Good Old Days Youth Hunt

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.
Rachel Carson
The walls of the Black Oak Outfitters guest house were filled with the laughter and excitement. I was self proclaimed den mother of fifteen year old Alexa, and Mikayla, fourteen year old Elizabeth, thirteen year old Victoria and ten year old Lexi. Mikayla had harvested her blacktail doe before I had arrived and the other girls were wound up with anticipation of their first hunt for blacktail deer. 
Hunters Victoria and Alexa, Mikayla was observing.
The hunt carried a “The Good Old Days” theme and was complete with Jack Lewis’s 1914 Model T Ford Roadster. Gary Lewis, host of Gary Lewis Adventures, James (Elizabeth and Victoria’s dad), Jim Harris our photographer, Mikayla, and our hunters Alexa and Victoria were ready to go all dressed in clothing that was reminiscent of what our grandparents would have worn complete blaze orange. 
When the darkness faded to light, we made our decent down the small draw. As we all sat and glassed for deer, the poison oak bushes came to life before our eyes. Alexa had a beautiful buck on alert broadside for well over 15 minutes. Unfortunately, she did not have a buck tag. The does he was trailing remained safely tucked into the heavy oak, safe from rifle range. 
 
Shortly after, I spotted a lone doe bedded down; we devised a plan and made our stalk. Everything went perfect.  Alexa got into position and was ready to take the shot, but when the doe stood, she proudly displayed her backside revealing herself as a Whitetail doe. Watching the doe disappear into heavy cover, we had all shared the excitement that Alexa certainly must have been feeling. 
 Hiking out of the draw, the girls, me included, were thrilled with the two close calls that we had so early in the hunt.  Down into another draw, thick with poison oak, we spotted several small groups of blacktail doe feeding together. Alexa and Victoria were able to spot, stalk, and fill their tags within minutes of each other.
Alexa and her first blacktail doe.

 

Alexa and I packing her doe down the draw.

Later that afternoon, it was time for Lexi to hunt her first blacktail doe. Filled with anticipation, the ten year old climbed into my truck along with Victoria. Lexi talked about her fears and I sat and listened to her and thirteen year old Victoria discuss the upcoming hunt. It was one of the most memorable moments of my life hearing Victoria, who is now an experienced hunter having successfully harvested her first deer earlier that morning, talk to Lexi about what to expect, how she is going to feel and most importantly letting her know that she is going to do great.   

As Lexi headed into the green valley, Victoria and I stood on the sidelines silently cheering her on. Gary took Lexi into the field where she practiced her trigger squeeze until she could break the trigger on an empty round five times without disturbing the penny that he had laid on the barrel. Minutes into her hunt Lexi filled her tag on an antlerless blacktail.
When Lexi returned, she was greeted by her mom, new friend Victoria and me. We were all there for her to share her hunt success story with. Everything had gone perfectly, spot, stalk and now she is now an experienced hunter, just like her friend Victoria. 
 
The next morning it was time for fourteen year old Elizabeth to hunt for her first blacktail buck. We spent the morning glassing the heavy poison oak for bucks when we spotted a small spike and a nice forked horn buck. Elizabeth, taking aim, she put the buck down in poison oak that was well above our heads. This was going to be an interesting recovery. Luckily for everyone who participated in the recovery, no one got poison oak and Elizabeth got her buck.
Elizabeth and I with here first blacktail buck.
The memories made on this trip will last for generations. It gives me a great sense of fulfillment that someday Elizabeth, Victoria, Alexa, and Lexi will tell their own children about this very weekend and how they harvested their first blacktail deer. The hunting legacy will continue on through these girls.
~Special Thanks~
The Sandberg Family & Black Oak Outfitters
Bud & Brian Smith
High Desert SCI
High Desert Friends of the NRA
Jim Harris
Gary Lewis
Mikayla Lewis
James Flaherty
Elizabeth Flaherty
Victoria Flaherty
Don Lewis
Joel Lewis
Jack Lewis
Neil Lewis
Angie Lewis
Lexi Lewis
Alexa Eicher
Paxton Eicher
Sam Pyke

 

 


 

The Last Day- Oregon's Archery Elk Season

 

The weather had indeed cooled off overnight and a storm was brewing. Leaving spike camp at daylight, the morning was quiet and the bulls were still not bugling even with the drastic change in the weather. Setting up near a bedding area, I called for about an hour with one bull responding, and on private land. No go there…
It was cold and rain had begun drizzling from the sky. I knew that I had to use the change in weather to my advantage and try to locate an eager bull. Moving down the draw towards a weep, the massive bull startled me as he ran out from behind a tree and circled around me. This bull had come in silently to my call. 
He stopped roughly 80 yards away, barking at me. I barked back and followed up with some soft cow calls. As he moved down the draw and out into the open I made my way after him as quickly as possible. At 60 yards he stood in the open waiting for me, staring in my direction finally bugling, chuckling and even barking occasionally. I had to be cautious in trying to close the distance a mere 10 yards to place him within bow range. Taking advantage of his nervousness, when he would spin around or consider taking off, I would close the distance.
Finally, the bull was within bow range but I still did not have a clear shot. Two branches stood in my way of having a shot at the bull and I just couldn’t risk having an arrow deflect. Silently I prayed for enough time to maneuver into a good shooting lane but my prayers went unanswered. When the bull had enough he wheeled around and took off down the draw never to be seen again.

The last afternoon…
I made my way back to camp still feeling the excitement from my close encounter with the massive bull. Eating my lunch I pondered where to spend my final afternoon hunting. The wind was swirling around the mountain making strategizing difficult. Honestly, I wasn’t sure where to focus my effort. The mountains are so big and I didn’t want to miss out on my final opportunity. Decisions, decisions…
Leaving camp in the rain, I headed to a rock point to bugle a draw that I had a trail camera located on all summer long. I had not hunted the draw over the course of the season as my trail camera had only produced photos of three bulls in the three months that I had it out. Not to mention that most of the other public land hunters were coming in and out of the area on a game trail that was located on this very draw. In fact, that morning, my dad called the draw in an effort to help locate a bull on his way out to get the mules without any luck or response from a bull. 
As soon as I let my locate bugle out, a bull responded with a scream. Game on!!! Finally, I had received the aggressive bugle that I had been waiting all season for. The bull was over a mile away, so I silently closed the distance knowing exactly where he was. 
I set up two decoys and began a calling sequence hoping that the bull would drop down the ridge far enough allowing him to see my decoys and come within bow range. The wind was bad, it was blowing straight up the draw so I had be extra cautious where I set up as to not have him catch my wind. The bull came down and stopped at about 80 yards bugling occasionally, but he was mostly listening and waiting as these smart old bulls often do. 
I knew that he was not going to come any closer, so I grabbed a decoy, slipped off my boots, and coated myself in an entire container of Elk gel to help mask my scent. Putting Under Armour’s scent capture technology to the test, I was going after this bull with the wind blowing straight to him in a desperate attempt to make something happen. 
As I made my way silently up the open draw, I placed my decoy in front of me with the expectation that I would be seen by the nearby bull. I was right. Just as I crested a small rise in the ridge, there stood two bulls, one a spike, the other unknown, and both less than 40 yards away. Silently I stood there hoping that the bulls would not charge me or bust out of there as the wind was blowing right to them. After a few moments, they lost interest and walked off, the spike going to the left and the unknown bull going to the right. 
The unknown bull then let out a locate bugle from the top of the next ridge. Back in the game, I folded up my decoy and continued my bare foot pursuit of the bull. Not wanting to cow call or bugle to re-locate the bull, I stood at the top of the ridge listening for a clue as to where the bull had gone when I heard what I thought was two bulls fighting.  
Seizing the opportunity I moved quickly towards the noise and snuck up on the massive bull while he stood thrashing in a wallow flinging mud with his antlers. Taking a few moments to turn on my video camera and zoom in on the bull while he was looking directly at me (note beginning of video below) I was able to capture the ending of this extra ordinary hunt on camera.  
Having no shot on the bull’s vitals, I waited for him to continue thrashing in the mud to make my move into position for a broadside shot. Everything was perfect, the bull stood broadside with his head behind a tree unable to see me. His vitals were perfectly exposed, ranged at 41 yards. It’s go time!!! Just as I begin to draw my bow he stepped out of the wallow and slowly moved up the ridge completely unaware of my presence.  
Ugggg, you have to be kidding me!!! I ranged him again, 52 yards, still within range and he moves again. This time, I’m not so lucky and he spots me moving and I no longer have a shot on his vitals. The bull continued to move calmly up the ridge and out of range.
As my luck would have it, just as I took after the bull again, my dad shows up with three mules heading into our spike camp. The bull took off and I never saw him again. My dad hadn’t seen the bull and probably thought I was crazy running around the mountain with an arrow knocked, no backpack or boots on as I had been in stealth mode. It had worked, kind of…
I am still losing sleep at night as this bull was a magnificent 6x6, roughly 50 inches wide, I’m guessing 315-330 inches. I have a trail camera photo below of the bull I believe him to be. He is one of three bulls that were captured by my trail camera on that ridge.
Taking the time to turn on and zoom in my video camera may have cost me precious seconds that I could have used to put an arrow in the bull, but I have no regrets. I captured the thrilling part of my hunt on camera; the bull was ranged, broadside and ready for me to make an ethical shot. If I could do it over again, I would pray for the bull to stand in the wallow for 7 more seconds…
This year, I was gifted with the thrill of fair chase, do it yourself hunting, both solo and with my dad at my side. Having had the opportunity to harvest countless cows, spikes and five branch bulls in pursuit of a big mature bull on public land, no easy feat; I was finally given the opportunity to chase after my dream bull. That is what keeps all of us public land hunters coming back every year. It just doesn’t get any better than that. 
My dad and I enjoying the view.


