Spring in Montana. It brings beauty and beast to the western half of the state each and every year. Mostly it’s been beast. Since Travis killed his bear, we’ve been blasted with rain almost every day. The state of the weather flips on a dime it seems and the second you think the weather is shaping up, well think again. The conditions have been making my goal of arrowing a black bear more and more difficult. With the rain and longer days the grass is green almost everywhere, and it’s making the bears less and less reluctant to stay in the open for long. Fortunately we’ve still been getting after them and we have upped the bear count to 20 for the year with 7 seen in the last 7 days. Let’s just say seeing bears doesn’t convert into killing bears. Often they are a ways off and on the move. I could have killed at least 4 with a rifle, but the challenge of the bow makes it more intense and rewarding when it’s all said and done.
The weekend started slow as we left town and drove 30 miles into the mountains. We were able to glass one clearcut before the rain started coming down and hard. Soon we were fogged in and had to call it a day. It’s a bummer when you can’t even get out of the truck, but the mountains make the rules.
The next day we were in a spot we hadn’t hunted this year but knew held bears. We had ran into two last year doing some elk scouting and there was plenty of open landscape to glass. About 20 minutes in on our bike Travis made a crazy good spot. There was a good black bear crossing some rocks and moving up a north facing slope.
He was about 850 yards across a deep ravine. We watched him bed down right behind that tree and watched him for a while. He seemed to be staying put despite it only being 8AM. We decided we better try to locate him and try to get a shot. We backtracked on the bikes and went down into a steep ravine before climbing up onto the ridge the bear was bedded on. We had taken landmarks and knew we only had to go down this ridge about 100 yards. We slowly started creeping down the ridge. I knew we were getting close but it was thick. The wind was perfect, the only problem was we had a bunch of downfall between us and the bears position. Finally I saw black fur through the trees. He was still laying down and I could see his butt and legs. We were only 45 yards away, but there was no shot with all the branches and downed trees. There was no option of approaching him any other way and getting a clean shot so I kept sneaking forward. Every step was slow and we were being as quiet as we could be. Of course a chipmunk decided now was a good time to start screaming at us. That combined with one tiny, and I mean tiny twig breaking was enough to make this bear sleepily sit up. I could see him sitting there, groggy, and contemplating laying back down. Well his intuition had the better of him, and he slowly stood and walked back down and to our left. There was never a shot and we were only 37 yards away at that point. We slowly crept down the hill only to never see him again. It was a letdown but it felt great putting such a stalk on a mature wild animal. I truly believe this is the best way to hunt, and I hope you’ll never see us hunt from a treestand over bait. I feel that bears should be hunted fair chase, spot and stalk just like every other animal unless they become a problem or there’s zero open terrain to catch a bear in. It’s just seems like the American way to throw out your bait and sit there and pick your bear. You just learn so much more being out there, seeing new areas, learning about animal movements, and experiencing God’s country. It’s also going to be so rewarding when it comes together. We left that area and decided to explore some new roads on the other side of the highway. Well we made it way up in the mountains and decided to get some more time in with the new Razor HD spotting scope before the weather changed.
We found a few new areas that looked promising as far as bear hunting or some elk scouting but it’s still a little brown that high up and the snow is still sticking around. We both took turns on the scope but only found one lone cow elk bedded in a small cut in the timber.
We finally packed it up and head back to Missoula. After a couple hour break we were back up the mountain and glassing more open country. After about 20 minutes Travis made another solid spot. He could see a nice blond bear about a mile away. Ordinarily we would have gone after this bear right away. On this day we pulled the spotting scope out and took a closer look. Good thing because it was a sow and two cubs and it saved us a heck of a trek. We watched them until the weather began to change and we knew it was time to call it a day.
A beautiful sow and two cubs
The next day we woke up at 545 only to find it raining and foggy. We’ll looks like we’re sleeping in. When I got up around 930 it was clear out and sunny. Uhhhhh ok Montana you win. Looks like you’ll let us hunt this evening. Well of course as we start heading out of town the clouds start building.
About 2 minutes into driving the dirt road it starts pouring rain. Soon it began to hail and we were surrounded by lightning. We decided to see if it would pass and reluctantly turned around as it was just too dangerous to get out of the truck. We rallied some mud puddles and made it about a mile down the road before we stopped to get a few timelapses. We’ll by the time we had finished some filming it was turning out to be pretty nice again. We figured we’d drive back up top and at least glass and see if we saw anything pop out of the timber.
We continued to glass for about an hour but only were able to spot one lone mule deer doe. The weather was shifting so much I’m sure most of the animals were seeking cover in the timber and waiting for nicer weather to really come out and feed.
Things aren’t shaping up to be too great the rest of the week. It’s raining now and the forecast is calling for 100% tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll be back at it again this weekend. It’s coming down to crunch time as this Thursday marks the one week mark until season is over and it’s officially summer fishing. I hope we can pull it together and get one more chance before it’s over. If not it’s been an amazing spring and time spent in the mountains is always a blessing.