A/Z Black Bear Hunts 2014

The drumming sound of hooves striking the hard worn trail marked the beginning of the seventeen mile trek through the Purcell Wilderness to the Big Cabin. One of A/Z guides, Fred and the grizzly bear hunter Gare had a head start on Ritchie and me taking up the rear with six loaded pack horses.

The trail forked one direction leading towards our destination, the Big Cabin, another eight miles down the trail, the other to the Ben Able Cabin which is less than half a mile up the trail. Mules always take the opportunity to think for themselves and the one and only mule in the string, Fred, decided to take off with three of his horse buddies towards the Ben Able cabin.

Jumping off my mare, frantically tying her up to run after the wayward mule with his folly of horses, you should have seen the look on the mule’s face when I intercepted him along the trail spoiling his plans for reaching the Ben Able Cabin. After a short fifteen minute detour, we were back on the trail. Self thinking mule-ism #1 down for the day.

Long before you reached it, you could hear the creek just past the Ben Able Cabin roaring. The spring snow melt had all of the creeks flowing at full capacity, being a Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kruger naturally has an aversion to water, things were about to get interesting. This was Kruger’s first official day on the job as a mountain dog and he had never encountered such a water crossing before.

The horses steadily crossed the swift water leaving Kruger behind to figure out his own path across. He jumped quickly in to the fast moving waters in attempt to not get left behind. The water covered his back pushing him downstream, using his paws; he grasped a rock pulling himself to the safety of the shoreline. I met him on the ground giving a hoorah and party for his successful crossing.

The weather was typical for this time of year, warm sunny skies followed by multiple series of dark skies and showers. Rain gear on, rain gear off. Repeat. There is nothing that smells better than the mountain after a good rain shower, all the scents of the earth are revitalized and the breeze delivering all of those wonderful scents of pine and grass.

We arrived at the Big Cabin without major ado, tired from the long trek through the valley. It felt good to be back at the Big Cabin. Kruger had a successful day being a dog, the horses all did a fine job packing in our gear, now time to ready ourselves for Gares grizzly hunt.

Like an alarm clock going off, Fred the mule’s bray welcomed the morning sunshine. The older I get, the more that I find myself appreciating the solitude of the mountain. Waking up and looking forward to a nice hot cup of coffee, taking in the view from the cabin, no emails to check, no phone calls to be made, no people around, no cars driving by. This surely is what heaven must be like.

Gare, the grizzly bear hunter woke up to a tummy ache and decided to forgo day hunting to rest up. Fred and Ritchie made use of the time heading up the trail to mend some fence while I stayed behind in camp to do some writing. Kruger enjoyed his morning off and slept recuperating from the long trek in.

By early afternoon Fred and Ritchie had returned and after a hot lunch, Fred and I took a few of the horses out to the slide to graze on the fresh mountain grasses. Dutch Creek lines the valley below and the steep mountainsides jaggedly erupt straight to the sky. Overnight, the peaks had received a fresh dusting of snow. The only sound coming from the creek below, my only worry was watching over the hobbled horses as they grazed lazily up the slope.

You can learn a lot about a herd of horses by including one single mule in your string; they are quite animated causing lots of mischief and are always thinking for themselves. Like an alarm going off again, I knew the bellies of the horses surely must be full when Fred the mule began to do more traveling than eating.

One thing you will soon realize when you pack into the wilderness on horseback is that everything is work. Feeding horses, packing horses, keeping camp cleaned up, preparing meals, washing dishes, everything is done by hand and no one rests much. If you want water, you grab buckets and go fill them in the creek, if you want to cook, you light a fire in the wood stove, if you want to wash dishes, and you boil water on the stove, so on and so forth. Days like today where there is free time to meander around are few and far between so I enjoyed the time and the solitude while I could knowing that tomorrow would bring another 17 mile ride out to Whitetail Lake with only me, Kruger, three horses and the mule Fred. Fred the guide, Ritchie and the grizzly bear hunter Gare were staying behind to hunt.

Before departing for the trek back out to Whitetail Lake, I radioed to Brent to let him know as soon as my ride began. 17 miles in a completely road less area that is filled with black bears, grizzly bears and the occasional wolf is nothing to take lightly and with horse wrecks being an occasional occurrence, it was important that Brent know the minute that I left so that he could keep track of my rough location on the trail in case I missed a radio check in. This country is big and things happen quickly so no matter how many miles you have on the trail, you never take your safety for granted. The long trip out went perfectly, the horses and even the mule were all happy to trail along back to Whitetail Lake.

Our next group of black bear hunters was a very special group. Steve West from The Adventure Series Television show and Rick Krueter from the Beyond the Hunt Television show, both airing on the Outdoor Channel. This was going to be a fun hunt as I had already been on prior hunts with both Steve and Rick and I already had hunted with one of the cinematographers Dan. Ian the other cinematographer was the only one in the group that I had yet to be acquainted with and he happened to be the only one on the trip that had never been around a horse.

Packing the belongings of six people for a nine day black bear hunt onto six pack horses can get quite interesting, especially when it comes to packing in very expensive and fragile camera equipment. Luckily, these guys came prepared, all their gear was in duffle bags and they had packed light.