Packing out camp on Otis, Chester and Fury.
Gear List 
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy and her Dad 
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants 
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody 
Camo Full Zip Hoody 
Quest Jacket & Pant 
Women’s Camo Glove 
Hurlock Glove 
Camo Active Beanie 
Speed Freek Boots 
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock 
Early Season Ridge Reaper Jacket & Pant  
Camo Armourloft Vest 
Swarovski Optik 
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars 
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece 
8x30 Laser Guide 
Misc. Gear 
Bugling Bull Game Calls- Remedy & Mellow Yellow Mama Diaphragm, Select-A-Bull Bugle, Who's Yerr Daddy 
Elite Archery- Hunter 
Spot Hogg Real Deal Sight 
Victory Arrows 
Tight Spot Quivers 
Ripcord Arrow Rest 
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus 
Montana Decoy
Hunten' Outdoors Trail Cameras  

 

 

 

 

The Final Days- Oregon's Archery Elk Season

 

As a kid I used to laugh at my dad when he would pop in a VHS tape watching Elk being taken on camera while practicing using his rubber band cow calls and grunt tube in our living room. His eyes would bug out, face reddening from blowing on the old calls making for a comical evening. At that point in my life I had no comprehension that what he was practicing would actually draw in a fervent bull Elk during the rut.  
I watched my dad’s living room practice sessions pay off during a public land, DIY Elk hunt in Idaho. I was 13 years old when my dad used his old school bugle to chuckle in a spike and 5x5 bull Elk. The 5x5 came in screaming, chasing off the spike, and angrily charging towards us when my dad shot him from roughly 30 yards away. 
At 13 years old, watching this bull come in screaming changed my life and lit the fire for my love of Elk hunting.
I was proud to lead out Sam (the mule) who was loaded with the beautiful bull that my dad and I had taken.
Since then, I have always looked forward to final days of archery Elk season that typically hold the promise of frenzied bulls aggressively seeking cows. Having passed on countless cows, spikes, and four young branched bulls already in the season, I had only nine more days to put a mature bull on the ground, no easy feat, especially on public land and DIY.
Nine days…
The temperatures were nearing 80 degrees every day. The hot and dry conditions were limiting hunting hours to the first and last thirty minutes of daylight. With other public land hunters targeting one of my best areas, dad and I decided to walk in to another one of our better spots under the cover of darkness. 
Waiting for daylight to crest over the horizon, we glassed from the timbered edge into a large feeding area with the hopes of spotting a big bull on his feet before returning to his bed. The plan was perfect. We spotted two bulls right away, a spike and a young 3x3 branched bull. 
Wanting only to get some video of the bulls, my dad set up on the edge of the timber doing a series of cow calls. The two young bulls came in silently, literally running past me at 40 yards making their way to my dad. Had we not have known the bulls were there we would have probably been run over by them. Somehow, along the way I accidently deleted that video clip of the 3x3 running past me. Video or no, it was a fun experience.
While we were hunting this spot, the other public land hunters had spooked a nice 5x5 off of one of the wallows where I had a tree stand hung. I avoided hunt this spot in the mornings as the wind blows right down to where the bulls bed and come to water. You can see from my trail camera video that when these other hunters headed down towards the wallow, the bull gets nervous, looks around and decides to get out of there, fast.
Eight days…
Dad and I hunted together in the morning without much luck. The bulls weren’t bugling and the hunting pressure was intense as there were at least two other groups of public land hunters after the same Elk as me. Dad had a trade show to attend, so I was on my own for the next three and a half days. 
That night, I set up in the same feeding area that dad and I had called in the silent 3x3 and spike with the hopes of getting on a bull when he left his bed for the evening. Doing a series of cow calls and bugles a bull finally answered from his bed when he got up to go feed around 7:00 PM. Having less than thirty minutes to get this bull within range before darkness settled in, I set up the decoys in the feeding area. 
Not one but two bulls came in, both hanging up around 80 yards and whining from below me wanting to come in closer but apprehensive in doing so. I didn’t get a look at these two bulls as my thirty minutes of daylight ran out fast.  I made the hour long hike back to camp in the dark glad to finally have heard a bugle and feeling hopeful for the next day. 
Seven days…
The trail camera pictures that I had been getting of mature bulls going to water to either drink or wallow were all in the morning before 10:00 AM. With 80 degree days it seemed the bulls wanted to get cooled off and muddy up to keep the bugs down before bedding down for the hot of the day. With that in mind, I left camp an hour before daylight with temperatures already so high that I was in a tank top. 
I headed out with the plan to sit one of the wallows that had been getting used by bulls intermittently. At daylight I found myself less than 100 yards from a huge herd of Elk with one angrily screaming bull and a second bull letting out a traditional locate bugle. Unfortunately, the wind was in favor of the Elk. I had to back out of the area before they got my wind and busted me. The bulls quit bugling 30 minutes after daylight and bedded down on private land that I did not have permission to hunt. Knowing where the Elk were, I felt good about my chances for the next day as I also had not spooked them out of the area.
Six days…
Once again I headed into the same spot an hour before daylight. This time I dropped down below where the Elk had bedded on private land the morning before so that I could reach my tree stand before daylight. The plan was almost perfect. The bull dropped down to move his cows as they fed above me towards their bedding area at 90 yards. Unfortunately, he did not come down within bow range and the terrain was too open for me to make an attempt at a stalk without being busted.
I spent the remainder of the day at the wallow with the hopes that the bull who was now bedded on private land less than 200 yards away would get hot and come back to the public land side to wallow. 
Five days…
With time in the season growing short, I spent the next morning trying to get a bull to locate without any luck. When the wind was right, I went back to the wallow where I had gotten into the herd of Elk for the past two mornings to check my trail camera. The herd had been in to water at midnight which confirmed my belief that the Elk were nocturnal except for the first and last thirty minutes of daylight. 
Four days…
Oftentimes success in hunting comes from being in the right place at the right time. On day four, I was not fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time; my dad on the other hand who had just returned from his trade show, to hunt Mule deer had the luck that I wished I was having.
Heading up the timber ridge, daylight had just crested the horizon, when my dad accidently rolled a rock down the mountainside just as he spotted his first glimpse of the cow Elk in front of him. Some of the cows heard the rock roll and quickly made their exit out of the open feeding area and back into the timber. 
As dad eased out into the opening towards a depression in the ground where a small weep was located, he saw the towering antlers. A mere 50 yards away the 6x6 bull fed in the small opening, oblivious that some of his cows had busted my dad making his way up the draw. The bull remained at 50 yards from my dad and within easy bow range for minutes until he realized that his some of his cows had gone AWOL. 
In a fit of panic, the bull circled in a 50-80 yard radius around my dad silently picking up the remainder of his harem and moving them into the timber in a desperate attempt to locate his missing cows. Even with the bull in frenzy over his lost cows, he did not bugle or make a single sound in his efforts to locate them. 
The photo below shows a magnificent 6x6 that had been living in that same draw during the summer. The bull my dad stumbled into just may be this very bull. I had picked the wrong draw to hunt on day four.

 

Three days…
Together my dad and I spent the day seeking out the 6x6 that he had encountered the day before. Unfortunately, we were unable to re-locate the herd and the massive bull. 
Two days…
There is an old saying that if you are not discouraged then you are not hunting. Well I was definitely hunting and running out of precious time.  The bulls had quit bugling, temperatures were high and optimism was becoming scarce on my part. I had to keep reminding myself that my luck could change at any moment.
Dad and I spent the day checking wallows for recent activity and game trails looking for fresh tracks in an attempt to figure out what the silent and nocturnal Elk were doing. The only thing we found on day two was three other hunters. Go figure. 
During the heat of the day, Dad and I gathered up all of my trail cameras and tree stands packing them back to our spike camp. I would be spending the final day of archery Elk season solo as Dad was going to head out on the final morning to go back to town to get the mules so that we could pack out our spike camp the day after season. 
The weather was due to cool on the following day by some 20 degrees and I went to bed that night hopeful that my luck would change on the final day of archery season.

 

 

Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy and her Dad
 
 
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Hurlock Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
Early Season Ridge Reaper Jacket & Pant
Camo Armourloft Vest
Swarovski Optik
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece
8x30 Laser Guide
Misc. Gear
Bugling Bull Game Calls- Remedy & Mellow Yellow Mama Diaphragm, Select-A-Bull Bugle, Who's Yerr Daddy
Elite Archery- Hunter
Spot Hogg Real Deal Sight
Victory Arrows
Tight Spot Quivers
Ripcord Arrow Rest
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus
Montana Decoy
Hunten' Outdoors Trail Cameras

 

 

 

Oregon's Archery Elk Season Continued

 

The switch had been flipped…opening day of Oregon’s archery Elk season had been epic. The cows were mewing, the bulls were bugling, dad tagged out on a great 5x5 bull, I passed up a 4x4 bull. Week two of the season was off to a slow start. The rut had not yet consumed the bull Elk and once public land hunting pressure had set in, the bulls had figured out that they were being targeted. With more hunters in the area than I have seen in years past it was no wonder that the bulls quit bugling and coming in to cow calls. 
With the bulls not cooperating, and unseasonably hot and dry conditions, I decided to sit in a tree stand over a wallow. The wallow is located in an area where I had patterned several large bulls moving through over the summer and was actively being used. This tactic worked perfectly as a young 3x4 bull came in to the wallow and stood broadside at 50 yards.
Unfortunately, the big mature bull that I was looking for did not come to the wallow. While sitting the wallow with only young bulls visiting, I had a big mature bull using a game trail down the ridge so I decided to move my stand with the hopes of  intercepting this big bull on the move.

 

 

The vanishing bull...
I just couldn’t manage to be in the right place at the right time.  While I was out of the wallow stand on the 3rd - 5th of  September, two shooter bulls came to the wallow on two of the three days. The bull that had been using the game trail up and vanished on me.  Sometimes a girl just can’t catch a break. 

 

 

  




Taking some time to get out of the stand, dad and I stalked within 70 yards of two young branch bulls. There was no need to close the distance on them for a shot as I was still holding out for that larger more mature bull.

 

 

Warm weather conditions made many of the Elk nocturnal.
On the 10th of September, dad and I headed back to town and off the mountain as we both had to return to work until the 17th. On our way out, we just missed this bull but my trail camera did not. This guy was right above us and silent. Later in the season I had an exciting hunt featuring this monster bull, read my next blog to read the story and watch the video.

 

 

While we were off the mountain the following week, check out the photos and videos below of what we missed.

