Idaho sheep hunter wakes up with bear munching on his noggin

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"I could hear the bear breathing on me," said Stephen Vouch recounting his harrowing tale of a 227-pound black bear chewing on his skull in the middle of the night.

Vouch, 29, and his hunting buddies were on day 14 of a 16-day trek down the Salmon River on the hunt for big horns when they stopped at the Sheep Creek Camp for a hard night's sleep as reported by the Idaho Press in October. There, bundled inside his sleeping bag under a tarp, Vouch felt something strange about 2 a.m.

"He got a hold of my head, and that's what woke me up," Vouch told the Associated Press. "That's when I kind of freaked out. That's when I could hear the bear breathing on me."

The freak out startled the bear, later determined by Idaho Fish and Wildlife to be a male between three and seven years old, and sent the animal headlong into the tarp, which collapsed and wrapped both bear and human up in its grasp.

One hunter managed to wound the animal with a .45 caliber handgun, which Vouch later tracked down and dispatched with another shot.

However, the hunting party was so far off the map in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness that they had to trek three days back down the river-- with Vouch suffering lacerations on the back of the head-- then fly out to reach medical attention.

Sportsmen everywhere should take stories like this into account the next time they pack their deep woods survival and first aid kit.

Fish and Game State Wildlife Manager Jon Rachael cautioned that while there are some 25,000 black bear in the state, attacks are rare, and the animal, who is being tested for rabies, may simply have been looking for easy food around the camp and bumped into Vouch.

“There was no actual predatory behavior,” Rachael said, advising supplies of berries and other forage for the bears has been reduced due to this summer's long drought conditions coupled with wildfires.

As for Vouch, he intends to return to the area soon and continue his quest for bighorn. In Idaho, its a once in a lifetime hunt, and Vouch has certainly come up snake eyes so far.