From today's local paper:

By Gary Fallesen
Democrat and Chronicle

(July 21, 2002) - George Bolender had never seen a bear in the wild until he took his first shot at a big black last month in the rugged bush of New Brunswick, Canada.

The sight of the 300-pound Ursidae lumbering toward him made him wish he was more than 3 1/2 feet off the ground. Especially since the bear measured six feet, seven inches from nose to tail.

Bolender, 43, of Ontario, Wayne County, is a physically disabled bowhunter. An automobile accident in 1991 left him paralyzed.

He'd been helped into a homemade treestand in his wheelchair by Mike Roy, the owner of Bear Paw Outfitters in Bathurst, New Brunswick, who was leading the trip for the Buckmasters American Deer Foundation Disabled Services.

The day before, on Bolender's first trip into the field, Roy had stationed him about eight feet up. But this day, he was stuck closer to the ground. He was unable to position himself for the proper angle to shoot from higher up the tree.

"Mike was a little concerned," Bolender recalled. "But I was cool as a cucumber. Three feet, six inches -- what's the difference? I mean, I hunted them in Minnesota from the ground."

The difference was he didn't actually meet a bear on his hunt in Minnesota two years ago.

Bolender and Roy, who climbed higher for a better view of the area, had agreed that Roy would whistle if he saw something. "I heard him whistle, not once but about five or six times," Bolender said.

At first, Bolender didn't see the reason for the commotion.

Then, he said, "I saw what all the whistling was about -- it was a big black bear sitting down about 50 yards away. Before the trip, I'd educated myself on how to judge the size of a bear in the wild. Needless to say, I wished I was up three or four more feet. He was huge."

The bear took the bait Roy placed within range of Bolender's archery shot -- about 20 yards.

As he moved in Bolender's direction, the hunter said, the bear "looked right at me. My heart was already in my throat."

Bolender waited until he had a good broadside shot. Then, within 14 yards, he released his arrow.

"We listened as he tore through the woods making two loud crashes, then nothing," Bolender said. "Even though I was positive it was a lethal shot, I started to question it."

He gave a half-dozen looks at the videotape Roy made of the shot and said, "I was confident he was down." But it was late in the day and the onset of darkness made it too dangerous to track the bear into the brush.

"I would have to sleep on it," said Bolender, who admitted to a long night of insomnia.

In the morning Roy called and told him, "Get down here and take a look at your bear."

It very likely will qualify as a Pope & Young Club award winner. Pope & Young sets scoring criteria for measuring North American big game taken with a bow.

The bear also gives Bolender another story to tell young people when he does demonstrations to show that a physical disability doesn't necessarily mean a person is unable to do something.

Bolender grew up hunting. His pursuit was put on hold for two years when he broke his neck in a car crash.

But in 1993 he resumed deer hunting. Now he has discovered he can go mano-a-Ursus-americanus.

Asked if he wants to inspire young people with his tales, Bolender said, "That's what I'd like to think I'm doing. Even if it's just getting them in tune with the outdoors."

Those who are able often take for granted what there is to be seen and done in the outdoors. Bolender can appreciate looking a bear in the eyes, even if it's from a wheelchair.