If you missed Part 1 be sure to read it HERE before continuing.
The crack of dawn arrived quickly and we all slowly emerged from our tents to tackle another day on the mountain. The hours were getting long and full days on the mountain will mentally take a toll on you. This morning the goal was to work the upper end of a drainage we had yet to hunt. We were hoping the warm weather would push a bear or two up into the newly exposed areas. We slowly climbed up and around the mountain. It was just after 8am when we crested over the final ridge. A small basin of lush green grass was below us. We glassed for an hour without any luck. We grabbed the predator call and began a series of calling, hoping to entice any bears in the area to show themselves. After twenty five minutes we called it quits. We relocated to the top of the hill and settled in for a long day of waiting for a bear to emerge.
We settled in and layed under a tree for the next 8 hours. The only animals to show themselves were a few lonely mule deer who were traveling up the basin. No one was feeling super confident about the area and we made the call to work back down to the low clearing which we had spotted three bears in over the past five days. We stealthily worked back down the mountain but didn’t turn up a bear. With only an hour of light left we decided to try calling again. Zack began a sequence of distress calls that went on and off for the next half an hour. Nothing had emerged and Travis and I had thrown in the towel. I was slowly working back to my pack when Travis motioned for me to get down. Zack had stayed back on the rock and had spotted a good bear that stepped out into the clearing. He was 400 yards up the hill and slowly feeding left to right. A scramble ensued as we quickly set up the packs so I could get a solid rest.
Zack and Travis got the cameras rolling and I settled my sights on the black chest of the unaware bear. This time I would wait for a prime shot. As if to tempt me, the bear took a few long minutes before turning broadside. As he did I slipped my finger onto the trigger and began the slow squeeze. At 15 ounces the trigger cracked easily and my shot connected with a loud “thwack!” The bear looped uneasily uphill and began to slow. I quickly fired another round. It missed him just high but it didn’t matter as he tipped over on the steep hillside. I rolled to the side as a surge of emotions overcame me. We had overcome the previous night’s failure and had come back in epic fashion. Thoughts of my dad and his history with this place made the moment one of my most memorable and I told the guys that this was my most meaningful trophy to date. We quickly grabbed our gear and began the hike up to my first Idaho black bear.
Our work was far from finished though. We snapped some photos and started taking care of the old boar. When we finally finished our work on the bear we threw him in the Mystery Ranch Metcalf and began the short hike back to camp. We rolled into camp and enjoyed another night by the fire with fresh backstrap roasting in the golden flames.
We crawled into our tents that night at 2AM. It had been a long six days in the mountains. Our feet we’re blistered, our hands cut and dirty, and our legs sore and achy.
Sleep came easy that night, but was quickly disrupted as our alarms began ringing at 5AM. No one wanted to get up, but with 12 miles ahead of us it was necessary to get an early beat so we could make it back to civilization in time to check our bears in before heading back to Montana. We quickly broke down camp and distributed our gear amongst the three Mystery Ranch packs. It was twelve miles to the trailhead and we would all be carrying packs in excess of seventy pounds. This hunt was a true test of our resilience and determination and the test would only be over when we finally laid eyes on the truck.
As we dropped elevation our packs buried deep into our shoulders. The pain was there but it was some of the best pain I’ve felt. Pushing yourself to your limits and seeing what your capable of is something that is so rewarding and I’d encourage everyone to get outside their comfort zone this year. You just may surprise yourself and I know that I will not soon forget the adventure that we shared and look forward to many more challenges to come!
Special thanks to the following killer companies for making the best gear out there: Snowy Mountain Rifles, Sitka Gear, Vortex Optics, Mystery Ranch, YETI Coolers, Hunting GPS Maps, Danner Boots, Lone Wolf Knives, MSR, and Garmin.
-Written by Anthony VonRuden. Edited by Zack Boughton