As I put saddles on horses, Brent began loading up the perfectly weighed and organized gear into panyards and putting them on the horses, topping the loads with a diamond hitch. Saddle fit is unique to every rider, so it was my job to ensure that everyone was comfortable in their saddle and that each horse had a headstall and saddle bags.

Soon everyone was ready to head up the trail, our destination, 17 miles away, the Big Cabin. We were quite the string with Steve, Rick, Dan, Ian, Brent, myself and six pack horses that were split between Brent and myself.

The winter run off had caused all of the creeks to rise up to maximum capacity making for swift waters and Kruger had only swam twice before on the first trip into the Big Cabin, this time, there was twice as many horses crossing the swift waters. Kruger made the mistake of jumping into the water upstream from the horses and I watched in fear as he was quickly pushed down stream and directly underneath Ian’s saddle horses legs. Somehow by the grace of the good Lord, Kruger managed to swim under the horse without being trampled.

The heavy winter snowfall causes giant snow slides that literally wipe out everything in their wake. Grizzly Bear feeding in a slide.These mountain slides are a favorite feeding area for all wildlife and you just never know what you are going to see when you are crossing them.

We took the hungrily feeding bruin by surprise. He was so ravenous with hunger just having come out of hibernation that he didn’t notice our giant string until we were practically on top of him, in a quick retreat, the black bear put himself up a giant tree. Steve and Rick both had black bear tags in hand but took the opportunity to simply take pictures of the bruin and hold onto their tags.

We reached the Big Cabin tired from the long day with much work that remained. Horses to un-pack and saddle, water to be collected, dinner to be made, it was going to be a late night.

Brent asked Ian what he thought of the long trek and he replied with “My horse is a better horse than I am a human.” It was right then that we knew Ian was going to be the trip entertainment full of quick wit and humor. Apparently, he was pleased with his horse’s behavior along the trail.

Spring black bear hunting hours are unlike any other hunt schedule that I am ever on, the summer days are long and the nights short. My typical day goes like this: wake up at 6:30 or 7:00am, feed horses, light a fire, make breakfast, wash breakfast dishes, fetch water, make lunches, wash lunch dishes, prep for dinner, saddle horses and hit the trail for the afternoon/evening hunt around 2:00-3:00pm, come back to camp around 10:00pm, unsaddle horses, cook dinner, wash dishes and go to bed around midnight or 1:00am.

My dutch oven pot roast.

During the day, Ian and Dan would be busy running around filming scenic in camp; everything was filmed from me cooking to the guys cutting firewood or Brent shoeing horses. Like I said before, everything in camp is work and there is always something to be done.

Roughly five days into our trip with the 12 horses eating alfalfa cubes and the entire string becomes exceedingly energetic, especially when they are not doing enough work, so Brent and I decided to take the entire string and turn them loose on one of the slides to graze on less potent feed while we all went hunting.

Kruger took the lead and I was second on my horse Tequila leading all six horses, Brent was taking up the tail of the string. The moose was running fast, chasing Kruger directly towards us. In the spring, cow moose are more dangerous than a grizzly bear if they are protecting a calf and I was immediately worried that this cow had a calf stashed somewhere nearby.

This was a bad situation. My horse felt like I was riding on a stick of dynamite, ready to explode at any moment and the horses behind me were getting more nervous at each charge by the angry moose. The horses were tailed together, meaning that if one freaked out and started bucking, there was no way they were getting untied unless Brent or myself did the un-tying. Kruger and the other two dogs were doing a good job of diverting the moose during her charge attempts essentially keeping the moose from charging over the top of me on my horse. Fortunately, my mare kept her wits about her and took the situation in stride.

The moose was not backing down and the situation was becoming dire so Brent had me attempt at turning around the entire string of horses. This was no easy feat with heavy timber and fallen logs. Things went from bad to worse when the horse I was leading pulled the rope tight and out of my hands. Instead of the horses funneling through the maze of timber and back onto the trail, they were winding themselves around the small trees, creating an absolute mess.

Being on the ground with a charging moose is less than safe, if the moose gets you on the ground, she is apt to stomp you to death. Brent had to dismount his horse and untie some of the pack string so that we could resume our retreat from the crazed moose. Keeping a watchful eye on the moose, Brent managed to get part of the string untied and away we went back down the trail towards the Big Cabin.

A couple minutes down the trail, we just started to relax when out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of the moose, charging at us again! She was not backing down. Up ahead was a wide spot in Dutch Creek where we felt we could safely swim the string of horses to the other side and out of the moose’s way.

The water was deep and swift covering clear up to my saddle bags, we were getting wet. Kruger was literally going to have to swim for his life or get stomped to death by a moose. Safety is something that is easily taken for granted and on the far side of Dutch Creek, we were still not safe from the moose. She was right behind us, swimming after us.

Brent had no choice but to take off running as fast as his horse would go charging towards the moose screaming and yelling. The moose finally took heed and went back across the water, taking a few moments to look around before disappearing back into the forest. The encounter lasted nearly thirty minutes but to us, it felt like an eternity.

Situations like this one are exactly why, when I ride the trail alone, I check in often on the radio. The mountains have a way of humbling you. No matter how much money you have or who you are, we are all on the same playing field out here.

The memories like this one and many more made during this trip are sure to last a lifetime, Rick tagging his first ever black bear after five years of trying and Kruger’s first mountain trip as a grown up dog and my 34th birthday celebration. You all will have to wait to see how the remainder of the week unfolded when you watch The Adventure Series or Beyond the Hunt on the Outdoor Channel.