This nice bull was 50 yards from my wallow stand.

 

 

 

 

During the course of the week that dad and I were off the mountain and working, we did not have activity on my trail cameras. It was my understanding that there was quite a bit of hunting pressure from out of area hunters. The additional pressure had a big impact on their typical behavior and habits.

 


Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy and her Dad
 
 
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Hurlock Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
Early Season Ridge Reaper Jacket & Pant
Camo Armourloft Vest
Swarovski Optik
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece
8x30 Laser Guide
Misc. Gear
Bugling Bull Game Calls- Remedy & Mellow Yellow Mama Diaphragm, Select-A-Bull Bugle, Who's Yerr Daddy
Elite Archery- Hunter
Spot Hogg Real Deal Sight
Victory Arrows
Tight Spot Quivers
Ripcord Arrow Rest
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus
Montana Decoy
Hunten' Outdoors Trail Cameras 

 

 



 

Opening Week of Oregon's Archery Elk Season

 

Archery Elk season here in Oregon is off to a great start. After scouting for two months, my dad and I were in the bulls first thing. We had set up two stands in separate locations that I had found big bulls over the summer. Using Bugling Bull Game Calls Remedy diaphragm, I cow called in and passed up a young 4x4 hoping for a chance at a bigger more mature bull as the season progresses.
My dad was able to take a nice 5x5 opening morning in another spot that I had scouted over the past two months. He was also cow called in an entire herd of over 70 Elk using the Mellow Yellow Mama diaphragm from Bugling Bull Game Calls.

 

The herd going up the draw.
Here they come in to dad's cow calls.
That is a lot of spike bulls to pass up waiting for the branched bull.
Well worth the wait!
Dad called in the huge herd of Elk and passed up a ton of cows and spike bulls before harvesting this beautiful bull.
At the end of July this location only had resident bachelor bulls but around the 10th of August those bulls moved out and the cows, calves spikes and young branch bulls moved in. The evening of opening day, I was in a huge herd of cows and calves with no branch bulls (my dad shot the only branch bull in the herd). It was pretty amazing working my way up the mountain with Elk literally surrounding me. Thanks to a nasty thunder storm that rolled through the ground was wet and quiet and the wind was blowing steady downhill allowing me to sneak within 5 feet of some of the calves. I even managed to get it all on video. The audio on the footage is amazing. The herd was so loud, even the cows were bugling literally yards away from me. It was incredible!!! 

 

We have a spike camp in over 4 miles off the road and I must say it is pretty awesome going to bed at night with the melody of mewing cows putting you to sleep. The big bulls are still in bachelor herds for now leaving me with the hopes of harvesting a larger more mature bull when one moves in and takes over this massive herd plus a plethora of statelight bulls looking to steal some of the cows. I will be there…waiting for my chance!
I am out of the woods today taking care of meat but will be back hunting tomorrow morning. 
Happy Hunting Everyone,
Kristy
My dad and I packing out his 5x5 public land, DIY bull Elk.

 

 

Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy and her Dad
 
 
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Hurlock Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
Early Season Ridge Reaper Jacket & Pant
Camo Armourloft Vest
Swarovski Optik
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece
8x30 Laser Guide
Misc. Gear
Bugling Bull Game Calls- Remedy & Mellow Yellow Mama Diaphragm, Select-A-Bull Bugle, Who's Yerr Daddy
Elite Archery- Hunter
Spot Hogg Real Deal Sight
Victory Arrows
Tight Spot Quivers
Ripcord Arrow Rest
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus
Montana Decoy
Hunten' Outdoors Trail Cameras



 

Black Bear Hunt in the Last Frontier with A/Z Outfitters

 

Everything was wet and muddy, the skies were socked in and dark, the air was brisk, this adverse weather was actually turning out to be a huge advantage for us.  Dutch Creek’s swift current was already at dangerously high levels, with temperatures so freezing cold that on contact you felt as if you were being stabbed with a million tiny icy daggers straight down to the bone. With the water reaching up to the bellies on the horses in most places, we couldn’t afford for the water levels to rise any higher.
The cool weather was keeping the snow in the high elevations from rapidly melting off while at the same time allowing the snow in the lower elevations to slowly dissipate with the falling rain. If the weather were to suddenly get too warm for too long of time, the water levels in Dutch Creek would rise to impassably high levels and we wouldn’t make the final trek up to Hyak camp.
We spent three hours packing and loading up all of our gear on the six pack horses, a farewell was bid to the Big Cabin, a special place that that possessed the welcoming feeling of home.  The plan was to head up Dutch Creek on horseback even deeper into the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, the only road less territory of its kind, the last frontier. Our destination, Hyak Camp, two cabins located roughly 30 miles from the nearest road and almost 50 miles from the nearest electricity, cell phone service, or town.
The remote cabins at Hyak were barely accessible just one week prior, blanketed heavy with over four feet of snow. Not knowing what lie ahead, I tightened the cinch on my saddle, swung my leg over the top of Whiskers the massive draft cross horse, once again on the trail bound for adventure.
A/Z Outfitters has been operating in the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy since the early 1960’s, co-founded by Bill DuBois. Today his son Brent DuBois owns and operates the family business offering everything from hunting trips to sight-seeing pack trips into some of the most beautiful and remote country in the world.  On this trip, we were in pursuit of black bears, with my tag already full; Jim Brennan and Rockie Jacobsen were up as hunters and me as cameraman.
1930's Trappers Cabin
Heading down the trail that is kept so pristine and un-touched, a place left as it has always been for hundreds of years. Glimpses of stories long forgotten lined the trail along the way; remnants from a fire that had ripped through the countryside in the early 1930’s, only leaving behind clues of what once was. A charred trap was hung on a tree along the trail marking a destroyed trapper’s cabin location, a monument of sorts.
One trapper chose to rebuild after the fire as we came across a tiny cabin that was constructed in the later part of the 1930’s. Inside we found a handcrafted table, a plate, and old kettles, left behind and seemingly mummified in time within the walls of the forest.  
After crossing multiple swollen creeks, avalanche slides, and many miles of trail we finally reached Hyak camp. The snow drifts were still over four feet deep in the heavy timber, but the face of the cabins had been revealed in less than a week’s time as the snow was nearly gone that had surrounded the cabins just days before.
My first glimpse of Hyak Camp
The cabins had been vacant since the last group of hunters had left in November of the previous year. We were the first people to set foot into this part of the territory in over seven months. The welcome mat of nails was still in place and un-touched on the front porch, the windows boarded and protected by steel bars, all had faired the winter without a single grizzly bear break-in.  
The two cabins at Hyak
Welcome mat for the bears
 
