As sunlight waned, Tom and I drove back to our hunt site to see if we couldn’t surprise a bear at dusk, when the animals tend to feed. But the bait pile was undisturbed. We found only the seating pads we’d left behind, and we set out to make a last pass over the trails. Tom’s mood was mellow. It had been, for the most part, a peaceful day in the woods, and it was time to consider other dinner options. Tom was thinking pizza.
Shotgun blasts, three of them, came at intervals. Echoing at a distance, they reminded me of nothing so much as what you hear in Westerns—reports from revolvers, fired at close range by unhurried men sure of their targets. “Sounds like somebody’s got a bear,” Tom said, cocking his head. “That, or else it’s a deer hunter who doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
—Ursus americanus isn’t the first animal to come to mind when you think of New Jersey, but the black bear is native to the state. Their population, once depleted by colonial Dutch immigrants, has risen into the thousands. Chris Pomorski joins avid hunter Tom Slaughter (yes, that’s his real name) on a bear hunt, visiting the woods and a check station for hunters to register their “harvests.”