Posted by: Craig Woolheater on January 4th, 2012
On October 8, 2010, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Justin Smeja and his hunting buddy allegedly came upon an adult Sasquatch and two young ones. Smeja says that In the confusion that followed, he killed the adult and one of the juveniles. Here is his story.ImpossibleVisits (Chris Noel)
The above paragraph is Chris Noel’s description of the interview that he edited down to 28:33 minutes.
Update: Transcript added
Transcript of the Justin Smeja radio show. Via Chris Noel:
Justin Smeja: It was October 8th of 2010, and we’re going bear hunting up by Golden Lake. It was just another day. We’d hunted most of the day – unproductive. We found one small buck, and we said, “It’s a young deer, let’s let this one grow up,” so we passed on that deer.
Then we ended up going into another area, and we’re coming around the corner. It’s probably 5 o’clock. We came around this corner…well, it’s not really a corner – it’s kind of like an open field, but it’s a blind corner because you can’t see past these trees. So it opens up into a field. We both look, and we see this thing at the same exact time.
The truck stops. I pointed my rifle at it, and I could see it through the scope. I had my scope on 16 power. I could see it pretty clearly. Everybody asks me, “Well what was going through your head? Did you think it was a bear?” I thought a lot of things. It wasn’t that I was a skeptic, it was more that I didn’t know that anybody believed in Bigfoot at all.
We saw this creature. It was walking on two legs, hairy. The best way I can describe it is it looked like a person in a suit. Probably 3 or 4 seconds had gone by, and it started to walk towards us, between 80 and 100 yards away…It had its arms in the air and was waving them, almost like, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot!” Kind of a universal thing in any language. Anybody raises his hands – sign of surrender.
I didn’t know what it was. To me it was just a monster. I’m looking at this monster. By this time I have the bullet in the chamber, my finger on the trigger, and it’s coming towards us, slowly. It’s taking steps, waving.
A lot of people are saying I shot it in the back, but if you have a deer, and you shoot it behind the shoulder, then you’re going to penetrate both lungs. On a person it’s a hard area to describe, but it’s basically right under the shoulder where the lungs are located.
So maybe 5 seconds had passed, and my buddy says, “Don’t shoot, don’t shoot! It’s not a bear. Do not shoot.” And I’m still kind of locked in on this thing. To me it was a monster, that’s all it was.
You know the gun’s getting ready to go off. We’ve hunted together a lot over the years, and we both knew what was going to happen. Normally when we see something, the truck stops, both of us get out, and we’ve got our rifles on it immediately.
Well, my buddy was still using his binoculars because he didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what to think. I’m looking at this thing, and I’m pretty close to pulling the trigger. I’ve just been squeezing this whole time. And he’s getting louder and louder, he’s like, “Hey bro, don’t shoot! Don’t shoot! That is not a bear! That’s a person in a suit! That’s a person in a suit! Don’t shoot!”
And I’m thinking, “Well, if that’s a person in a suit, then we’ve got a real problem here, ‘cause they’re walking around during bear season with a fur suit on.”
Something doesn’t add up about this. I’m halfway thinking in the back of my mind that somebody’s going to pull around the corner and it’s going to be like a film crew or something like that. I don’t know. My mind’s going a hundred miles an hour.
But I see this animal – this furry thing – and we’re here to hunt. We’re here to kill animals, and it was just a monster. So I pull the trigger, and you could see dust shoot off the side of it, like it obviously made a really good hit, definitely got it in the lungs. And it took off running.
Just then we see two…I guess you’d call ‘em kids or cubs or something, I don’t know. The big one’s almost out of sight, and these two come right out, and my buddy’s like “Holy fuck , really? There’s more of them!”
So we drive the truck into the field as far as we can, maybe 30 yards. Then we take off running. We heard the thing crash though. It crashed; it sounded like a car wreck. We knew we made a good hit. It’s very normal to shoot a deer and have it run 50, 60, 70 yards and expire. So we run up there, and my buddy doesn’t even grab his gun.
I mean we’re just running, trying to run over to this thing, and the cubs are just out of sight. And we run over there, and now we’re face to face with these kids – probably 10 yards away or so, and we can’t find the big one. So I decide I’m going to going to shoot one of the kids, and my buddy’s like, “No, do not shoot! Do not shoot!”
“Okay, okay, alright. We’ll find the big one, we’ll get it and we’ll leave.”
So we end up looking for 15 minutes or so.
Meanwhile the kids…they’re looking for the parent obviously. They are walking around looking for their parent. We knew we were looking in the right area then…I’ve made the mistake of shooting a sow, and then the piglets come running out, and they always know right where their mom is. They take you to the body. So we knew that it was right there; we just couldn’t find it. It’s an extremely brushy area. I mean, we could have looked for 2 weeks and not found it.
So there’s blood on the ground. We’re kind of looking at the blood. We’re walking around. We split up probably 10 or 15 times. He’d go one way – I’d go the other way. And the kids would do the same thing. They’d walk into the center of the open field, and they’d say something to each other. It sounded like deaf chatter, they’d say, “Wawwa Wo!” They’d say something to each other, then they’d split up.
