Western Bear Hunting

Bear Hunting Magazine|July - August 2020

Western Bear Hunting
The Struggle: Lessons Learned
Brian Strickland

It was the last hour of the last day of our hunt when we spotted our first bear. After six long days of hunting Montana’s backcountry, my daughter Raegan and I had finally hit pay dirt. To this point, the Ursus americanus had been more like black ghosts, so needless to say we were elated about our find. At first glance from above his location the black spot feeding down the gated logging road looked a little on the small side as he moved in the opposite direction. However, after a quick look through the glass he was more mature than my initial perception.

With a plan quickly developed and last-minute gear stowed in our packs, we quickly dropped down the steep slope with Nate and Colton from @backcountry_boneheads_406 and headed in the bruin’s direction. We had met them through a mutual friend and with our bear sightings few and far between, we welcomed a little local help.

Since this would be Raegan’s first western bear, she would be behind the gun. The plan was simple, drop down the mountain and get on the same logging road as the bear and slip in the back door. Having seen the layout of the location from above, the bear should be feeding around the pinch of the next bend about 300 yards away.

With Raegan leading the way, we eased down the road at a snail’s pace, dodging a couple piles of sticky-wet bear scat along the way. The closer we got to the bear’s last known location, the more we glassed hoping to see him from a distance. However, when it comes to stalking bruins on their terms, everything needs to fall into place. What they lack in perfect eyesight, they more than makeup for with their ears, nose and sixth sense. And with the thin mountain air cooling under the dropping sun, a capricious mountain breeze settled in.

When the cool breeze hit the back of my neck I knew deep down it was over. Although we never saw where the bruin retreated, it was apparent he had other plans once our scent whipped around the bend in his direction. As they say, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” and ours certainly did.

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July - August 2020