Trucks loaded and wheels rolling, we left town around 8:30 a.m. headed for the mountains of western Montana. Bear Camp, time to spend a week in pursuit of bruins. This would be my first spring spent chasing black bears. I had opted to hunt with my Marlin .30-30, my first gun I got back when I was a scrawny 10 year old. Growing up in Tennessee I spent many early mornings clutching that rifle while waiting for the elusive whitetail. So for me to bring down my first bear with that gun would be extra special.
No bears were tagged on that first week of hunting, new country and tough stalking conditions made for difficult hunting. We did get real close to bagging a nice bear on an old dirt logging road. Sock footed we crept after him, adrenaline pumping. He went around a bend in the road and vanished into thin air. Still it was a great first bear experience for me.
If hunting wasn’t a challenge then the reward of filling your tag wouldn’t feel as good. You’ve got to put forth the effort to receive a prize. Time spent in the mountains is never time wasted, I learned a lot in that week of hunting. It gave me a better perspective on how to locate bears, and hopefully punch my tag.
The following week we were back after it.
The rain fell steadily as we trekked uphill. Soaking wet downfall and moss-covered sticks made the climb to the logging road challenging, but by the time we reached the road the rain had all but ceased. It was around 4:00 p.m. as we began scanning the surrounding trees in search of bear but the sparse timber and grass covered openings turned up nothing.
About a half mile in, we had yet to see any bear sign. We trudged on.
Suddenly Travis froze, “Bear!” he hissed. My heart began to beat rapidly as I moved into position, clutching my rifle tightly. Before I knew it my gun had been discharged, and my Montana black bear tag was filled.
My knees began to shake as it hit me that I had just shot my first bear, and I had done it with my trusty old .30-30. I couldn’t have been happier as we made our way toward the bear.
His coat was a beautiful chocolate color with a small white patch on his chest. Just an all-around pretty bear. We set to work on him and before long we had the meat and hide strapped to our packs and were making the mile and a half hike back to the truck. The stars were just beginning to shine.
It was special for me to kill my first bear with my .30-30, a gun that means so much to me. That rifle has quite a few memories in it, from me as a ten year old kid shooting my first deer with my dad beside me, to several solo hunts – some successful and others not – and now here in Montana with new friends and new memories ahead. So here’s to the sport of hunting and the wild places it takes you. May your memories always be grand.