Then about a minute later they’d come back, almost like they were saying something like this to each other, “You see anything? No, okay. Did you look by that tree, did you look by the stump? Yeah I looked by the stump, did you look by the tree? I’ll look by the other tree.”
They didn’t care that we were there. They were not alarmed at all. They were just there. And so, maybe 15 minutes goes by or so, and I keep deciding that I’m going to shoot one of the little ones. I say, “We’ll shoot one of these, throw it in the back, and we’ll figure it out.”
And my buddy’s like, “No, no that’s terrible. Don’t do that. There’s no reason for that. There’s absolutely no reason to do this.”
So at the time everything’s running through my head, I’m thinking if we don’t get one of the little ones, nobody’s ever going to believe us. It’s just going to be a crazy story. We just need to find the big one, and we need to get out of here.
So eventually me and my buddy are split up, and I’m down this hill, and the little one is almost like straight uphill maybe 15 yards away, maybe 20, it’s is starting to approach me.
It’s getting closer…it’s getting closer, starting to make some noise, like the deaf chatter thing…it’s getting closer, and I was thinking, “I don’t know what’s going to happen here, but he’s going to get too close, it’s way too close for comfort. Screw it, I’m going to shoot.”
So I shoot it directly in the neck ‘cause I didn’t want to mess up the skull or the face. And it rolled down the hill and actually…it hit my feet and started bleeding on my boots. It’s still alive. So I pick it up, and I’m sitting there looking at it, and I’m starting to feel bad. I’m starting to realize, “What have I done, what have I done?” And…that went on for a couple minutes. There was a lot of stuff that happened then, but to summarize it and make a long story short, it died.
And then my buddy walks up and he’s like, “What have you done? Seriously, really?” And I’m like “Fine, forget this,” so I throw it on the ground, and I start walking back to the truck. Then I look back, and my buddy’s holding it, just holding it, sitting there staring at it.
So…I walk back to him like, “Dude, we gotta get out of here. Somebody just heard a shot, you know that somebody’s going to show up – Fish and Game. We’re going to get in so much trouble. We’re going to go to jail. We need to get out of here. This is crazy. Let’s go.”
He says, “Okay, okay, let’s hide this, and we’ll come back for it later. We’ll come back.”
So we take it into the bush, get it as deep as we can, throw a bunch of stuff on top of it, and then we leave, not saying a word. We actually drove out of there probably 60 miles an hour on that dirt road. It doesn’t make sense but we were just afraid we were going to get caught or get in trouble, something like that.
We drove down to Sierraville, and we stop there. Both of us quit smoking in like the last 6 months. Gross habit. But we both walk in, get a pack of cigarettes without saying a word, and we drive all the way home without saying a word. We both smoked the whole pack. Then he dropped me off.
A couple days later I get on Taxidermy.net. I’ve got a few friends on there, and I’m trying to think if there’s some way I can talk about what happened, so I make a post titled, If You Saw Bigfoot, Would You Shoot It?
That’s all I said, and everybody’s going back and forth. Taxidermists are outdoor people. They’ve got a fascination with wildlife. They’ve hunted all their lives. There’s a bunch of guys on there who were like, “Oh no, I seen one, I seen one, I know they’re real.” And it turned into this really long topic, so maybe 20 pages goes by. And I get on there and I say, “I’ll tell you what, you can call it bullshit if you want, I don’t care, but I shot something that walked on two legs.”
[Word soon reaches Derek Randles, long-time Pacific Northwest Sasquatch researcher and co-founder of The Olympic Project. He got in touch with Smeja.]
I end up telling Derek the whole thing, and he says, “Alright, I need you to get back up there and I need you to get either the body of the little one or the big one. We’ve got to get this done.”
And I’m like, “I don’t think so, man. I don’t think I’m going to go back there.”
And he’s like, “You don’t understand. We’ve worked so hard for this. We need your help. We need to get up there. I’m going to drive down there. How ‘bout I’ll drive to your house. I’ll drive you up there.”
“What, you’re going to drive 12 hours?”
And he’s like, “Yeah, this is really important. 27 years of research, and this is as big as it gets. This is the holy grail.”
So eventually I end up saying, “All right, fine, I’ll drive up there, and I’ll get it, then you can drive down and pick up the body.”
So I put it off, maybe a week or so. I’m busy with work. I didn’t really get what had happened, and Derek’s calling me up every day saying, “Seriously, you’ve got to get up there. You’ve got to get up there. Just call in to work. This is so important. There could be money involved. But more than that, we’ve been looking for this thing for so long, and now there’s one sitting there.”
