All about Bear Meat

Homey and I were discussing the Youth Outdoor Unlimited (Y.O.U.) 2014 bear hunts. I had just received the story of hunt #2 – 14-year-old Amie Moore’s successful hunt – from Cindy and Joe Carpenter. Homey was perplexed.

“Why would you hunt bears? You can’t eat them! Are there even enough of them to hunt? Why hunt them?” In one form or another, he repeated the questions a couple times.

“Well,” I finally responded, “bear meat is sacred in certain quarters. AND it is considered by some the finest of game meats. When I was a kid, my family considered it a great gift and fine eating. Yeah, some consider it poor fare – some of our neighbors looked down on us for eating it, until they actually tried it. There are plenty of black bears; they are abundant across Washington, and most plentiful along the coastal ranges up into Canada. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.”

“…Okay… Where do I find some?”

That, of course, was the question of the day. I gave him a couple names, as a collage of “bear” filled my mind.

Poor as we were when I was a kid, the folks bought a lot with a burned-out basement in East Wenatchee. The Old Man (probably all of 29 at the time) worked all day and built all night.

A few months after we moved in, August 1949, he and three of our new neighbors went bear hunting in some wild berry patches in the Cascades. The bear they got was old and fat and big – big enough that I got why they wouldn’t let me go along. They divided the meat four ways.

Our loud, know-it-all neighborBarney ended up with the shiny black hide. It had something to do with how he would really appreciate and honor it and how he’d have a rug made.

That berry-fattened bear was as fine on the table as anything I’ve ever eaten. One afternoon after the hunt, Barney wandered into our little kitchen when mom was pulling a bear roast out of the oven. “Smells real good, Dorothy, what is that you got there?” She gave him a taste and he smacked his lips. “Why, it’s the bear you boys got, of course,” she said. Barney paled, stammered “Thanks,” and left.

Barney nailed the bear hide up high on his barn. He had convinced the other men that bear meat wasn’t edible, and that the Huckabays were poor white trash who would eat about anything. They had buried their shares of the bear. The Old Man was very much not pleased, and let it be known.

As Barney explained how this had to be a real unusual bear, the men dug up the rest and scrubbed it off (“Took that SOB 30 minutes with a hose,” was how one wife put it). The Old Man prayed his hunting partners had learned about sacred agreements made with those who give up their flesh for our sustenance.

By the time I turned 16, we’d built a fine house, tripling its size. My folks were soon in trouble. As we moved out into our scary new life, two of the hunting partners had moved, Barney was drinking like a horse, and that weathered bear hide was still on his barn.

Decades later, I was teaching meditation in Denver when I got a call from a woman associated with some of my close friends in Boulder. She was in earth-centered ceremony and study of her sacred relationship with Mother Earth and healing. Ann was a vegetarian. She explained that, while working with the Medicine Wheel, she had been told that eating the flesh of a bear would deepen and strengthen her work with others. It had to be a bear killed in an honorable, prayerful way. She knew that I hunted in that way, and did I have any bear meat? If not, could I help her find some?

It took a while, but we found the right hunter and the proper amount of the right bear meat. Years later, I was told that her work in helping people build the lives they came to the planet to build was widely known and respected.

Now here we are with Amie Moore (born with Turner’s Syndrome) and her Canadian black bear hunt. All of the Y.O.U. differently abled hunters learn to handle themselves safely in the woods and with firearms. They learm that making meat of any kind is a task which must be undertaken with respect and gratitude – and joy.

Amie’s black bear hunt was donated to Y.O.U. (www.youthoutdoorsunlimited.com) by Bowron River Guiding Service in Willow River, BC. Johnny G Taxidermy, of Coeur d’ Alene, donated taxidermy services, and a lot of others along the way helped the hunt happen.

The end result is an experience of a lifetime for all involved, and some of the best eating on the planet.


Written by Jim Huckabay. Posted in Uncategorized