It’s fair to say that the black bear is one of the biggest nuisances in unattended camps. Through the years, many hunters and fishermen have encountered these marauders and had to deal with them in one way or another.

In 1916, a hunter by the name of Frederick Evans Wilson had made camp near two other small hunting camps in Maine. The men had all pitched tents within a mile of each other and had crossed paths on occasion while pursuing deer and other animals.

One night, Frederick was getting ready to cook supper when he heard a couple of shots in the distance. He didn’t think much of it, assuming that one of the other camps was doing some night hunting. At first light, a hunter by the name of Vic rushed into Frederick’s camp in a most distressed state. Breathless, he explained that a bear had dragged another hunter from his sleeping bag and killed him. By the time Vic got to the man’s tent, the bear had gone . . . but not before eating half of his victim’s body.

Vic said the bear had tried to get into his own tent the following night and he’d fired two shots at it, scaring the beast away. He’d then packed his mule and was heading out to report the incident. He warned Frederick to be careful.

Black bears, on rare occasions, have been known to go on a rampage and even a killing spree at campgrounds. It was not uncommon for hunters and anglers to be attacked while they slept, particularly in those instances where bears had come to associate food with the camp.

Some days later, while Frederick was getting water from the stream, he returned to find a bear entering his tent. Foolishly, he had left his gun leaning against the outside wall of the tent and was unable to reach it. All he could do was watch as the bear ransacked his belongings.

Frederick emptied the water from a bucket and, using a stone, pounded the side of the metal can. The noise brought the bear to the tent entrance, where it stared off into the forest, trying to find the cause of the noise. Frederick stayed as still as he could and hoped the bear would eventually grow tired of its rummaging and leave. He was fully aware that this was a killer bear, so he simply crouched down in the forest to wait it out. Instead, the bear banged away in his tent all night.

The next morning, the bear finally emerged from the tent and began ambling away, giving the hunter enough time to reach his gun.


An excerpt from John Seerey-Lester’s Legends of the Hunt – Campfire Tales. The painting above—Out of Reach, a 16×20-inch oil on panel—accompanies the text. To order a copy of this exciting title, visit