High up in his tree stand, a Wisconsin deer hunter thought he had gone unnoticed by a black bear wandering near him in the woods — right until it stopped at the base of his vantage point.
Dalton Roach, 25, spotted the bear while bow hunting earlier this month, he told the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram. Having never seen a wild bear in the flesh before, he pulled out his phone and started recording the beast as it lumbered through.
Roach, who in addition to being an avid sportsman is a pitching prospect for the St. Louis Cardinals, felt he was safe and secure.
“He was just kind of moseying around,” Roach said of the bear. “He didn’t look like he was on any kind of a mission or anything.”
Then it suddenly made a beeline toward his vantage point.
Harnessed into the tree stand, Roach was more or less stuck, he told the Leader-Telegram. And as he thought about what to do next, he heard the sound of claws on bark, inching nearer.
“The next thing I know I can hear him right behind me and feel him breathing on my back,” he told the outlet.
“Then I feel a paw on my lap. He just kind of left the paw sitting there.”
Roach sat still, afraid to aggravate or surprise the bear, and hoped it would go away on its own, KOLR reported.
“I wasn’t in a great position to defend myself,” he told the TV station.
But all that calm and patience dissolved when Roach felt an intense pressure on his back, and realized the bear had sunk its teeth into him.
“I jump up from sitting and now I can turn to face him,” Roach said.
He estimates the bear weighed around 250 to 300 pounds. It didn’t seem particularly threatened by him.
Facing the bear, Roach stretched his arms out wide and started yelling and hollering, he told KOLR. And it worked.
The bear clambered back down the tree and walked off through the woods.
“I think we’re pretty lucky that the way everything went,” Roach said, KOLR reported. “I can’t imagine he was anything more than curious. My wife would love me to say, you know, he was curious not furious. He wasn’t in a position of like true aggression, fortunately, because otherwise, it just would have gone differently.”
Once he was sure the bear was gone, Roach climbed down and walked to his truck a quarter-mile away, KARE reported.
The bear could have killed him if it wanted, Roach realizes. It’s not a thought he allowed himself to entertain at the time.
“Obviously, in the moment, I tried to not think of anything like that. I was honestly kind of laughing about it because it’s one of those situations that obviously doesn’t happen every day,” he told the station.
After a visit to the emergency room, he’s healing up well. Doctors tell him it’s likely the bite won’t even leave a scar, Roach said.
“I think it makes it a little less believable because I think people are under the impression if a bear bites you, you’re missing something,” he told KARE. “So along with it being a cool story, it can be an educational tool too.”