A/Z Outfitters- British Columbia Black Bear- Wrong Place; Wrong Time

On the back of a horse is where I spent most of my childhood, packing deep into Oregon’s wild country with my family to disconnect and get away from the hustle and bustle of life. Not much has changed since those earlier years of my life and I find myself always going back, deep into the Wilderness where man has not changed the landscape of the good Lords paintbrush. Experiencing all that is wild while on the back of a good horse with pack string in tow and my trusty dog Kruger at my side.

This was my fourth consecutive year returning to the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy with A/Z Outfitters and I honestly cannot imagine a year passing without experiencing the Dutch Creek trail. The sound of the horse’s hooves drumming quietly along, the wind whispering through the trees, and the completely pure wildness that is found here is something that my heart and soul yearn for.

 

 

 

 

 The rain keeping the dust tramped down and the slides green with the kisses from the occasional days of sunshine. The weather, always unpredictable in these mountains make the adventure even more real. Kaitlyn was our guide, we were an all-girl team with two black bear hunters from Finland.

 

 

 

The Ben Able Cabin, is a small one room cabin with all of the modern delights of cabin life including and limited to a propane stove and luxurious outhouse with a view that is second to none, in the world and I am not kidding.

One thing you realize up in this wild country is that everything requires work. Water is fetched from the spout that pokes out of the ground, our only to access pure, untouched mountain water, the horses must be fed twice a day and there is no refrigerator so you pack in with your fresh meat frozen, wrapped in a blanket and store it in the coolest darkest place possible. Dishes are washed by hand and there are no showers except the ones you get from a good rain storm, or if it is hot enough, you can climb into one of the mountain streams. Seven days of solitude, the way that man lived long before the modern conveniences that this world now affords.

Our morning hunt plans were for a short hike up to glass a green grass covered slide that was surrounded by timber and had a rushing creek through the middle of it. It was the perfect place to locate the bruin that we were in pursuit of. This was our second trip up the trail to the slide, the first trip had produced a sow with two cubs, but no boars. The hunter knew what to expect of the terrain and as the sweat ran down his face, gasping and stumbling along, his heavy rubber boots were sucked deep into the mud. It wasn’t just the boots that were heavy, all of his gear was. His nice quiet rain gear had a fabric exterior and mesh lining inside topped again with an even heavier pair of wax pants, all over his lighter weight long sleeve shirt and pants. He was seriously over dressed and I couldn’t contain my laughter when he said in broken English, “This is why we have horse.”

This was a great learning experience for him; start the morning hike a little bit chilly and add clothes as needed when we sit down to glass. With weather conditions changing constantly, he learned to adapt quickly to the mountain environment.

Typically bear hunting runs on a very strange schedule, sleeping late and hunting even later. Often times we don’t retire to bed until 1:00am. But the weather made this week’s hunt a challenge. Three solid days of rain had pushed the bears deep into the timber, reluctant to emerge, so to maximize our hunting opportunity we had to take advantage of every day light hour possible making for even longer days than normal.

Sows with cubs and grizzly bears seemed abundant but what we kept missing was the single bruin. Wrong place at the wrong time, all the time. I went on a scouting mission and found the track of a very large solo black bear. This was exactly the bear we were looking for.

The cool rainy skies cleared, like blue bird day clear. It was a perfect hot sunny day…This was our day to pursue the giant boar track that I had located the day before. Sometimes, the perfect plan requires perfect timing. Perfect timing we simply did not have. After sitting waiting on the bear’s home slide for over 12 hours, we returned to the Ben Able Cabin without laying eyes on the bruin.

Kruger took off barking as soon as we arrived at the cabin. The bruin black bear had literally dug the pipes out of our cabin seeking an easy meal. The bear wasn’t giving up his meal either and he literally drug off the entire bag of Kruger’s dog food into the woods.

The daylight was long gone and the sky was pitch black. Pursuing the bruin was not an option. While we were out hunting for bear, one had been hunting our cabin for his own meal. Our timing simply could not get aligned with the bears. We had one more day to be in the right place at the right time to find the bruin we were in pursuit of.

The day was unbelievably hot. I hate to say it, but it was too hot for the bruins to travel far from the shade of trees. We needed to hunt in a spot that had an abundance of features; green grass, water and shade. I knew the perfect slide.

As luck would have it, the bears had the same slide in mind. Sows with cubs and grizzly bears were abundant. We lost count as bears entered and exited the slide, over 20 bears in total. None of those bears were boar black bear.

Meanwhile, the bruin that had laid the enormous track had decided to show up on the slide. Unfortunately, we were not there, instead another horse wrangler saw him in a feeding frenzy on the slide that we had sat for 12 hours the day prior. Once again, wrong place, wrong time.

