It was Thursday May 10 2007 and over a month into the British Columbia spring black bear season. Between final exams, broken vehicles, work and 3-D shoots I had only put 3 days in the field and but had already seen numerous bears, and had several opportunities. Fortunately for the bears for one reason or another all the bears had walked away unaware of how close they had come. Either they were too small, a possible Sow, or at last light and no gear for a night retrieval.
The first stalk of the year was arguably the most exciting, On May 5 when I ended up at full draw only 8 yards from a bear completely unaware of my existence but the failing light, and lack of gear (flashlights headlamps etc) let this bear walk away.
After putting in a short hunt Wednesday night I spent the night in the back of my truck, waking up to frost covering the ground I was quick to get out hunting and get warmed up. I spent my morning hunting an area only to run into 2 other hunters, I decided to move south to an area I had hunted successfully in the past.
By the time it was noon and the morning chill was burnt off, the heat waves were shimmering. Noon found me sitting at the top of an old slide that often drew bears to the fresh grass in the early season. Walking into the area I found several large droppings, indicating that at least one good bear was in the area. By sitting on the north side at the top of the slide I was able to watch the entire area as well as a clear cut across the valley. I had seen numerous bears in this place but I also knew that it was constantly small bears on it, I found it was a good place to relax, eat some lunch and watch some bears feed basically a perfect way to spend my lunch during a good day of hunting.
Top quality binoculars like Nikon are vital in finding game, checking terrain and plotting a course of action.
I had been glassing for around 15 minutes and already spotted one small bear feeding at the bottom of the slide, when off to the south side about ¾ of the way up the slope I saw something black moving through the young aspens, I watched for a couple of seconds until I knew it was a bear.
Raising my binoculars I watched the bear feed out into the open. As it lifted its head to test the air I quickly saw that the ears were down low on the side and looked small, a strong indication of a good bear. As the bear moved out into the open the pigeon toed bulldog like waddle confirmed that it was a large bear.
SCAT, a sign of size and time.
With the warm weather I wasn’t sure if he would hang out in the open, duck back into the cover of timber or maybe if I was really lucky just maybe he would grab a nap in the creek running through the middle of the slide. As the bear started moving down the hill, I quickly ditched my boots and backpack put on my face mask and made a quick survey of gear, making sure it was all ready. My heavy wools socks acted as a cushion on the old grass and dirt. Moving down the hill I snuck from dirt mound to dirt mound, hiding behind the piles I would wait until he was facing away or his head was out of site. Often having to crab crawl with my bow in my lap to keep from being to obvious. I was getting closer, I could now smell him in the air. Spring bears have a wonderful smell, almost like they just spend the last 4 months sleeping in a musky, dirty damp hole in the ground.
A nice track. This gives a clue as to the size and an indication as to how long ago the bear came through.
While I had covered good ground the bear was moving almost as fast as I was. After cover over 80 yards I had only gained 30 on the bear. He was still well out of range at over 70 yards out. I knew that at this rate he would quickly be back into the timber before I got within range. I had to move fast.
The bear fed diagonally down the hill and was now on the north side but had turned and was feeding back toward the south. Crossing over to the south side of the creek I got behind a young stand of aspen and fir trees. With the bear out of sight I covered the 30 yards of cover at a quick jog. As I poked my head around to locate the bear I failed to see anything? he was gone. Watching the slope I tried to figure out where he had gone, unsure if he had busted me on the stalk or just walked off. After several minutes I was getting ready to move back up the hill for a better view when all of the sudden 50 yards below me the bear clambered out of the creek dripping wet. In the heat he had been over heating and taken a bath. Unfortunately it did him no good, he still smelled and at 50 yards I could now hear his breathing.
The bear had come out on the south side of the creek and was now directly below me. The bear lay down in the grass and started chomping away on the grass, with the bear distracted by the salad bar I managed to slip into 35 yards before he stood up and started to walk. As the bear stood up I drew back, bracketing his lungs between my 30 and 40 yard pin. The bear paused for a second with a perfect broadside shot before I knew it the arrow was on its way. I caught a glimpse of the arrow as it impacted just behind the shoulder.
The bear spun on its back leg biting at his chest, then broke into a run for the timber edge. The bear made it to the edge before he started to stumble, he disappeared from sight but the crash that followed gave a good indication that he was down.
I walked back to the truck and gathered my gear, camera, water, skinning knives, etc, it was close to 50 minutes before I made it back to where the bear had been standing. The first sign of a hit I found was my arrow stuck in the dirt, covered with blood I knew for sure I had hit him and the bubbles in the blood indicated a solid lung hit. I couldn’t find any trail between the arrow and the timber, with the thick fat and heavy hide bears will often make it amazing distances before they start to leave a blood trail. I walked down along the edge of the timber trying to spot the bear. I moved back to where the bear had disappeared into the timber, I found tracks but no blood entering the fir and pine stand. The edge of the young timber was heavily over grown and I found a slight smear of blood on a branch. As I moved into the stand of trees it opened up, as it opened up I spotted something on about 25 meters away under a young fir tree. My binoculars revealed a downed bear. Moving up I tossed a rock which landed on the bears hind leg, with no reaction I walked up to the animal. He was down for the count, he had covered just over 70 yards before piling up.
Bear down and done.
I tried to move the bear and quickly realized he was larger than I thought. He had fallen in a depression and it was all I could do to just to get his head up. Moving the bear into a better spot for pictures was out of the question. After a couple of quick pictures I started working on the bear. With a live weight approaching 300 pounds I knew I would be quartering him to get him the 400 yards back up the hill to the truck. 3 hours later I had the 4 quarters off and the back straps and tenderloins out. I moved the meat out into the open area of the slide so I could watch to make sure no bear tried to steal it leaving with a quarter over my should and my gear I started my pack out. Four trips later I had the rest of the meat and my gear in the truck.
As I was driving home I realized I had left my arrow marking the spot of the shot? a perfect reason to get another tag and return.
The bear was 5’10” nose to tail, and was an estimated 280-300 pounds live weight, the skull had a green score of 19″ even.