At first opportunity, I traded in Whiskers the horse in favor of riding a little sorrel mule that I affectionately called Little Stinker. Not knowing how high the waters would be, I played it safe initially by riding the much larger rounder horse but once I knew that Little Stinkers smaller size would be ample to safely transport me across the swollen waterways, I climbed aboard the sweet little mule with a huge personality that brings a smile to my face still to this day when I think of him.
The snow crunched under Little Stinkers hooves as we headed out to look for bears, Jim was up as shooter and armed with his bow, Rockie and I were running the video cameras. We tied up the horses and sat down to glass a large avalanche slide. The center of the slide was deep with snow but the sides boasted freshly growing green grass shoots, a delicacy for all bears in the spring.
Almost immediately we spotted a large bruin making his way across the slide feeding on grasses along his way. After watching the bear for a few minutes we got a good feel of where he seemed to be heading, with bow in hand Jim and Rockie with his video camera took off heading up the opposite side of the slide from the bruin with the hopes of stalking within bow range.  I stayed behind with Brent and my video camera to film a second wide angle of their approach on the bruin.
Moving as quickly as their legs and lungs would allow, Jim and Rockie, slowly made their way up the steep slide, their size diminished by the sheer size of the mountain. This country is expansive and deceiving and it is no wonder why the wildlife flourishes hiding in what seems like the wide open. With Jim and Rockies fantastic camouflage they seemingly disappeared on the mountainside with only their small movements giving their location away.
The scenario could not have worked out more perfectly if it were personally scripted by one of us. As Jim and Rockie headed up the slide, the bruin literally walked right to them.  From a distance, the slide appears open and grassy, in reality the brush is over one’s head in many places making for great bow stalks.
Brent and I sat in near disbelief as we watched Jim and Rockie made their way towards the bruin and the bruin towards them. The trio had gotten so close that I was certain they were going to be busted at any moment. With heavy cover, we were unsure if the pair could see the bruin so we gave them a hand signal for Jim to get ready to draw.
Just then, the bruin disappeared just out of our line of sight behind a large Spruce tree. As quickly as Jim spotted a glimpse of the bruin’s ears, he stepped just out of effective bow range and line of sight.  Rockie being an expert caller, made a short series of animal in distress squeaks that peeked the curiosity of the bruin causing him to come back for a closer look. With the curious bear sitting and staring a mere 40 yards from Jim and Rockie; Jim took aim and released his arrow into the bruin executing a perfect shot.
Brent and I watched the bear trot back into sight then walk into a section of small timber and out of sight,  and then once again reappearing on the other side taking a moment to sit and finally disappear into a heavy old growth timber stand. 
At this point, we were thinking that the bruin had busted Jim and Rockie and trotted off pretty much unaffected by their presence. We sat their waiting for Jim and Rockie to come running down the slide towards us with the hopes of catching the bruin on the other side of the old growth timber stand.
Instead they took their time videoing, finally making their way to us. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard what had unfolded and how perfectly the stalk had been executed, but I was even more awe struck when I saw Rockies video footage of how it had all went down. 
With darkness quickly setting in we decided to play it safe and make the hour long horseback ride back to camp with what little daylight remained so that we would be safe in traveling through the treacherous terrain, moreover, we did not want to get caught up in the dark over the remains of a freshly harvested animal in grizzly country; the grizzly bears out there own the night.
The following morning we made our way back to the slide, Jim successfully recovered his arrow that had been broken, with the bruin retaining nearly 20” of arrow shaft and broadhead.  Jim retraced the bruin’s final steps and blood trail, Rockie was behind him filming up close and I once again was filming a wider angle.
Brent called out just below me on the slide that there was a massive grizzly bear a mere 150 yards away making his way towards us. Running down the slide and towards Brent as quickly as I could through the brush and fallen trees I had hopes of capturing the massive bear up close on camera.
By the time I reached Brent, the grizzly had taken off in the opposite direction having heard him call out. I did get film of the bruin but not as closely as I had hoped, possibly for the better; we had made a wise decision the night before in coming back during the daylight hours.
Jim Brennan's spot & stalk archery black bear
Jim’s bear was laying less than twenty feet from where we had last spotted him the night before, his bow and arrow had performed perfectly penetrating through the bruins forearm and into his heart and lungs.
After de-boning and caping the bear, we gathered up the horses and headed back to camp. Two down, one to go, Rockie was up as hunter and Jim and I were on the video cameras. With the chill of the morning melted off by a hot lunch and a warm fire, we set out on horseback for our evening hunt.
Our strategy was to ride straight out of camp an hour and slowly glassing each slide on the way back to camp until dark. Catching a glimpse of two black bears on the inside edge of some alder brush; we tied up our horses to get a better look.
With spring in full swing, love is in the air for black bears, we knew that this was either a boar chasing a sow or a sow with cubs. If it was a boar and a sow, we would make a stalk, if it was the latter, we do nothing. For this very reason, much of your time bear hunting in the spring is spent by glassing, saving you from doing un-necessary hiking and stalking. A considerable amount of time passed as we patiently waited for the pair to emerge from the brush into the wide open slide, to give us a better look.  Once they came out into the slide and immediately we realized that this was in fact a sow and cub. After getting some video of the pair, we made our way back to the horses and finally back to camp.
The chill that had crept down from my spine to my toes was quickly chased away by the warmth radiating from the wood stove. The sounds of laughter filled the cabin as I listened to the guys tell tales of adventures past while making them a fresh peach rhubarb cobbler. Simple things bring the most delight while in the backcountry, everything you eat always tastes better.  The sound of the last fork hitting the plate signaled to me that it was time for bed to get rested up for the big day that lay ahead.
Little Stinker never missing a step or loosing stride as he carefully maneuvered his way through the belly deep snow, heading deeper into the Purcell Wilderness than we had yet travelled.  Fred, our guide, frequently climbed off his horse with ax in hand to remove fallen trees that lay in our path. You could hear the water rushing down the mountain at ground level buried under the snow drifts, winter was quickly melting away.
The full moon had been high in the night sky, so we decided to change up our hunting strategy a bit and heading out for our hunt just after breakfast with the hopes of catching a bruin out and about midday. The sun was high in the sky warming the valley under her gentle rays.
Sitting on the base of a slide with our backs resting against a tree we were enjoying our sandwiches when Rockie and Fred spotted a whitetail doe bounding across Dutch Creek, fear striking behind her.  Everyone was instantly on alert, something was wrong.
Rockie stood up and worked his way down the slide to get a better look behind us and on the opposite side of Dutch Creek where the doe had just darted from while Jim and I continued to glass up the slide.  Running back to us, he had spotted a big black bear, a mere 100 yards away.
With video cameras in hand, Jim and I followed Rockie to the edge of the slide, the bear had moved into heavy timber allowing for a limited view of the bruin. One thing that was clear, he was eating something and we all feared that the bruin had taken the frightened does fawn for its meal.
After watching the bruin for a great deal of time, it became apparent that he was not moving off of whatever he was eating anytime soon, so we walked the slides edge in search for a better view and shooting angle. Rockie rested his gun against his backpack and waited for the perfect opportunity to take his shot. Moments later the bruin was down.
Getting the horses through the final snow drifts leading up to the slide was going to be tricky, but we could not forge the dangerous waters of Dutch Creek on foot. Without another option, Fred and I carefully laid out a safe passageway through the snows heavy drifts for the horses to travel through. This is where you are thankful to have experienced mountain horses to safely transport you through springtime’s rugged terrain.
Rockie Jacobsen's spot & stalk black bear
Once we were across Dutch Creek, we tied up the horses and approached the expired bruin.  Our fears were then confirmed, the bruin had been feasting on the newly born whitetail fawn. We were all deeply saddened by the sight but pleased with the knowledge that by having harvesting not only this bear but a total of three in the territory, we had saved the lives of many other deer fawns and elk calves.
Having spent 25 days deep within the remote Rocky Mountains of British Columbia in the Royal Kootenay Range and the rugged Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, we packed up our camp at Hyak in preparation to make the two day ride down the old trail and back to civilization, marking the end of this journey, leaving me longing to return.
My heart and soul soar within the mountains and an all too familiar voice deep inside calls me to return time and again, forever growing louder and more demanding.  I bid farewell for now only to return before long…
Additional Information
A/Z Outfitters offers hunt opportunities for Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Mountain Goat, Moose, Mule Deer & Elk.  Visit A/Z Outfitters online at www.abarzoutfitters.com.
If you would like to visit the Purcell Wilderness with me during a summer pack trip, please email directly at ktitus@pursuethewild.com or visit A/Z Mountain Adventures.
For more information about the author, please visit www.pursuethewild.com or www.facebook.com/KristyTitus
Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy
Base 2.0 Top
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Hurlock Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
Under Armour Clothing for Jim & Rockie
Ridge Reaper Jacket & Pant
Stealth Rain Jacket & Pant
Camo Big Logo Hoody
Camo Armourloft Vest
Swarovski Optik
Z3 Rifle Scope
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece
8x30 Laser Guide
Misc. Gear
Eberlestock X1 Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus
Nosler Custom Trophy Grade 180 Grain Accubond Ammunition

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Black Bear with A/Z Outfitters

 

Having the last road less hunting territory in the East Kootenany Mountain range of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, many might describe their experience with A/Z Outfitters as traveling back in time, where life moves at a slower pace; work is done with your two hands and the aid of a good horse.
The horses are free ranging much of the year.
A/Z Outfitters was founded over 60 years ago with Bill DuBois as one of the original founders. You will find him and many of the original guides still leading excited guests into the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy using traditional horse packing methods that have been passed down for generations.
With whip in hand, Brent heads out to round up his free ranging horses. Once spotted, Brent runs towards them cracking the end of his whip into the ground. The horses know what to do and immediately run towards the corrals, ready to get to work.
Handing Brent his tape measure, he carefully makes measure of the horses hoof. With single sections of un-cut steel he cuts the exact length needed to construct the shoes for his horse; the same way that it has been done for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Heat rolling out of the propane forge ready to heat the cut down sections of steel for shaping. 
Clang, clang, clang, Brent perfectly shapes the shoe, punches holes in it and while it is burning hot presses it against the horses hoof, smoke rises and the hoof sizzles, Brent making sure the fit is perfect before cooling the steel and setting the nails.
Waiting for my hunting partners Rockie Jacobsen, Owner of Bugling Bull Game Calls and Jim Brennan, Bugling Bull Game Calls Pro Staffer, and Mossy Oak Western Pro Staff Coordinator, I spent my last night amongst civilization at the beautiful Cabins at Whitetail Lake.
Growing up on the back of a mule, packing into the backcountry, I know firsthand how much work goes into preparing for a ten day trip into the backcountry; double that difficulty when you are packing in tens of thousands of dollars worth of valuable camera equipment and computers.  
Throwing all of your gear for the trip into a pile like an intricate puzzle, Brent DuBois our skillful outfitter and Fred Canning, his right hand man, carefully pieced everything together into perfectly weighed out packs that get loaded and balanced onto one of the good pack horses or mule.
Little Stinker
With each of us having a 60# gear limit including video equipment, one prioritizes carefully what must be taken and what can be left behind. Knowing we were going into some of the steepest, most rugged country in the world, I put in my request early to be on the back of Brent’s only saddle mule, that I called Little Stinker or just plain Stinker.  The smooth agile, carefully laid out step of a mule is priceless in the backcountry, especially when the terrain grows dangerous.
Little Stinker hadn’t been rode in almost a year as Brent’s father Bill had grown tired of his mule-isms and traded him in to ride a horse. Without reservation, I outfitted Stinker with my personal “fancy” saddle complete with silver and gold inlays, saddle bag filled with my video camera, laptop computer, handheld camera, Swarovski binoculars, and rifle with Swarovski Z3 scope.  Little Stinker became a $12,000 mule in a hurry.



Heading up the trail, it looks as if you are riding into the sky.



The warm summer like weather had warmed up the valley making the seven hour trail ride through some of the most beautiful country in the world a dream. Five saddle horses, a saddle mule, and six pack horses made the trek along Dutch Creek, swollen from the rapidly melting snow.  I frequently climbed off and on Little Stinker to take photos and video of Mountain Goats, Elk and stunning scenery along the way.
Little Stinker taking every advantage of being “free” to trot in front of the pack string or head downhill for a clump of green grass; filled with the joy of being out on the trail for his first trip of the season. On the downhill sections he would pin his ears back, trot a bit and shake his head side to side. I found his mule-isms quite comical, although some probably do not appreciate the character of a mule quite as much as I do.
Seven hours later, we arrived at The “Big Cabin” that was built in 1993 by the DuBois family. Everyone contributed to the construction with Brent’s mother Georgina designing the cabin, Brent and his father Bill salvaging the logs from original 1948 cabin to build the guest bunk house and hand scribing the logs for the construction of the main cabin. 


The cabin walls come to life with murals of dates and names of past guests along with short stories of their successes; a section of tree that was found nearby that was carved by a settler over 100 years ago, a broken panyard from a mule wreck and other miscellaneous items that all tell an intricate tale. The main cabin is complete with the modern delights of a refrigerator and propane lights, the guest house boasted the makings for a good hot shower. 

