By Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald –
Morgan Knable stumbled on more excitement than he bargained for Nov. 11, the last day of deer season in the area he hunts southwest of Bagley, Minn.
A 350-pound black bear rousted from its den tends to have that effect.
A junior in high school, Knable, 17, was walking through a swamp about 2 p.m. that Sunday, hoping to roust a deer from the brush in the area about 25 miles west of Bemidji, Minn.
“I was just walking and kind of found the bear,” Knable said. “I pretty much stepped right onto its spot. It was right there and tried to get up and put its (paw) up right next to my leg.”
Knable’s dad, Ron, was walking through the same swamp about 100 yards away when he heard the shots.
“I thought he’d jammed his rifle, and then he started to holler,” Ron Knable said. “I ran over toward him thinking maybe he got hurt, and he hollered, ‘Dad, I shot a bear!’”
The bear was hunkered in a hollow at the base of a fallen tree that was more like a nest than a den, Morgan Knable said. There wasn’t much time to think as he fell backwards.
“At that point, it was just reaction that kicked in — ‘Oh no, bear!’ And then I tripped and fell because we were in a swampy area” he said. “At the point that I saw him, I was shooting as I was falling backwards.”
The bear, he said, was close.
“About rifle length, I would imagine,” Knable said. “I was more or less in the fight-or-flight mode.”
Knable was hunting with a Ruger Mini-14 .223, a small-caliber rifle not designed for
taking down bears. He emptied his 10-round clip, and the bear still ran about 50 yards; Morgan said his dad finished the animal off.
The bear was a female, but there were no cubs, Ron Knable said.
With bear season closed, Ron Knable called the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to report the incident. Conservation officer Tim Gray of Bagley was at the site a short time later. After seeing how the encounter had unfolded, Gray allowed the hunters to keep the bear, Ron Knable said.
“It’s not the normal thing that happens,” he said. “Normally, you have to turn it over to the game warden just so you don’t go out and shoot a bear. When he saw what happened and the situation, he said, ‘You can have it.’ ”
All they had to do was pick up a possession tag, he said, similar to what’s required for a road-killed deer.
Gray wasn’t available for comment.
Oddly enough, Ron Knable could relate to the fear and excitement his son experienced.
“I had it happen 33 years ago, the very same thing,” he said. “I knew what he was going through, but geez, I couldn’t believe it.
“To have something like this happen is beyond what we could have imagined.”
Recalling the previous encounter, Ron Knable said he was part of a hunting crew making a deer “drive” through a patch of brush when he saw what appeared to be a fox or coyote den.
“I walked around the front to see if I could shoot a coyote, and there was this big bear sitting in that hole just a huffing and puffing,” he said. “I turned around and got off a couple of shots as it was coming out of the hole.”
That bear was even bigger, Ron Knable said, and weighed 563 pounds field-dressed.
An avid hunter, Morgan Knable said he’s never hunted bear and has no plans to take up the pursuit anytime soon. He’s not sure what he’s going to do with the hide but may have it made into a rug. A neighbor will smoke the meat.
Morgan admits he was “pretty excited” about stumbling across a bear but said it’s not his first memorable hunting encounter.
“Just about every year I’ve ran into something interesting,” he said. “One year I saw a moose, and one of the years it was a cougar I saw. They normally don’t believe me until about a week later, but it’s been all sorts of different things.
“This time, I had really good proof.”