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Leggett: A true Texas hunter wouldn't let Bigfoot get away

Mike Leggett
American-Statesman Correspondent
This big old boy is no Bigfoot. He's just an old Alaskan brown bear resting on the beach before chasing salmon on the Moraine River in southwestern Alaska. Bigfoot doesn't exist, no matter what many people choose to believe.

NONDALTON, Alaska — We just recently returned from our mostly annual trip to Newhalen Lodge in Alaska.

It was, as always, beautiful, invigorating, scary and a wonderful way to spend a week floating fantastic, clear and free-running rivers, seeing an amazing number of salmon return to all the rivers and bear-watching along the streams.

I also was able to get a vote in favor of my belief that Bigfoot does NOT exist, either in the wilds of Alaska or in the thickets and bottoms of the southern United States.

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It was veteran outdoor fishing guide and wildlife expert Bill Sims — who has lived most people’s fantasies about charging bears and elephants — who said he could find no evidence of Bigfoot, even though there are still stories floating around the bush about creatures that are supposed to be 7 to 8 feet tall and weigh in excess of 400 pounds.

But Sims isn’t convinced.

“I just think that with all the game cameras that people have out in the brush, somebody would have gotten a picture of one if they existed,” he said one afternoon.

He also noted that he’s spent in excess of 20,000 hours piloting planes across the Alaskan tundra without seeing any such animal. Nor has he seen any carcasses or skeletons, even though he routinely finds dead and desiccated moose and caribou and even bears lying out there.

So why is the Bigfoot myth so persistent in our culture? Who keeps it alive and clings so stubbornly to tales about monsters? I’ve told the story of the man in Panola County along the Sabine River in East Texas who claimed to have watched a Bigfoot sneaking along toward a feeder he’d placed in the river bottom on his deer lease.

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The creature supposedly watched a sounder of hogs picking up the corn under his feeder while the hunter sat quietly in his tree stand. Then with a burst of speed that would cover a hundred yards in just a few seconds, the Bigfoot sprang into the hogs and grabbed a fully grown pig, placing it under his arm and running back off the way he arrived.

There are a couple of things wrong with this picture. First, the hunter claimed he was too shocked to take a shot at the Bigfoot, even though it could have meant fame and fortune and guaranteed a television show on which he could run around in the woods at night, gasping for air and saying in his loudest fake whisper: “Hear that! That’s a ’squatch.”

The second thing wrong is that I don’t believe any self-respecting hunter in East Texas could have resisted putting a .30-06 bullet right through the thing’s chest. Season or no, and limits be damned.

The only thing better would be if he could have done it at night.

OK, that’s just my natural cynicism coming out. I don’t believe, and I don’t think anything short of an actual animal running out to pick up a deer I’ve just shot can convince me otherwise.

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It has been and will remain a point of debate for hunters and naturalists around the world. You can’t prove a negative, and there’s no stopping people who have decided that they’ve seen a Bigfoot or, in another astounding case of a myth that won’t die, a black panther.

The black panther is another legend that has more background and a longer life than Bigfoot and one that refuses to give up the ghost. Almost everyone in East Texas, not to mention Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia, will tell you that they’ve seen one and that their uncle or their granddaddy killed one years ago and took it up to the courthouse to show off to all the snuff-dippers hanging out in front of the barber shop.

Naturalists discount any reports of a black panther in North America, though leopards and jaguars do occasionally show up in an all black model. Pumas do not display that melanistic characteristic, but there’s no arguing with a true believer.

It’s maddening. They don’t believe in COVID-19, but black panthers and Bigfoot are real.

Take me now, Lord,