If you prefer the old school, you can utilize the “Bug Light” which is an old tin syrup can with a hole punched through the bottom to slide a candle through and a handle on top. The old timers believed that you could light the candle within to use instead of a flashlight and that the natural light wouldn’t spook the elk that you were pursuing.
Climbing up the slide our first morning there was a small herd of elk grazing just above the horses, once they caught sight of us, they took off into the timber. Coming down the steep mountain slide, the horses tied literally nose to tail, was an amazingly beautiful sight with Dutch Creek below as the thunder started rolling across the sky and the rain pouring down.
Glassing in the rain.
With the rain relentlessly driving down, we saddled up and headed out to glass a few nearby slides for black bears with the hopes that the dark skies would return to blue and the bears would begin to move about. The drum of the rain on the hood of my jacket was a never ending tune that played all day long. We spent the next eight hours glassing, trying to stay dry under the limited cover of trees with no avail.
Making our way back to camp down the boggy trail, Brent spotted a black bear on the face of a slide across Dutch Creek. The bear played peek- a -boo within the heavy alder brush, giving us but only a single look at the bruin.  Unfortunately, the frozen heavy water flowing in Dutch Creek was so swift that it is simply too dangerous to cross in most places making a stalk on the bruin impossible from our current location.
We spent the next hour glassing for the bruin with the attempt at getting a second look at him while devising a plan to make a stalk the following day. Our time was well spent as we found two nice Moose sheds on our way back to the horses, or in my case mule.
With a hump the size of a grizzly’s, even Little Stinker had caught a shiver from the long wet day.  Brent was sure I was going to get an exciting ride back to the cabin when he caught glimpse of the hump in Stinker’s back, but he happily carried me down the trail and back to camp.
Drying out our gear.
Arriving in camp after ten o’clock that night, we converted the guest bunk house into a makeshift dry room with a roaring fire. With a belly full of delicious elk sausage and all the fixings, a set of warm dry clothes on, fully relaxed from finishing my second cup of Dutch Tea (hot water from the creek, whiskey, and honey) I gladly climbed into bed looking forward to another day on the mountain.
I awoke the next day a year older; this was my second birthday in a row being out of the United States, far away from home secluded in the wilderness.  The skies were dark and dreary with rain sprinkling down intermittently throughout the day. I took the opportunity to relax in camp, enjoying the simple pleasure of a nice hot shower and homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies thanks to our camp chef Aaron Cameron.
The slide where I harvested my bear.
After two long wet days, the rain finally subsided making us all anxious to get out on the mountainside to glass for hungrily grazing bears. Saddled up and rearing to go, we set out to check out a few slides. Without wasting anytime at all, we spotted a black bear feeding on the far side of Dutch Creek, before we had a chance to get a better look at the bruin, he disappeared into heavy timber and out of sight.
With Dutch Creek separating us from the slide, Jim and Rocky were not going to be able to put a stalk on the bruin with their bows if he were to reappear. With rifle in hand, I was up as shooter and they were on the cameras.
This yearling bull calf was less than 50 yards from us.
In the middle of the slide, we spotted a small black bear peeking in and out of the heavy brush, sitting back getting video of the small bear working its way across the slide feeding on the tender green grasses. A yearling Bull Moose made an appearance on the edge of the timber and leisurely strolling towards the edge of Dutch Creek nibbling on Black Birch less than 50 yards from us.
All of the wildlife seemed to be enjoying the break from the rain as much as we were and were happily moving about the basin. As luck would have it, the bruin that we had originally seen earlier that night reemerged into the slide feeding right towards us. Armed with my binoculars, it was an easy determination that this was a shooter boar.
The wind was in our favor, he was unaware of our presence a mere 100 yards away across Dutch Creek, laying on my stomach I readied my gun using my backpack as a rest. Waiting for the bruin to feed into the perfect broadside position seemed like it took hours. Finally, with the bruin perfectly broadside I took my shot.
Less than 40 yards from where he stood in the grassy slide into the timbers edge he fell, all caught on camera. My birthday present had been delivered, a beautiful black bear boar taken in one of the most beautiful places in the world. 
The young Bull Moose never spooked from my single gunshot, instead, he forged Dutch Creek heading right towards us.  I had been so focused on the bear that I didn’t even realize that a second larger bull moose was standing directly behind us at less than 40 yards, also unaffected by the sound of my gun shot.
With the light quickly fading, Brent our outfitter suggested that we wait to attempt our recovery until first light due to the freezing cold high waters of Dutch Creek. To cross in the dark would simply be too dangerous. With the sound of mud sloshing under my mule’s feet, I rode back to camp wishing that it were already morning and that we were on our way to recover my bear.
Surrounded by the warmth of a good fire and great friends Happy Birthday was sang to me by all, over the top of a homemade chocolate cream cheese cake. What a great birthday it had been.
The next morning, I traded in Little Stinker the mule for Whiskers the horse. Whiskers is a 1400 pound draft cross that is unbelievably big and strong, perfect for crossing the deep fast moving spring waters of Dutch Creek.
Once we reached the slide, retracing the bruin’s final steps was easy as we had seen his last steps the night before. The boar was old; his teeth were worn almost down to nothing, he had an infected bite mark on his hind quarter, most likely from another younger more aggressive boar. With a skull just over 16 inches and stretching over 5 ½ feet, the bruin had lived out his last day on the beautiful slides of the Purcell Mountains.
Often times, we all get busy and forget to take the time to slow down, get back to our roots and enjoy life at a slower pace. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoying a place un-touched by modern civilization on the back of a good mule surrounded by friends was the best gift for me on my birthday.
With Rockie and Jim both armed with black bear tags needing punched…the adventure continues.
Me and Brent DuBois from A/Z Outfitters.

A special thanks goes out to A/Z Outfitters and the DuBois Family, Fred Canning, The Cabins at Whitetail Lake,  Under Armour, Swarovski Optik, Nosler, Eberlestock and Wilderness Athlete.

 

 

Additional Information
A/Z Outfitters offers hunt opportunities for Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Mountain Goat, Moose, Mule Deer & Elk.  Visit A/Z Outfitters online at www.abarzoutfitters.com.
Email me at ktitus@pursuethewild.com or go to the A/Z Adventures Website, if you are interested in booking a summer pack trip into the Purcell Wilderness with me and A/Z Outfitters in 2011 or 2012.
Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy
Base 2.0 Top
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Hurlock Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
Under Armour Clothing for Jim & Rockie
Ridge Reaper Jacket & Pant
Stealth Rain Jacket & Pant
Camo Big Logo Hoody
Camo Armourloft Vest
Swarovski Optik
Z3 Rifle Scope
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece
8x30 Laser Guide
Misc. Gear
Eberlestock X1 Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus
Nosler Custom Trophy Grade 180 Grain Accubond Ammunition



 

Rainbow of Bears in the Royal Kootenay Mountains

 


Jason glassing and filming.
The sound of the Palliser River filled the valley with a vibrant hum as it echoed off the mountainside. With snow crunching under foot, we got settled in to glass the avalanche slides and clear cuts with the hopes of filling Steve West from Steve’s Outdoor Adventures Television Show’s black bear tag with outfitter Sean Beswick.  Jason Martyn and I were armed with our video cameras and ready to roll.
The slowly emerging bears hungrily awoke from their deep slumber by the lengthening of days and the warm sunshine heating up the valley.  Green grass was sprouting everywhere that the sun was able to kiss now that the snow drifts had began to melt.
The Grizzly bear was spotted strutting powerfully across a slide through deep snow leaving behind a trail to the top of the mountain in the deepest of snow.  The massive bruin stopped every few yards to paw and dug its way deep into the earth uncovering and devouring the tender root systems below. 
You can see the digs above the bruin.
A beautiful sight with its fur dark chocolate on the body and tipped with silver, your classic grizzly with a pronounced hump and an air of authority; knowing that this mighty bruin would keep the black bears off of the slide and out of sight. With the sun fading over the horizon and darkness settling in, we called it a night and returned to camp.
Our lunch the next day was fit for a king or in my case a queen; with the royal Kootenay Mountains in the background and the Palliser River slowly meandering by, we built a fire to fry up our lunch on open flame. The setting was rich under the warm rays of sunshine with the company of good friends as we all shared stories while enjoying some of the best homemade french fries and an assortment of chicken wings.
Sean french frying potatoes over open flame.
The weather began to cool and the skies began to darken. The change in weather brought about a renewed excitement for finding a big bruin on the move. Setting up from a high vantage point, we spotted a black bear in the middle of a clear cut. We immediately set up for a stalk on the bear. Once we reached the edge of the clear cut, the bruin was out of sight. We made our way slowly to the middle of the clear cut and spotted the bruin grazing on the far edge of the cut.
Making our way across the clear cut dipping down in and out of a couple small valleys, in the middle of our stalk the wind changed with the keen nose on the bruin we were flat out busted. The bear had disappeared into the dark deep timber before we even caught a second glance. The stalk was over.
The moose were grazing in the cut.
With the snow quickly melting off the old logging roads each day we were able to expand our range of travel. Heading into a new clear cut Jason immediately spotted two moose, no black bears. A change in location and hours of glassing went by when our guide Sean decided to head back to the clear cut that we had spotted the moose earlier to take advantage of the last 30 minutes of daylight in hopes that a bear would emerge anxious to feed on the tender green grasses.
Sean’s hunch had been right; slowly stalking to the edge of the clear cut we immediately spotted two mature bears. With the territory having a large percentage of color phase bears we had lucked out and one of the two bears was a dark chocolate color phase.
Steve & his stunning chocolate boar.
The light was quickly fading, so Steve set up and took aim on the magnificent bruin feeding 150 yards down the mountainside.  As the shot rang across the valley and the bear fell in its tracks. After hunting black bears for an undisclosed number of years, finally harvesting a mature boar in color phase was a moment that Steve had been waiting for his entire life. 
Enjoying our last day in the Palliser valley, we paid visit to the Soda Springs waterfall and the memorial of Larry James Tegart an old time guide in the valley. One can only imagine all of the incredible stories a man like Larry would tell if he were still around. We can all understand the remarkable tribute that was made on his behalf with a plaque on display that will forever remind us all of how precious each passing moment really is.

