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Let me preface this by by saying that the following statements, events, and recounts of events are all true. Except, of course, for the ones that aren’t. In truth, I know almost nothing about bears and bear hunting, this is all speculation.

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Reason #1 – Tomahawk Chucking
First things first, if you’re in bear camp you’d better be throwing a tomahawk or two. Get to camp, dump your crap, and troll backroads in your freak-nasty Dodge until you spy a suitable round of firewood that one of your Keystone slurping, chew-mowwing brethren has left behind. Sling that bad boy in the bed and get to camp stat. You don’t need to bear hunt tonight anyway. Undoubtedly, you and the homeboys will spend the rest of the week playing grab-ass and squabbling about who threw it best. Assuming none of you are a direct descendant of Sitting Bull, you’ll all be horrid. Good luck. Loser washes dishes.

bears, bear hunting, montana, tomahawks, behring made, sitka

Reason #2 – Big Bonner’s
Camping beats actually hunting almost every time if you’re doing it right. After acquiring your tomahawk target you’re going to need to get a big ole’ bonner (bonfire) started. If you’ve been blessed with super neat hunting buddies like Jay and  I have, they’ll probably say something like: “Hey you little gremlins, get a raging bonner started before we die out here!” Awesome. Gather as much wood as possible and get it going. Since you and the boys were busy farting on each other when your Boy Scout camp counselor explained how to start a fire, you’re going to have to grab the gas can and get aggressive. Mission accomplished.

camping, Yeti Coolers, adventure, bonfire, how to, tips, wild

Reason #3 – Crop Dusting
It’s noon by the time you drag your un-showered ass from the tent on day two. You’ve missed Bear:30, but just the morning shift. If you’re lucky your camp cook James has already whipped up a fresh pot of coffee; which will be about 15% actual coffee, and 85% grounds. Delicious. When you’ve chewed and swallowed your morning coffee, grab your pack and get to hiking. With any luck you’ll be hot on the six of the best beer drinker in camp. We’ll call him Zack. Stay close, and make sure you’re breathing hard. When last night’s beers hit bottom, you’ll be the first to smell it.

“Dude, they aren’t even bad!” Zack laughs.

Right. You could pass him, but it’s pretty steep. You might just have to suffer through it. Don’t stress, you’ll get him back in time.

Reason #4 – Bear Snacks
“Dude, you want some candy?” Travis asked as we filled our packs for the evening hunt. I stared at him like it was an of inside joke that I wasn’t in on.

“Uhh..no I’m good, thanks,” I said.

“Your loss,” he replied.

I’d never hunted with these guys before, and I sure as hell didn’t want them to think I was that greasy kid from the second grade who never grew out of his baby fat. You know, the kid you were afraid to high-five because of the sweat-induced film that always covered his hands? I didn’t need that crap.
Two weeks later, Zack, James and I were huffing and puffing our way through mile-three of a lengthy pack out at around 1 a.m. We reached the halfway point and scrounged for a place to take a load off.

“Dude, you want some candy?” Zack asked.

I could have cried. You bet I wanted some candy. Two Rolo’s and a stale gummy worm later we were ready to roll. Energy stores replenished, we stumbled through the next few miles without a hitch. Long story short, bring some kind of sugary bear-snack when you hit the hills chasing spring bruins. You never know when that same sugary snack that propelled your beefy, second-grade pal through recess will save your ass on the mountain.

bear, black, hunting, spring, montana, sitka, snacks, candy

Reason #5 – Ronnie, Lonnie and Connie
If for some reason you stumble on a bear or two worthy of naming, there are a few things you should know. For starters, names that command a certain sense of badassery should be reserved for bears to match. Average sows with cubs need names you might overhear at the local supermarket or while attending the neighborhood book-club. Margaret, Sharon and Barbara are fail-safe. Jason, Matt and Paul are good names for those schmedium boars, while Kenneth is only acceptable if he shows potential for future badassery.
Size isn’t the only thing that comes into play when naming your bears, though. Attitude should be a taken into serious consideration. On the first evening of bear camp, Zack and I spotted Ronnie (Coleman). He sauntered back and forth atop a knife ridge about a mile and a half distant. He ripped 35 inch trees apart with his brute strength, and ran sprints to and fro in some kind of high intensity interval training. As we watched, he laid beneath a hanging log and leg-pressed a monstrous ponderosa for ten sets of ten. We elected to chase him in the morning.

