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Grizzly Attack in Colorado:  
The Ed Wiseman Story
Chapter One

Grizzly Attack:  The Ed Wiseman Story

  by Deb Carpenter-Nolting

Copyright 1990

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Chapter 1 

Nature does not care whether the hunter slay the beast or the beast the hunter. 
She will make good compost of both, and her ends are prospered whichever succeeds.

John Burroughs, Birds and Poets


            Forty-five minutes after Colorado outfitter and guide Ed Wiseman sent his hunter, Mike Niederee, up the chute to look for elk, he waited by the horses to give the young hunter time to work the country.  Then he set out, following the stream and looking for any sign of elk.

            As he walked, Wiseman thought of the immediate future, when archery elk season would be finished.  He would get this group of hunters on their way, take down camp and pack up.

            He also thought of bighorn sheep hunting, in which he would be participating this season, between now and rifle elk camp in October.  Wiseman had a bighorn sheep bow license, as he had had for the last six years.  He always looked forward to this hunt and enthusiastically anticipated the possibility of bringing down a good-sized ram.

            Ed reached the slide rock where he intended to meet Mike, sat down at a point where he could watch the semi-open hillsides, and waited for Mike to cross one of the fingers of open terrain and come into view.

            When I see him, I’ll holler at him and we can get on the trail and work our way down the canyon, Ed thought.  He wasn’t disappointed he hadn’t seen elk today. Maybe they would spook some further down the canyon.

            Ed allowed his thoughts to drift back through the last week of camp.  This group had been a nice one with which to end the season.  They were lively, intelligent, and they had fun being with each other.

            Jim Latin and Rick Nelson had been in elk camp the year before, so Ed knew them a little better than he did the Niederees.

            Ed didn’t know much about Mike.  This was really the first time Ed had talked to him.  He was quieter than the other fellows, but that did not matter to Ed.  He never really carried a set opinion about anyone, but liked everyone, and very few people rubbed him the wrong way.  When it came to people, Wiseman was always willing to give a second chance.

            Two hours passed, and Ed began to wonder if he had missed Mike.  Maybe he had given the young Kansan too much time, waited by the horses too long before coming downstream.  Maybe Mike had gotten confused about where to meet Ed and had gone back to the horses.  At any rate, it was high time they found each other, so that they could either start back or go further down the canyon.

            Ed eased himself up from the rock where he had been sitting, stretched, gathered up his hunting equipment, and set off, going north, back up the creek to where the horses were tied.  He walked towards the horses, expecting to see Mike in the vicinity, and was surprised when he was not there.

            That’s odd, thought Ed.  I was sure he’d come back here since we missed our rendezvous.

            Part of the trick of the outfitter’s trade was to calculate a man’s hunting pace, his condition, and his endurance level to try and determine when he would show up at a given place.  Evidently Mike had hunted more slowly than Ed had anticipated.

            Mike’s probably crossing that last opening now, so I’d better head back down that way.  Ed climbed the small sloping chute and followed the path which Mike had taken earlier that afternoon.

            When he reached the slide rock, he still found no trace of Mike.  Ed’s watch read 4:30 p.m., and the guide had no idea where Mike was or what he was doing.

            Maybe I should go look for him, he thought. No, I’d better stay close by in case he wanders in.

            To kill some time, Ed decided to stay in the vicinity, but to mill around a bit.  He remembered a dead-end pocket close by, and out of curiosity, thought he’d check it out.

            The outfitter knew that elk used this canyon for a runway between summer grounds and winter grounds, so if they happened to be in the middle of the canyon, they would sometimes frequent the small dead-end pocket to hole up for the day.  On the chance that this was one of those days, Ed walked in that direction, determined to check it out for sign of elk activity.

            Ed knew the layout of the pocket, and he knew where to look for sign.  This was the first time this year Ed had been in the pocket.  In fact, he’d only been in the canyon twice this year, and the other time had been two weeks prior, when he’d seen that big bear ramble across the meadow.

            Wiseman stepped through the timber and entered a tiny clearing.  Pine trees surrounded him.  He knew that beyond the pines lay a sheer drop-off, hence the dead-end pocket.  South of where he stood was a partially warped tree, growing underground for a foot or two then winding out and bending up.  There were a few dead trees around, logs slowly rotting.  Ed stepped over one to stand at his present vantage point.  Another log lay to Ed’s right front, the southwest, and from it the hill sloped upward, directing Ed’s glance to a grass park.  He studied this grass park momentarily.  It was a tiny round meadow, approximately fifty to seventy-five yards in diam---

            What was that?

            A noise, off to Ed’s left front.  Ed turned his head in that direction to discover the sound’s source.  A large bear was on the run, and coming his way.

            “No!” shouted Ed as he recognized the humped back and silver-tipped coloring of a grizzly.

