Part 4 is here.
Jim turned as well to see a brown bear less than a hundred feet down the slope from them. He never felt comfortable getting this close to bears in the wild, but he also knew that they were rarely aggressive, especially when multiple people were present. It was a situation to take seriously but not one to panic over.
He held up a hand to calm Redling. He didn’t have to look to his client to feel the fear emanating from him.
“Easy now. It probably got curious about our scent. It looks mean, but that bear’s probably more scared than we are right now.”
The bear huffed loudly. It clacked its jaw and swayed its massive head back and forth.
“Easy,” Jim said.
Jim directed the command at Redling, but he never took his eyes off the bear.
“It looks scary, but that’s bluffing behavior. It’s trying to be intimidating, which means it doesn’t want a confrontation. Stay cool.”
No sooner had Jim finished his statement than Redling’s rifle cracked off a round.
The bear jerked aside slightly as the round caught its shoulder. With that, the bluffing was over. The bear charged.
Redling staggered to his feet and fell onto his back. He fired off another shot as he hit the ground, but this one missed wildly.
“Goddamn it,” Jim said.
Calmly he lowered his rifled. It’s best to a shoot bear when the animal is standing broadside, catch the thing just about dead center in the vital organs, but broadside’s not a choice when the bear is bearing down on you like a runaway dump truck. Jim set the crosshairs between the bear’s eyes and squeezed off a shot.
The bear’s head dropped into the ground. Its great bulk skidding to a halt less than ten feet away from the hunters.
Jim lowered his rifled.
“Goddamn it, man,” he said. “We weren’t licensed to hunt bear.”
He wanted to say more than that. He wanted to curse the fool and crack his jaw for making him kill a bear for no reason.
“Self-defense,” Redling sputtered.
“It was only bluffing.”
Jim picked up his spent rifle round, pocketed it, and started on the way back to camp. He was vaguely aware of Redling following a short ways behind, but he didn’t particularly care one way or the other if Redling long or else stayed out there and died in the wilderness.
Truthfully, part of him would have preferred the latter.