Ronnie was big, but it wasn’t sheer size that earned him his name, it was mostly his attitude. We saw Connie, his sister, out with the cubs later that night, and his brother, Lonnie, later met the business end of Zack’s rifle. But we never caught up with Ronnie, likely due to his aggressive attitude and peak physical condition.  If your unfamiliar with Ronnie Coleman the video below will get you up to speed.

Reason #6 – Bear:30
What the hell is Bear:30 anyway? Good question. Bear:30 – not to be confused with its close cousin, Beer:30 – is when those veteran bruins get up and slow-ride their way to a favorite munching ground. Maybe it’s where the grass is the best, maybe it’s where the honeys are. Regardless, if it’s Bear:30 you need to be in the woods; and I don’t mean chilling in the whip, “glassing” with a cold beverage.

By Bear:30 you should have summited at least two peaks, crop dusted your buddies, and be looking into country that hasn’t seen a human-being since Lewis and Clark. Once you’re there, chill out. Bear:30 generally runs from around 6:30-9 in both the morning and evening, give or take a few minutes. Find a good spot and set up, it’s only a matter of time until Lonnie makes an appearance; or even better, Ronnie.

Reason #7 – Bear Chronic
Graminoids are monocotyledonous, generally herbaceous plants with narrow leaves sprouting from the base. This includes members of the family Poaceae, Cyperaceae and Juncaceae. Simple right? Actually, it is. All that shit is just grass. However, we like to use its scientific name: Bear Chronic. Bear Chronic grows everywhere, but where you find the highest concentrations of the stuff you’ll also find the bears. When Ronnie, Lonnie and Connie awake from their long winters nap they’re headed straight for the thickest, juiciest Bear Chronic.

Frequent users argue that Bear Chronic is non-habit forming, but we know better. Side effects include drowsiness, dry mouth, abundance of Bob Marley apparel, lack of motivation and over-use of words like ‘gnarly, chill and rad.’ Street names for the substance include, ‘Astro-Turf, Dinkie-Dow, Bo-Bo and Donna Jauna,’ so keep your ears open.
Old logging roads usually hold large quantities of Bear Chronic, so check ‘em out. You should be seeing piles upon piles of bear dung to boot. If so, you’re definitely in the sweet spot. Come back a little before Bear:30 and wait for the action to start.

grass, sunrise, hunting, logging roads, springtime, bear chronic
Reason 8: Stump Bears
“I’ve got one,” James hissed.
Travis ditched the spotter and hustled to where James was glassing. I followed suit.
“Where is he?” I whispered.
The abstract directions that followed guided my glass to rest on a big, black…something.
“Uhhh…has it moved?” Travis asked.
The answer is no. It hadn’t moved, ever, at least not since it came crashing down in the blaze that charred it pitch black. The moral of the story is this: nine times out of ten, it isn’t a bear. It’s a stump bear. Yeah yeah, we know, it really looked like a bear, and you swear it was moving just a second ago.
Everybody wants to be the guy that spots the bear, you’re a hero if you do. But it’s likely that you won’t be that guy. Someone in the group might be, but it probably won’t be you. Stay frosty, keep your eyes on him, and if your stump bear takes off running or stands up on it’s hind legs, then and only then, would it be appropriate to alert the posse.

Reason 9: Truck Mobbin’
“Do you say ‘mobbin’ too?” Jay looked at me.
“Yeah man, mobbin’, it’s basically all I do,” I mumbled between bites of my tailgate turkey sandwich.
Being from the Tennessee, I guess Jay had never ‘mobbed.’ Mobbin’ is basically the act of cruising the Dodge – or whatever truck brand you and your daddy choose to associate with – down some backroads and kicking it. Whether you’re headed to town or back to camp, more often than not you’re bumping your favorite beat – Avril’s 1992 hit Sk8er Boi – and Tokyo drifting every corner. Or not, maybe you’re just chatting up an evening GP (game plan) with the dudes. Whatever the case, you’re mobbin’.