The bruin was last spotted crossing the base of this slide.
With Steve having one more tag to fill, we spent our final evening in search for a second bear.  Spotting a black bear miles across the far side of the valley, the bruin was quickly moving across a clear cut, so we made like a bandit towards him in hopes of reaching him in time for a stalk. 
Once we reached the far side of the valley, we set up to glass checking every stump and the cut edge looking for the bruin on the move.  After glassing for over 30 minutes we spotted the bear high on the mountain at the base of a slide moving towards us and a timber draw. We set up in hopes that he would keep coming towards us at his current pace and into the clear cut that lay before us.
After patiently waiting for what seemed like hours, we decided to let out a little calf elk distress with the hopes of calling the bruin into us.  Almost immediately our call was answered, unfortunately, we only managed to call in a cow elk that couldn’t ignore her motherly instincts and came in mad. She paced around a bit, letting out a series of distressed barks. Once she realized there was no calf in distress, she quickly returned to the rest of the herd.
We were down to the last hour of daylight when Sean spotted another bear back across the valley where we had just come from. Once again we raced across the valley and quickly made our stalk into the clear cut where the bruin had last been spotted.
Filming & glassing.
The bruin was on the far timber edge of the clear cut and looking in our direction watching our appearance into the cut. Fortunately we had the wind true to our face and with bears having poor eye sight he didn’t seem to have a care. Steve set up to take the shot at 200 yards but was halted by Jason due to his poor camera angle. No film, no shot.
Successfully executing a stalk on an animal is tough enough as an individual hunter, having not one but two camera men following along, you can double the difficulty level.  With the light quickly fading and having to risk the bruin disappearing into the timber, we advanced with the hopes of closing the distance and getting a better camera angle.
At 150 yards Steve was finally able to set up for a shot with Jason and I both giving him a green light. Steve took aim and fired.
Lightning had seemingly struck twice. When we approached the bruin, we were all awe struck. Steve had successfully managed to harvest his second color phase black bear in two days. This one was a cinnamon brown boar, the largest of all our bears taken.
Although, I was not the person who pulled the trigger on these two stunning bruins, I was honored and grateful to be part of the hunt. We all can appreciate the feeling when the hunt draws to a close and everything has turned out beyond all of your expectations, with the entire trip caught on tape to tell the tale in living color to all of you.

 

Steve West, me and Jason Martyn.
To book a hunt contact Steve West at http://www.steveshunts.com/

 

Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy
Base 2.0 Top
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Hurlock Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
Swarovski Optik
Z3 Rifle Scope
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece
8x30 Laser Guide
Misc. Gear
Eberlestock X1 Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus
Nosler Custom Trophy Grade 180 Grain Accubond Ammunition

 

 

 

Royal Kootenay Mountains Black Bear

 

 

When Steve West from Steve’s Outdoor Adventures invited me to British Columbia to hunt Black Bears for his television show and my future Pursue the Wild television show with outfitter Sean Beswick, I immediately started packing my bags anxious to get into the backcountry.
Crossing over the Canadian border was like turning on a wildlife switch. There were elk seemingly everywhere. Cows preparing to calf and bulls growing antlers for the year were heartily grazing on the tender spring grasses that decorated the roadside.
After 12 long hours on the road, traveling through Oregon, Washington and Idaho, I finally arrived in Cranbrook BC to get a night’s rest before beginning my pursuit of British Columbian bruins.
With spring late in her arrival, the mountains were once again dusted with a blanket of snow during the night. Bound for the Royal Kootenay Mountain range, my Excursion tore up the 90 minutes of muddy bumpy roads up the spectacular Palliser River Valley.
Height of the Rockies Lodge
Finally, I had made it into the backcountry. Landscaped with river frontage, the royal snow capped mountains surrounded the lodge. A glimpse into the history of the territories past was proudly displayed on the lodge walls with trophies telling tales of times shared in the backcountry with friends and family.
Finding the whole place intoxicating and I could hardly wait to get out and get hunting. Steve having two bear tags and me having one to fill, we started the first evening with a trip to the range to making sure that our weapons were spot on.
This Grizzly Bear was digging up and feeding on roots.
The air was cold as it ripped across the thick laying snow. Grizzly bears were digging their way out of their dens and hibernation high on the mountain tops. Appearing below the slowly emerging Grizzlies, Mountain Goats danced across the sheer rock bluffs.
The Black bears made their appearance midway up the mountain at snow line and in the low laying valleys and river bottoms feeding on fresh green grass shoots and patrolling the avalanches in hopes of finding the carcass of a fallen animal caught in the wrath of Mother Nature.
Love was in the air for both Grizzly and Black Bears and the boars were out excitedly looking for a sow in heat giving us the opportunity to catch a big bore on the move.
Taking advantage of our optics, saving our legs for future stalks, we glassed from a high vantage point, spotting two black bears feeding along an old skid road. The bears disappeared into heavy timber and out of sight. Later we spotted several other bears, a sow and cub patrolling the base of an avalanche and a boar feeding on fresh green grass shoots along an old skid road, all without opportunity for a stalk.
Glassing clear cuts, logging roads & snow slides.
Waking up to the aroma of homemade pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and hot coffee filling my nose, by 7 AM we were once again on the mountain. Glassing for a bear that was spotted the evening before by a guide they affectionately called Duck, the bruin was holding close to a large herd of cow elk that were getting ready to start calving. We found fresh scat that wasn’t there the night before but failed to catch a glimpse of the bruin; instead we saw a group of three Mountain Goats seemingly soaking up the sun high in the mountains cliffs.  
Cow Elk were virtually everywhere feeding in the clear cuts.
Later that day Duck spotted another bear on an old logging road. Taking advantage of his find we took after the bruin. Parking on the edge of a clear cut just above a herd of cow elk, we headed into the dark timber. The old road provided a bounty of freshly growing green grasses for the eager bears to munch on.
We were quick to spot a bear in the road grazing on the bright green grasses. I set up on the shooting sticks, ready to take my shot when another bear suddenly appeared out of the dark timber. Wanting to make sure that this was not a sow and cub, I let down and proceeded to close the distance on the two bears.
Slowly creeping up the old road, hugging the side of the mountain, we were sure to stay out of sight of the two bears. With the wind in our favor, we were finally able to determine that this was a boar excitedly chasing a sow.
Once again, I set up to take my shot on the large boar. As luck would have it, one of the legs on my shooting sticks had come loose and collapsed underneath me, just as the bears became aware of our presence.
While trying to get my shooting sticks stabilized, the sow stood on her hind legs curiously with the attempt at getting a better look at us. Following the lead of the boar they both headed down the mountainside into deep timber and out of sight.
It had all happened so quickly, my chance had come and gone. Every hunter has felt the frustration that I was experiencing, where you are so close to getting it right and then Murphy’s Law kicks in.
Knowing we were in prime time for spotting more bears, we continued to hike down the old road towards another clear cut with the hopes of spotting another bear. After glassing the cut without spotting a bruin, we started our hike back to the truck.
Suddenly, we spotted a bear in the timber. I readied my gun and prepared to take a shot just as the bear took off deeper into the timber and out of sight, unknowing that there was a second bear less than 30 yards from me locked in and staring. The bear was just out of sight due to the steep decline of the mountain. Simultaneously the bear and I inched towards each other; there we met eye to eye.
This mature boar had massive paws.
Offhand, I took aim on the bruin standing less than 30 yards from me, his massive head and shoulders completely filling my scope. Firing a single shot the bruin was down almost instantly going less than 20 yards down the mountainside.  
My senses were on overload from the excitement running through my veins; it was truly indescribable. The sheer mass and magnificence became evident when I was finally able to run my hands through the bruins beautiful long black fur.
After celebrating the success of a thrilling hunt with handshakes and hugs, I reflected back on the hunt with fondness. On the steep face of the royal Kootenay Mountains, one of the most beautiful places on earth, with the help of knowledgeable guides and great friends at my side, I was able to harvest a beautiful trophy and take home fresh meat for my freezer.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.
A special thanks goes out to Under Armour, Swarovski Optik, Nosler, and Eberlestock.
To book a hunt contact Steve West at http://www.steveshunts.com/
Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for KristyEvo Cold Gear Pants
Base 2.0 Top
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Hurlock Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
Swarovski Optik
Z3 Rifle Scope
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece
8x30 Laser Guide
Misc. Gear
Eberlestock X1 Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus
Nosler Custom Trophy Grade 180 Grain Accubond Ammunition

 

 







 

Face to Face with a Bruin

 


At the mouth of the bruin’s den with my heart in my throat, I didn’t move a muscle. Silent, I waited. Taking no time to think through the possible consequences of the situation, ignoring that eerie feeling crawling up my spine. Knowing that soon I would be face to face with the giant bruin that lay inside.

 

 

The lengthening of days, the dawning warmth in the air and the melting of the hard snow on the  steep mountainsides all signify one of my favorite times of year; Spring black bear season. Public land hunting for black bear in Idaho allows for several methods of take from baiting, use of hounds, and good old spot and stalk.
For me, there is nothing more exhilarating than spot and stalk hunting. The thrill of the chase is in my blood and I seek that rush on every hunt. On this spot and stalk hunt, an adrenaline rush is exactly what I got.
New plant life, fresh green grass shoots, the appearance of wildflowers, and warm sun filled skies are crucial in spotting the slowly emerging black bear. Overtaking snow covered mountain passes and getting beyond the covered frozen ground into lower elevations where the life of spring has began can provide a challenge of its own.
The sound of spinning tires echoed across the mountain. The snow was deep enough that our ATV’s were high centering making the pass nearly impossible without a snowmobile. The weather was bad for bear hunting with cold temperatures and rain driving down hard out of the sky.
Bear hunting was going to be on hold until the clouds melted away and the wind died down, only then would the bruins be eager to emerge from their dens in an effort to feed on the delicate spring grasses. I held on tight, anxious to get to the other side of the mountain and find out what I was in store for.
At first glimpse of the steep rugged canyon, I was awe struck. They type of terrain that you do not attempt to hunt alone and can be very intimidating to even the most experienced of hunters. This is the kind of place that I live for hunting and I was thankful to be on this hunt with Rockie Jacobsen of Bugling Bull Game Calls and pro staffer Don West.
Unfortunately for us, the weather did not break and we went back to camp with only seeing the rain pour out of the sky and lay thick on the ground like a slick blanket. I could hardly wait to get back there the next day and hope that the weather would break as well.
In the morning, I awoke to the subtle drum of the rain on the roof of my tent. The dark sky showed no sign of letting the warm sun peek through anytime soon. So I did the next best thing to hunting, I made a big breakfast for my fellow hungry hunters as we patiently waited for the weather to break.
That afternoon with the skies still dark and the rain gently sprinkling down on us, we decided to make the trek over the mountain pass in hopes that the weather would break and we would get an opportunity to spot a black bear.
We set up and glassed the mountainside from this vantage point the far side of the canon appeared to be wide open, nice and grassy, but looks in this type of ground is very deceiving.  We spotted a bear at approximately 450 yards grazing on the abundant spring grass.
The bear was playing peek-a-boo throughout the dense foliage. One second he was visible and the next he would vanish into the dense spring growth. We literally could not take our eyes off of the bruin as he would suddenly disappear and we would spend ten minutes trying to find him again.



