More Than Just A Bear Hunt
My name is Brianna (Livengood) Cozzetto. I live in Pueblo, Colorado and was raised in Westcliffe, Colorado, a small mountain town, which is about an hour away from where I live now. My family owns a large amount of land south of Westcliffe. Part of the property is prairie and part is timber. This is where my bear hunting journey has taken place.
My first encounter with a bear was when I was 11 years old. My parents had purchased a lamb from the local county fair for me to keep as a pet. I was at my grandparents’ house when my mother called me and told me my lamb, Houdini, had been killed by a bear. That’s when the nightmares started. The same one every time. Bears, hundreds of them, chasing me and right when I would get to the door to go in the house for safety I would wake up. I had this same dream hundreds of times. My parents divorced when I was 13. My dad and I didn’t have a great relationship. That all changed when I decided I should probably try bear hunting at age 21. Something happened that opening weekend with my dad. Our relationship was beginning to heal and it started at that point.
Over the next 9 years I was able to hunt 7 out of 9 seasons. I was never successful. My mom and I would always jokingly say, “Stinking bears, all they do is break your heart,” when I would come home empty handed every night. Some seasons we didn’t see one single bear. It didn’t matter. What mattered was it was the one time each year that I had my dad all to myself. We talked, laughed and he taught me about wildlife, hunting, and bears. Each season when we scouted, I learned that bears are not this ferocious creature that was chasing me in my dreams. Eventually the dreams stopped. I learned to respect them instead of fear and hate them.
September 2nd, 2013 opening day of bear season in Colorado. We finally started living in the 21st century and purchased some game cameras. We had 3 cameras set in different locations. One morning when we went out we saw one but spooked it and it ran back into the timber, but it was there! For the rest of the month, I was hunting morning and evenings almost every day. I always take my vacation the first week of September and luckily I only work part-time as a Registered Nurse Case Manager. So about ¾ of the month I was out there. Almost every day there was a bear on one of the game cams. Unfortunately it was always at night. There were three different bears that were on the game cam. All were decent sized. Later in the month, we found one out on the prairie. Jet black middle sized. The wind was blowing like crazy. When we finally caught up to him, we stopped and I took the shot from about 260 yards away. I missed, shot a bit too high. Still was happy to even get a shot at one.
We continued checking game cams through the month and noticed that two bears would take the same path every night. September 29th the day before the last day of another unsuccessful season. Every single time we went out, I would ask my dad, “Are we gonna see a bear tonight.” His answers were usually the same “Maybe.” “Possibly.” “50/50 chance.” “We’ll see.” You get my point. The evening of September 29th I swear to you, my father said, “You are gonna get a bear tonight.” I didn’t think much of it at the time but now I wonder how he knew?
It was around 6pm, September 29th. We were sitting in our blind watching from about 100 yards away where two paths come together in the timber...the paths where the game cam had captured the bears over the past few days. There we sat. I was sitting in front of my dad and he was up higher. I’m not going to lie, I was a little bored and discouraged about another unsuccessful season. I was checking my horoscope on my phone; not sure why I am not a horoscope type person but I was hoping it was going to say, “Today will be the day you kill a bear.” From behind me I heard a, “Pssssstttttt.” I looked back at my dad, looked back forward and didn’t see anything. Like I said, he was sitting higher than me. So I went back to my horoscope. He will give me a hard time about that for the rest of my life. When he got my attention again, I looked up and saw a bear. A beautiful color-phase bear.
I got into shooting position, my heart beating out of my chest. Now I am not a quick shooter. I take my time with my shots. I had the barrel of my 7mm 08 on the tree blind. I had the bear sighted in. I waited and the bear went behind a tree. “Oh no,” I thought. “I should have taken the shot. Just wait, just wait, just wait.” The bear came back into view and was once again in my sites. It stopped. I was steadier than I ever had been. I squeezed the trigger. The bear dropped. I was in shock. I did not believe what just happened. I figured I would never get a bear. But I did.
I called my mom to tell her I got one. Her and my daughter, then almost two years old, came up to see my bruin and took pictures with it. I was still in shock for many days. I didn’t believe it was really happening. I had prepared myself to never get a bear. The next day I took my bear to see the Division of Wildlife Officer who sealed her and took a tooth. My daughter and I headed toward Salida to take my bear to the taxidermist, GB Taxidermy.
Her coat has beautiful blonde, light brown, dark chocolate brown fur all with gray undertones. I could not have asked for a prettier bear. She was 5’8” from nose to tail. Not the biggest bear, but my bear. Finally, my bear. I had always said after I got one I would never hunt for bear again. I had her processed and I could not believe how good the steaks were. According to the Colorado Division of Wildlife, her age by tooth data was 14 years old. Bear hunting saved my dad and I’s relationship. In his words, “It’s always been more than just a bear hunt.”