mobbing, dodge, dirt roads, logging, spring, bear, bear hunting

Reason 10: Ticks
Ticks are a terrifying creature. If the thought of a nickel-sized insect braving the dangers of your ass-crack to suck your blood doesn’t terrify you, you’re either a SEAL, or impressively dimwitted. I’m leaning towards dimwitted. Anyways, the aftermath of a long pack out left me standing alone in my kitchen at 3:30 in the morning. I was starving, but I struggled pouring the milk into my Frosted Flakes. Standing in the half light of the kitchen, I ran my hands through the mane. The little beasts were everywhere. I abandoned the cereal – a cardinal sin – and hit the shower. I think I pulled five or six of the little buggers off of me that night; most of which had taken residence in my fledgling mullet. I wrestled with my emotions as I contemplated cutting the hair I had worked so hard to achieve. I had already limped past the awkward stage. You know, when it’s too long for you to be a responsible adult but not enough to achieve your desired degree of mullet success? On the other hand I had serious personal issues with the tick-farm my hair was becoming. But I had already come this far, I couldn’t let them win. I kept it and returned to my soggy bowl of cereal.

So that’s it. There’s ten good reasons why you need to be chasing spring bears with your buddies. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t see how anything will. More bears for the rest of us I suppose.

-Written by Sam Averett

sam averett, bear, hunting, montana, wild, toyota, spring, handlebar, mustache

 

[Well September is a busy busy month.  Archery season is only so many days long and throw in time spent filming and getting some work done and it always seems like time is too short and the personal days you get to hunt too few.  This fall has been a whirlwind and we’ve been very blessed so far.  I just wanted to give a quick update on the elk hunting and some recent success I had before we head back out the door to chase mule deer.  Enjoy!]

Two days prior to opening day Zack and myself wandered the hills, searching for bugling bulls. Our ears were instead filled with the buzz of little pests.  The mosquitoes were like the plague.  The heavy rainfall that this area had received at the end of August rejuvenated the mosquitoes in the area to biblical proportions. We quickly made a detour to the closest town to buy mass quantities of bug spray and cross our fingers that our Thermacell would deter a small portion of the hungry critters.
mosquitoes, sitka solids
Zack was up first, while I had the camera in tow. The elk hunting was difficult, between hunting pressure and avoiding the mosquito swarms. Stalks on bedded elk usually ended in a blood buffet for the mosquitoes. Staying still for more than five minutes was a chore and  spending time behind the glass was rather frustrating.

hunting mosquitoes, sitka shooter glove, vortex summit

Zack still managed a bunch of great encounters and passed on multiple bulls, hoping to lure the herd bull in close. Before we knew it another heavy rain storm was upon us.  The gumbo mud appeared in full force and our boots instantly turned into ten pound weights.  Living out of the truck became quite the task.
Gumbo, mud, montana, bad, nasty
After battling the elements, the sun regained its strength, but not without a price.  The mosquitoes had flourished in the new rainfall and we were now on the brink of insanity. Zack was frustrated and gave myself the opportunity to hunt the last four days of our trip. I made the best of my time, finding multiple bulls, and breaking the 100yd mark on numerous occasions.

elk, bull, wapiti

Our final morning we found a large herd we had been following. Our wind was swirling all morning and half the herd split for cover. A lone bull stole 6 cows and wandered elsewhere.  We pursued, seeing opportunity in the landscape they were headed. Removing my boots and going into ‘full ninja’, I crept in to 35 yards, cow calling the bull to his feet before deploying an arrow.

Ninja socks, hunting, stalking, socks

The shot looked good, but the penetration was not as expected.  Lung blood littered the ground, but slowly dissipated into a timbered coulee.  After an hour of searching we relocated the bull, who was bedding and standing every hour in the thick brush.  With no opportunity for a stalk, we waited the bull out for 6 hours, before he finally bedded in a position where I thought a shot might be possible. I got back into my ninja socks and crept in to within bow range.  The bull was about to stand to re-bed once again, I came to full draw, fighting the heavy crosswind before putting pressure on the trigger.  The bull stood stunned as I put two more arrows in his chest before taking his final breath.

