— MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — It's an odd feeling that comes over a person when you're walking alone on a sandy woods road and suddenly realize there are more bear tracks than deer.
It's cool, but in an uneasy kind of way.
That was the case on a recent Thursday as I accompanied a group of hunters, who for more than 30 years have been peacefully co-existing with Ursus Americanus floridanus, or the Florida black bear that continues to thrive in a relatively small area of southwest Alabama.
For CR's Hunting Club President Lee Turner and long-time members and brothers Greg Bridges and Russell Bridges, bear sightings are so commonplace they hardly cause a stir among them and the other members of the 1,500-acre club, located in the heart of Bama's bear country off Radcliff Road.
"If you want to impress people up here, show them a picture of a hog," said Greg Bridges, who along with his brother has been hunting in bear country since 1977. "Over the years I have come to appreciate bears. They're such a beautiful animal."
Turner said the club on the north side of Radcliff Road has always harbored a population of bears, but it has really seemed to increase over the past five years.
All three men and other club members have captured hundreds of trail camera pictures of bears. They also said that it is common during deer season for at least one member to return to camp with a new bear-sighting story to tell.
"If seven of us were to go sit a stand this afternoon," Greg Bridges said, "I guarantee at least one of us would see a bear."
Added Turner, "There's also a good chance that all of us would see a bear."