What I can tell you is that leaving this land brings a sadness to my heart and soul that is difficult to put into words. Living here on the mountain, traveling back in time to a place where work is done with your two hands and aid of a good horse, this is my happy place and I can’t wait to head back up the trail to the Big Cabin next spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wounded Warrior Outdoors 2014 Black Bear Hunt

The sun was just peeking out over the top of the barn as I tied the laces on my shoes. Running was an early morning ritual for me and US Navy medical chaperone Tommy Neuens. Our trek leading us around Ron & Lisa Raboud’s beautiful British Columbia ranch.

This was my second year on this mountain, there is something magical that happens when you are here... The sound of the early morning breeze whispering through the Aspen trees, feeling the warm rays of sunshine erase the chill from the air, watching the wildlife making their way to their bedding area for the day.

This is no ordinary ranch, this is one of the homes to the non-profit, Wounded Warrior Outdoors therapeutic outdoor adventures. The mountains here will change your life, just as it has changed the lives of others for years.

Dave Wabnegger of Otter Lake Outfitters, offers exclusive access to 3,600 square miles of Crown Land, which equates to roughly 2.3 million acres to provide active duty servicemen and women an adventure that is not only memorable, but life changing.

Disability is as much a mindset as it is a physical limitation…

In 2010, Navy SEAL LT Dan Cnossen was on this same mountain, walking the same path that I ran every morning. Dan was using the steep uneven terrain to push the boundaries of what his current limitations were and rediscover just how much he could really do. You see, he had been recently wounded in action sustaining injuries that had resulted in the loss of both of his legs above the knee. Dan was on this mountain to challenge himself to learn how to function in the outdoors, doing whatever it took to climb the mountains in pursuit of a black bear.

The success of filling his black bear tag was not Dan’s true reward, it was the beginning, a place of realization, a place where the mountain taught him that despite his injuries, there was nothing that he couldn’t do and no place that he couldn’t go. Over 30 surgeries later, on March 7, 2014, Dan competed in the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi representing Team USA in Nordic Skiing.    

There is no better therapist than Mother Nature, no hospital facility more motivating or challenging than the great outdoors and no better place to be than hunting camp. Ron typically does not know who will be attending the adventures that WWO provides to over 50 servicemen and women each year until a couple of weeks before the trip.

Each of the WWO guests are current wounded in-hospital patients at either Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Naval Medical Center San Diego (Balboa), or San Antonio Military Medical Center (Brooke). Warriors are selected for participation by medical staff at each hospital, each being paired with the adventure that provides them the greatest therapeutic potential. Some injuries are evident and some injuries are invisible.

This group was notable as they had all been on a WWO adventure in the past at other locations, but this was their first black bear hunt. WWO mentor and lead Kansas turkey guide, Vietnam Army Veteran JL Hendricks, US Navy Hospital Corpsman Javier Esparza, USMC Jed Morgan, USMC Darryl Charles II, USMC Jacob Delagarza and medical chaperone, US Navy Hospital Corpsman Tommy Neuens.

Welcome home…

Gary Monetti, Lisa Raboud, her son Sam and Laurel Barbieri awoke every morning before the sunrise to ensure that everyone smelled the delight of a home cooked breakfast as soon as they rose for the day. In my family, when we care about someone, we feed them and I can honestly say that all of them treated us to a home that is full of love and good cooking. Working from dawn till midnight every single day to ensure that everyone was too full for another bite. You can see and feel the love that comes from these folks.

The first morning out, I hunted with USMC Darryl Charles II, we call him Chuck for short, guide/outfitter Colton Wabnegger and Ron Raboud. Chuck is a young, energetic handsome man with a smile and laugh that is infectious. He has a HUGE personality and loves the theater and ballroom dancing. We hit it off instantly with lots of shared laughs, maybe someday he will teach me to dance.

Our day was nothing short of non-stop excitement. I have hunted a LOT of black bears and I have tried year after year to call in a bear with my predator call without luck. Chuck brought us luck and lots of it on this first day.

We spotted the bruin just off the side of the mountain, it wasn’t a shooter bear but my curiosity and desire to call in a bear overcame me and I decided to give it a try. The bruin came in to my call just as if I had perfectly scripted it, getting so close that Ron threw a rock at it to detour its path towards us. What a rush for everyone. Chuck’s first bear experience was surely one he would never forget.

While we were calling in bears, we received word that Army Veteran and WWO mentor JL Hendricks had some luck on the mountain and had successfully tagged a stunning chocolate bruin with his guide Trevor. JL lives a life dealing with pain having taken shrapnel in his legs during the Vietnam War and to this day, his wounds have not healed. JL serves as a tremendously positive mentor for active duty WWO participants.

Back on the mountain, Ron spotted a hungrily grazing bear that was in a perfect location to make a stalk for Chuck to get a closer look at. Chuck literally had to crawl towards a horse fence so that he would have a resting position to take a possible shot. This is the part where the therapy comes in. You can’t replicate this in a hospital.

