As I sit in my hunting shed fletching arrows for the upcoming spring I am distracted by two things: the cold and continuous rain that defines winter her in the Pacific Northwest and the memory of my first Black Bear hunt in Idaho with my friends from Alpine Archery. Pro Staffer Mark Reilly drove over from Portland in time to meet Camp Stories Producer Tommy Iannarelli flying in from Philadelphia for the first evening’s hunt on Thursday. After meeting up with Vince Kite and Dustin Bomley and buddy Corey Davis at the factory, they headed out for the first evening on the set up. Neither Mark in the ground blind, nor Tommy in the treestand saw any bears, but it was clear the baits were being hit and a matter of time?..
I arrived on Friday just in time to meet up with everyone for a tour at the amazing Alpine factory. Pulling me out of there was difficult, as I could have spent all day in the facility watching and learning how the best shooting bows get designed, produced and manufactured. Only the lure of that ground blind and the possibility of seeing my first Idaho black bear pulled me out of there. Less than 90 minutes later, we were headed down the logging road on our way to the treestand where Mark and Tommy would sit bear-less for the night. But not before we saw our first game animal: A cow moose at 60 yards. We joined her in a stare-down contest for over 10 minutes before we called it a stand off and both went our separate ways. My time in the ground blind with Dustin and Corey produced no sightings that night, but we did hear a very aggressive bear popping its jaws and moving around us for over an hour. Having only read about this behavior, it was both eerie and exhilarating to hear and feel it less than 100 yards away with only and Eastman Blind separating us from those snapping jaws. Vince greeted us all back at the truck around 10:30 with an impromptu bbq meal – we wasted no time sharing stories under the star-lit Idaho skies soaking in our first bear hunt and enjoying everything that Camp Stories is all about.
Unfortunately, Tommy had to leave very early the next morning for a previously scheduled trip, leaving Mark and I to carry the torch for 3Creeks and bring home a bear. Since we only hunt in the afternoon, Mark and I slept in before heading over to Dustin’s house for some great hospitality of hunting DVD’s, a cookout and some 3D shooting in his yard. You gotta love afternoon hunts??.As it came time to pull on the camo and head out, Mark and I flipped a coin to see where we’d sit for the night. As it turned out, I “won” that fateful flip when George Washington’s head landed face up – I was going to the treestand location, while Mark was headed back to the ground blind. Corey and I headed up to the stand and got set up – things were looking good upon arrival, as the bait had been hit hard for the 3rd night. Corey and I took our places in the stand and spent the next 4 hours listening to sticks break, curious crows and aggressive turkeys gobbling within 50yds of our location. But no bears.
Suddenly, and with only 3 minutes of camera light left, Corey’s back stiffened and he raised the camera. With wide eyes, he mouthed to me, “BEAR”. Careful not to move and looking around only with my eyes, I said, “Where?”. Pointing directly at his Danner Pronghorn boots, he flicked on the camera. Looking down under the stand, I saw him – a really nice bear directly under my stand walking in front of us.
How he came in so silently, I’ll never know – but I do know this: I couldn’t breathe for about 10 seconds after I saw him. Just being 8 ft away from such a magnificent creature and with precious minutes left to seal the deal, I was overtaken by adrenalin, excitement and bear-fever!
As soon as his head went behind the first tree, I came to full draw and held for almost 2 minutes as he meandered around in our space. Waiting for a shot, it felt like it would never come. After what felt like agonizing hours, not minutes, he finally turned and gave me a quartering away shot to my left. With literally seconds of camera light left, I drew my trusted Alpine Silverado and put the top pin from the Montana Black Gold in the middle of his body and let the arrow fly. With a solid hit, I could see the arrow went in about 3 inches back from where I wanted it, but quartering away, I was confident in the shot. As the broadhead smashed into the tree behind him what a loud “CRACK”, the bear whirled on his heals and crashed down the hillside. I watched in amazement through an opening in the forest as he went down only 70 yards away. My legs began to betray me as the reality of this successful hunt hit me hard. We’d done it. After recovering him in the pitch black, we enjoyed a happy photo session and soaked in the moment.
For months, we’ve been planning this hunt with our friends at Alpine and to have it all come together at truly the last minute was just too much to take. The work, effort and hospitality that Dustin, Corey and Vince showed us was above and beyond and it all paid off. For my first bear hunt, I couldn’t imagine anything better. In addition, we really grew the Camp Stories family and philosophy, adding some great moments before and after the hunt to our scrap book. I have another half dozen arrows to go before I’m done fletching for the day – I take a moment to recall this little movie in my mind and hope that I can re-live another one just as fun, just as exciting and just as successful with one of these new arrows as soon as the rain stops.