Stephen Gloade prepared himself for his first-ever black bear encounter, as he sat in his treestand. He had only been sitting ten minutes when a black object poked up in the trees. It was a bear and Stephen’s hunting mentor, Joe Winter, whispered that they would likely see bigger bears. Stephen’s only question was, “can I shoot it?”
With a sense of nervousness and excitement, Stephen maintained his composure long enough to draw his arrow and settle his 20-yard pin onto the target. With the gentle squeeze of the release, the arrow was on its way. Flying perfectly, the arrow zipped through the bruin with lightning speed, causing it to roar and take off on a dead run. It didn’t go far.
My phone started buzzing, and I got the message a bear was down, and I headed in to help with the retrieval. The boys were still organizing gear at the base of the treestands when they informed me a second bear had also made a visit. It was a pretty exciting experience for a first-time bear hunter and to be successful in the first 15 minutes was rare.
We didn’t have any trouble tracking the bruin and we found Stephen’s bear less than 40 metres away. Steve’s eyes were as big as saucers, and he couldn’t believe what had just transpired. I had invited Steve and my brother Dave for a spring bear hunt. The only reason Steve had agreed to the hunt was that I promised to cut the meat and help him make sausage. Like many hunters, he had never tried bear, but given the opportunity, and having several people make it sound appealing, he was sold on the idea. Over the next couple of days, we made bear hams, fresh bratwurst and Italian sausage from Hi Mountain sausage kits. We fried some test links up, and Steve became an instant fan of hunting black bear.
I couldn’t help but think that nobody would have seen any excitement in Stephen weeks earlier. Steve has served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and as a police officer with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The things he has done for society have left him with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD.
When Dave went to pick Steve up for our hunt, he just wanted to stay at home, which is an everyday problem for him. Changing his surroundings and going out of his comfort zone causes more stress. Some days it’s a struggle just to get out of bed, never mind leaving home and having to follow a schedule. However, Steve fondly remembered hunting with his dad as a youngster and just the thought of hunting again rekindled an old flame in his heart.
Steve told me several months after the bear hunt that it was a turning point in his life. Many can’t comprehend what he is going through, but at the age of 20, he joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Before becoming a member of the RCMP, he joined the United States Marine Corps, out of Boston, Massachusetts and was hurt in basic training and had to return home. During that recovery time, he was recruited into the RCMP.
Stephen’s career was great, and he swears he would not change any of the experiences. However, his service to our country and Canadians has come at a cost, now identified and diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder / Injury, Severe Anxiety and Depression. Over the years, Steve mastered the art of hiding it from the world and all those around him.
In August 2014, Steve ran out of tricks for dealing with things and found himself in the darkest place of his entire life, feeling like people didn’t care. He faced two choices—death or help. Fortunately, he reached out for help, and in the spring of 2015 his demons became public knowledge at work and was no longer a secret. Stephen says, “I have continued this battle, and I am getting stronger and better. What I am hoping to convey, is how my love for hunting, the outdoors, and good times with those who share in similar activities has helped my healing journey and hopefully will allow others to see there is hope, and people do care.”
Medicine comes in many forms, and the bear hunt was by far the best prescription for Gloade. When hunting, Steve was at peace. During that hunt, he described his feelings as if he was peering through a window, watching himself, remembering the innocent person he once was. Unfortunately, as Stephen drove home after the hunt he could feel himself changing, and the darkness of his challenges started to overtake him again.
In May of 2015, my brother Dave and our friend Joe invited Steve out to get him into the woods. This was the hunt where he took his first bear, but to get there, he needed encouragement from the Fenson brothers and his wife, Bonnie. Knowing the outdoors was a healthy medicine for Steve, his wife was the one who eventually got him to go.
With great hesitation and reluctance, Steve went, and everyone bent over backward to make sure the hunt was a success. Joe worked tirelessly to get a bait up and running and keep it active. Three treestands were placed to accommodate mentors and supporters. In the end, Steve took his first ever bear with his Bowtech Insanity. The hide was dropped off for tanning, and we videoed the sausage making to share with Steve’s dad, who was not only thrilled but very impressed with his son’s accomplishments.
With any good hunting buddies, there is a special bond that develops—it is hard to describe, yet at the same time, if you know it, you understand it. The year following Steve’s hunt had been tough. He had many ups and downs, but we stayed in contact. Knowing Steve struggled with some dark days, I started making plans with my brother and Joe to give Steve another shot of outdoor medicine, and we invited him to join us for another bear hunt.
Memories of the previous bear hunt were still strong, but Steve couldn’t muster the energy or excitement to commit to the trip. I had to do some scheming and get creative to get our friend back in the woods. A plan was hatched, and we just needed to execute it.
My brother Dave picked Stephen up for coffee, and when entering the vehicle, I was on the phone to entice Steve to change his mind. I had contacted the good people from Bowtech and TruGlo and to keep Steve’s recovery moving forward we enticed him through his love for bowhunting. We were able to present Stephen with a new Bowtech BT-X, fully outfitted with TruGlo accessories. Steve was in shock and having a new bow all he could think about was getting out to shoot it and getting back into the woods.
Stephen says, “I would try to express my love of the outdoors and my belief that it is good medicine. The kindness of Bowtech and TruGlo will not be lost on me. I promise to pass it on. Ironically, as I once thought “who cares”—well, as I step back, it is evident many people do and I can only hope to make them all proud. I will never forget what you have done for me. I will survive this and come back stronger, and each of you will have contributed to that, which will never be forgotten.”
True friends are hard to find, and sharing the outdoors with your best buddies is always a gift in life. Never take it for granted so create the opportunities that will make a difference in your life, and those you want to share it with.
Men and women across the U.S. and Canada make sacrifices so our society can enjoy the freedoms we do. We often forget there is a price, and it is paid by the Stephen Gloades of the world. Never be afraid to reach out when you have a friend or family member in need. It is therapeutic for everyone involved. And, hunting is always good medicine.