Milligan Outfitting Ocean Black Bear Hunt

The waters of the Pacific Ocean were rough spraying cold sea water against the pier, the wind was full force making hearing difficult. When Bob and Brandon passed the jet boat off to Scott they warned of an exposed sand bar ahead that we should avoid and gave basic directions to where the Yukon Bear had been anchored. She is a 55’ fishing boat that we were going to be stationed out of while we patrolled the coast line and inlets for bruin black bears.

The sea water was spraying over the boats bow and windshield into our faces, rolling huge waves. I have no personal experience on the open ocean and especially not in a jet boat. This moment on the open water  was very humbling to how small a person really is and how big and powerful the ocean can be.

With the waters murky and angry from an incoming storm it was difficult for us to determine exactly how far the sandbar reached and how deep the murky waters under us were. We knew where the sandbar was in theory but to actually realize how expansive a sandbar can be, well that was one part that we seriously underestimated. When Scott lowered the throttle on the jet boat and we lost our plane, we instantly knew we were right on top of the sandbar, nearly grounded.

Thankfully for us, Bob had a pair of hip waders in the jet boat that Scott was able to slip on and enter the frozen ocean pushing the jet boat back out to sea and off the shallow sandbar. We had gotten lucky and avoided having to call for help. That would have been embarrassing to say the least.

 

The Yukon Bear was in the distance rocking to and fro, pushed around her anchor by the sweeping sea. I had only been on a fishing boat like this one twice in my life; both times were in my late teens, half my lifetime ago. This was my first time climbing aboard and calling a ship my home.

 

 

The Yukon Bear was gentle by comparison to the jet boat. She felt sturdy underfoot in the rough ocean. That was a relief for me. I am a mountain hunter, the ocean is new to me and quite honestly that new naïve understanding of the sea made makes me fear it. Some love the ocean, I enjoy parts of it, I respect it but at the end of the day, I love my mountains.

Scott and I unloaded our gear, chose our sleeping bunks and prepared dinner for ourselves. One of the positive aspects about the ocean is fresh seafood. Bob had so graciously left us a gallon sized bag filled with giant prawns. Surf and turf it was for dinner and let me tell you that no store bought prawn can compare with fresh caught sea fare. Maybe the ocean isn’t so bad…

The rough sea had Scott and me questioning the security of the Yukon Bear’s anchor. We were spinning around the anchor so much in the wind and the sea level was getting so high from the incoming tide and storm it was slightly disorienting. We finally came to the conclusion that we had not lost our anchor, the sea was just deceiving us.

Sleeping on a ship for the first time was surprisingly relaxing; the boat rocked me like a baby in a crib. The sound of the water lapping the sides of the boat was like a lullaby. I slept like a rock.

The storm had arrived and was staying…the bear hunting was not good due to the rain but thankfully that didn’t affect fishing. Right?  I didn’t catch a single fish, nor did I have one bite my hook, but I tried. Like I said before, I am a mountain hunter not a fisherman or sea go’er.

Fortunately, we did catch crabs; lots of them were babies and females that we had to release but there were several large males, enough for Scott and me to enjoy at dinner.

 

 

 

The warm sunlight tickled across my face. It felt good. The sea was quiet and the Yukon Bear was still in the ocean waters. The storm was over. We enjoyed a hot breakfast, taking our time to gather our gear. Scott filled the boats with gas and put the outboard motor on the tiny boat that we were going to take up river in search for bears.

The day was young and the bear hunting wouldn’t be good for several hours so we decided to stop on a beautiful grassy beach to take some photos for Easton Mountain products new Kilo tent.

 

After setting up the tent, taking a few photos and having lunch we went to get back into the boat and begin our search for bears. The tide was going out faster than we could move and before we knew it the small boat had been grounded.

No big deal we thought, we can just drag it back into the surf that was literally inches in front of us…The more we drug the farther the shore line receded. The tiny boat was heavier than it looked, even while empty. The sea was faster than us so we decided to make claim on the beach for a bear watch there until the tide once again returned.

Even though we were technically beached, we were actually in a great position to spot a bruin. During low tide, no matter the time of day, the bears will patrol the shore lines for shell fish. This provides an excellent food source for the hungry spring bear.

 Like clockwork, 6 hours later the tide returned without us spotting a bear. Back on the boat we headed up the bay. There was one steep rocky mountain after another when finally we reached a beautiful grassy flat, the perfect place to tie the boat up and glass for black bears.

Scott and I were busy unloading our gear when I spotted some movement out of the corner of my eye.  A big grizzly bear was making its way over to us and fast. Our gear immediately went back into the boat as the bruin was fast approaching at the trot even though he was down wind of us. When the bruin swam a rather large tributary popping up on our side, he shook off the water like a dog and immediately continued trotting in our direction. This time he was less than 150 yards from us. To the boat we went and fast.

The bruin must have heard us get into the boat because we didn’t see him again but we did hear him in the timber just off from where we had just been standing. This was one dangerous bear to come at us from the downwind position and then circle us in heavy cover to lay and watch our retreat. That behavior makes grizzlies dangerous and scary, an animal that must always be both respected and feared.

We were both buzzing from adrenaline. Moments like that are exactly why I am a mountain hunter. The appearance of the big aggressive grizzly was sure to make a slow evening on that grass flat for black bears so we steered the tiny boat back to the Yukon Bear for the evening.

Waking up to the sea does grow on you. The setting is one that comes from a dream. Warm spring air, the sea gently lapping the sides of the boat, the snow capped mountains surrounding you; it just doesn’t get more beautiful than this.

The ocean changes her appearance very quickly and when the wind picked up, it was apparent that Scott and I were not taking the tiny boat out on the open sea due to rough water. There is specific technique to navigating rough waters in small boats, Bob has mastered those, Scott and I had not, so instead, we packed up our gear into the jet boat and made our way to the mainland. Logging roads and clear cuts is where we would end up hunting.

To the land we go…

Having both feet on solid ground we set out in search of a bruin. The weather although cold and windy on the ocean was mild and warm on land, perfect bear hunting conditions. The bears were seemingly everywhere we looked, ravenously feeding on Dandelions.

Some of the bears could not have a care about our approach choosing to lay and feed while others that were not so keen on our appearance would dart into heavy brush to hide. Now you see it, now you don’t. One particular bruin was there one second and then gone the next. With only but a brief look we knew instantly that we needed to take a closer look at him.

Scott ran into the brush after the bruin and I close behind in step. The brush was thick and heavy, visibility was down to what was right in front of you. My feet were treading through swamp water; Scott had treed the bruin just ahead.

On the ground bears are difficult to judge but up a tree can be even more difficult. We first made the verification that the bear was in fact a boar and second the diameter of tree that he climbed was huge. Instead of clinging to the sides of the tree the way smaller bears will tend to do, this bear sat atop several branches watching. This was the second largest bear we had seen since my arrival.

With a knock of my arrow and draw of my bow, my arrow flew true and the bear was down. On the ground, he seemed bigger as I approached him which usually does not happen with bears. His head was massive, his teeth worn from age; one of his giant paws was nearly the size of both of my hands. He was a fighter with old scarring nearly ten inches long that was severe enough on his side that it kept him from growing hair.

This had been an amazing trip to British Columbia. I had been able to experience in two short weeks two very different sides of the Provence, land and sea, establishing a new level of respect for those men and women who are masters of the ocean. There is so much for me to learn about hunting the ocean’s edge, so I do hope to someday return to British Columbia to pursue black bear once again.