Metcalf 2, mystery ranch, sitka gear, core, merino, elk ridge, snapback, knife

After examining my first shot, I found out my arrow placement was too low given the downhill angle.  My arrow had pierced one lung and struck the sternum. I thanked the good Lord above that I was able to recover this animal and felt relieved to know that the animal would not go to waste. This elk season has brought about so many challenges, yet this season has been my best elk season to date. Once again I have been overwhelmed with the knowledge you gain elk hunting year after year. The confidence is high going into the remainder of the season.  Elk meat is in the freezer!

elk, hunting, bowhunting, missouri breaks, bull, montana, wild

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-Travis

Well the calendar keeps rolling forward and Montana’s General Archery opener is quickly approaching.  This past week we were able to get the time off to go brush up our archery skills by chasing around some of the elusive antelope.  Conditions started off with temps in the upper 70s and low 80s but deteriorated quickly by the time mid-week hit.  The last 4 days of our hunt saw rain for the most of every day.  Quality gear was a must this year as the rain can quickly put you back in the truck if your not prepared.  After getting some real good stalks in early we decided to go meet up with our good friend Branden VanDyken who is the co-owner over at BeTheDecoy.  We quickly got started with him as Travis was able to lay down a nice goat our first day out as a crew of three.  I was able to get one down on the last day after a long and stressful day prior spent in a constant downpour.  Life is total chaos right now trying to get ready for elk/deer so I’ll leave you with some photos from the hunt.

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This is what it looks like when the 3 bucks you just stalked in their beds pop up and don’t give you a shot at 30 yards.

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The sun sets on Day 1.

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Zack hunts smart before hunting hard on Day 3. Being able to wake up and pull out the spotter is the nice part about living out of your truck.

antelope, hunting, montana, wild, bowhunting, bear archery, spot and stalk

Travis uses some natural barriers to get to 30 yards before slipping an arrow through this bedded buck’s chest.

antelope, hunting, montana, archery, video, montana wild

Travis with his 2014 Montana antelope.

 

antelope, hunting, archery, montana, mystery ranch, metcalf

The guys packing out Travis’ goat. Not much weight when it’s split in half.

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Looking for the “Hundred Dollar” buck in the pouring rain.

antelope, archery, wheat, field, montana, wild

Tony being a turd and forcing us to bump him out of the wheat.

antelope, hunting, montana, wild, spot and stalk, archery

The final stalk. The antelope was bedded below the rock and Zack was able to slip down the hill using the rock as cover. After getting to the rock it was an easy 20 yard downhill shot that ended our day with the 2nd tag being filled.

antelope, hunting, montana, wild, archery, sitka, bear archery, vortex optics

Zack with his 2014 speedgoat.

antelope, archery, hunting, mystery ranch, metcalf

The final pack out and the lightest we’ll have all year.

If you have never bowhunted antelope I’d highly encourage it.  When we set out on Day 1 I told Travis that I didn’t feel very deadly.  I hadn’t hunted in months and it was awesome to get back out and start hunting again with the bow in hand.  By the end of the trip we definitely felt ready to tackle just about anything we could encounter come elk and deer season.  Good luck to everyone this year!  And thanks to the companies we work with that make some of the best gear out there – Vortex OpticsBear ArcheryMystery RanchSitka GearYETI CoolersFHF GearDanner BootsTrophy Taker

-Zack

After a week of subzero temperatures, we decided the conditions were perfect for coyote hunting.  We met up with Matt Piippo of Predator Quest and quickly hit the dirt roads in the brisk -18F weather.   The day turned out to be our best day coyote hunting to date, seeing a coyote on every stand.  The Predator Quest Excursion’s bumper quickly started to fill and resulted in our title for the film “Fillin the Bumper”.

 

[vimeo https://vimeo.com/84002606 w=580&h=440]

 

To read the complete story click here> http://montana-wild.com/subzero/

 

-Travis

 

Our scouting  before season was paying off, as we marked rubs, fresh sign, and wallows on our GPS. The next morning we scouted another new area and found plenty of fresh rubs and beds, where large bulls had pissed and marked their home.  The area was looking good and we headed back into town to hang out with our family and gather supplies for opening day.

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While at home our Dad convinced us to take him out archery elk hunting for his very first time.  We told him we would be sitting a wallow all day and would require a lot of patience.  He didn’t care, he just wanted experience the hunt and the plans were made.  We checked the weather one last time before heading back into the mountains.  The forecast was looking iffy.  Opening day looked as if we might get scattered showers, continuing through Sunday night.  Zack and I unloaded the truck, flung some last minute arrows, and prepared ourselves for the following days sit.