Chuck was deployed with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine regiment “3/7” for short, their nickname “The Cutting Edge.” During deployment, the marines of 3/7 faced daily attacks clearing some of the most dangerous areas of Afghanistan. The marines in 3/7 are noted as encountering the most contact with enemy forces since Vietnam. Due to his injuries sustained in combat, Chuck is a single above the knee amputee, crawling anywhere is no easy feat, let alone in the mountains of British Columbia. Like the true warrior that he is, Chuck reached the fence without hesitation, set up on the bruin and decided that he would hold out for a larger bear. This gave me the opportunity to take some stellar photos of Chuck on the gun, bear in sights.

Spring bear hunting is all about putting in countless miles in pursuit of a grazing black bear, so after passing on our second bear of the day, we didn’t waste any time getting back on the trail, putting miles on our ATV and using our Swarovski optics to search the seemingly endless valleys for another bruin.

The mountains of British Columbia are nothing short of spectacular and I am somewhat of an amateur photographer, so when I see a captivating landscape, I want to stop and take a picture of it. Yes, this can be annoying, but what I have found is that by taking some time and slowing down, often times what you are looking for isn’t too far away and had you zoomed by, you may have missed your opportunity all together. A good lesson in patience. As patience would have it, as I snapped photos of Chuck with the snowcapped mountains in the backdrop, Colton spotted a BIG bruin feeding on the mountainside some 500 yards away.

The stalk was on, Chuck was determined to navigate the steep uneven terrain in order to reach the feeding bruin. These mountains are very unforgiving for anyone but Chuck did what he does best, he climbed the mountain and made his opportunity happen.

 

Stalking a bear in thick brush is a little like looking for a needle in a haystack. Up close, everything looks different than it did from afar. Moving up the mountain swiftly and as quietly as we could, we managed to make it within 40 yards of the feeding bruin without being detected. Taking a rest, Chuck took the 40 yard shot on the massive bruin. Just as his shot rang out, a young sapling went tumbling to the ground, earning Chuck the nickname, “Lumber Chuck.” The bruin ran away completely unharmed by the deflected bullet that took out the tree instead of making its way to the bruin.

Patience and persistence…two of life’s best lessons best learned on the mountain, and persist we did. With a little over two hours of daylight remaining, we made our way back to the ATV and once again resumed our search for a bruin.

Fourth time is a charm, we spotted a bruin feeding through the Aspen trees and once again made our stalk over to the hungrily feeding bear. Chuck set up in the prone position and waited out his opportunity for the bruin to give him an open broadside shot.

This day was about more than Chuck tagging a black bear, it was about overcoming the mountain, beating any preconceived limitations. We all have them, some are physical and some are mental. The hunt is what drives us to endure, adapt, improvise and overcome all obstacles that get in our way of success. The hunt teaches us all lessons that we can reflect upon anywhere in regards to nearly everything in life.

The mountain teaches us all valuable life lessons, both human and animals alike. Kruger, my 10 month old Rhodesian Ridgeback accompanied me, Jordie and Deb Cook on the second day. The four of us (Kruger included) set out to be an extra set of eyes glassing the landscapes for a bruin.

Jordie and Deb have volunteered for WWO for many years. Last year, they were able to spot USMC TJ Tejada's black bear so that we could come and make the stalk. After TJ shot his bear, we were unable to get him to his bear via his wheel chair. TJ is a double leg amputee and at the time was not using his prosthetic legs. All of us cleared trail so that Jordie could literally carry TJ on his back and do a proper recovery. There isn't two nicer people out there with bigger hearts.

The last day of TJ's WWO trip, he used his prosthetic legs for the first time ever and walked to the car. I saw TJ earlier this year walking on his prosthetics. I can honestly say that in part because of Jordie and Deb, TJ's life was changed that day on the mountain. 

Jordie is on a sprint boat racing team called “Fat Buddy Racing Team." This is a sport where people have carved out systems of channels into an ordinary farmer’s field and filled it with water to race speeds boats in. The night before a race, a map is handed out outlaying various turns that the driver must complete for time, without crashing. Jordie is the driver and Deb is the navigator traveling at speeds of 80 plus miles per hour in a field filled with water.

Jordie and Deb are too crazy people who love to drive fast, and there I sat in the truck with Jordie at the wheel. It was time for Kruger to have a grown-up dog experience so he was kenneled and strapped down in the back of Jordie’s truck. Oh boy…he was one unhappy puppy, crying and howling much of the morning.

Just when Kruger had settled down and was dealing with his kenneled fate, we got the call that USMC Jed Morgan had shot a bruin and it needed tracking and therefore, they needed help. Jordie knows the roads of those British Columbia Mountains like the back of his hand, navigating every turn like the pro that he is. Poor Kruger was in for the ride of his life.

When we reached the location where Jed had taken aim on his bruin, Dave let out the hounds to give chase. This was a great opportunity for Kruger to have a puppy lesson, so we began the blood trail and immediately went to work, also tracking the wounded bruin.

As Kruger did his job tracking, all became quiet and I was alone, on the mountain, trailing a wounded black bear without a gun. Feeling a bit unnerved, I pulled Kruger off of the trail and returned to the vehicles. If you have ever hunted with hounds, you know how crazy things can get once your dogs are turned out. A short time later, we located the younger two of Dave’s four hounds, two were still unaccounted for and still on the trail of Jed’s bruin.