            “No!”  Ed waved his arms and tried to ward off the animal, but the bear came on, heading on a path that went by him, but then turning as she passed the tree, changing course to angle her body to attack straight on.

            Ed’s bow was in his right hand, string down. As he shouted “No!” the second time, he turned as the bear turned, bringing his right side to face her, holding his bow out in front of him, string towards the bear.

            The animal, running on all fours, lunged at Ed and threw him off balance.  Ed didn’t know exactly how he got there, but he became aware of being on the ground.  He curled up and pulled his knees to his chest until only his right side and his back were exposed, with his back somewhat protected by his day pack.

            The bear grabbed Ed’s right leg, the first thing she came to.  Bared yellow teeth followed a snarl, and the worn grub-chewers now sought flesh.

            Ed did not see the blood spurt from his leg as the bear shook it, nor did he feel the pain that followed.  He was concentrating on playing dead—something the authorities claimed to work in cases such as these.

            The sound of tearing flesh startled Ed. It was hard to describe, was more a combination of feeling and hearing.  Ed felt the pulling and tautness of tissue, then heard it rip as he felt the tautness subside and the flesh give way.

            The bear left Ed’s lower right leg and turned to the shoulder protruding above the curled body, following the same procedure of gripping with teeth, clamping hard, then shaking the man lying on the ground.

            As she returned to the leg she had started on and began to chew below the knee for the second time, the thought crossed Ed’s mind, This could be the end.  The sickening thought lingered only a second, for it was overpowered by Ed’s instinctive will to survive and this God-given instinct overcame any presence of panic.

            Something compelled Ed to look up.  As he brought his head out of its tucked position, his first glance fell on a single arrow, directly in front of him, within easy reach of his left hand, the broadhead pointing in the direction of the bear.

            Ed’s eye focused on the arrow, his mind intent on driving off the bear.

            He grabbed the arrow in his left hand and felt the smooth coolness of the aluminum shaft in his grip.  Turning his back to the ground, Ed brought himself to face the bear and saw it for the first time since the initial charge. And then he didn’t see the entire bear, but only the frontal portion somewhere in the vicinity of the chest or throat.

            Ed now lost track of action and moving commentary.  Memory jammed and all that spoke of reality were the still pictures imprinting themselves on his mind.

            Click.  The still picture he saw now was the frontal portion of the bear.  Hair follicles jutted from the minute spot at the base of the throat, which Ed judged to be the vital area.  Ed’s focused intent was on those follicles of hair.  The arrow was in his hand and his intention was to stab the bear.  Memory jammed again.

            Click.  Ed’s left hand held the arrow—half an arrow.  Somehow, during the stabbing of the bear, the shaft had broken in two and left Ed with the bladed front half.

            The next picture’s focus was the half arrow, and in the periphery of the mind’s photo was the bear standing on all fours over Ed.

            Ed’s right hand was up in the air.  The bear’s head was there also, biting at the extended hand, but that was vague, distant.

            That remembrance blended into the next and Ed saw a stream of dark blood about the size of his thumb flowing from the bear’s throat.

            Ed did not taste the blood spurting into his face, nor did he smell the infamous terrible odor of the bear.  He felt no pain as she chewed on his left leg, heard no growls as she continued her attack.  He had only one intent—to stab the bear again, this time with the half-arrow still clutched in his left hand.

            A few seconds passed before Ed’s next picture came into focus.  He looked up over his shoulder from where he lay and saw the bear about twenty-five yards away, facing south.

            This time the picture wasn’t like a snapshot. Memory tape became unjammed and Ed’s mind again noticed and recorded motion.  He saw movement—the bear was settling down, easing herself to the upsloping ground, tucking her paws in front of her, resting on her right side, and turning her head to the left to rest it on her out-stretched left paw.

            The battle was over.  The bear was dead.

            Any other man might have stayed on the ground waiting for his strength to return, waiting for help to come along. But Wiseman was thinking ahead, and would not succumb to the release of unconsciousness or relaxation.  He knew he had to reach the trail that was a good two hundred yards away for there to be any hope or possibility of Mike finding him.

            Ed assessed his wounds, knew there was only muscle damage—no broken bones.

            The champion got up slowly and steadily, attempting to stand and test the strength of his right leg.  The torn extremity began to shake, but Ed didn’t think he was hurt bad, didn’t think of the loss of blood.  He was merely thankful that he had made it this far and that his vitals were intact, so he didn’t dwell on the shaking of the leg or the dull pain in his shoulder.  His only concern was that everything worked.

            Then Ed looked down.  He shifted his eyes along the ground, from his black stocking cap to his bow and the scattered arrows.  He decided not to pick up anything.

            I don’t need those things, he thought, I only need to get to that trail.

 

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