Many years ago Dick Levy and I decided to try to bait bear. At that time it was still legal.

We selected a place in the Blue Mountains where we thought any self-respecting bear would drop by and be fairly easy to get to in a four-wheel drive vehicle.

We proceeded to build a tree stand that would have easily supported 20 men. Neither Dick nor I are big fans of sitting 20 feet up a tree. Every board we selected was at least two inches thick. Each piece was screwed in place, nailed down and wired - just to make certain it wouldn't collapse while we were bear watching from our tree fort.

We chose watermelons as our bait. We obtained bins of cull melons from a friend in Hermiston. For about two weeks we hauled melons up to our area. After about a week, the melons began disappearing at an alarming rate. We estimated the bears were eating about a half ton of melons a day. There had to be lots of bears. We'd sneak in during the afternoon, climb up to our stand and sit until dark. Never saw a sign of a bear, other than the evidence where the melons used to be.

We finally decided to stay one night and see just when the bears were arriving. We took along a high-powered flashlight so that we could get a good look at them. We were sitting there in the tree stand. It was a beautiful night, although there was no moon. The forest was quiet.

All of a sudden there was a horrid screeching sound from above and behind us. It scared me so much I almost jumped to the ground. We looked at each other and whispered it was probably a great time to get out of there. Just at that moment the unknown creature called out: "Who. Who. Who". A screech owl had done us in.

We continued to deliver melons and finally got up enough nerve to stay late again.

We would shine the flashlight on our melons about every 15 minutes. We checked about 10 p.m. and there was a sow and her two cubs. They stayed for a couple of hours - until they had eaten every single melon and suddenly disappeared.

Of course, this presented two new problems: Where did they go, and could we make it back to the truck without getting attacked?

We never did get a shot at a bear from that particular tree stand. However, we did a great job of disposing of most of the cull melons around Hermiston.

Mike Mehren has lived in Hermiston for 36 years. His three children attended school there and now live in the Tri-Cites. He is a livestock nutritionist when he's forced into work. He spends all waking hours plotting hunting or fishing trips, but then, when the time arrives, he's usually too exhausted to actually complete the trips.

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