Jed is a quiet man. It takes a huge effort to get him to talk, so since we had nothing but time waiting for the hounds to locate his bear, I took the liberty of chatting his ear off. I honestly think he only spoke just to shut me up. Ha ha ha.

Jed is a Marine Rifleman and the injuries that he sustained in combat attributed to the loss of both of his legs above the knee and much of the use of his right hand. I read on facebook where Jed’s wife AnnaGrace, stated that he is not only a devoted husband but a man that leads by example of what it means to truly have conviction, sacrifice and perseverance despite all obstacles and all circumstances. Jed and his wife AnnaGrace are expecting their first child, a daughter any day.

It is really remarkable how quick hounds navigate through the mountains and in a short amount of time, the remaining two hounds had located Jed’s bruin. This was Jed’s first hunt and he had not only successfully harvested a spot and stalk bruin in some of the steepest roughest terrain in the world, the bear that he tagged was an old warrior, just like him and the biggest of the trip. On the mountain, it takes a team. I am looking forward to meeting the rest of the Morgan family and have high hopes to do some more hunting with Jed in Oregon.

US Navy Hospital Corpsman (medic) Javier Esparza is arguably one of the funniest people I have ever met with a huge personality that captivates everyone around him. Javier loves his wife and their two sons and having spent a short amount of time with him, it is evident that they are his world.

Our guide Cody and his father Dan have been serving as guides since the inception of the WWO program and knows the mountains well which came in handy as Javier, who is from Florida, was eager to climb seemingly every mountain in Southern British Columbia.

Cody, Javier and myself are all the same age, so our in truck, the humor was off the charts. I am not sure that I have laughed that hard in my lifetime. Javier did not end up tagging a bear on this trip but that was not due to lack of effort. He has a heart of gold that is tough as nails. He was relentless in his pursuit with a couple of close calls along the way.

USMC Jacob Delagarza also went home without filling his tag on a black bear. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to spend time on the mountain with Jacob on this trip. Jacob has a reputation for being a strong leader who always set a good example, putting the needs of others always before himself, no matter what the situation is, Jacob is always there for his junior Marines, literally teaching them how to survive in combat.

Jacob was wounded in action resulting in the loss of his left leg, and has received not one but two Purple Hearts while serving our great country, one in Sangin Afghanistan and the other in Fallujah Iraq.

Jacob is a hero and devoted husband and father Priscilla and their two children.

The last day of the hunt, USMC Medical Chaperone Tommy Neuens perseverance paid off where after waiting out a short rain storm, he was able to tag a beautiful chocolate bruin. Tommy is an outstanding man that accompanies many WWO participants on outdoor adventures ensuring that they have swift medical treatment should they require it.

“Doc” Javier Esparza and “Doc” Tommy Neuens are men that have saved the lives of our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters while in combat. Their love for our country and desire to save the lives of these servicemen and women knows no bounds.

 

The last day of the trip, USMC Darryl Charles gave me a very special gift.

The story behind the shirt:

The year was 2010 and Darryl was stationed in Sangin Afghanistan with USMC Female Engagement Team Member Sarah Bryant. Sarah was/is a legit Marine that always had her team members backs, Darryl included. Sarah is a true warrior. After Darryl returned stateside due to being wounded in action, he saw this shirt and bought it thinking fondly of Sarah.

When he gave me the shirt, he compared me with her, a true warrior and gave me the compliment of my life by saying that I too am legit…one of them.

It is an honor for me to share the mountain with Darryl and the other servicemen and women through the WWO program. The memories made, the camaraderie that is shared here and the true brotherhood that these men share cannot be broken.

 

The challenges that are encountered through the WWO program provides the perfect place, on the mountain with Mother Nature to break any preconceived physical or mental limitation, pushing yourself to the next level, reaching higher than one thought possible. WWO is about offering therapeutic benefits while sharing our outdoor world with the deserving servicemen and women that have sacrificed so unselfishly to protect us all.

 CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO WOUNDED WARRIOR OUTDOORS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Extra Mile- North American Hunter Magzine

 

The North American Hunter Magazine is circulated to nearly 1 million households around the world taking pride in being in the know in regards to all things hunting. Everything from finding that big buck in your woods or planning the next big hunting adventure.

North American Hunter Magazine has underwent a huge facelift, now featuring a large format, a true hunting lodge table top magazine featuring three newly added sections, a hunting section, an outdoor section and hunt club content. With all of these changes, I am honored to announce that NAH has added me to the list of magazine editors as fitness editor with a column entitled The Extra Mile, to the now seasonal publication.

The Spring/Summer issue, featured Spring Training Preparing to hunt black bears and maul the mountains one step at a time.

You are all invited to visit www.huntingclub.com and see for yourself how North American Hunter Magazine has changed.

I hope that you enjoy the new NAH Magazine.

All my best,

Kristy

Milligan Outfitting Ocean Black Bear Hunt

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the land we go…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milligan Outfitting Black Bear Hunt with the Hood Family

The road to Northern BC becomes more remote with each passing mile. Busy highways turn into country roads and soon it seems the only traffic comes from the wildlife crossing the roads. The Skeena Salmon Lodge is a magnificent; crafted from area logs, nestled along the banks of the Skeena River, every angler or hunters dream come true. When you book a spring black bear hunt with Milligan Outfitting, many of the hunters call this home for the week. Welcome to paradise.

