The Final Days of Spring
It’s been a long last few months. Travis and I have had hundreds of miles pass beneath our feet this spring in search of black bears. My search has been for a bear that I could arrow with my bow and it’s no easy task. As the season was winding down we still were optimistic about getting one last chance. It was another early morning as we left the house at 6 and headed into the same spot where I had stalked a bedded bear previously. We mostly have mornings off and had been hunting them with more success than one would expect. On this morning we decided to leave the bikes and hike down a steep face to a logging road that ran about 600yards above a creek bottom. The hike down was not fun. I fell three times and was starting to think we were wasting our time and energy trying to find a bear with everything in sight being so green. About two minutes later I spotted a black blob. Bear! A nice bear was feeding up along a tree line and right onto a logging road that ran 300 yards below us. Travis and I quickly started moving. We were hoping this was finally our moment where a bear would walk along the road and we could set up and take a 20 yard chip shot from above.
We soon were down above the logging road at twenty yards and began to wait. The bear had fed behind some trees on the logging road where it makes a turn and heads our way. After fifteen minutes we still had yet to see him come out of that spot. We decided we better sidehill above that position in case he decided to start up the small draw above the logging road. We made it up the hill about 250 yards before we spotted him carelessly feeding on tall green grass in the corner of the road. We watched him for a few minutes, but decided we better go back and get in position again. Well we make it back and again waited for another fifteen minutes and still no bear. Back up the hill we go, wondering what the hold up is. This time we only had to go about twenty yards before we spotted him down the road slowly walking out of the corner. I’m thinking ok, he’s just filling his belly and then he’s gonna keep walking down this road and walk right by us. Nope. He’s obviously was in no hurry to go anywhere as he continued to feed in that spot. With the wind and rocky hillside we just couldn’t stalk him there either. It’s either he comes to us or no dice. After about ten more minutes he decides to run down into the draw below the road. S&*i! The brush is so thick there’s no way we’re going in after him without being heard. We sneak down to the road and start looking for Yogi. Out he pops at 140 yards, and he plops down next to a stump and starts licking his paws and belly.
This bear decides it’s officially nap time and after grooming himself he settles in and begins to take a nap. It’s still really windy and not very warm for June. We decide that it’s best to give him at least an hour to settle in and see if he’s going to really fall asleep or get up and move on. For the next half an hour he slept and only lifted his head twice. We were situated in a small draw with the wind swirling behind the first ridge and then continuing on over the second ridge. Either he caught a few small wiffs of our scent or just was uneasy with the windy conditions. We figured while we wait we can put the spotting scope to use and get some good close ups of our sleepy friend.
So an hour passes and he’s bedded in a bad spot for a stalk. I can’t go down into the brush without him hearing me and I guess the shot from the road above him at about 40-50 yards. The only reason I didn’t opt to try the shot from above was I didn’t want to take that length of shot in the wind and at such a steep angle. Before we could make any kind of move he slowly sat up, yawned, and started moving back up towards the road. I know he’s not going to stick around long and this clearing is maybe two hundred yards square so he’s going to be headed for the timber. We start busting it around the road hoping to catch him before he beats us to the road. I figure I can either get a close shot on him just off the road or catch him as he comes up onto the road. As we round the bend and start down the home stretch I feel the wind hitting the back of my neck. More stellar conditions eh. At this point we are no more than 50 yards from the bear. We slowly keep creeping forward when all of a sudden he comes running up and across the road and up into the timber. At this point I had some very choice words that started with f,s,d,a and possibly others. Another failed stalk and again within 50 yards of a bear. What happened to all the stupid bears that stare at hunters as they walk straight at them? Oh well, I had my chance once and blew it already so I can’t complain too much. We hiked a bit more but it was already late in the morning, and we decided to face the hill we had come down earlier in the morning and get back to the truck.
Over the course of the next week we made it out four more days before the season ended but didn’t get a chance to see another bear. The weather was rainy almost every day and made for poor conditions to hunt in with a camera in tow. By this time of the year it was green everywhere, and it was simply just luck to actually see a bear out on a road or in a clear cut. It’s ok though. We got one bear down on film and saw 22 this spring. We hunted about 18-20 days so we averaged about a bear a day, and I figure that’s pretty darn good for my second year of bear hunting. I’d call it my first year since I only hunted one day last spring, but I shot a bear that one day so I figure I better count it as a year.
Overall it was an awesome spring and we got to see a lot of sweet critters out in God’s country. Any day your blessed enough to be out there is a good day in my book. We learned a lot about bears this spring, and I’m already looking forward to next year. We have a handful of good spots now and know where to look for the bears so I’m confident next spring will be even better, and the bears might want to be a bit more scared. Next spring both Travis and I will be trying to get one with a bow, and our good friend Cole McCann just moved to Missoula to attend the University so I’m sure we will be trying to get him one with the rifle as well. That does it for hunting until September, but we’ve already set up a game camera and got a little fishing in so I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we switch gears and start posting up a whole lot of good Montana fishing.