On opening day of bear season, pair bagged a bruin but became disoriented in brush
Michael A. Sawyers Cumberland Times-News
SANG RUN — Just six-tenths of a mile from the family home, with 210 pounds of dead bear on the ground and darkness approaching, Robert and Scott Metheny realized they were badly disoriented.
“We were close enough to the house that I could call my mom on the radio and have her honk the horn, and we could hear it, trying to get our bearings,” said Scott, 41.
It was Monday — the opening day of Maryland’s bear season. Scott, now living in Willow Grove, Pa., had drawn one of the coveted 260 hunting permits and had named his father, Robert, 69, to hunt with him. The family home is in West Virginia, but is tucked against the Maryland state line. The duo was hunting on land owned by a relative near the Cranesville Swamp.
“I shot a bear at noon and it ran into some thick cover,” Scott said. Parting pine limbs so that he could see more than a foot or so, Scott came upon the dead bear, a male that would later be estimated to have a live weight of 248 pounds.
Moving the bear was up to Scott, because of Robert’s bad knee.
“It was like rowing a boat,” Scott said. “I’d sit down and pull, sit down and pull.” Scott said his goal was to get the bear to a spot where he could use a wheeled cart to retrieve the animal.
Eventually realizing they were unsure of the direction they were taking, the hunters placed their packs and rifles as a marker to try to stay on course, until there came a time when they couldn’t find the packs in the thick brush.
“The forest canopy is so thick that you can see about 5 percent of the sky,” Scott said.
At one point, Scott stepped into a swamp hole up to his thigh. Then it rained.
“I was so hot from dragging the bear that the rain didn’t bother me at first,” Scott said.
Then the Methenys found their packs, but now they couldn’t find the bear. As the day wore on they found the bear again but then lost the packs and rifles a second time. It was 4 p.m.
“We called Mom at 6 and told her to call the check station (at Mount Nebo) and tell them that we couldn’t get the bear there by 8,” Scott said. “DNR wanted to know if we could make it by 9, but Mom called them back and told them we couldn’t.”
At 9 p.m., Mrs. Metheny called Mount Nebo a third time, to ask for help for the lost hunters.
“We didn’t need rescued, but we needed found,” Scott said.
The fact that Scott and Robert still could not move in the correct direction after hearing the car horn is all you need to know about that piece of Garrett County landscape that bumps up against the Preston County, W.Va., border.
Paul Peditto, director of the Wildlife & Heritage Service, and Harry Spiker, bear biologist, were part of the search party.
“It’s easy to get lost in that country,” Spiker said. “The hemlock overstory is thick. The swamp grass is heavy and the alders are tough.”
Natural Resources Police officers went to the Metheny home to make sure officers knew the radio frequency to use.
“We are grateful to the Maryland DNR,” Scott said. “They put groups around us and kept tightening the circle until they triangulated us.”
Sgt. Art Windemuth said officers sounded sirens and blew whistles and asked the Methenys via radio if they could determine direction of the sound. Windemuth said the Maryland State Police Trooper 5 helicopter was unable to assist because of a low cloud ceiling.
“The coyotes started howling at the sirens and it was an uneasy feeling because there we were sitting on a bear carcass with no rifles and listening to predators,” Scott said.
“There was no easy way to get to us. DNR came around the end of Snaggy Mountain and got the four-wheeler to a spot where we could see their light and we went to them,” Scott said. It was Tuesday by then, 2:45 a.m.
The hunters had been without water for 12 hours, although Robert had two candy bars in his hunting coat. Scott said neither he nor his father required medical attention.
DNR helped the Methenys retrieve the bear Tuesday morning.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at firstname.lastname@example.org
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