Black Bear, Moose and Grizzly

I have been hunting with Sentinel Mountain Safari’s for over 10 years and each time I make the trip, I have been fortunate to be 100 percent on all hunts. With the economy suffering like it is in the US, Sentinel Mountain Safari has been running a special for all US hunters. You can hunt for moose and take a black bear without any trophy fee for the black bear. This year they have also dropped the cost for hunting moose to $3250.00. Normally, the cost for black bear is $2500.00. This is a great savings for all hunters.

If you choose to hunt for a grizzly bear while hunting for moose, they will only charge a trophy fee of $5000.00 for the grizzly. The tag will need to be purchased before the hunt starts. Normally, Sentinel Mountain Safari’s charges $9500.00 for a grizzly hunt with a $5000.00 trophy fee for the successful hunter. So, if you choose to hunt for moose, black bear and grizzly this year the total cost is only $8,250.00 which includes the trophy fee for the grizzly.

With British Columbia having an estimated population of 120,000 to 160,000 black bears (ref. BC Wildlife Branch), it’s one of the largest concentrations of black bears in the world. I started hunting black bears just a few short years ago and now it is one of my favorite hunts I do each year. I live in Washington State and it’s a short 2-½ hour drive to the Canadian border. My favorite bear hunting spot is Bear Lake, which is about 30 miles north of Prince George in British Columbia. I have been hunting with Steve Saunders and Roy Pattison of Sentinel Mountain Safari’s for over ten years. Each time I make the trip I always come home with my tag or tags filled. A few years ago I took two black bears with one measuring an incredible length of 8 feet and 6 inches. We spotted the mammoth bear on my 4th day of a 5-day hunt and I extended my hunt for two more days until I re-connected with the monster.

In the spring we hunt the hydro lines (high power transmission lines) and the gas/oil pipelines. The snow on the pipelines thaws out faster in the spring than the surrounding area because the gas and oil keep the ground from freezing as hard as the surrounding areas, thus in the spring the grass gets green on the pipelines first. When the bears come out of hibernation they head for the pipelines to gorge themselves making up for the loss of body fat during their hibernation.

During our spring hunt we saw four different grizzly bears. Roy asked me if I was interested in doing a fall grizzly hunt. Without any hesitation I told him I was very interested and when could the hunt start. We sat down and came up with a seven-day hunt that would start on the 20th of September. I told Roy that I would like to get a grizzly that was black in color if possible. Russia is the only place that has all black grizzlies. It would be a challenge to say the least. It’s like hunting for a color phase black bear. A few years ago I retired from the fire service and went to taxidermy school to learn a new trade. I want to do a full standing mount if I am lucky enough to fill my grizzly tag.

British Columbia has around 17,000 grizzly bear (ursus arctos) that inhabit 80% of the province. Grizzly bear is a sub-species of the brown bear. The weight of a grizzly can vary depending on gender, season, region, age and availability of food. Weights vary from around 300 pounds to 1100 pounds. The color variations of the grizzly run from the classic – an ebony coat with waves of silver tips, through frosty brown to blonde and a silvery frosty gray to almost black. In the coastal regions the grizzlies are mostly light to dark brown. Inland they tend towards being dark with silver tipped to almost black.

Grizzlies are classified as carnivores however; they eat a wide variety of food making them an omnivore. Their digestive tract is not made for an herbivore diet however most of their diet consists of plant material. Other foods of the grizzly include, insects, ground squirrels, marmots, mice, salmon, young ungulates in the spring and winter kills. Grizzlies have a fantastic sense of smell, excellent hearing and fairly good eyesight.

Grizzly bears are capable of increasing their population at a rate of 8% per year with a harvest rate of 4%. Of the 4%, the annual total hunter harvest is 1.9% or less than half of the total grizzly bear mortalities. This mortality includes hunting, vehicle collisions, problem bear control and poaching. One out of every four grizzly bears remaining in North America lives in British Columbia.

In the years 2003 and 2004 the non-resident grizzly tags issued were approximately 250 per year. Not all outfitters are allocated grizzly bear quotas. If you would like more information on grizzly hunts, you can check with the Guide and Outfitters Association of British Columbia. Their web page is www.goabc.org. Or you can contact them by phone, 604-278-2688. They also have a link that will take you to a long list of outfitters in British Columbia.