So I talk to my buddy, and we’re like, “Well, let’s go get this thing.” So we get a bunch of trash bags – black contractor bags. We get up there, and there’s freakin’ 3 feet of snow on the ground. So…we couldn’t find it. I had my bloodhound with me. She’s usually pretty good at tracking. She’s a hunting dog. So I take her out there, and she’s acting like she just shit the bed or something. She’s acting so embarrassed. She’s acting very timid. She’s very bothered by the whole thing.
So eventually we decided to gauge where we would dig, ‘cause we’d been digging for 5 or 6 hours…we figured out there were 2 or 3 areas the dog really didn’t like. She’d walk in a straight line, then all of a sudden she’d turn around and walk the other way. So we based where we dug off of the dog.
We find this flesh sample. It looks like a piece of hide. Some people say there’s just no way that something like that would be there that long without the animals getting to it. I say that’s ridiculous, ‘cause if I shoot a deer, take it to my house, shear it, take it back to the woods, drop it off, and a month later I’ll go back up there and you’ll still see…bones, pieces of hair, hide, blood, all that stuff.
So we find it, and end up sending a small portion of it – I don’t know, maybe an eighth of it – to Melba Ketchum. And here we are today.
If you were to weigh it, the whole sample, it might be 2 pounds, but that’s really pushing it. We ended up taking the rest of the sample, wrapping it in paper, and freezing it in a block of ice. It’ll be exactly the same 20 years from now. No air can get to it; there’s no chance of freezer burn.
We’ve probably been back up there 20 times, maybe more. We went with a group of researchers, and we looked and looked and looked, and we couldn’t find anything. I’ve heard about the theory that maybe they bury their young or something. I don’t know. I don’t know what to think. On one of my trips, we found some tracks of a larger one that had a younger one with it. I have pictures of those tracks.
The one question everybody asks me. They corner me and ask, “Why didn’t you put the little one in your truck?”
[Very agitated.] I don’t know! It bothers me every day. I’ve got no idea. I’m so tired of that question. If I could go back in time…you’re telling me that I had a winning lottery ticket, and I burned it. But…I lose sleep over it. It bothers me. I don’t know. I don’t know what was going through my head. I was sitting there thinking, “We gotta get out of here. This is nuts. This is crazy.” It was like a bad dream, actually it was very much like a bad dream. We felt like once we got out of there, it was over.
There was a while where it was really, really traumatic. And then…you lose sleep enough, and you kind of forget about it. But every once in a while I’ll see like a little monkey or something in a zoo, and I’m like, “Fuck man, what did I do?” Recently, I saw this boxer dog, and it had this face that was really kind of similar to the young one’s face, and I was just sitting there looking at this dog just thinking, “Oh my God…what happened?”
The kid looked like a little black kid. Its face…human eyes, but it had the snout of a boxer, and the lips of an ape. It very closely resembled the snout of a boxer but pushed in a little bit more.
J.C. Johnson: Were the young ones walking on all fours or on two legs?
Justin Smeja: 50/50. They spent as much time on all 4s as they did on 2 legs. They were a drastically different color than the adult. The adult was the color of a pale coyote, and the kids were cinnamon-colored, quite a bit darker.
Abe del Rio: Were they faster on all fours?
Justin Smeja: They were definitely faster on all fours. They had very long arms, and they had huge heads. They basically had an adult-sized head on a kid-sized body, which is really hard to wrap your mind around. And their hands were huge. Well, they were the size of mine, but if you put that on a little frame, it looks oddly proportioned. And they were calloused. I’ve been saying that they have paws. They’re hands, but they’re so calloused, they look like paws. It looks like a pad, like two little pads on each finger, and a big pad. Their hands were very cushioned.
[Justin’s buddy, the driver of the truck, comes on.]
Driver: When I first looked at it [through the binoculars], the first thing I ever said was it looked like a person in a bear suit. Someone that had a bear suit on, but then where’s the bear’s face would be, it was not there, instead it looked more human. I didn’t even really think it looked ape-like at all. It looked a lot more human, but it looked a lot more hairy in the face than a person.
Unknown host: You actually lifted up the little one. How much would you say it weighed?
Driver: 35 to 40 pounds.
Unknown host: And about how tall?
Driver: I would say 3 feet. The little ones were extremely vocal while we were searching for the big one. The best way to describe it is like when a deaf person is trying to talk. They were loud. They talked a lot. They would come back to each other. They would start making noises, then they would run off in different directions. And they did that probably 5 or 6 times.
Unknown host: They weren’t communicating in English, nothing you could understand, right?
Driver: Correct, yes.
The adult looked very similar to the one in the Patterson Film because it looked like a person in a suit. I personally felt like it would have been a female because of the 2 younger ones. I can’t tell by looks whether it was a male or a female.
[Compared to “Patty”] it was more flat-chested, well, muscular. I felt like it was carrying a lot of weight around with it, like it was more thick than “cut up” or “ripped.” I could tell that by the way the sides shook when it got shot.
I watched the shot enter the body of the big one, and I remember the way the side…looked like Jell-O. The shot rocked its side. You could see waves in the side of the body. And the picture that sticks with me more than anything else was when the bullet entered the big one.