During the first week of Maine’s bear-hunting season, I introduced you to Rebekah Rounds, an 18-year-old girl from Hudson who had just tagged her first bear.
On that late-August morning, John Dykstra, a guide and taxidermist who owns Northland Taxidermy in Alton, told me that he might have some more bear-hunting tales to tell.
The Rounds girls, he said, were just getting started … and two of Rebekah’s sisters planned on spending as much time as they could on stand during the upcoming weeks. Rebekah, as you may recall, tagged a bear that weighed 290 pounds, live weight, and 243 pounds, field-dressed.
As the month progressed, Dykstra kept in touch, and updated me on their progress. As it turns out, three Rounds girls ended up with tales to tell.
Here’s a portion of the play-by-play, provided by Dykstra in his periodic e-mails.
From Sept. 15: “Rebekah’s sister Rachel, 16, has also been hunting bear with us this year,” Dykstra wrote. “She saw a couple of smallish bears the first week of the season and chose not to take them as she wanted a bigger bear (even though she had never taken a bear before). Instead, she and her brother Caleb, just enjoyed watching them.”
On Sept. 13, her 13th afternoon in a tree stand, her diligence paid off when a huge bruin ambled toward the bait.
“I had a ringside seat, as I was sitting next to her in a second tree stand attached to the same tree,” Dykstra reported. “At about 6:20 p.m. I looked to my left and there was a black ‘stump’ that wasn’t there last time I looked.
“Rachel had also seen it just before I did. then the ‘stump’ moved. Never heard a thing. All of a sudden it was just there, about 40 yards from us. We both froze, watching. It was an awkward angle for a shot, so we just waited.
“The bear was sniffing and licking, testing the air, and I prayed that the slight breeze would stay in our favor and not swirl and betray our presence. Finally, after 10 minutes or more the bear decided the coast was clear and headed toward the bait site. It disappeared behind some brush for several minutes and then walked to the bait. It is amazing how quiet such a large animal can be.
“He took a piece of bread and turned and walked back in the brush. Now many hunters might have panicked at this and taken a hurried shot, but Rachel remembered what I had told her and now got her gun ready for the bear to return shortly for another piece.
“A minute or so later, back he came and she took her time, waiting for the bear to move into position for a clean shot. She fired and I saw the bear react, dropping slightly and then taking off into the woods. We listened to the crashing brush and then it stopped and after about five seconds, the woods were quiet again.
“Rachel had remained quite composed up to this point, but then started shaking. She looked at me and said, ‘Did I get him?’ I told her I thought so, but we wouldn’t know for sure ’til we actually found him. Then she told me how her hands were sweating and her face was hot and her heart was pounding so fast while she was waiting to shoot. She said ‘I was fine until I decided I was actually going to shoot, and then that all started'”
After waiting about 10 minutes, Dykstra and Rachel Rounds climbed from their tree, and after a 40- to 50-yard tracking job, they found the bear. The duo then walked back to the truck to meet Rachel’s sisters, Esther and Ruth, who were hunting about three-quarters of a mile away and had heard the shot.
The bear, as it turns out, was worth waiting for: It weighed 3271/2 pounds before being field-dressed.
But the Rounds girls weren’t through quite yet, Dykstra pointed out.
“Ruth still hopes to get a bear before the end of the season, and all are looking forward to the upcoming bird and deer seasons. With two bears in the freezer now the family is looking forward to some fine eating this winter as well,” he wrote.
“We hope to have a few more ‘firsts’ before we are done, but most importantly enjoy the time in God’s great outdoors.”
I didn’t hear back from Dykstra for a week or so, but on Sept. 23, he sent another dispatch from the Maine woods:
“Another update for your info. Ruth Rounds, older sister of Rebekah and Rachel, finished up the sisters’ bear-hunting season by taking a 115-pound bear Saturday evening (Sept.16) with a .50 caliber muzzleloader,” Dykstra wrote.
“In the last few minutes of legal time she finally had her opportunity and made a perfect shot on the first big-game animal she’s ever taken. It was her 15th afternoon of sitting in a tree stand or ground blind, and the second bear she had seen in that time. Again I had the ringside seat to the whole show as she took her time to make sure of a good shot, and in the excitement afterwards of having gotten her bear finally.
“I may hunt myself now for the last week, but I got more enjoyment out of sitting with both Rachel and Ruth as they got their first bears than if I had taken the bears myself. I’m sure my son Josh, who was sitting with Rebekah, feels the same way.
“And the girls aren’t tired of sitting yet, as they want to sit with one of the rest of us as we wait for our opportunity.”
Congratulations to all of the Rounds girls, who certainly had a bear season to remember.
Penobscot Fly Fishers to meet
Anglers interested in hearing more about the Atlantic salmon season being staged on the Penobscot River may want to head to Brewer Wednesday night for the regular monthly dinner meeting of the Penobscot Fly Fishers.
The meeting will begin with social time at 6 p.m. at the Coach House Restaurant, and the guest speaker will be Joan Trial, the senior biologist for the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission.
Trial’s topic: “It’s Happening: The Penobscot River Experimental Salmon Fishery.”
The meeting is open to the public.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 990-8214 or 1-800-310-8600.