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Bear Hunting

Before you put your arms up in the air, I'm hunting bears to photograph them, not kill them. Since I started doing photography full time, I've been trying to find a bear in the woods. Not to see if he's pooping, but to try to get some awesome shots of a Florida black bear in the woods. It seems they are spotted all the time in neighborhoods looking for food in trash cans. I don't want a picture of a bear in a neighborhood. I want to see it in the wild. I've gone to many areas where bear activity was reported high. But I haven't been able to get that shot yet. But I'm getting closer.

I was out in the Seminole State Forest sneaking through the woods early one morning being as quiet as possible. All of the sudden a bear jumped up out of the palm scrubs (is that a thing?) just feet away from me and took off running. He scared the crap out of me and obviously I scared him. I saw him, but only briefly and didn't get a shot. I waited around and heard him growling, but he never showed his face again. I found tracks in Highland Hammock State Park and thought I heard a growl. But never saw a bear. They were seen there just days before.

Recently I had my best experience so far. We were camping at Salt Springs Recreation area which is a very nice park. They warned us of bear activity in the park when we checked in, which always excites me. So I went out early looking for them. I road my bike through certain parts of the park where they've been seen, but too many people were already up and making noise, so I headed off property and hit the dirt roads next to the park. I rode my bike 12 miles and didn't see anything. I was on my way back and close to the park when I spotted a cub on the edge of the road fairly far away. It looked like it was coming my way, but it must have spotted me and went off into the woods. Didn't get a chance to get a picture.

This is how close he was the first time he came out.

So the next morning I decided to go back to that exact spot and just wait. I don't know the behaviors of Florida Black Bears that well, but I assume they have somewhat of a routine from day to day. So on that assumption, I was hoping he'd return to that spot. I laid my bike down and just stood there and waited. I wasn't there 15 minutes when I saw a bear coming out of the woods to cross the road. He was much bigger than the one the morning before and he was about 30 feet away...very close. I knew if I moved, I'd probably spook him, so I waited before I raised my camera. He stopped. Looked right at me. Then turned around and took off back into the woods. Again, never got the camera up to my eye.

So now I'm thinking, he wants to cross the road. I'll just stay here quietly and wait for him to build up enough confidence to try it again. Now I'm ready with the camera. It took about another 15-20 minutes until I spotted him again crossing the road much further down. I only saw him for about 5 seconds. I got a couple shots (above) but not much time to focus and get a decent shot. They seem very skittish. So this is definitely a challenge. They have really good hearing and smell senses. And they are unbelievably quiet when they walk through the woods. Now when they run, they make a LOT of noise. So I'm still on the hunt. Sorry, not many photos with this blog, but that is what this one is about. :D Any tips on sightings are welcome.

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