It takes an incredible amount of self control and accuracy to hit a charging bear’s eye with an arrow, but if Russel Ferster hadn’t possessed both, he and his little brother would likely be mauled or dead today.
Ferster was hoping to put his archery skills to good use September 11, 2016, but not on a bear, and certainly not in a life-or-death situation. He and his 11-year-old brother, Lane, were elk hunting in Montana’s Crazy Mountains when a black bear responded to their cow call.
“We weren’t even fifteen minutes out of the pickup and I decided to cow call twice,” Ferster told the Billings Gazette.
The bear burst from nearby cover and closed to within 15 yards in an instant. Ferster said it appeared to be after the “elk” and not after he and his brother. Ferster has had this occur before while elk hunting, so he raised his hands and shouted at the bear as he had done in the past.
This bear, however, wasn’t deterred.
The bear began pouncing up and down on its front legs, much like a grizzly does when it presses down on a recently killed animal. Ferster is used to dealing with grizzlies, too, so much so that he has quit hunting in several areas that held the bigger bears. But despite his usual caution, he had failed to bring either a handgun or bear spray with him on this elk hunt.
He drew his bow in readiness for a possible attack, but his movement caused the bear to surge toward him.
“He came at 100 miles an hour,” Ferster said. “I had a split second to aim and hit him in the only place that would stop him in his tracks.”
That place was the eye. His arrow met the bear’s left eye, driving inward and upward through the bear’s head. It dropped the bear almost at Ferster’s feet, the broadhead lodged just inside its skull and the nock touching Ferster’s leg.
Ferster has so much adrenaline pumping through him he had to lie down on the ground. Lane wasn’t able to talk about the attack for half an hour afterward, and while both hunters have returned to the woods since then, they admitted that a bit of fear was present now.
A taxidermist later told Ferster that, had the arrow penetrated 1/16th of an inch less, the bear would not have been stopped. A handgun and bear spray are always on Ferster’s hip when he hunts now, regardless of the chance of grizzlies.