On this trip, I was fortunate enough to accompany my good friend and guide Scott Miller with clients,  Bob and Brian Hood for a father and son black bear hunt.

This hunt was  truck based where we traveled across the seemingly endless logging roads, glassing logging cut blocks and mountain slopes. The many years of area logging has created the perfect habit for hungry bruins to emerge from the thick forests to feed on fresh young grasses and dandelions.

Brian was first up as hunter, using his bow, we had to get in and get close. Luckily for us, there were bears seemingly everywhere we looked giving us ample opportunity to connect on a bruin with spot and stalk strategies.  These bears can get very large and are abundant in population; Brian was able to pick and choose bears that he wanted to put the effort into stalking.

Bears are difficult to judge, so sometimes we would stalk in, just to get a closer look. On one particular bear, we stalked in within bow range while the bruin lay resting on the edge of a cut. We were unsure of his size due to him laying down, so I pulled out my predator call to see if we could not only get him on his feet, but possibly create some excitement in the bruin and have him come our way for a hot meal.

My theory was good, the bears response was lacking. Instead of running in for an easy meal, the bruin batted his eyes at us sleepily, occasionally glancing in our direction apparently un-interested. There was only but a single dandy lion by his resting place, so I imagine he had already gorged himself on the flowers and was content right where he lay.

Eventually, the bruin probably annoyed with my constant predator call, stood, yawned and started to slowly move away from us. Once standing, we were able to determine the bruin was of good size.

Much to my surprise and amazement, Scott took off on foot literally chasing the bear into the thick trees. Never before had I seen such a thing, Scott had successfully treed the bear giving Brian the perfect opportunity to take the shot he had come to Northern British Columbia for. This turned out to be a thrilling day that none of us would ever forget.

 

 

 

The next day, Bob, Brian’s dad was up as hunter, so we decided to head towards higher ground. Bob was rifle hunting and had the option of reaching out and connecting on a monster bruin.  

We glassed cut block after cut block, mile after mile but Bob was holding out passing up many young bears. We were in search for the perfect bear. The daylight slowly turned to dark and we went home that evening without filling a tag.

Bears are very conditional animals, meaning that if the weather conditions are warm and summer-like, the bears will be out and about feeding most of the afternoons, which is exactly where we spotted the gorgeous chocolate bruin. He was laying in the shade on a grassy flat filled with dandelions adjacent to the timbers edge filling his belly on the lush green grass dozing in between gorging sessions.

We made our way towards the bear but age brings wisdom and he quickly grew uneasy and started making his way towards the timber. Bob slowly crept his way towards the bruin. Taking aim, Bob made a perfect shot on the stunning chocolate bruin.

The bears in the spring feed lazily on grassy flats and openings, sure to remain close to the timber for quick access to cover. Sometimes it seems that they are in a food like coma, slow to alert to our approach.  This sleepy state makes them fun to stalk upon while walking the miles of logging roads.

When you see a monster bruin, you know it without a doubt. When we spotted this bruin we all knew instantly that he was a monster and in a position for Brian to stalk within bow range. The bear was near timbers edge and he was dangerously close to disappearing out of sight and bow range. Brain was able to maneuver into a good shooting position letting his arrow fly…right over the bruins back.

That seems to always happen with the big ones. Our nerves can easily get the best of us. The bear bolted but by some miracle he stopped to take a second look at us giving Brian the needed time to knock another arrow and execute a perfectly placed shot.

There is nothing better than seeing the look of pride on a fathers face and in his smile. Bob’s excitement for his son was clear to see. Brain’s second bear was enormous. Spot and stalk success with his father by his side along the foothills of British Columbia’s stunning mountains.

It just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

Wounded Warrior Outdoors Black Bear Hunt

There is a great American story that’s seldom told- a story of battle-scarred heroes that we’ve yet to meet. It’s a story of Wounded Warriors trying to find their place in the world and to feel “normal” again. This is a story about Americans we owe a debt of gratitude to.

The steep rugged mountains of Southern British Columbia’s Cascade Mountain Range is the perfect place for anyone to get quiet, take a breath of fresh air and let your soul fly with the eagles. Time spent on the mountain, pressing yourself to go beyond what you “think” you can do breaking those self imposed limitations, doing things you have never before dreamed that you would ever be able to do. The mountain makes you work harder, fight longer and possibly even exhaust you, but at the end of the trail there is the triumph that you have risen to the challenge and owned the mountain.

Adventures Enabled that sums up Ron Raboud’s mission with Wounded Warrior Outdoors, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping active duty service men and women get out in the outdoors while attaining therapeutic benefit, rediscovering their ability despite their current physical challenges. WWO is unique in the fact that all the guests are current wounded in-hospital patients from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Bethesda, Balboa Medical Center San Diego, Brooke Army Medical Center or San Antonio Military Medical Center. WWO serves 50 active duty warriors every year.

This trip’s warriors were all Marines based out of Balboa Naval Medical Center; Guillermo (TJ) Tejada, USMC, Kaleb Weakley, USMC, Isaac Blunt, USMC, and Jordan Maynard, USMC, Medical Chaperone Anthony Shuford, USN, from Balboa  Medical Center accompanies the warriors on the trip as well as wounded warrior mentor Jim Sursely.

