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Old 09-24-2012, 09:59 PM
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Default So, what does a black bear smell like?

My wife decided we would hike to the top of Rabun Bald mountain today, so off we went. Most of the trail up was narrow and basically a tunnel through the rhododendron, about 1/4 mile from the top, my wife froze. The air was very pungent, sort of like a swamp of urine, and something off the trail gave a deep, guttural growl that certainly was neither cat or dog. We sort of moved along at a good clip after that, came across another whiff of the smell further up that was considerably weaker, as though it was starting to fade.

We warned another hiker we met at the top and headed back down about an hour later. We did not hear, smell or see anything on the way back. But I was concerned.
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:14 PM
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Sounds more like a mountain lion to me......it's close to prime mating season and they lay scent down when in heat. But who knows.......
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ColbyBruce View Post
My wife decided we would hike to the top of Rabun Bald mountain today, so off we went. Most of the trail up was narrow and basically a tunnel through the rhododendron, about 1/4 mile from the top, my wife froze. The air was very pungent, sort of like a swamp of urine, and something off the trail gave a deep, guttural growl that certainly was neither cat or dog. We sort of moved along at a good clip after that, came across another whiff of the smell further up that was considerably weaker, as though it was starting to fade.

We warned another hiker we met at the top and headed back down about an hour later. We did not hear, smell or see anything on the way back. But I was concerned.
I've been fairly close (within a few feet) to a few live black bears, and in direct contact with a few that were very recently deceased, and never noticed any peculiar smell. Coyotes sometimes smell pretty rank, mountain lions often smell of skunk spray, elk often emit a sort of pungent odor, and our locally smallest "big game", javelina, are often as easily smelled as seen, but none of these examples pertain to the locale you mentioned. Maybe member BearBio will weigh in with other experience...
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:34 PM
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I don't know what it was, but I'm pretty sure one of them was at our local Walmart.
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:34 PM
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If you get a chance to be near him again tell him he owes my cousin a cow.

I was just giving up looking for some old news reports to show my wife.

I think it was the early '70's and my cousin's cow got it's head riped off. News reports all over the local stations said it was the Skunk Ape.

I heard some things that weren't normal out in the swamp and I know and can id. what I hear.

I can't find the news old story.
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Old 09-24-2012, 10:49 PM
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Funny that you should mention a Skunk Ape. There have been reported sightings of Sasquatch type critters in that vacinity. Black bear or Sasquatch, a Glock 26 is not that much comfort in a thicket.


I had this S&W #1006 with me, but did not leave the house planning on hiking, other than through the local Wal-Mart. This thumper was back at the house.
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Old 09-24-2012, 11:25 PM
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I'm just speculating here. Almost anyone who has spent their fair share of times out in the woods or mountains (or deserts, I guess) has probably smelled something they couldn't identify. Some guys get spooked easily and run for cover or safety. Others of us have circled where we caught wind of it, looking for tracks or whatever. But only the lucky ones found what they smelled. From time to time if you share the experience with others, they'll tell similar stories.

My limited experience is bears kind of stink. Its a musk type of smell. Not overpowering unless they've been dead for a while.

But then during the mating season most animals give off and odor. Since its often urine related, its not very pleasant to humans. For that matter, human urine smell isn't very pleasant. For an example, sit next to a homeless person sometime. Depending on the temperature outside, I'm guessing the odor is variable.

If the question is an honest one, I'd suggest the OP visit a few zoos and maybe an exotic animal farm that houses black bears. The answer should be known instantly. Its not weird to ask it, or to seek the answers. Its probably an advantage for any outdoorsman to know the answer. But be careful, you may realize you've been around them more than you think!
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Old 09-24-2012, 11:32 PM
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I have smelled rattelsnakes and to me they reminded me of cucumbers. Anyone else think that?
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Old 09-25-2012, 12:19 AM
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I guess my answer may surprise you?

I know the Chattahoochee National Forest very well, so don't discount what I have to say to much.

...may be a very good chance the smell was coming from a plant called "galax". Many other plants have a strong sour/urine smell too.
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Old 09-25-2012, 12:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by feralmerril View Post
I have smelled rattelsnakes and to me they reminded me of cucumbers. Anyone else think that?
Not the scent of cucumbers, but to my sense of smell, much more musky, more like skunk scent or etc., but sometimes with distinctive odor.

Once, while skinning refrigerated Sunday-killed rattlesnakes on Monday night, I left one on the counter while answering a long phone call, during which a I heard a small "thud", and then "rattling" --- one of the decapitated snakes had sort of reanimated, and worked its way off the counter and fallen to the floor ... This was very disconcerting, as might be imagined... During the course of this process, I learned that like other snakes, rattlers have glands from which they can emit, sometimes forcefully, a foul-scented fluid, which I have occasionally smelled in the field --- always an occasion for pause...

