The Last Minute Bear
Today’s blog post comes from Jana Waller, host of Skull Bound TV. You can tune in for hunts with Jana on Fridays at 9:30 AM ET, Saturdays at 11 AM ET and Sundays at 3:30 AM ET.
After nine days of pounding the Montana high country, I was faced with my last day of the Spring black bear hunt. With my gun driving tacks and my pack loaded with protein bars and water, I was prepared to hunt the entire day . We had spotted several bears throughout our adventure but they either slipped away by the time we made our approach or they were sows with cubs in tow. We were leaving at 5:00 am the next morning for a Michigan walleye fishing trip so I knew it was now or never. “I’ve got another canyon that’s always been good for bears”, Jim exclaimed as we loaded the truck in the early morning darkness for one last attempt. Jim, a Montana resident, has been hunting black bears for 26 years and his skills and knowledge of the mountains came in handy throughout our entire hunt.
Rounding the first switchback of the canyon Jim spotted a huge mountain lion just 75 yards off the road. Barely putting the truck in park, he grabbed his video camera and leapt out the door filming the confident cat as he sauntered off into the lodge pole forest. Unlike most mountain lions who run at the very sight of a vehicle, this large cocky male simply turned around and headed in the opposite direction, glancing back at us with a menacing stare. We watched his tail disappear into the pines then looked at each other with huge grins. “You don’t see that every day!” Jim said with a laugh. Ten minutes later we spotted a cow moose eating tree buds only 100 yards off the road. Quietly exiting the truck, we worked the wind and were able to approach her at 40 yards for some incredible footage. The unpredictability of the West and it’s variety of wildlife compares to an African safari in it’s diversity of big game eye candy.
Parking at the logging road gate, we donned our loaded packs and headed out in hopes of filling my tag. We hiked in miles on the old muddy path taking note of the wolf tracks. After their reintroduction, wolves often get all of the blame but in fact black bears, with their superior sense of smell, are often to blame for the low number of elk calves that make it to maturity. I was hoping to due my part in predator management but my odds started to dwindle with the fading daylight of the last day. Old scat and a few tracks were the only sign of the bruins we saw all day. We decided to head back to the truck, giving myself an “A” for effort but an “F” in filling my tag.
As we rounded what was literally the last turn on the logging road I looked over at Jim who had stopped to check out a possible ‘bogie’. In an abrupt motion, he lowered his binoculars, looked at me and said, “Drop your pack… you’re killin’ this bear.” I peered over the ridge just as the jet- black bear was swinging his head from side to side, tearing at the grass a mere 150 yards away. Jim spread out the tripods legs and readied the camera as I sat down and lined up on the predator. “You got him?” I whispered, feeling my heart pound with excitement. “Ready if you are” Jim said quietly. Finding the bear’s shoulder through my scope, I slowly squeezed the trigger and watched his body drop in this tracks from the 180 grain accubond.
The emotional swing from disappointment to elation never ceases to amaze me. Kneeling down next to the bear, I ran my hands through his thick, black fur and gave a quick prayer of gratitude. I have experienced many hunts where the harvest occurs in the very last hour and it’s moments like these that make me wake up to do it all over again.