Unexpected Result: Bear Responding To Rattling Antlers

Submitted By Brian Bontomase 

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It was the fall of 1992 in Central PA. Archery season had just opened and I was in full anticipation of what the season held and what might transpire! It was also my first archery hunt and first solo hunt. What made it even more special was, my family had recently moved back to PA from NJ, so it was my first season on our new property!

The first 2 days of the season were extremely windy, so I had no deer sightings and was a bit disgruntled.

The 3rd day was absolutely exceptional! A perfect day that was cool and calm and I just knew something different was going to happen! I was a freshman in high school that year. So I could hardly wait to get off the bus on my way back home! My heart raced the closer we got!

I decided to also change up my strategy as well to see if I could increase my odds of laying eyes on a trophy buck. I had read about a new technique used while rattling in an article from Outdoor Life. It was simply to use a grunt call while rattling at the same time, making it sound like 2 bucks were really struggling with each other. Even though it was a little early in the season, I figured I would still give it a try.

As I arrived back home, I hurried to change into my hunting clothes and grab my gear! I sprayed down with Scent Killer and snuck my way to my stand. I was positioned under a small hemlock with low hanging branches and I had piled branches around the tree ahead of time to conceal my movement. I was also on the edge of an oak and hemlock flat, which was about 15 yards off a gully in front of me.

I let things settle down for about 10 minutes before starting my sequence. I started off with a few soft grunts with some light sparing just tickling the antlers together. I would do a short sequence and let things settle a bit. Then start up again progressively increasing the volume with more breaks in between.

This went on for roughly 45 minutes with no response. Suddenly, a grouse flew out of a hemlock no more than 5 yards behind me! Almost scaring the crap out of me! I shrugged it off saying, okay you got me. I had been rattling at the time, so I thought it was spooking because of me.

About 5 minutes later during my grunting sequence, a squirrel that was feeding a mere 3 yards away suddenly jumped unto the base of a large oak! It was barking and twitching its tail. Again, I said, you got me and didn't think anything of it.

Black Bear Responding To Rattling

Black Bear Responding To Rattling. You can see the squirrel on the tree, hiding from the bear.

The squirrel never stopped and after a few minutes I looked right in his eye and could tell he wasn't looking at me. So, I turned ever so slowly looking off to my left and slightly behind me. To my surprise, I laid eyes on a massive black bear that was somewhere between 550-600 lbs only 20 yards away! He wasn't just passing through either. He was crouched down and super slowly sneaking in! He reached within 7 yards of me before stopping!

At this point, my heart was pumping out of my chest! I had been around plenty of bears before, but never had one hunting me! He stayed in that spot for at least 10 minutes, but it felt like an hour! He kept looking around and sniffing the air. Several times he stared at me, but I believe he was looking right through me! I had the wind in my favor and he just couldn't figure me out. I started to wonder if he was going to come any closer and what I would do if that happened.
Finally, he turned and headed back the way he came! When he reach about 17 yards, I decided to have a little fun with him. I gave a little grunt. Immediately he turned and grunted loudly back to me. Pausing for a second to give 1 last survey and charging back into the brush!

This has got to be one of the most memorable and exciting hunts I have ever been on! I will never forget it and relive it every time I tell it! It was well before any of the extended seasons were enacted! So, I was only able to watch it. Also, it was long before cell phones were even thought of, so I was never able to get any pictures or film it in any way unfortunately! But, it is embedded in my mind for good! I had never heard or even fathomed anyone ever calling in a bear with rattling antlers and a grunt call before! I believe he had venison on his mind! What a day to remember!

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