Setting up to take my shot.



Don was keeping an attentive eye on the bear as I set up to take the shot on the bruin. “I think I broke my nose,” were the first words that came out of my mouth after I took the mighty punch to the face that the .300 Ultra Mag had delivered, ultimately missing the bear. This was not the knock down power I had been looking for.
After having waited for two days for the weather to break and give me an opportunity to see a bear let alone have an opportunity at taking a big bear, my disappointment in myself was beyond words.
Typically lessons learned in the field are from hard knocks and disappointment. Getting this huge reminder I knew that I would have to get closer to my target.
As the evening faded into darkness, we headed back to camp and made our plan to come back to the same spot in the morning and make the trip across the canyon in hopes of closing the distance and getting another shot at the bruin.



Stream swollen from snow runoff.



Venturing into some of Idaho’s steepest most rugged public lands, with the frost from the night before still laying like a slick blanket on the ground, traversing rock bluffs, shimmying logs to get over a swollen stream from the years snow runoff, proved to make reaching where we had last glimpsed the bear more difficult than I had anticipated.
As we reached the steep mountainside that the bruin had been grazing on the evening before, the grassy openings were coupled with patches of dense underbrush that reached towards the sky, well above my head in some places. Shale rock slides decorated the mountainside, all making for some rough terrain.
Glassing from a high vantage point we spotted a small cinnamon bear and a black bear making their way towards us. Neither of these bears were the bruin from the evening before. I passed on the opportunity that the smaller bears offered, still hoping that the bruin would show up on the mountainside once again.
Rockie Jacobsen and I.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the bruin appeared, 285 yards and across a small canyon from where I sat. Taking aim, I took my shot and pin wheeled the bear. As quickly as he had appeared, he was gone. Gone into his den; which was located less than 5 yards from where he had just stood.
There we all sat in a gasp knowing that he was now tucked away into his home. We were now faced with making the dangerous trek into his territory.
After a grueling hike and well over an hour later, we reached the mouth of the bears den. I had to question my own sanity as to what I was about to do. Quitting at this stage of the hunt was not an option. I never could have anticipated what was to unfold next.
The mouth of the bruin's den.
Cautiously moving forward, Rockie and I approached the mouth of the den.  This is a moment where you are thankful to have an experienced hunting partner, one that you are willing to trust with your life, and them instilling the same trust in you.
A little game of Russian Roulette so to speak was unfolding with the unnerving sounds of the bruins labored breathing and pounding heart beat slamming into my head like a ton of bricks.
The bruin lay less than six feet from the mouth of the den. There we were face to face and eye to eye with the bruin not knowing how incapacitated he was from the single blow that had been delivered.
We could see that we had seriously underestimated the size and mass of this bear.  Judging a bear’s size is one of the most difficult tasks you will face and the task becomes even more daunting in thick ground cover.
With few options, I stood at the mouth of the den waiting. Waiting for the irate and wounded bear to expire, or well you can probably imagine the infinite possibilities that were going through my mind at that time.
Slow motion is what I would say describes the next few seconds as the bruin moved towards me and the entrance of his den. I waited, knowing that in a blink of an eye the bruin could be on me, but there was no time for fear.
Two feet, and only two feet separated me from this giant bruin. As he emerged, he met me there, eye to eye. Aiming from the hip I put one last shot into the bruin. He instantly buckled on rolled down the steep mountains face.
As I finally approached the expired bear, I was captivated by his massive size. Measuring in at just over 7 feet nose to tail, weighing in at approximately 400 pounds and having a skull of over 20 inches, the bear was three times my size.
On every hunt you can only expect the unexpected and this hunt was no exception. Never had I dreamed that my spring bear hunting adventures would literally lead me to come face to face with a bruin this massive.



The hunt was over and it was time to pack out the massive bear. My hunting partners carried out the meat and I proudly carried out the 70 some pound cape and skull back across the rugged canyon. 
Looking back I spotted a large herd of elk that were getting ready to start calving just above the den of the expired bruin, and was glad that this old boy was down for good. My role as a hunter was complete with a full freezer and having given some of these soon to be born elk calves a chance at life.

 

Got snowed out the last day of our trip.

 

 

 

 

 




 

Under Armour Oregon Rio Grande Turkey Hunt

Beautiful South West Oregon
Time to hit the road to meet up with Kevin Perry, the Outdoor Account Manager for Under Armour, to help with the first Oregon Cabela’s pre-grand opening, new store training. Kevin is originally from Georgia and currently resides in Colorado; this was his first trip out to my home state of Oregon. 
Wanting to share my deep rooted love of Oregon, I invited Kevin to hunt Rio Grande turkeys with me and my good friend Matt Thurman in the south west region of Oregon. Looking forward to a fun hunting trip with friends, I was excited as this was my first hunting trip in over a year that I had been out in the field without a video camera behind me.   
When Kevin’s plane touched down it was pouring down rain. I was nervous about the poor weather conditions continuing throughout the week and into the weekend; as this has been one of the wettest springs that I could recall for the valley. Even with the turkey populations being so abundant, the hunting had been tough going so far this season. 
The skies are getting ready to clear up.
After we completed the in-store training for Cabela’s, we climbed into my truck and headed south to meet up with Matt, an area local and turkey guru. To our delight, the weather broke just as we finished our drive and we were able to use the last hour of daylight to get out do some scouting before our morning hunt.
Like a typical woman, always being prepared, I asked Kevin if he grabbed his binoculars for our scouting trip and he quickly dismissed me saying that he would just use mine if need be. Coming from Georgia, if a turkey spots your car a ½ mile away he is gone like a flash, Kevin was not prepared for what we were about to encounter. Needless to say, Kevin spent most of the hour with my Swarovski’s in hand literally getting an eye full of proudly strutting toms, while I took the back seat.
The next morning with the weather cooperating, we put our scouting trip to work and crept into position under the cover of darkness near a roosting site. Sitting side by side, Kevin and I anxiously played the waiting game. We had scouted the area almost too well and ended up getting a little too close to the roosting tree and we were literally sitting below the flock. 
At first light, a raspy jake was making every effort to gobble; we were so close to the flock that we could hear the toms spitting above us. The scene really broke loose when a goose sounded off setting off a chain reaction causing the big gobblers to light up. The scene was absolutely story book with jakes, hens and gobblers all around us. 
A large tom took flight and landed directly in front of us with a second large tom right behind him. Knowing that there were more turkeys in the tree above us, after a quick communication between me and Kevin, we decided not to hesitate on the opportunity at the two mature gobblers.
Good times with great friends.
Taking aim, Kevin fired first and I quickly followed suit. Sitting side by side with my friend, we had managed to pull a double on two huge gobblers. Kevin’s tom had a 10 inch beard and mine was right behind with a 9 ½ inch beard. The remarkable feature on my tom,  that we will now call “Capt. Hook”, was the size of his spurs, which measured in at over 1 ¼ inch which is HUGE for Oregon.
Being thrilled with our success and everything happening so quickly, we weren’t ready to quit hunting. We decided to surprise 11 year old Hailey Miller by having her father Jim pull her out of school to take her with us hunting under the OR Youth Mentored Program. 
While we waited for Jim to pull Hailey out of school for our adventure, we decided to try and get Matt on a big gobbler. After changing locations, we had a gobbler respond to a hen yelp. 
Quickly, we set up the decoys and put Matt 20 yards out nestled in a clump of trees with his bow in hand. Kevin and I set up 40 yards from the decoys with the hopes of drawing the gobbler past Matt and within bow range. 
Our plan worked perfect once again as two excited young jakes came strutting up to the decoy. Matt decided to pass on the opportunity in hopes for finding a mature tom later on. By the time all of the action died down, it was time to go and meet up with Hailey and her dad Jim. 
As a group we spotted a large tom strutting across an open field on the edge of a wooded lot. We made a stalk by looping around him and into the woods; setting up just off from the field’s edge and safely out of sight. Hailey set up with Matt by her side and the decoy just in front of her. Kevin, Jim and I hung back in the woods and called to the gobbler. 
Quick to respond, the gobbler came in to our calls, but he was keen and held up 50 yards out strutting and displaying right in front of Hailey. Knowing her shooting limitations, Hailey patiently awaited the tom to come in closer to her. 
With all the commotion coming out of the woods, the neighbor’s dogs decided to come over and take a closer look spooking the tom before Hailey had an opportunity to take her shot. This set up had busted but we weren’t giving up.
A flock of Jakes; eager to come in to our calls.
Hailey was quick to spot the next flock of turkeys consisting of two mature toms and some jakes. We set up the same way that we had before. The flock was anxious to get to us but there was a fence separating us and no way for them to cross without flying, they quickly lost interest and moved on. 
At the end of the day, Hailey was really excited to have been out of school for the day with her dad and some new friends having some close encounters with some big gobblers. With anticipation building, Hailey now has caught turkey fever.
Kevin and I rounded out our trip by stopping in at the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Medford OR to say hello and picked up a second turkey tag, just in case. We spent the evening in the historic town of Jacksonville OR located at the entrance of the Applegate Valley Wine Country. This picture perfect historic village is a must see if you venture to southern OR. 
The quaint streets of Jacksonville Oregon.
Under clear sunny skies, while driving Kevin back towards the airport, we took the opportunity to take in some of Oregon’s most beautiful scenery in the broad and fertile Willamette Valley.  I was thankful to have been able to share such a wonderful weekend with friends in a place that I love enjoying all that is beautiful in the outdoors.
Jacksonville Oregon surrounding area.