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Old 09-25-2012, 12:28 AM
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I don't know, but I'm fairly sure that if I ever encountered a bear face to face, I would smell like urine.
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Old 09-25-2012, 12:31 AM
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Musk and poop.
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Old 09-25-2012, 12:34 AM
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Originally Posted by ColbyBruce View Post
My wife decided we would hike to the top of Rabun Bald mountain today, so off we went. Most of the trail up was narrow and basically a tunnel through the rhododendron, about 1/4 mile from the top, my wife froze. The air was very pungent, sort of like a swamp of urine, and something off the trail gave a deep, guttural growl that certainly was neither cat or dog. We sort of moved along at a good clip after that, came across another whiff of the smell further up that was considerably weaker, as though it was starting to fade.

We warned another hiker we met at the top and headed back down about an hour later. We did not hear, smell or see anything on the way back. But I was concerned.
Wampus cat.
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Old 09-25-2012, 12:40 AM
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I don't know what it was, but I'm pretty sure one of them was at our local Walmart.
Only one? Slow day at Walmart, eh?
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Old 09-25-2012, 12:50 AM
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Musk and poop.
Please, keep your scatological interests to yourself --- this being an ostensibly family-friendly forum ...
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Old 09-25-2012, 03:35 AM
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Bigfoot...

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Old 09-25-2012, 05:33 AM
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I have come across very fresh bear sign and noticed a real sour smell in the air. That odor is worse when it's raining or has been.
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Old 09-25-2012, 07:18 AM
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If your "spidey senses" were going off, then you were correct in wondering if you needed to prepare for "Flight or Fight". We were in the woods and walking around trying to figure where to hang some deer stands. All of a sudden we hear a rattle snake making all kinds of noise, right next to us!! We all leaped about 20 feet in the same direction. Neil Armstrong had nothing on us making that giant leap!! My buddy killed the snake, it was 8 foot long and it's skin is mounted over his fireplace. We all laugh about our near brush with death now, but his wife asked a question we never could answer, "How did you know WHICH WAY TO JUMP"??
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Old 09-25-2012, 07:44 AM
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Wampus cat.
I haven't heard that term since my grandad died, that one made me smile.
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:17 AM
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What does a black bear smell like? Depends on what he has been doing in the woods.
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Old 09-25-2012, 10:03 AM
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Wow, so many comments.

1) While deer hunting, we had to cross a small creek. At least 3 bears had crossed recently. Smelled like a garbage can. Bears? Maybe trash from nearby campgrounds that the bears had dragged into the waterside veg?

2) I don't remember anything special about the dozen or so black ears I've handled. Never handled a griz.

3) Rattlesnakes supposedly do smell like cucumbers.

4) Garter snakes can smell downright vile!

5) Gray foxes can be worse than skunks during breeding time. I would expect most dogs would.

6) Cats do make scent pads/scrapes. They can be pretty gross.

7) I've smelled some pretty rank elk (and even more rank elk hunters!)
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Old 09-25-2012, 11:17 AM
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Quote:
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I have smelled rattelsnakes and to me they reminded me of cucumbers. Anyone else think that?
I've alsao made that exact connection! Copperheads as well.
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Old 09-25-2012, 01:52 PM
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I agree with two of the posts above...I have been around several alive and several dead bears and none of them smelled what I would say was bad enough to leave a trail a human could pick up on. In fact, to me none of them really smelled that bad. I didn't touch any of the live ones but I have definatley been closer than 8 or 10 feet. As far as the dead ones, I have handled many and even mounted one of them for my brother-in-law{in a taxidermy sense.} My take on a black bear is that you are probably not going to be able to go out in the woods and smell where one was much less smell one that you can see unless you're close enough that he has a hold of you. I also agree that it is likely a plant. We have three rather pungent plants where I live that make lots of folks think they are some animal. The first is skunk cabbage, no further explaination is needed. The next one you can only smell in the late fall and it makes alot of hunters believe there is a big buck near. Dont know what it is called but I was told for years it was a rutting buck. This plant smells worse after a rain or foggy weather. last we have one that smells exactly like a billy goat and it is strong. Not very big of a plant either but I guaranty you there is no hiding or covering this one!!! Bad part is I dont know the names of either of the last two. Maybe Galax is the goat like one???
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Old 09-25-2012, 02:02 PM
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I wrestled a black bear in a carnival when I was a teenager. It was muzzled and declawed. The smell afterwards was so bad I had to go home and wash my clothes and shower. Besides learning that bears smell terrible I also learned that they are extremely strong. The bear trainer had the bear start standing on its hind legs and when wrestlers who were much bigger than I was ( 130# ) tried to wrestle the way they would a person the bear would toss them on the ground and then pile on them and beat them with its forearms. When I wrestled the bear I hit it in the chest with my shoulder and knocked it on its back and then jumped on top of it. The bear trainer got mad and threw me out of the ring.
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Old 09-25-2012, 02:34 PM
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I don't know about bears or rattlers. I know garter snakes will put a funk out if you mess with them, and I have smelled water moccasins before I ever saw them. I don't recall thinking of cucumbers, but I don't like the smell of them either.
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Old 09-25-2012, 03:41 PM
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Lions (Panthera leo, not pumas) have a pretty acrid odor. But they don't live where the OP was hiking. Never smelled a cougar in heat or when scent-marking.

