Spring Bear, 2024

Spring Bear, 2024

Spring Bear 2024

Bear hunting in the Spring is still new to me and something I am growing more in infatuated with each time I do it. This was the second year (last year being my first spring bear hunt), that my buddy Derek and I decided to undertake. With a semi-mild winter our plan was to hit it early on the opener. We both enjoy backpack hunting so that was the plan. Packed for 7 nights of sleeping on the mountain in the tipi with everything we need to survive on our backs. Great for the soul, first trip out of the 2024 season, new country, chasing magnificent mountain bruins. The plan was set!

We packed in the day before the opener and found a great perch we could setup our tipi on and glass the surrounding drainages for miles from the snowline down to the river. Looked perfect for our first camp. Our first night produced migrating elk and my beloved mule deer on their journey back to summer range (the animals looked great coming out of winter) which was a great site to see. Part of the reason for picking this spot was the fact we both hold deer tags for this area in the fall. I wanted to see how the herd looked moving back into their summer haunts.

Day 2 started off with a bang. We glassed a large sow and cub at the top of the mountain about a mile off. After our morning glassing, we decided to move slow and explore the country some and peek into some cuts and chutes we could not see from our perch. We were not 20 minutes into our movement when Derek spotted a beautiful solo chocolate bear high in an avalanche chute. We quickly parked it and got established and prepared, the angle was steep, the range was a bit too far. We held on a shot and just watched the bear to do bear things. He eventually moved off into some rocks where we lost sight of him, just then I spotted movement. Another bear in the next drainage over, this one too was a color phased blonde. Beautiful but young, I had the bear at 200 yards in my scope and held off to hopefully seek out a larger boar over the course of the week, it was just opening day – we had all week. Just as I peeled off the gun, I looked back up and the chocolate bear reappeared only this time at 300 yards. Derek quickly got on his rifle and built a shooting position. I watched via the spotter as he executed a perfect shot, the mountain bruin was dead in 10 seconds with an effective shot that gave this animal its best death, clean, ethical and without suffering. At this time, it was 9:45AM, it took us 3 hours to find a way across the river, side hill cliffs to get to this bear. Once we finally arrived, we enjoyed the moment, this was a special moment for us. This was the first animal taken in our 5 outings together. We have burned many miles and thousands of feet of elevation, many nights on the mountain to get to this point as hunting partners. We enjoyed the animal, gave him a kiss, took some photos, took in the moment and the mountains, the experience… Then, the work began. We broke the animal down and took every bit of meat off his body, packed him up in our packs and began the nasty side hilling, cliff ridden trek back to our river crossing and then the 3 miles back to camp from there. All in all, we arrived back at camp around 7PM, enough time to cook a meal and glass the rocky mountain sunset.

The next day, with the weather warming – Derek packed his bear back to the truck to get him on ice and ensure his cape and meat would last the week. I stayed in the mountains and hunted the day going deeper into the wilderness and looking into new drainages. I only turned up some turkey and mule deer (lots of deer) which sure made it hard to glass for bear when my eyes always wandered back to the muley’s feeding and continuing their spring migration, man I love them. The day was a success but overall, a quiet day in terms of bears. The next morning started out with more of the same, hours on the glass, a bit of moving to glass new drainages, head scratching, wandering if we were doing the right thing, all the standard emotions that come along with hunting off your back in a mountain range you have never been in. It always comes back to patience, persistence and consistency – this is what I tell myself whenever I am questioning what I am doing. Calm down, remember those 3 words. The next few days were more of the same with another bear siting, but that bear was moving way too quickly for us to ever have a chance. We continued to grind.

On day 5 of the hunt, we decided to sit on an excellent looking drainage and one we have not spent hours on in the past 5 days. With the continued mind games flowing, a blonde black bear appeared in my binos 675 yards up the drainage right where we thought a bear should be. Holy smokes – just like that, you turn a corner. The sun was hot, we figured this bear was not going to stay out for long, so we decided to sit tight and watch it. Sure enough, 20 minutes later it fed back into a nasty piece of timber where it bed down. At this point, we had a decision to make. Is that bear going to be parked for hours until it cools down or is he going to get up and continue to feed shortly? We had to drop about 600 feet, find a river crossing and climb 1500 feet to get into position if we were going to attempt a stalk. The winds were swirling, and the thermals were certainly carrying up the drainage right to the bear so our angles of pursuit was very limited. All in all, we decided on patience and held tight. We sat on that bear for 6 more hours before it came right back out, at that moment I felt we might have made a mistake not making our move and setting up for the ambush. Hindsight is 20/20 and that wind was a wild card, at least at this point – we have blown nothing. We watched the beautiful blonde feed till dark and created a plan for the next morning.

 Day 6 started out with an early assault. Our plan was simple, get across the river, climb through the cliffs and find a perch that we could see enough of the drainage without winding the bear (if he was still there) and wait it out… We crossed safely and maneuvered our way up the mountain across the cliffs and quietly moved into a position where we had about 70% visibility on the drainage which was the best we could do. We did this all before the sun hit the mountain and our thermals carried our sent up. Our main concern was the swirling winds and bears having a nose better than any other critter on the mountain. Now, we waited. We laid low in our hide, we glassed, all day we did this in hopes this bear was somewhere in this drainage. Hours passed, no bear, more hours passed, and still no bear. It was starting to feel like our ambush hunt approach was not going to work, then at 6:20PM out steps that beautiful blonde bear in an avalanche chute across canyon. Shoot, he was still here as we hoped. I quickly built a shooting position, ranged the bear at 406 yards and center on center fired, bear down! Now we had to quickly drop 500’ feet and gain about 750’ to the bear before darkness set in. As with all bear country, the brush was heavy, the boulders were large, but we made it. Derek and I quickly enjoyed a moment with this beautiful mountain predator, I thank him for his life and that I will remember him forever and my family will enjoy his meat. I took in the scenery, on the side of a mountain, sun setting, snow line – just the bounty of the wild. After breaking down the animal, we packed up all the meat and the hide in our packs and started our night pack out. We had to get down this avalanche chute, across a drainage up and over into the next then down to a river, cross, climb and work our way back to camp. We got back to camp around 10PM, ready for a meal and to reminisce on yet another pack out on this trip.

Day 7, our final morning. The meat was in the trees airing out in the cold wind, I had the hide laid out over a log flesh up to cool overnight. We ate breakfast and glassed the mountain, enjoying our last views of the elk and mule deer that were migrating back into this majestic country. Then like the end of every hunt, we broke camp, loaded our packs and hit the trail. It was a hunt, full of the usual highs and lows, hard work, lessons learned and great memories. I come out of each of these hunts refreshed, alive, and feeling very fortunate and blessed to do it. Backpack hunting in the mountains is not easy, but man does it make the memories that much sweeter.

Reading now

Spring Bear, 2024

Related posts