BY GORD ELLIS
A man from Thunder Bay has combined his interest in both martial arts and hiking to come up with something he thinks could help fight off a bear.
Jim Morris has begun to market what he is calling the Bear Stick.
He says the stick is similar to a weapon used in Aikido called a Jo. Morris says the idea for the product came to him gradually, over some time.
“About 12 years ago my wife and I started hiking and we both used a Jo as a walking stick,” he said. “It helped with balance up and down hills etc. and in the back of my mind I thought ‘well if I’ve got the Jo, and a bear attacks, I can fend him off.’”
But Morris says he also started thinking that the Jo itself was not going to be good enough to really smack down a bear if need be.
“So the light went on, and I took a dowelling and made a bear stick,” he said. “Which is basically a JO, but the top handle comes off and there is a 6 or 8 inch ardox nail or spike sticking out.”
Morris says what you have in the final analysis is a “hiking stick with attitude.”
The inventor makes all the Bear Sticks by hand in Thunder Bay. He says the dowels and spikes he uses for most of them are basically “from Home Depot”, but customizes them into something that will work very well as a full fledged walking stick. Yet the removable handle and spike adds the defense aspect to it. Morris says most of the sticks are 48 to 50 inches in length and an inch and a quarter around. Some of the Bear Sticks are stained black, others brown and a few are kept natural, but stained with teak oil. But for the hiker who wants a Bear Stick with some natural beauty, Morris has that covered as well.
“The Cadillac, I’d say are made from black diamond willow, grown here (Thunder Bay) locally,” said Morris. “Every one is different. They are a little more time consuming but I call them the classic.”
At first glance, the Bear Stick looks benign, like a garden-variety walking stick. But when you remove the handle and see that spike, you know this truly would be a formidable weapon. Although a knife is potentially effective when fighting a bruin, you have to be in direct contact with the animal. Morris notes that with the Bear Stick, you are keeping the animal at bay, about four feet away, and inflicting damage with that seven-inch spike.
“Is it going to save my life?” said Morris. “I don’t know. but I’d like to think it would, especially if there were more than one of you with a Bear Stick. Then you’ve got two people with sharp object pointing at the bear.”
Morris says the Bear Stick comes in a variety of styles and sizes, and will cost between 35 and 60 dollars retail, depending on the model, plus shipping and handling . At present Morris is marketing the product directly through the website www.thebearstick.com. He says he will be pounding on doors over the next weeks, introducing some local northwestern Ontario retailers to the Bear Stick. He believes there is a good market out there for a walking stick that has real bear fighting capabilities.
“Every time you see a hiking trail, you see the standard international symbol of somebody walking with a hiking stick,” said Morris. “All I’ve done is taken my Aikido experience, with the Jo, and made a walking stick that is a little more defensive. And if I get attacked by an animal, I can defend myself.”