I BEGAN HUNTING Pennsylvania black bears in 1986, a few months after I saw my first-ever bear tracks. They were planted in the mud along the laurel-choked banks of Redbank Creek, and they stopped me like a $100 bill lying on the street. I laid my palm inside them, contemplated their maker, and connected with their wildness. I knew then I would become a hunter of bears. It was the beginning of a quest. 32 But I never could have predicted just how long it would take to complete. Looking back on it now, it seems that 30 years is, indeed, a very long time. At first, I assumed hunting bears in Pennsylvania would be much like hunting deer. I thought that by simply going to where they are known to live, I'd have a reasonable expectation of finding one. But I was soon to be acquainted with metaphors like "needle in a haystack" and "winning the lottery."