Roy called me at the end of August and said he has several grizzlies spotted and one of them was huge, black and he thought it was a boar. He would spend hours each day for the next four weeks searching for the location of the huge black grizzly and would plot its movement’s on a map, where it was spotted, and what day it was spotted and the time plus what it was feeding on. I spent the next few weeks dreaming almost every night about the upcoming hunt. I would call Roy about once a week to see if the black grizzly was still around. In the middle of September, Roy called and said it was hanging around a blueberry patch getting it’s fill before winter and thinks it would still be in the area when my hunt started. I spent several nights getting all the equipment ready for the hunt. I would be taking two movie camera’s plus around 20 DV tapes, you just can’t take two much along.

On the 19th of September I headed for Bear Lake in British Columbia. After a 13-hour drive from Tenino, Washington I arrived in the evening of the 19th and settled in for the night. The next morning we woke up to the sound of a light rain. By mid morning the rain had stopped but it was still overcast. We spent the morning looking for the black grizzly but to no avail. Around noon we headed back to Roy’s lodge to eat lunch. While eating lunch one of Roy’s guides pulled in and said he had spotted a large black bear in the same area near the lake that we were hunting. After lunch we headed back to the spot where the guide had spotted the bear. It was a 25-minute drive north of Roy’s lodge. We drove to a hill above Red Rocky Lake where the bear was spotted and located a good vantage point and got out. This was approximately one mile from where Roy had seen the huge grizzly the day before. Using our Leupold spotting scope we started scanning the area. After just a few minutes we spotted the mammoth black grizzly a good distance away. Planning our strategy, we put a plan together; we would drive about half the distance and stalk the rest. We drove within 800 yards of the bear, Roy grabbed the camera and I took my Remington 338. I loaded it with Remington’s 250 Core Lokt. I wanted to use one of the best bullets on the market.

The terrain was small rolling hills that had been logged years before. They had small jack firs tucked in and around lush green hills with several clearings in which the grizzly had been spotted on several occasions. It was a picturesque bush that I always endure.

We started out by switching back and forth using trails in the bush: stopping every 3 to 5 minutes to scan the area with our binoculars. I had no intention of losing sight of the grizzly while at the same time hoping that he would stay in the patch feasting on the blueberries. At about 425 yards, we could see the massive black grizzly feeding. As we descended downhill on the trails, I noticed a sun ray had our monster black grizzly spotted for us as if it was on stage.

The wind was swirling and changing its directions every 50 feet or so. Taking the wind factor into consideration we decided to walk straight toward the grizzly. Roy said by walking straight for the bear it would give us an advantage in that we could stop and wait for the wind to change if necessary. He said if the wind would come form our back we then could move right or left and then proceed ahead. Because every step we took was a calculated movement; it took us a good 25 minutes to walk 200 yards. Needless to say that by this time my body was shaking from the excitement and anticipation. This would be my first grizzly and man was I getting nervous. When we got around 150 yards of the grizzly, Roy stopped and turned to me and said “what a big bear. Roy said he wanted to make sure it was a boar before I took the shot.

By this time the excitement was building and I was starting to shake a little. We filmed for several minutes while Roy was trying to figure out if it was a boar. He finally turned to me and said “I think it’s a boar and take him if you want”. By this time it was starting to rain a little. I was also starting to shake pretty bad. I knew I would have to calm down if I wanted to make the shot count. At around 150 yards it would be an easy shot but I needed to put the Remington 250 grain Core Lokt slug in the vitals or it would head for the bush. Having heard some horror stories I knew we didn’t want a wounded grizzly in the bush. It would almost be a suicide mission to follow a wounded grizzly where he would have the advantage. I put my shooting stix down and laid my Remington 338 in the V. Being overcast and raining lightly, plus a little hazy I knew my Leupold scope would help me secure the shot. On a world-class hunt you need a world-class scope. As I looked through the scope the grizzly appeared as if he was in a spotlight. I placed the crosshairs behind its shoulders and noticed that I was still shaking. I took a couple of deep breaths and tried to relax. Roy said just take your time, the grizzly was feeding and would hang around for a while. I looked through the scope again and noticed the mammoth bear was looking our way. The wind had shifted and was blowing from our back. The grizzly knew we were there but couldn’t see us. I told Roy it could smell us but didn’t know where we were. He said in his experiences with grizzlies that it wouldn’t bolt off like black bears do and I would have about one minute to make the shot count.