Plants don't growl. He heard a distinct growl.

I think it was maybe a bear, maybe a cougar, maybe the skunk ape. If he'd found tracks later, that would help.

I'm glad he warned the other hikers. Even if plants emitted the odor, they may have done it because a bear was grazing them. Or the skunk ape, in which I about half believe.

I bet that 10mm goes on his next hike!

I've had a gray fox growl at me and look pretty hostile. I drew my M-66-3 and walked wide of him, trying to avoid eye contact, He finally walked off, too. About a week later, this same (?) fox stood on a high point and challenged me, snarling. Again, I drew the .357 and walked wide of him, and he seemed satisfied. But he came pretty close to being a field test of Federal's 158 grain .357 Hydra-Shok.

I called the Natural History Museum and asked if the mammalogist on the line thought the fox might be rabid or was just being territorial. He agreed that it was probably the latter.

Later, in that same area, a female fox gave me a wary eye as we both kept some distance and went opposite ways on that path. I saw her or another vixen much later, with kits. Cute little buggers. That mom didn't see or scent me, and it may be just as well. I don't know how she'd have reacted with the kids there.

None of these foxes emitted any special odor, but the male was a real growler. They may well have scent glands that emit a musky smell and just didn't use it.

If I heard a growl from the region where I smelled dead or rotting meat, I'd suspect a bear on a kill or scavenging on a dead animal it found.

You could call a museum or zoo and describe he circumstances and the smell, the nature of the growl, etc. They might have an idea. An ornithologist at the museum asked me where I'd heard an owl and how it sounded when it called and what the circumstances were. He used that info to tell me that it was screech owls that I was hearing. Later, a Great Horned Owl flew right at my face and veered off at the last split second as it realized that I was sitting behind the windsheld of my parked car. It twanged the antenna pretty badly as it swerved to avoid the glass. That was a very differen owl. I still wonder what it thought it was doing. Maybe it saw my face in the darkness and thought it was a small animal? Scared me pretty badly. By the time I saw it coming, it was right there!

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Old 09-25-2012, 05:05 PM
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"Plants don't growl. He heard a distinct growl."

They don't!!?? You want'a bet!?
All sounds in the mountains are NOT made by animals or people and may sound the same!

Like I said in my first post...
"I know the Chattahoochee National Forest very well, so don't discount what I have to say to much."


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Old 09-25-2012, 05:11 PM
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I don't know what a bear smells like, but I smelled rattle snakes once and I would definitely be careful...
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Old 09-25-2012, 06:05 PM
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I hear Banjos


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Old 09-25-2012, 06:11 PM
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Thank you for the replies. I agree snakes smell, been there, done that. I have smelled wild hogs several times and am familiar with their odor. There is a wild animal game ranch near Stone Mountain and I have been around cougars, bears, coyotes, buffalo, elk, etc.; and experienced their sounds and odors. Also, we have the stinky plants near our home there in Rabun county. This odor hung in the air like skunk odor does, and dissipated with time. It also seemed to move along the trail in the same direction we did, but off to the side. Visibilty to either side of the trail was less five to ten feet at most places. Whatever it was, it didn't like us being there and I believe trailed us off to the side for a short while.

My wife has often asked why I had more than one or two handguns. I always reply "A handgun is like a screwdriver, one will not work for every application". Yesterday, I told her I was carrying the wrong screwdriver. That will not happen again.
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Old 09-25-2012, 06:17 PM
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For that matter, human urine smell isn't very pleasant. For an example, sit next to a homeless person sometime.
Or go to a gun show.

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Old 09-25-2012, 06:28 PM
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Well Colby, with all the Bears up there why not just sneak up on one and give him a big bear style hug. Get a good whiff of him or her.
You could be like the guy in NY that wanted to be "One with the Tiger" I can't imagine they smell real good.

