and listened for the familiar sounds of elk making their way through the meadow below, hoping to make an ambush on some unsuspecting wapiti.
“The plan was to sit and listen for elk, and if we heard elk, we would move in on them,” Ziegler told County10.
About 15 minutes had passed when the 39-year-old heard what he suspected to be an elk approaching their position from behind. Readying his bow, he began to slowly turn around to gain a vantage point on the approaching animal. What he saw immediately caused his heart to sink as he identified the approaching animal as a large grizzly bear sow with three first-year cubs in tow.
Safely setting his bow down beside him, he began his calculated effort to prepare the bear spray he had holstered on his hip at which point the bear suddenly disappeared.
“My thought, as I was pulling my spray out of the holster, was to get the spray out with the safety off and pointing in her direction. That way, if she saw me and advanced, I would be ready to spray,” Ziegler said.
Unsure of the location of the bruin, he attempted to alert his unsuspecting father of the presence of the grizzly when suddenly the bear emerged and was quickly on top of him. Unable to deploy his bear spray, he was knocked from his perch, scattering his gear from his pack. Just as he thought he might not survive this encounter, he could hear his father’s screams when suddenly he felt the weight of the bear removed from his backside.
“I immediately grabbed the spray and stood up and started sprinting towards my Dad. I had no doubt that the bear had now turned her attack on him and needed to do what I could to help him,” Ziegler explained. “I got around a tree to look to see Dad holding his bow in the air screaming, ‘yeeaa you son of a b****!!!’ The bear, at this point, ran into the timber, stopped, looked back, and then took off.”
The bear promptly retreated from the scene, allowing the father-son duo to assess the physical damage of the ambush attack.
Luckily, Seth escaped with relatively minor wounds and the pair were able to escape to safety and alert the U.S. Forest Service. Officials promptly took statements and GPS coordinates from the encounter.
When asked if this would affect his hunting in the future, the 39-year-old quickly rebuffed the question.
“I know how lucky we were in this situation but I also understood the risk before and still understand the risk now. I guess to me, there are risks every single day, no matter what you do. I could get into a car accident just going to the grocery store. At least elk hunting, I’m doing something that I’m passionate about and love to do. I don’t have that same passion for going to the grocery store, but I’m still going to do it.”