For a man who was just attacked by a grizzly bear on September 30, Jake Blackmore is doing pretty well. Other than a slight limp, you can’t tell that he’s even injured, and the fact that he went for a hunt the morning of October 3, one day after his release from hospital, is even more remarkable.
One might think a man who just survived, what could very likely have been a fatal encounter with an apex predator, might be a little wary of entering the bush for the foreseeable future.
“You know I kind of wonder if I have issues, because I’m not scared at all. Not a bit,” said Blackmore, retelling his story with a slight grin, from the table in his boardroom at CanWel Fibre Corp.
“I think my dad’s lost more sleep than I have and my mom. And I told my little girl the story and I don’t think she slept for two days. Pretty crazy for them, but for me I sleep probably better now.”
Despite maintaining an almost whimsical attitude about the life-threatening encounter, Blackmore knows just how fortunate he is to be alive, especially with only soreness and around 28 stitches in his leg. He has friends that were less lucky after run-ins with bears, and were left permanently injured.
His son Jeron, 16, was with him during that hunt along the Elk River when they spotted a bull elk. Jeron approached it, while Blackmore hung back and watched through binoculars.
He heard a small noise to his left and within an instant a mother grizzly was on top of him.
“As far as what I would have done different is if I knew I was going to stop and wait in an area, in the future I would look around the area really well. Just have a really good look, because I would have seen this bear there had I done that, but I was focused on one thing.”
The bear “football tackled” Blackmore, while he screamed at her and tried to push her roaring mouth away from him. The grizzly picked him up by the leg with her teeth, fortunately not puncturing his main artery, and tossed him against a log. She bit her cub, which had emerged from the bush, and send it off running. This gave Blackmore a chance to ready his gun.
“I was laying there waiting for her to come back and I was just like, ‘I better hit or this is gonna really suck.’ You don’t really even have time to think about stuff,” Blackmore recalled.
Blackmore stressed that he hopes sharing his story can help those who hunt or spend time in the wilderness learn from his experience. He spoke of the importance of being mindful of your setting, carrying necessary precautions such as bear spray, and that if you are attacked by a bear, the importance of maintaining calm.
While Blackmore was on the ground, adrenaline surging through him and knowing the bear was coming back, he unconsciously unloaded two bullets from his gun.
“I always have a bullet in the chamber and have the gun uncocked and you just have to lift the leaver up and pull it down and it’s ready to go,” he explained.
“Without even thinking I actually opened it up, unloaded a bullet, put another one in, unloaded that one. And big guns like I have — I shoot a 300 Weatherby and they only hold three [bullets] — so if I would have unconsciously done that one more time I would have completely unloaded my gun. I remember doing it once, but looking back, at the time I didn’t realize it.”
His son came running when he heard his father screaming at the bear, and then the sound of his gunshot. Blackmore is obviously grateful his son didn’t find him in worse shape than he was, and said that his son handled the situation incredibly well.
“You know what my son, he’s a super calm guy, I don’t think anything rattles him. I mean that’s who you want to have hunting with you because he is very calm in any situation.”
He explained what happened to his son, who then joked back, “well I guess we can check that one off the bucket list.”
“So we were kind of laughing and joking about it and I was sitting there and my leg’s leaking away. But no, he’s good and I’m super proud of him for that.
“And then he just stood watch while I took my coat and wrapped it real tight around my leg to stop the bleeding. I realized I needed help and I needed to get out of there and I didn’t want to get chewed on again before I could.”
Blackmore has encountered bears countless times in the past, but this first attack has left him with a deeper respect for the animals and their habitats.
“Hunting for me now is not about shooting for myself, it’s for teaching my kids,” Blackmore said. “The satisfaction of getting one, the disappointment of not, because you’re not going to get one every time.
“And just life experience, you learn a lot. I want them to know, to have bear experiences so that if, god forbid this ever happens to them, they can have that composure to deal with it.”
He and his family love and are truly passionate about hunting, and this lesson will be kept in his at the forefront of his mind on future hunts.