Ultimate Steel

The next morning my alarm sounded off and almost instantly I saw headlights pull up behind my truck.  An older man walked up, asked my Dad where he was hunting and proceeded to say “I’m sitting that same spot”.  It was kinda a bummer being there all night and to have some guy just charge out in front of you to go sit where we had originally planned to sit our father for opening day.  We made the best of the situation and decided to have our Dad sit the wallow Zack and I had planned to hunt.  We bushwacked into our location, hoping for a wind from the west.  We snuck into the area, Zack and myself setting up in a small ground blind we had built this summer, which was only big enough for two people.  With no choice we set our Dad on the north end in a small area of trees.

wind, checker, dark, timber

The wind blew out of the south most of the day, which was not the wind we were looking for.  The only thing we saw all day from 6am-745pm was two hunters.  Opening Day was a wrap. My Dad was more than satisfied, and headed home that evening.

stars

The next morning we pulled the same routine, same location.  This time the guy didn’t waste his time hiking back in through our campsite.  As we finished loading the truck with our gear, we started to hear the sound of rain drops.  The weather had showed up, and it was not going to be pretty.  Zack and I hustled into our raingear and made the hike into our ground blinds.  The wind was once again coming out of the south.  With no choice we sat on the north end of the wallows, taking cover under some large trees.  It was time to wait, and the wall of rain thickened.  About a half hour into the sit and we heard our first daylight bugle.  Faint bugles could be heard throughout the morning, and I assumed the bulls would swing by the wallow.  Soon enough I could tell the elk were working farther away, and I decided to bugle.  I was getting consistent response, but decided to hold our position and not risk totally frying our camera gear chasing bulls in the rain.  The bugles slowly faded as late morning hit.  No dice.  Zack and I held out until 1230pm, before making the decision to head back to camp and try to judge the weather for the afternoon hunt.

sitka, gear, stormfront, bear, archery, motive, 6

The rain had calmed around 4pm, and we headed into the general area where we heard those bulls move earlier that morning.  I set up at various locations, calling with no bugles in response.  Once again the rain had picked back up and it looked like thunderstorms rolling over the mountain.  We decided to hike back through some old timber and hopefully call a bull in from cover.  We found plenty of great sign, but we failed to encounter a bull.

Rain, sitka

The next morning we again ventured into an area where we felt we had a good chance of calling a bull in.  This part of Montana is nasty.  The brush is thick and seeing an elk doesn’t happen on a daily basis.  This morning was particularly nasty because we needed to be silent in the area we would be calling, so we hiked raingear free.  The brush was still dripping wet from the weather from the day before.  Once again we had a downright miserable hike, soaking wet.  We heard one small bugle, and took a handful of spills on the slick downfall.  Beaten we headed back to the truck midday.

The afternoon was slightly more pleasant, the sun peaked his head out and dried up some of the water.  I decided to head down another ridge within a mile of our wallow.  The area was littered with monster rubs, some fresh, some old, but the elk still didn’t vocalize that evening.  It seemed the rut was still a week away.

sitka, gear, elk, rub, bear, archery, motive, metcalf, mystery ranch, longbow

That night we checked the forecast, which was calling for sunny weather with a high of 75F.  I knew the elk hadn’t hit the wallow recently, and with the wet weather transitioning back to hot, I felt like the wallow could be a great option for day 4. That was the plan, back to the wallow in the am!

Zack and I chose to hike into the wallow from a different direction that morning.  Hoping to maybe locate a bull on the way in.  The route proved longer and we didn’t hear a single bugle.  Once again the  wind was coming out of the south!  Sitting in the trees and not being able to sit either of the blinds we had built was a little frustrating.  All morning was silent, other than the hundreds of squirrels chirping and chucking pine cones around our location.  I motioned for my bow multiple times, thinking an elk was coming.  Nope, just pine cones flying out of the trees hitting logs and branches.

camo, optifade, open, country, sitka

We caught up on some reading, soaking in the hot weather and drying out our gear.  We rotated taking small naps as the afternoon progressed.  Around 5pm I thought I heard a very light bugle coming from the timber to the southwest.  “Zack did you hear that bugle?” I whispered.    “No,” he replied.  I checked the wind, which was now coming out of the north.  “Zack the wind switched, lets move the decoy and sit the blind on the south end”.