By this time I was getting relaxed enough to take the shot. Looking through the Leupold scope I could still see the grizzly sniffing the air. I took a deep breath and slightly exhaled. Tightly gripping my Remington 338, I placed the crosshairs just behind its shoulders and squeezed the trigger. I didn’t feel the recoil but I saw the grizzly as it went rolling. We watched it for a few seconds before Roy and I started at a fast walk toward the grizzly. We were approximately 100 yards from the mammoth bear; much to our surprise it got up and headed for the bush. It went around 15 feet and sat down. Roy said you better put another one in it before we get any closer. I sent another Remington 250 grain Core Lokt on its way and the grizzly went down.

Author with his Remington hit griz. It wasn't a bow kill and this adventure is far from over.

Roy had told me earlier that if the grizzly didn’t go down with the first shot just keep shooting until it does. He said grizzly are a lot tougher than black bears and their stamina to live and survive outweighs 10 black bears.

We approached it very cautiously. It was lying with its back to us with its head extended back at our direction. At around 15 feet we stopped and I could see its ominous eyes were open and looking at us. I told Roy that it wasn’t dead and asked if I should put another round into it. He said no, it’s not going anywhere. I responded by saying, “it’s not dead”. I did fail to tell Roy that it was looking at us. About that time, the monster grizzly suddenly bounded up letting out a terrifying roar causing Roy to run one way and I running the other. Several thoughts started running through my mind and one of them was how many shots were left in my rifle. As I looked back I could see the huge grizzly went after Roy. At about 30 feet from the grizzly I stopped, turned and took aim but I was shaking so bad I thought I would miss but knew that I had to make this shot count. I placed the crosshairs on its front shoulders and fired; the mammoth grizzly went down and lay motionless. We both backed away to about 40 yards and waited for several minutes before approaching it again. At this time I opened the bolt on my Remington 338 and was overcome to see I had shot my last round. I quickly reloaded and just stood there with more thoughts running through my mind like what would have I done if the grizzly was after me instead of Roy and what if it didn’t drop on my last shot. The grizzly came within inches of making contact with who he though gave him pain.

We watched it for several minutes before approaching it again. After poking at it with my shooting stix we were assured the hunt was done. On one of my previous hunts Roy had told me a story of a wounded grizzly that put him in the hospital for several weeks. That grizzly is now in his hunting cabin. He said after he got out of the hospital that he went looking for the bear. He didn’t want it attacking one of his hunters in the future. He stated as he was running, he envisioned being back in the hospital bed again.

Roy then checked and said it was a boar. The grizzly measured just under 9 feet and its hide was thick, black with some light brown tint on its head and back. Roy estimated the weight of the grizzly to be between 650 to 700 pounds. It’s going to make a great full mount. When we field dressed the grizzly we checked the placements of the three shots. One went through its heart and the other two went through both lungs. I know that grizzlies were tough animals and had great stamina but I was surprised to see at first hand how tough they really are. It took three shots into its vitals with Remington 250 grain Core Lokt to finally finish it off. Another thought ran through my mind, did I just wake up from a dream or did this just happen.

What a great hunt we had, this is my second bear and 4th hunt of the year with Sentinel Mountain Safari’s. In January I took a wolf and another one in March. As I had mentioned earlier, I have been hunting for several years now with Roy and Steve, every time I always fill my tag or tags. The spring black bear hunt is a great hunt to do. The bears are so plentiful that if you blow a stalk, it will be just a short time later before you encounter another bear. For those who archery hunt, this area is a great place to see countless black bear. You will have several opportunities to make a stalk in a 5-day hunt. Next spring I will be taking my bow with me on the hunt. British Columbia allows non-residents 2 black bear tags per year and 1 grizzly tag.

If you would like to hunt with Sentinel Mountain Safari’s, give Roy a call at 1-250-965-7788  Have a great hunt wherever it may take you.