It was a warm day in late November, 1969, so Lynn May left his coveralls at home when he went out hunting for a bear at Cold Springs on the Shenandoah Mountain near Criders, Virginia. Although Lynn’s older brother Gerald decided to go deer hunting in nearby West Virginia, Lynn wanted to find the bear that he saw signs of while deer hunting the week before. He was at the Cold Springs near the cabin owned by Doug Ennis, Lane Lantz, and Lee Stultz.
Lynn was 26 years old and had killed two bears before, so he was ready when he saw the bear approximately 200 yards away after about an hour in the woods. Lynn says that the first shot he fired from his .243 bolt-action rifle partially paralyzed the bear, but the bear did not stop. The bear continued to come at him after Lynn fired the second shot. Lynn realized that he had left the box of ammunition in the pocket of his coveralls so he only had one shot left. Lynn fired. He saw the bear throw his head back as he was hit but the bear still did not go down but kept dragging itself toward Lynn. Lynn looked around and found a rock which he threw at the bear.
When Lynn hit the bear with a rock, it got madder and advanced quickly toward Lynn, swiping at him and drawing blood. Lynn pulled out his pocket knife (he didn’t carry a hunting knife) and slashed the bear’s ear, drawing blood. Lynn stabbed the bear in the back of the neck with his knife. Next the bear bit Lynn on both of his hands and wrists, then let go of his left wrist and bit the calf in Lynn’s right leg. The bear kept coming at Lynn, who finally got away after a struggle and got behind a rock. The bear finally died several minutes later. Lynn cleaned up his wounds, and went looking for brother Gerald who had agreed to meet Lynn at noon at the crest of the ridge, but it was about 10:20 am so Lynn waited for an hour and a half, yelling for Gerald as he waited.
When Gerald got to the crest of the ridge, he and Lynn went back to the spot where the dead bear was and dragged the bear off the mountain to check it at Miller Turner’s Store in Criders. Lynn says it weighed 232 pounds field dressed and he estimates that it weighed close to 300 pounds when it charged him. Lynn recalls that Janet Turner asked “What in the world happened to you?” as she noticed the blood on his clothes. Janet insisted that Lynn needed to go to the doctor and get checked out. Finally, after getting the bear checked in, Lynn got to the doctor’s office where he said Wilma Brady put over 30 stitches in his wrist and leg. When he pulled off his boot, his leg was bloody.
Later, Lynn remembered that his wrist watch was missing. The bear claws had torn off his watch when the bear was swiping him which Lynn says probably saved his life. He went back the next day and found the watch.
Although this adventure happened over 50 years ago, Lynn remembers it like it was yesterday. When I talked to him about killing the bear, and took notes, his memory was very vivid and matched the account by Tommy Thompson which was in an article “Bear Taken Bare-Handed by County Hunter” in the Daily News Record on December 5, 1969, along with a photo of Lynn. Lynn had the bear head and paws mounted. Some of the bear’s teeth were missing where Lynn hit the bear the third time with a gunshot to the head. Lynn also made a bearskin rug.
Lynn and my late mother, Eileen Dove Stultz, were first cousins, although I never recall meeting growing up. I got acquainted with Lynn at Accordius In Harrisonburg where both he and my late son lived before the pandemic and saw him often. Lynn’s memory is amazing; one day he asked if my father’s sister married a Jenkins and taught at Caplinger’s School. I said “yes, that was my Aunt Wilma Stultz Jenkins.” Lynn said that she taught his brother Gerald.
After many months when one could only do window visits at Accordius (which are hard for Lynn who has had a hearing issue since childhood), visits are now allowed and I visit Lynn and take him a copy of the latest The Chimney Rock Chronicle which he enjoys. Lynn has many other stories to tell; the latest thing we talked about was the baseball team that his grandfather organized when he was growing up. He is excited that his story will be in the CRC! If you would like to hear the story of the bear, visit Lynn. Or send him a card with your reaction to this story or just saying hello: Lynn May, 94 South Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22801.