This was my first trip up this wild trail that had not procured a bruin or at least an opportunity at a bruin. Wrong place, wrong time, all week. In total we saw a plethora of black bear sows and cubs, grizzly bears and even the single bruin that was bold enough to break into our camp but we just didn’t get the right opportunity on the right bear. Such is hunting…

These so close yet so far away hunting moments are what keeps hunters returning to the mountain year after year. The pursuit, the thrill of the unknown and knowing at the end of the day that you tamed the mountain and will soon return again is a feeling that is second to none.

Below you will find tales from past adventures up the Dutch Creek trail in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia with A/Z Outfitters. You can even watch a 2 part series available online 24/7 which I have also liked below.

The trail awaits and I am looking forward to next year’s journey back in time…

A/Z Black Bear Hunts 2014

Birthday Black Bear

Black Bear Hunt in the Last Frontier

Outback Outdoors BC Bear Hunt Part 1 and Part 2 featuring myself, Rockie Jacobsen and Jim Brennan is available to rent for as low at $.99. Click Here to Rent

 

North American Hunter- A Pursuit Like No Other

Adventure has an un-canny way of finding me. My heart is wild and it yearns to soar on the tops of the mightiest of mountains, in places where I become one with nature in the harshest of elements. 

British Columbia holds all the promise of what my heart yearns for: adventure, the intoxicating sound of nothing but the wind whispering to me through the trees, a place where I can hunt the hunters—mountain lions—with the aid of my best friend and companion, my Rhodesian Ridgeback, Kruger, at Otter Lake Outfitters.

Click HERE to read the entire story. 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paraglide with Max Fanderl

There I stood with the Columbia Valley stretched out nearly 6000 feet below me, the top of Mt. Swansea was nothing short of spectacular. Waiting for the wind to get just right, I took the time to enjoy the panoramic views that lay in front of me. To the west, the Purcell Mountains and to the east, the Rocky Mountains with beautiful Lake Windermere below me.

My heart was pounding so hard I could feel it in myBrent DuBois in flight. ears knowing that within moments, I would literally be running off of the mountain and into thin air to fly amongst the clouds on a tandem paraglide with world class pilot Max Fanderl.

Growing up, you always hear your parents warn you about the company you keep as you often times end up doing things that they enjoy doing. The company that I keep tends to be on the daredevil adventurous and slightly crazy side. I am not sure what that says about me but the old saying is birds of a feather flock together.

Tanya DuBoise getting ready to fly.Brent and Tanya DuBois from A/Z Outfitters have been paragliding for nearly a year and when Brent and I had a break in our spring bear hunt schedule, I couldn’t resist the invitation to go flying for the day. Especially with a world class pilot in one of my favorite places on earth, beautiful British Columbia.

I felt at ease having watched both Brent and Tanya run off of Mt. Swansea earlier that morning making a safe flight and landing into the valley below. Knowing that Max was behind me gave me great comfort even though I was scared to death and Max knew it.

Okay, I was more scared to bungee jump in New Zealand than I was to run off this mountain but scared is scared and running or jumping off a cliff has the same psychological association.  

When the wind got right Max gave me the word to start running and to not stop running until he tapped my shoulder. We literally ran off the side of Mt. Swansea, until my feet no longer struck the ground, instead they blew in the wind.

The thermal activity was strong and as soon as our wing took flight, we were grabbed by the air and pulled high into the sky. It literally felt like being sucked up a vacuum hose. I couldn’t stop giggling, the sensation was exhilarating, like nothing I had ever before experienced. The giggles were probably more out of nerves than anything but they were unavoidable, so I giggled more.

Max is an expert pilot, literally one of the best in the world. He has been on Team Red Bull X-Alps Adventure Race three times which is the world’s toughest adventure race. Racing through the Alps by foot or paraglide, a straight line distance of 1,000km. To compete you must be an expert paraglider and excellent endurance athlete covering over 900 km by foot by race end.

Once I was settled in and my giggling had stopped Max demonstrated some “tight turns” with the paraglide that was reminiscent of a wine cork screw. Spin, spin, spin. We flew through the air sideways round and round and round. The G-Forces pulling at us tight, my giggles resumed.

At one point, I thought I might get sick but I stuck it out like a champ. This flight was not for the faint of heart, this flight was for the adventurer the person that wants to live every moment to the fullest, this flight was for me and I loved it!

 

 

 

 

 

Back on the ground, it took me a couple of hours to come down from the rush of adrenaline that I had experienced in the air with Max. I am already looking forward to my next trip to fly beautiful British Columbia with Max, Brent and Tanya.