Capt. Hook

 

Thanks for helping make this trip successful Under Armour, Swarovski Optik, Bugling Bull Game Calls & Eberlestock.
Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy
Base 2.0 Top
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Hurlock Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
Swarovski Optik

 

EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
Bugling Bull Game Calls
One Arm Bandit Turkey Call
Turkey Strutter Box
Gobbler Getter Turkey Tone Top
Raspy Cutter Turkey Tone Top

Misc. Gear
Eberlestock Mini Me Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus

 

 


 

 

 

 

Kansas Rio Grande

The first few months of my year was kicked off by traveling all around the country to various industry trade shows with Under Armour.  After a few long months on the road, I am more than ready to get back into the woods to do some hunting. This year, I was fortunate enough to get invited by my good friend Chuck Griffin to go hunting with him in Kansas for Rio Grande turkeys.
The Old Stafford Train Station.
Venturing to south central Kansas took me back in time and to a place that felt like down home America, right down to the delicious homemade pies at the historic Curtis Café. Nestled between the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and the quaint town of Stafford, you will find a large diversity in habitat from salt marshes, woodlands, water management areas and land management areas that the Rio Grande turkey flourishes in year round.  
I had two turkey tags and high expectations for this hunt, but Kansas decided to live up to her windy reputation on opening morning of turkey season with robust winds that blew steadily at 20-30 mph. My hopes of quickly filling both of my tags were quickly diminishing due to poor current and predicted weather conditions for the week ahead. 
Opening morning, we set the decoys up on a known travel corridor between a wheat field and woodland roosting area with the hopes of calling in a gobbler after he hit the ground.  I began an aggressive hen yelp without getting a response or hearing a gobble. 
Due to the conditions, the sound from my call wasn’t carrying out the way I would ideally like, with that in mind we decided to put our optics to use and try our luck with good old spotting and stalking. 
We quickly found a group of turkeys flocked together pecking around in the nearby wheat field. For fear of being spotted by the flock I chose not to set up decoys and instead set up immediately on the field’s edge under the cover of the woodlands. One young jake was tempted to come in to the sounds of my putts, purrs and yelps, but the hens that he was following quickly changed his mind when they fed off in the opposite direction. With the morning fading away and the weather not cooperating, we decided to back out of the area.
Later that afternoon, the temperatures climbed to 75 degrees and the wind faded to a soft breeze. We set out our decoys just down from where we had spotted the large flock earlier that morning in hopes that they would once again return to feed before heading to their roosting area. 
The ground I was sitting on was transformed into a sea of movement before my eyes. What I had not anticipated was the hundreds of ticks that had also decided to get out and enjoy the warm change in the weather. The ticks were crawling everywhere and I thanked god for Under Armour base layer that is tick proof and kept me safe from literally being devoured by the small creatures. 
Despite the infestation, I sat tight and let out a series of soft putts, purrs and yelps, a single hen came in with an eager tom on her tail. The hen literally walked 5 feet in front of my friend and fellow hunter whom we will call “Bill” in order to protect his identity. Bill had taken the gift of warm weather and used it for a nap instead of an opportunity to hunt. 
Set up and patiently waiting.
Watching from 40 yards away, I was shocked that Bill could hold so completely still with the invasion of ticks and all of this action unfolding directly in front of him. The huge tom was staring at him when he let out a series of snores that spooked the keen hen causing her to take off with the tom in toe.
My only regret at this set up was not being able to capture Bill with the hen and huge tom only 5 feet away from him while he slept. To this day, I am not sure if Bill really believes what unfolded that afternoon.
Thanks to Hartz dog flea and tick shampoo, I was able to get a good night’s sleep and wake up rested for the following mornings hunt.  Under the cover of darkness, we set up the decoys; the toms were gobbling from the roost tree before the sun had even crested the horizon. With the weather cooperating and the gobblers vocal, I was sure that our luck was about to change and had high hopes of calling in a nice tom. 
When the birds hit the ground and the sound of the gobbles grew close, two nice toms quickly approached on the tail of a hen. Unfortunately for me, the trio did not cooperate and break out into the field where my decoys were set up, but instead chose to strut and display behind me in the cover of the woods leaving me no shot opportunities and no way of moving without being detected. 
Kansas Sunset.
We spent the rest of the day trying to call in a fervent tom without luck.  The gobblers that we had encountered were not willing to abandon the hens that they were flocked with. We didn’t even find any enthusiastic young jakes that were willing to strut around for us. 
The next day, Kansas had decided to throw in a severe storm with winds gusting at 60 mph and pouring down rain. We decided to take the day off and drove to the small town of Great Bend Kansas in order to prepare to hunt in a new location when the weather eventually broke. 
The following morning presented clear skies and temperatures dipping down to 34 degrees.  It was cold but the toms were gobbling in the roosting trees from multiple directions. Once again under the cover of darkness, we snuck into position and set up on the edge of a new food plot that was near the roosting area. With the decoys in place only 20 yards in front of me I visualized success in finally being able to take that long awaited shot. 
Success in KS.
The birds were just as anxious as I was to get moving after being relieved of the heavy storm that had ripped through the day before. I called for just over an hour letting out a couple series of soft yelps and purrs when an aggressive gobbler responded quickly coming in out of my north. Moments later I had several gobblers also respond and start coming in out of my south. 
I was in the epicenter of eager gobbling toms. As quickly as the weather had changed, thankfully, so had my luck. A flock consisting of a jake and three mature toms emerged into the food plot out of the south and ran straight to my decoys. Without hesitation, I took aim and fired on the tom of my choice. 
After three days of hunting, I was finally able to fill one of my turkey tags with a nice mature gobbler. Having to fly out the next afternoon, I knew I was growing short on time to fill my second tag, but I wasn’t going home without trying for another tom.
The evenings hunt was picture perfect with warm weather and windless skies. I had two hens come in behind me and peck around a pond; strangely enough they were without a gobbler.  I left the field that night being thankful for the beautiful day and looking forward to one more morning to try and fill my second tag.
The morning gobbles were erupting nonstop out of the sand hills at first light. Eagerly, I slipped in silently on the flock just as I would on a screaming bull elk. I set up just out of sight and called sweetly in an attempt to lure the tom away from his hens. Just like a big bull elk, he wasn’t budging, so I stayed in position for awhile in hopes that a younger tom would come into me like an eager sate light bull during the rut. 
After growing inpatient and short on time, I attempted to creep over the sand hills and get within range of the flock. There were two huge toms, several hens and a couple of jakes in the flock, a lot of eyes in open country that made it impossible to be stealthy enough for successful stalk. Getting within 70 yards of the giant toms made my trigger finger itch but unfortunately today was not my day for scratching it. 
As time ran out, I headed to the airport thankful for my time in Kansas and the reminder that with each dawn lies a new beginning.  On this trip I was humbly reminded that within but a single moments time your success  in the field can change but you must always remain patient,  persistent and thankful of the extraordinary gift of the great outdoors.
     Thanks for the great gear Under Armour, Swarovski Optik, Bugling Bull Game Calls & Eberlestock.

Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy
Base 2.0 Top
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Hurlock Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
Swarovski Optik

 

EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
Bugling Bull Game Calls
One Arm Bandit Turkey Call
Turkey Strutter Box
Gobbler Getter Turkey Tone Top
Raspy Cutter Turkey Tone Top

Misc. Gear
Eberlestock Mini Me Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus

 



 

 

 

Maddie's First Hunt

“Everyone has a transferable commodity-knowledge. Sharing your unique expertise and making introductions for someone creates a lasting legacy.”
Marsha Blackburn
In the state of Oregon they have a special program called the Mentored Youth Hunter Program for kids ages 9 to 13 that allows them to hunt without first passing an approved hunter education program while being supervised by a licensed adult, filling the supervisors tag. The program also allows the mentored youth to receive a preference point for each year they are registered into the program. 
The times that I spent while hunting with my dad as a kid are some of my fondest memories. Lessons learned while out in the field with your friends and family help shape the rest of a child’s life. This is why being part of 11 year old Madison Kussman’s first ever hunt with her dad James Kussman was so special to me. 
Mother Nature had covered the steep heavy timbered terrain of the Oregon Coast Range with a thick blanket of fog. The limited visibility of the valley below created a challenging set of circumstances for Maddie on her first hunt. As we slowly crept through the fog, James whispered to Maddie about how to hunt with the wind in your face to prevent the deer from smelling you. Explaining how oftentimes in the morning when the mountain air is cool and heavy the wind will blow down the mountain and as the wind warms and becomes lighter it starts to change and begin to blow up the mountain. 
By the time the morning fog had burned off the clear cut, the Blacktail doe had already bedded down and were out of sight. Maddie and I were admiring James’s glitter and heart accented binoculars while we spent the day basking in the warm rays of sunshine glassing the clear cut below hoping to spot a doe bedded down. 
 
That evening as we slowly made our way down the clear cut a small group of does spotted us and began to blow in alert. Quickly they took off across the cut before Maddie had an opportunity to set up for a shot. We followed the group across the cut towards the timbers edge hoping for another opportunity over the next rise.
The terrain was tough going. There was heavy reprod growth that was limiting visibility, blackberry vines covered the ground like a thick thorny blanket wrapping around our legs making travel slow and sometimes painful. 
Instead of finding the deer, we spotted a hungry black bear feeding on tender ripe berries. James and I both had bear tags but the bruin was out of range and before we could get within shooting range the bruin disappeared into the thick heavy cover, never to be seen again. 
The next morning started out as the first had with heavy fog covering the clear cut. James and Madison waited for the fog to lift while making designs in the dirt out of rocks, enjoying their time spent together on the mountain. 
Taking a break for lunch, Maddie surprised her dad with a card for his birthday. The surprised look on his face as he read how much his children love and appreciate all that he does for them was a priceless. We had even had Maddie’s four year old brother, who wasn’t with us on the hunt sign the card before our trip. 
We spent our last evening glassing the cut for Black tail doe without luck. Maddie didn’t get her doe; instead she went home with precious memories of time spent in the field with her father. Maddie learning that the best things in life don’t always come easy, they require hard work and persistence. Maddie will be back in the high country next year with the hopes of punching her first tag.