I was hunting along a ridge in the Northern Colorado mountains. It was a beautiful September day, late afternoon. My ears were alert, straining to hear an elk cow mew or the distant scream of a bull bugling. The scream wasn’t distant. It was maybe 100 yards away and I about came out of my boots. At first, I thought it was a person. It was piercing and continued as I heard it tearing through the forest. As I listened the scream seems to descend into somewhat of a bawl and I realized it was a bear. Then it was over.

The hair stood up on the back of my neck, breathing was rapid, my mind raced. Where was my hunting partner? What had attacked a bear? Suddenly the quietness of the woods seemed different, foreboding, fearful. Calming down, I resumed the hunt moving away from the commotion of the bear attack, or the attacked bear. Why fear anything. After all, I was armed, with a recurve bow and wood arrows. Another hour and so and I decided it was time to work back towards a rendezvous point with my hunting partner. As I walked down the trail I really wasn’t giving much thought to the bear episode earlier in the evening.

Walking around a bend in the trail I heard a strange noise.  I couldn’t comprehend it, something guttural. As I rounded a large bush on the side of the trail my eyes instantly locked on to a bear cub on the right side of the trail, maybe 15 feet away. It was sitting on it’s butt, heaving, like it was sick or wounded.  A flick of movement to the left in my peripheral vision. As my eyes moved quickly in that direction I saw the momma bear as she snapped her head towards me. Big, black, she bared her teeth. Instantaneous fear! Wish I could tell you of how I calmly, bravely, assessed and dealt with the dangerous situation. But that would be a story, not what happened.

I slowly began backing away trying not to look into her eyes. I backed away around the bend in the trail until the thick bush was between us removing me from her sight. Then all rational thought left me. I turned and ran one of the best 100-yard dashes of my life. Instinct told me to climb a tree. Which is really comical as a black bear can climb a tree in seconds. But as I said, rational thought was gone. I picked a tree and with a mighty leap tried to climb. There were no limbs within reach and with a back pack on and bow it one hand it would been quite a sight to see me get a few feet off the ground then slide back down. Knowing I was failing I abandoned that tree ran another hundred yards and changed tactics. I picked out a large pine thick with branches. Perhaps the bear would have a hard time squeezing through the branches to get me. I dropped the pack and worked up the tree still holding my bow. About 20 feet of the ground I stopped. Soaking with sweat, breathing heavy I took my first look back down the trail. Nothing. Thank you God. I sat in the tree for maybe 30 minutes as it got dark. As soon as it did storm clouds rolled in and the lighting started flashing. I had a brief moment of levity as I thought about which way to die might be less troubling: hypothermia, lightning or bear attack. I needed to do something or one of those might happen. I climbed out of the tree put on my rain gear and sat in some bushes downwind off the trail.

I was never more relived to see a flashlight beam in my life. After missing the rendezvous by an hour, my hunting buddies had come to find me. After explaining the event, then having to walk right back through the spot of the incursion to get to camp the fear spread to my hunting partners as well.

This was an experience of primal fear. No different than it might have been thousands of years ago, when a bow hunter rounded the bend suddenly facing a life-threatening situation. Thankfully, most of you will never face an angry bear at 3 or 4 paces. But, fear is ever present in most of our lives none the less. The affects of fear are seldom good. Occasionally, as in the case of my bear encounter, fear creates chemical reactions allowing a flat-lander to run an 11-second 100 at 10,000 feet. Other types of fear create stress in varying levels causing heart burn to heart attack.

Fear not? No! Ain’t going to happen. Bears jump into our lives all the times. What’s your bear sighting look like lately.  They come in many forms. I’ve had my share as I’m sure you have as well. You’ve got cancer, the company you worked for went out of business, your boss says, “I’d like to change your job”, your daughter says, “hey I’m moving to Florida with a guy I met at the bar”. Actually, didn’t make those up, those are mine. You get the picture, all too well I imagine. So the big question is, how do we respond to fear?

Well, sometimes (as in my bear encounter) you just absolutely lose your mind. We react: sometimes well, sometimes not so well. Most of the time the fear is a not a fight or flight response, but a thought process to a real or perceived threat. Fear will happen as it’s an inherent warning system that God put there for a reason. How do we respond, act or guard against threats causing fear. Quite differently I suppose. Again, some threats are real (mad mama bear) but most are probably perceived. It’s these perceived threats that we have options on to worry over, stress about, or release.

I do have one suggestion for you about fear. Listen to what God tells you. In his word he tells us “Fear Not” or “Do Not Fear” dozens and dozens of times. Look these up. I would suggest the YouVersion Bible Ap. God promises when we look to him in times of fear, he will remind us, “do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10.

During my recent experience with cancer God gave me peace, thankfulness and love to replace the fear. When you have no fear of death, its amazing what a different perspective one has on life and fear itself.

My real fear? That you may not know of the strength, power, and freedom over fear that comes from knowing Jesus as your Huntsman.





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