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…
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