When Deer Tracks Looked Like Bear Tracks

Bear Swamp

There is a section of the Manistee National Forest not far off our land called “Bear Swamp”. There was a time when a group of kids on a camping trip poured out of a darkened forest into a Christmas tree farm just outside the borders of Bear Swamp. Most of the boys were between the ages of 11-13 but one 18 year old was with us.

As we approached a towering evergreen the kids noticed tracks in the dirt. They were easily identified as deer tracks but to give the kids a thrill I said they were bear tracks. Their eyes brightened and got larger as they bristled with excitement. I looked in the direction of Bear Swamp saying, “That’s where he’s headed, toward his swamp!” I suggested we track him.

All of the kids couldn’t wait to get started except for the 18 year old who said, “Norris, you’re crazy!” It was at that point that I told them all that the tracks they thought were bear tracks were simply deer tracks. But that’s not where the story ends!

A scant second later a large buck bolted from behind the evergreen tree and we all hit the ground as it was so unexpected. The eighteen year old though bolted for the nearest tree to climb and moments later we all had a good laugh about the whole episode and it was the talk of the trip back home after our camping trip was over. In fact, I’d reckon to say that they still talk about those “bear tracks” to their kids. It was the big one that got away. You know, I thought that was only said about fish?

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