In years past, over half of the warriors have never been on a hunt and Dave Wabnegger of Otter Lake Guide Outfitters makes certain that everyone from first time hunters to experienced hunters alike have an amazing experience.

After meeting Ron and several warriors at the Wild Sheep Foundation convention and sporting clays tournament, I was thrilled to participate in this year’s British Columbia black bear hunting adventures.  This was a chance for me to honor and an opportunity to thank these American heroes for their service to our great country, countrymen and women. Chris Denham from Western Hunter T.V. was also along with two cameramen to document the journey to air over Labor Day this year.

The night before the hunt was quiet, everyone settling in, dining on good food and just getting the feel of the place. The first night is always the quietest.

Our first day out, I hunted with TJ, a double amputee with a smile bright enough to light up a room.  Tj’sTJ Tejada USMC glassing for bruins. love and dedication to his country and his family is second to none, a noble man and true warrior in every sense of the word. The morning started out slow, driving logging roads to glass clear cuts. Dave and Randy were put to work as part time lumber jackers clearing the winter fallen trees from the roads.

Kaleb Weakley USMC and his stunning bruin.Mid day, we got the call that Kaleb had taken a nice bear so we made our way over to where they had taken the bruin in case they needed help packing or skinning. The bruin was stunning a gorgeous cinnamon colored boar. Kaleb was beyond thrilled.

After a series of photos and skinning Kaleb’s bruin, we set back out in search of a bear for TJ. Kaleb’s bear was the first one that TJ has seen in the wild and the excitement had us all anxious for action. While driving a logging road, we came upon an old cabin, feeding a mere 70 yards from the road was a black bear. He was close…too close.

As soon as we spotted the bear, so did the hounds that were boxed in the back of the truck and when their alarm bark went off, so did the bear. Into the timber, we did not see the bruin again. The disappointment was felt in all of us after spending many long hours with the hopes of that moment but blessings come in many forms.

Within 30 minutes, thanks to the help of volunteers Jordie Cook, Omar Karame and Debbie Wabnegger; TJ was back on another bruin; this one, a big chocolate. He was playing peek-a-boo along the hillside between 300-330 yards away (or meters as the guys put it). The bear was a shooter and we just had to get TJ set up to take the shot.

TJ was set up as stable as possible in his chair on the side of a mountain. Unfortunately, the shooting sticks were too short we had to improvise off the tripod that I had brought along for my camera.

Falling Back on Training…

I always say that in the moment one rarely rises up to the occasion but most always falls back on their level of training. TJ is a 14 year Marine and has extensive training. After sorting out the reticle in his Swarovski Optik scope, he set his hand atop the tripod, wrapped the sling around his arm resting the stock of the gun along his wrist, all while balancing in his chair on the side of a mountain, took aim and executed an absolutely perfectly placed shot at over 300 yards.

TJ never wavered, he is a trained Marine and when the time came he had 14 years backing him to take the shot on the bruin. The excitement was incredible for everyone!

Getting TJ to the bruin was our next challenge. The entire crew lined up chain saws and we logged andRandy, Omar and Jordie clearing trail. off-roaded our way nearly to the bruin but we couldn’t get TJ all the way there in the truck. The bruin was going to have to come down or TJ was going to somehow get to him.

As a hunter, the moment of truth and reward lies in the recovery. The bruin was too large to drag down the mountain without quartering him up. TJ deserved better than that, he had earned a proper recovery for his bear, so the chain saws came back out and we all made sure that TJ was there, in the exact place that his bear lay, doing a proper recovery. TJ put his arms around the necks of Omar and Jordie and they literally carried him to his bear.

I have been on many hunts and I have never been on a hunt that has affected me so deeply. Words simply do not give this moment justice but in that moment, watching TJ with his bear, that is exactly why I volunteered to be part of the hunt. I could relate to TJ and knew from my own personal experience as a hunter exactly what he was feeling and I could not have been happier for him in that moment.TJ Tejada, me, Randy Rockey & Dave Wabnegger.

Back at the Ranch…

Now this is what hunting camp is supposed to be like, the guys were throwing jabs back and forth, telling stories, laughing and joking. A little bit of smack talk back and forth which was much more entertaining than the quiet evening we had had before. What a great day and night.

The next day, I was hunting with Isaac, the youngest of the group at 21 years old. The weather was not good. It was raining and the skies were dark and grey. Not good for bear hunting so we spent most of the day telling stories in the truck and learning a bit about one another.

Isaac is a strong guy and I would describe him as graceful. Strength tends to lend itself to grace. He talked about how he was getting new legs and arms that were going to take him atop a mountain in Australia in June. I believe that those legs will take Isaac just about anywhere he makes up his mind to go. He is strong in the mind like that. No limitations just small obstacles that can be overcame.  There is great strength in the will to do something.

Isaac Blunt USMC dress rehersal.We did get some action when we spotted a big chocolate bear in the exact same spot that we had busted the black bear with TJ the day before. We had the same problem with this bear too…it was too close and it saw us when we saw it. No time for a shot.

Unfortunately I had to leave the next morning, so I was not around for the remainder of the week. The weather continued to be adverse and the bear hunting action came to a close with the continued adverse weather.

