Travis’ 1st Black Bear
Sunday May 20th was our 11th day hunting black bears. Our plan was to backpack into one of our “go-to” bear hunting locations and camp for 3 days, not coming back until we had a bear down. We left the trailhead at 8am. From there we biked in 1.5miles, ditched the bikes and continued to hike another 1.5-2 miles to reach what we like to call “bear city”. The hike was not easy since we were packing enough gear for two hunters and all our camera equipment. On the way in Zack spotted a bear about 3/4 mile off feeding up into some thick timber. We decided to leave the bear alone for the morning and focus on setting up bear camp, since the bear was already on the move into thick timber. We also had the pleasure of picking the multiple ticks off our bodies before they decided to burrow into a nice section of skin. This country is very TICK heavy. Everyday we have been out hunting this location, we come back with at least 6+ ticks each…. Uh yeah, not fun. One day we counted over 25 ticks throughout the day.
With camp set, we headed in the general direction of the bear that we had spotted earlier. We got to a location within hearing distance of the bear and proceeded to do some distress calls to see if we could lure the furry fellow to us. No luck. We decided to glass some new country and ventured another 1.5 miles deep into the backcountry. We literally saw zero sign of black bears for the next two hours. We busted back to camp to rest during the heat of the day and hopefully glass the two drainages (bear city) during the final 3 hours of daylight.
After a two hour nap on the most comfortable, packable, and lightweight air mattresses that I have ever slept on (Thermarest Neo Air), we took a short hike to our glassing position for the evening. We sat for a good hour, with nothing to look at except a lonely bull moose feeding in the clearcut across the drainage. I decided we should loop the logging road around to where this moose was feeding, so we could at least get some footage of his new velvet horns, since we weren’t seeing any bear action.
Zack had captured some decent footage of the moose, before he picked up his binos and scanned the logging road where we had just been seated an half an hour earlier. Of course, Zack spots a bear feeding out of the creek bottom towards a logging road where we were just sitting! We pack up the camera and were off running, knowing it was a race against daylight.
We finally crept to within 200 yards of this bear’s location, but the bear had disappeared. I would have tried to get closer to where the bear was last spotted, but the wind was our biggest factor at the time and we risked being winded if we were to move any further down the old logging road. I quickly laid down on the camera pack that Zack put in front of me, this bear had to be somewhere! We waited for a good 2 minutes, thinking the bear may have made its way back into the thick brush in the creek bottom. Finally I spotted the bear making his way across the adjacent hillside! It looked to be a mature bear, so I took a good rest on the pack and ranged the bear…. 235 yards. I had practiced earlier this year for a 300 yards shot and knew I was capable of the scenario at hand. I attempted to line up my crosshairs, but between me being so shaky with adrenaline, winded from running, and the bear moving every couple seconds, I wasn’t presented with a clean shot. I finally told Zack he needed to stop the bear. Zack hit the distress call and the bear instantly came to a stop. It was facing uphill, quartering away, perfect. With the camera rolling I ripped off a round, but could feel I jumped on the trigger. I missed a couple inches right of the bear, but it stood motionless, shocked by the inertia from the bullet wizzing past. I quickly chambered another custom loaded 200 grain bullet. It was GO time. I focused, settled the crosshairs on the top of its back and made a smooth trigger pull. Bam!! The bear spun a 180 and quickly dropped. A clean kill, and I was pumped! I would have loved to put my 1st bear ever down with a bow, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity at this beautiful bear. Still shaking with adrenaline we quickly hiked to the bears location, hoping there was still enough daylight to capture some footage of this gorgeous bear. Upon examining the bear, I found out it was a sow…… the same sow that had the blazed white “v” on its chest that we had failed to stalk just a couple weeks ago!! This bear had a beautiful coat, thick and lush, but of course, full of ticks.
We quickly captured what we could in the lighting, tagged the bear, and proceeded with skinning the hide.
We made the voyage back to our truck around 1230am. Hiking out in the dark is no fun, I had my fair share of spills down the steep rock encrusted hillsides, and a bruised backside to remind me in the morning. I packed out Zack’s bear most of the way last year, so he paid me back the favor by packing mine out this year. That’s what brothers are for right? We left our bear camp for the following day. Another amazing hunt I’ll never forget. Bears are truly amazing creatures, but they do some serious damage on the fawns and elk in this area. 10 of the 12 bears that we have seen this year were spotted in “bear city”. We have seen more bears than deer this entire spring season, kinda scary. Not to mention Zack killed his bear last spring just two ridges over from where I put down my bear. I shot my bear on May 20, 2012, and Zack shot his black bear last year on May 21, 2011, must be something about this week in May. Zack and I have learned more than we could imagine about bear hunting this spring. The footage Zack captured has us very excited for our first webisode of 2012! We’ve worked our butts off this spring, and finally it paid off. Zack is still trying to get a bear with his bow, so we will still be looking for mature black bears. Updates in the near future, and hopefully we’ll be able to do some fly fishing!
Best of luck to everyone bear hunting! Its amazing what you’ll see in the wild with just a little extra effort. You never know what might be over that next ridge.