“Pssst!” Hesitation, “Psssst” came a hissing sound from behind. Ever so slowly I turned to look back at my cameraman. He raised his hand and poignantly pointed at the narrow cut through a stand of evergreens and underbrush in front of us. I nodded an affirmative and mouthed, “I know!” For the past minute I had been watching a blonde black bear cautiously making its way toward the bait barrel, stopping occasionally to stare in different directions and test the wind, obviously concerned about being “confronted” by and older more dominant bear. The manner in which it was approached I felt assured it was a younger bear.
The day before I had walked to where the bait barrel was placed on its side. I picked out a limb next to the barrel which would give me an indication as to how tall a bear was when it ate from the barrel. The limb was about 38 to 40 inches above the ground. The region I hunted had a history of producing some really huge black bears and I was looking for an old mature boar that would stand tall. The blonde did not measure up.
That evening we saw three more bear. The last one came in as the light was all but nonexistent! But through my Zeiss Duralyt rifle scope I could easily see he was huge. He stood taller than my “mark” and his body made the bait barrel look small! I noticed too, as he looked our way, his ears looked small compared to his head and rather hung on the side of his head. Too, it looked like he had a divot on the top of his skull, indicating heavily muscled jaws typical of older, mature boars. He fed for about five minutes, then walked away. When he did we took the opportunity to head back to where we had left the ATV which took us the six or so miles back to where we were to meet the outfitter.
I dearly love hunting bears, be they black, grizzlies or Alaskan brown. And while I prefer hunting spot and stalk, occasionally I hunt where the habitat makes doing so infeasible. Such was the case where we hunted in Manitoba. The only way to hunt with any hope of success was to use bait.
Bears are bears no matter where you hunt them and they can require a fair amount of “taking”! Over the years I’ve shot black bear with muzzleloaders, shotguns with slugs, handguns such as the .44 Mag, and a multitude of rifle calibers, from .270s on the lower side to .45-70 Gov. and .416 Rigby on the upper end. I’ve shot a fair number of black bear, often hunting them two or three times a year where bag limits included two bears. Although I have several “bear guns”, during the past few years I have settled on using the .375 Ruger, shooting Hornady’s 300 grain DGX factory loads. I have two primary .375 Ruger rifles; a Ruger 77 Hawkeye African and the Ruger 77 Guide Gun. Frankly because of its short barrel and how easy it handles in “thick stuff” I prefer the latter. With those two combinations I’ve taken monster 10 foot plus squared brown bear (with Wayne Woods Outfitting) and really good grizzly (with Triple C Outfitters) in Alaska, hunts I booked at the annual Dallas Safari Club convention (www.DSC.org). I’ve used those same two guns to take African lion, as well as Cape buffalo in the Caprivi Strip of Namibia, western savannah buffalo in Benin, hippo in the Limpopo region of South Africa, as well as various other dangerous and big game species over a goodly part of the globe.
Several years after Robert Ruark’s death, a book of some of his African hunting tales, USE ENOUGH GUN, was released. It’s one I read and read again at least every other year. A great book about primarily African hunts, but mentioned here because I also love the title and think it appropriate advice when hunting bears, “Use enough gun!”.
Is my .375 Ruger more then plenty gun for black bear? It certainly is! But it isn’t “too much gun”. To me there is no such thing as “over kill”! For those who might be a bit recoil conscious the Ruger Guide Gun is perfect because with the changeable muzzle brake (meaning the rifle can be shot with the muzzle break, or with an equal weight replacement for the muzzle brake so it doesn’t change the harmonics of the barrel). With the brake on, it reduces the .375 Ruger’s recoil down to about that of a .30-06, or less.
When it comes to scopes my personal choice when hunting potentially poor light conditions be it for black bear or dangerous game is Zeiss’ Duralyt 2-8X with a 60 Reticle (reasonably thick crosshairs with a lighted spot at the intersection of the crosshairs, the intensity of which can be adjusted for varying light conditions). It can be difficult to see black crosshairs againar a black body, especially when the light is other than ideal. That’s one of the reasons I really like the Duralyt scope with its lighted reticle. It too is extremely great at gathering light early in the morning and late in the evening. The 8 power magnification too, makes it appropriate to use when hunting where distances can be a bit on the long side, meaning out to 300 or so yards, at least for those of us who do not promote shooting at extremely long range. I like the Zeiss Duralyt scope so much it’s the one I used when I hunted and took my desert bighorn sheep in Sonora, Mexico.
Having shot a wide variety of different calibers, I used a wide variety of bullets and loads. My choice of ammo these days because of how accurate it is, and how it terminally performs on black bear and other big game is Hornady’s 300 grain DGX (Dangerous Game Expandable), factory ammo. I’ve shot a couple of big black bears with this load, as well as Alaskan grizzly and brown bear, and African lion. With my Ruger Guide Gun, topped with a Zeiss Duralyt, I can easily keep how ever many rounds I want to shoot in less than 1 1/2 inch groups at 100 yards and considerably tighter when I truly do things right.
Back to Manitoba, the fourth evening of the hunt just before we were hit by a major frontal system I shot a big, mature bear. Hit right behind the shoulder he ran less than ten yards before piling up.
I’m currently preparing for another black bear hunt. This one with Sean Lingl and his Canadian Guide Outfitters, Ltd. on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. My choice in firearm/scope/ammo are the ones I just described. With these I know I am “using enough gun”. But I’m also using one I have developed great confidence in. I know what that particular combination is capable of and what I’m capable of doing with it!
Before heading to British Columbia I’ll spend a day or so with Tim Fallon on his FTW Ranch and their S.A.A.M (Sportsman All Weather, All Terrain Marksmanship) (www.ftwoutfitters.com) for a bit of tuning up. Then too well before leaving I’ll get in touch with The Wildlife Gallery to get more laminated tags with my name on them, the expediter’s name and the company’s address in Michigan. I’ll attach these to my bear’s skin and skull. This will insure both will be sent to The Wildlife Gallery, along with a copy of a C.I.T.E.S permit, so their artists can turn my bear into the mount of a lifetime!
Larry Weishuhn is the host of “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” which airs on The Sportsman Channel during the third and fourth quarters on Saturday mornings as well as other times during the week.