The weather was bad but the guys still received a lot of therapeutic benefit to the hunt putting in long hours and dedication. All in a normal day for these guys! Be sure to head over to facebook and “Like” the Wounded Warrior Outdoors or check them out on their website. It is through generous support and donations that WWO is able to ease some of the challenges facing our American heroes.

I am already looking forward to 2014!

Kaleb Weakley and his big Rainbow trout.

Oregon DIY, Public Land Spring Bear Hunt


 
This was the first time in several years that I did not tag a Spring bear. I spent and amazing 8 days in a public access road closure area in the rugged Western Oregon Mountains. The first three days of the hunt, I brought along my 52 year old friend and first time hunter Sharon. The rain was pouring down and it was COLD. Making the best of the trip, we did quite a bit of scouting in the back country and we were able to determine some great hunting areas that had all the makings for great bear habitat; steep rugged Western slopes, thick heavy cover, open clear cuts loaded with grass, numerous water sources and lots of game populations such as Roosevelt Elk and Blacktail Deer.
The next three days were spent hunting with James Kussman. Having successfully scouted and located some extremely remote, road less areas, our first day out was rather successful. That first night we made a spot and stalk on a gorgeous chocolate bruin and set up to take the shot at a mere 300 yards when along came her tiny twin cubs.  The next day we encountered no bear, but did manage to get 25 yards and some incredible footage of a herd of Roosevelt Elk in a clear cut and located a really nice solo 4x4 bull.  James even managed to find a nice Roosevelt shed antler.
The final three days, I spent solo. I was able to stalk within 10-30 yards of four different Blacktail bucks a series of clear cuts and attain some great video footage. On my walk out one night, with the wind in my favor, I nearly walked into a black bear as I was heading down the closed road. He was hidden within in the thick black berry vines and reprod and even being less than 10 feet from the bruin, I could only hear him run off and never got to see him. Later that same night, I saw another bruin funneling through the thick brush and vines, only to see his face and never receive a clear shot or a decipherable shot as to his body angle.
After glassing clear cuts without much success at locating a bruin, my last night bear hunting, I returned to the location where I had nearly walked into the bruin on the road. The bear had been clawing trees and shredding bushes in a territorial display, so I was fairly certain he would be in the area. I brought along my Montana Fawn Decoy and set it up alongside the closed road and proceeded to do a series of cow/calf distress calling with my diaphragm call with the hopes of drawing in the territorial bruin without luck.



 

 


 

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.

 

 

 

 

 




 

British Columbia Black Bear Hunt- Gear List

Three weeks in the backcountry of Canada in pursuit of black bears is a lot of consecutive days in the field. To be sure that I am ready for all that Mother Nature throws at me, I have a very specific list of items that I am sure to bring along. Now keep in mind that I am driving to Canada with virtually unlimited space in my vehicle to store items that I will not be packing in with.  This list will vary depending on where I am going but this is a great place to start.
Under Armour Clothing:
UA Socks
UA Base Layer Tops & Pants; 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 or 4.0 depending on weather and hunting conditions
UA Evo Hoody
UA Evo Henley
UA Evo Pant
UA Zip Up Hoody
UA Quest Jacket & Pant
UA Gators
UA Gloves Insulated & Un-Insulated
UA Beanie
UA Baseball Hat
 
UA Speed Freek Boots
Swarovski Optik:
Swarovski Binoculars w/ Carrying Case, Cover & Bino Harness
Swarovski Spotting Scope w/ Camera Attachment
Swarovski Range Finder
Tri-Pod
Lens Wipes or Cleaner
Rifle:
Remington Model 700 300 Win Mag w/ Sling
Swarovski Rifle Scope
Nosler Custom Trophy Grade 180 Grain AccuBond Ammunition
*Shooting Sticks
*Rest
*Shoot & See Targets
*Ear Protection
Bow:
Elite Hunter 26” draw, 51#
Victory VAP Arrows
Shuttle T-Lock 100 Grain Brodhead’s
Ripcord Arrow Rest
Spot-Hogg Sight
Tight Spot Quiver
2 Releases
Allen Wrench
String Wax
*Target
General Gear:
Flashlight & Headlamp
*Lantern w/ extra Mantles
Roll TP in Zip lock Bag
Eberlestock X1A1 Backpack with Hydration System
*Thermos
Baby Wipes Un-Scented
*Un-Scented Laundry Soap
Butt Cushion
Game Bags
Sleeping Bag
GPS
Garbage Bags
Small First Aid Kit
 Mole Skin
Basic Medicine such as Aleve, Neosporin, Imodium, Throat Lozenges
Mosquito Repellant
Bear Spray
Wind Checker
Camera
Calls
Extra Batteries
Tags
Cloth Tape Measure
Flagging Tape
Nutrition:
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars
Wilderness Athlete Energy Gel
Wilderness Athlete Protein Plus
Wilderness Athlete Energy & Focus Drink Formula
Mixed Nuts
Jerky
Low Fat or Wild Game Pepperoni
Water or filter
Horse Tack:
This basic horse tack list is based off of my outfitter providing most of the needed equipment. 
Saddle/Blanket
Saddle Bag
Decker Pack Saddle with Sling Ropes
Canvas Manties with Rope
Spurs
Bow & Gun Scabbard
*Truck Equipment:
*400 Watt Inverter
*Power Strip
*Items that I use upon arrival buy may or may not pack into the backcountry