LONGVILLE -- "He made sounds I've never heard coming from a bear," Cass County Commissioner Rusty Lilyquist said of the bear with whom he had a closer-than-he liked encounter Monday night.
It was the night following opening of bear hunting season, but Lilyquist wasn't even hunting at the time.
His dad had been hunting during the day with a hunting party. The group took down four bears in the woods near Longville.
One man in the successful party suffers from chronic lung disease caused by asbestos exposure. Lilyquist's dad asked his son to drag the bear that man shot out of the woods.
Lilyquist engaged the help of his cousin to find the bear after dark and bring the bear out.
Lifelong Longville area residents and hunters, Lilyquist and his cousin knew the woods well. They quickly located and shined a flashlight on a downed bear in the area his dad described.
It didn't appear to be breathing.
Lilyquist had been trained early in his hunting career to kick a downed animal to be sure it was dead before beginning to drag it out. So, he gave the bear they found a swift kick.
This bear proved neither to be dead, nor to have been shot.
The distressed bear roared up and aimed for the foot that had kicked him.
"It was this 300-pound Swede versus the bear at that point," Lilyquist said, describing his backward scrabble up a hill when the bear came to life.
The bear was snapping at his foot, just inches away, as Lilyquist fired repeatedly at the bear until the bear finally fell.
Then, resting, Lilyquist looked over his shoulder over the crest of the hill and saw the bear his father's hunting partner had actually shot earlier. At that point, a third bear crashed through the woods and away from Lilyquist and his cousin.
Reconstructing the situation, Lilyquist and his cousin realized his dad's friend had shot the mother of two yearling cubs. One cub was the bear Lilyquist kicked who had been playing dead as its mother had taught it to do in a crisis. The other cub was the third bear that fled into the night.
A few lessons learned: Be sure the size of the downed bear you are looking for matches the bear you think has been shot; poke a long stick, not your foot at the suspected kill. Maybe, if you shoot something close to dusk, it's best to look for it the next morning, not in the dark with a flashlight.
Lilyquist will not soon forget the 2003 bear hunting season on a day he did not intend to hunt himself.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.