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BEAR!

Two members of Washington and Lee’s Class of 1993, now partners in a Idaho fly shop and lodge, had a close encounter with a bear last month, while they were bow hunting for elk in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

According to both media reports and a first-hand blog post, the men, Rich Paini and Jon Stiehl, were on their way back to Paini’s cabin in the Last Chance area of Island Park, Idaho, when they were attacked by what officials say was likely a grizzly bear feeding in the area.

The bear charged Rich, biting his left hand and right arm. It might have been far worse, but Jon waved his arms and jumped up and down with bear spray in hand to distract the bear and chase it away.

After evaluating Rich’s injuries, the two kept walking in the opposite direction of the bear after calling 911 and a nearby state park. Rich’s trip to the hospital was harrowing, too, and included ramming a jeep through a fence gate before getting to an ambulance and then a helicopter.

Rich’s injuries were extensive. He had to have half of his ring finger amputated, and the bear’s bite broke two bones in his forearm.

Rich and Jon are partners in TroutHunter on Henry’s Fork, a  fly shop, art gallery, bar, restaurant and lodge.

Jon wrote a first-person account of the event that you can read it in its entirety on the TroutHunter website. Here is an excerpt that describes the actual attack:

We were about 10 yards apart on a small game/cattle trail when we heard what I had thought to be elk crashing out of some heavy timber to the west. In an effort to see what was going on I took a few steps in the direction of the commotion putting a small stand of aspen between Rich and myself. Almost immediately, I heard Rich yell “BEAR!”  By the time I was able to get out my pepper spray, Rich and a very large dark bear with a buff face came flying into view. The bear was 3/4’s erect and Rich had managed to stick up his right arm to protect his face. The bear clamped down on it and threw Rich to the ground, completely breaking his right arm below the elbow.  It looked like a hit from an NFL Linebacker. Rich thrust his left arm and recurve bow towards the bear’s face in an attempt to free himself.  The bear chomped that hand splintering the arrows in the bow quiver in the process. I ran to the collision just in time to fire off a cloud of pepper spray at the bear’s huge ass and watch it tear off into the woods. If the entire encounter was more than 15 second I would be shocked.

We’re happy to report that Rich was released from the hospital and, as the photo above demonstrates, is recovering.