Next time I come up, we can go together and I'll cover ya. I know I can run faster than Mrs Rule

Surely we have hunters here that have shot some bear??
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Old 09-25-2012, 06:41 PM
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There is a stone fire tower with a wood deck on it at the top of Rabun Bald. You can see Lake Keowee, SC from there.
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Old 09-25-2012, 06:47 PM
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Now it could have been a Big Foot? One was found near where you were. Yeah.. they put him in a freezer and he turned to rubber!
You ever met Billy Redden? He was/is a part owner of the Cookie Jar Cafe in Clayton. Seemed like a OK guy.

Here's his best moment...
Oh.. in real life he can't play the banjo.

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Old 09-25-2012, 06:59 PM
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"According to Native American legend, Rabun Bald is inhabited by fire-breathing demon people: some campers still report hearing strange sounds throughout the night."

Now.. you know the real truth!
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Old 09-25-2012, 07:25 PM
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Quote:
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Bigfoot...

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+1 for Bigfoot.
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Old 09-25-2012, 07:28 PM
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Bruce-

I don't like the way that animal seemed to follow you, off to the side of the trail. That does suggest a Bigfoot/Skunk Ape more than a bear.

Could have been a bear that was seeing you away from a food cache or its young. Still,very odd.
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:22 PM
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Skunk ape for sure.
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:50 PM
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I too was uncomfortable with the thing seemingly following us for a while.

I need to get you Sasquatch believers together for a hike back up to the top of Rabun Bald.
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:54 PM
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That smell could only come from one place: two long-lost Woodstock
concert fans, who have struggled on the trail for 40+ years, smoking dope and making things smelly everywhere they go.
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Old 09-25-2012, 09:28 PM
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Well.. I can tell you for a fact, if Big foot was in Georgia, he would be in Rabun County! It has the most National Forest Land in Georgia(155,000 acres) and it's easy to get "turned around".
I've hunted North Georgia for gold and corundum(sapphire and ruby) for over 30 years, if you go to Rabun you better know more than a little about navigation!

I'll add a nice picture...



Headwaters of the Chattooga River.
The Chattooga begins in southern Jackson County, North Carolina, then flows southwestward between northwestern Oconee County, South Carolina, and eastern Rabun County, Georgia.
The river was used as a setting for the fictional Cahulawassee River in the book and film Deliverance.
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Old 09-26-2012, 05:42 PM
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The only odor that I ever smelled when I heard a rattle snake rattle was feces. Guess where that came from?

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Old 09-26-2012, 06:43 PM
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it dawned on me last night that I could "GOOGLE" animal sounds so I did. This was driving my wife crazy...until I got the correct sound. About the ninth bear growl sound was exactly what she had heard. Her face looked about the same as it did on Monday, LOL!!
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Old 09-26-2012, 09:31 PM
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Agreed on the snakes smelling like cucumbers, 1st heard it from my grandfather years ago, he spent a lifetime hunting/fishing/working in the woods. Of course at the time I just though it was "old timer" BS, but after encountering the smell and the snakes in the woods, I decided the old gentleman knew what he was talking about, and later came to realize that was true on several subjects. I now wish I had paid more attention..
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Old 09-26-2012, 09:56 PM
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I too was uncomfortable with the thing seemingly following us for a while.

I need to get you Sasquatch believers together for a hike back up to the top of Rabun Bald.
I'm in. Its a relatively short drive from here in NC.
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Old 09-26-2012, 10:08 PM
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I've always carried a revolver in the mountains on every trip,
even before it was legal to do so in the NF. I've had run-ins with many bears both on the trail and at camp. I've never had to shoot an animal, but have drawn a few times just in case.
You never really know when a shot will have to be fired?
The only hogs I've seen has been in the Cherokee National Forest in the Tellico Plains area and east in the Nantahala NF before you get to Robbinsville, NC... and many have an attitude!
Always carry when you're there. I know you know the story about the crazy man killing that girl on Blood Mountain... so be safe.

The mountains of North Georgia, East Tennessee, and Western North Carolina all have large cats. Some a brownish black and some solid black. The "College Guys" will tell you that the cats are not there, but they received their education inside buildings.
I got my education here and still going to "school" after 64 years...

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Old 09-26-2012, 10:13 PM
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Chicken and watermelon
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Old 09-26-2012, 10:55 PM
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. The air was very pungent, sort of like a swamp of urine, and something off the trail gave a deep, guttural growl that certainly was neither cat or dog.
That was you? You should have stopped and said hi to me.
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Old 09-27-2012, 03:23 PM
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I can't believe, out of all the posts, no one realizes the obvious.
Chupacabra.
Maybe a whole lair of them.
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Old 09-27-2012, 03:23 PM
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Oh shoot, maybe that's just Texas.
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