Uncovering Mystery/ who did it?



In my last Blog Post I relayed the discovery of hide & hair, bones, bear scat and a harness and bell. All were found within a 200’ radius of the bear scat. I also mentioned that in the area I was hiking there are range-mules that wear bells to warn people of their presence. Now we will focus on uncovering the mystery. You may want to review my prior Blog Post Hiking Off Trail to get the full context of this post.

So when we hike with a focus on discovery we look for what is present but not necessarily obvious. We evaluate our finds using a process that is easy but uncommon for us today. It is the process called deductive reasoning (the how to of uncovering mystery) . We go from effect to cause, which, for most of us, is foreign. One of the primary rules in deductive reasoning is to view the evidence only as evidence and draw no conclusions until all the facts available are fully understood to the degree possible. Only then can you connect the dots. So very important to the process is being able to discern between relevant events (clue/evidence) and not relevant events (feint/diversion).

The normal inductive reasoning that we are accustom to using assumes the evidences will lead us from cause to effect not effect to cause. Our minds would quickly conclude that a bear killed a range mule, consumed its appendages and drug off the balance of the carcass for future consumption. We found the harness and bell meaning somehow it was removed from the mule. We found some leg bones and hide and the presence of the bear so, viola, we solved the mystery.

The enchanting part about discovery is that thinking through deductively leads you away from general assumptions and quick conclusions based on a hypothetical or gut reaction hypothesis. It does so because we first investigate and understand the effect and then gather evidence as to the cause. The evidence was hair and hide, bones, a harness and bell, and bear scat.

So now let us look at the facts deductively to really uncover the mystery.

What do we see?

  1. Hide & hair
    1. It was a dry not a moist hide.
    2. There were only two small samples.
    3. The hair was very long.
    4. There was no sinew present.
    5. There was no carcass found in the area.
  2. Appendage bones
    1. They were scattered about.
    2. They were smaller not larger.
    3. They showed signs of both deterioration and weathering.
    4. There was no sinew present.
  3. Harness & bell
    1. It showed no signs of teeth marks or claw marks or blood.
    2. The harness was a buckled piece of heavy leather almost 2’ in diameter.
  4. Bear Scat
    1. It had not lost its moisture thus was at most weeks old.
    2. It was made up largely of bark, berries, seeds and other similar items.

What do we know that impacts our consideration?

  1. The weight range for a full-grown mule is 800 to 1000 lbs.
  2. The weight range for an adult mule deer is 200 to 400 lbs. The most common deer in the habitat are mule deer.
  3. The weight of black bears in the region is generally in the range of 150 to 400lbs, with the upper weight limit not characteristic.
  4. The summer hair on both animals (deer and mule) is short and in winter it is long.
  5. It is not uncommon to have harness and bell get caught in underbrush and come off over the head of the mules. We have found similar finds (bell and harness) in the areas where the mules roam.
  6. Bear scat can easily dry up within a week in the warm Eastern Washington summer weather.
  7. Black bears, in general, do not actively hunt deer, particularly when they have abundant alternate food sources. The black bear is an omnivore and over 85% of its food intake is vegetarian in nature. They generally attempt chase off, if possible, the predator that kills the game and then proceed to enjoy its find.

Thus looking at our preliminary findings we start connecting the dots.

  1. The bear scat is more recent, not older.
  2. The bones don’t fit a Mule.
  3. The hair is winter hair not summer hair.
  4. The lack of a carcass or more bones suggests a “long time ago” event.
  5. The aging of the bones suggest a “long time ago” event.
  6. Take away the bell which appears coincidental (non-relevant event/feint), and the bear scat which appears coincidental (non-relevant event/feint) and you have a deer that met it death likely at the earliest last winter.

What else do we know? Last winter was a particularly severe winter for the deer due in part to massive wild fires that destroyed much of their winter food and prolonged cold weather including a February with heavy snow which is late for the area. There are numerous predators including wolf and bear in the area that would take down a weak and helpless deer. It may have been a bear but not this bear.

Moving from “effect” to “cause” we have a logical conclusion derived from facts that tell us what, if any, relationship the “indications” we found have to do with the mystery we discovered (parts of a dead animal). What was the cause of the effect.

Stay tuned as we lead you through the process of discovery hiking. We will be providing ongoing training in the application of deductive reasoning as applied to the process of discovery hiking which is the substance of Hiking To Adventure. If you are into hiking, backpacking, wondering in the woods, geocaching, kayaking or any other outdoor adventure activities Hiking To Adventure (HTA) is your backwoods investigatory training institute. The hills are alive with the sound of critters, and all sorts of wonders to be discovered.

With Hiking Stick in Hand,






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