I grabbed the decoy, moved it to the east side of the wallow and we got comfortable in our best blind at that location.  I had to plan on setting up for a bull coming from the southwest, and I hoped I wasn’t just imagining I heard a bugle.  We sat and waited.  About 30 minutes later I heard that distinct rumble of brush.  “Zack somethings coming,” as I sat upright and grabbed my bow.  Silence was all I heard for the next couple minutes, until I finally saw long browtines poke through the brush to our left.  My adrenaline hit, this was awesome!!  The bull worked slowly into the water, raking his horns in the muddy water a mere 70 yards from our blind.  Zack followed the bull with the camera as he wallowed and eventually laid down in the water at 65yards.  I shifted to my right in the blind, giving me a clear view of the bull.  The bull stayed there, enjoying his muddy bed for a good 6 minutes.  I ranged the nearest clump of grass as a marking point, 63yards. The bull stood, and I drew back.  He faced away from me instantly, giving me just a view of his butt.  I held full draw for 1minute 15seconds, almost letting down once.  The bull turned perfectly broadside, dragging his horns in the mud.  I held my sixty pin, settled for 7 seconds, felt 99.9% sure of the shot and squeezed off.  I heard the smack as the bull took off towards our blind!  I quickly mouthed two cow calls and nocked another arrow.  The bull slowed to a walk only 35 yards away as blood flowed from the exit wound.  The bull wobbled and tipped over only 30 yards from us.  It was over! Finally I had arrowed my first bull!  I sat there in disbelief, still having an arrow ready in case something happened.  The bull quickly expired and I still sat there, wondering if it was all real.

Bull Down

I approached my bull completely in awe of its amazing characteristics.  He was a true dark timber bull.

elk, horns, blood, kicker, dark

My #1 archery goal had finally been achieved, four years in the making.   I studied the bulls muddy horns, which had great mass and unique tines.  After looking the bull over I  searched for my arrow and to my amazement it was floating in the wallow!  As I fished the arrow out of the water, I noticed large wolf tracks in the mud from the night before.

sitka, gear, archery, elk, bear, archery, motive, 6, montana, wild

Zack and I snapped photos as we transitioned to the real work, cutting up the bull.  We used the gutless method to butcher the elk, hanging the two front quarters in a tree to avoid losing meat to the large number of bears and mountain lions in the area.

sitka, gear, lone, wolf, knives, archery, elk

Zack and I loaded our packs with the de-boned hind quarters, backstraps, and tenderloins.  Our packs rang well over 75lbs with our gear and meat.  The journey in the dark began, as we crossed downfall and brush, using our GPS for direction.  Soon we were heading the wrong direction as the satellite was putting us in the wrong location.  S*#%!  We hit walls of brush, impassable with our heavy loads, backtracking and cussing as we crossed nastly 3.5ft tall snags and downfall.  I finally busted out my iPhone and used the “my location” GPS function.  The iPhone instantly showed our location on the satellite imagery.  Back on track, we eventually made our way through the timber, safely making it back to the truck at 1:15am. I don’t know why the Garmin GPS satellite was misrepresenting our location, but I’m glad we had a backup source for direction.

After a short 4 hours of sleep, we busted back into the kill location, hearing bugles echoing around us.  Zack and I  loaded our packs once again and ventured back into the thick brush with the final load.  I battled every tree, branch, and log that morning.  The rack did not find its way smoothly through that environment.  I have no idea how those bulls travel through the brush so silently, but they are truly masters of their domain.

mystery, ranch, metcalf, elk, hunt, horns, montana, wild, sitka, gear

We let out some final war cries as the last load made it to the truck.  To be able to notch my elk tag by the fourth day was unreal.  That morning it really resonated with me how amazing the elk hunting experience is.  To be able to enjoy it with your best friend and brother is pretty special.

-Travis

We’re fresh to the antelope hunting game.  This was our second year but we both were able to fill our tags with a bow.  It wasn’t easy but is definitely achievable for the everyday hunter.  Rather then tell you my story of my hunt I figured I’d write down my advice, tips, and insight on what we’ve learned about antelope hunting.  Much of it is common sense but hopefully you might be able to learn something that will help you be successful if you choose to go after antelope with a bow.  Nothing is absolute in hunting so take these with a grain of salt and as always experience is the best teacher.

1.  In case you forgot antelope can see extremely well.  This seems to be their #1 defense from predators.

2.  If an antelope sees you once, your chances of getting to within bow range are slim to none.

3.  Stalking an antelope in your socks is the most silent and generally best method to close the gap.

antelope, hunting, tips, bowhunting, montana wild, sitka gear, bear archery

4.  In rolling open country your much better off cover lots of country in your truck and trying to locate them from afar.  Hiking around is preferable if you know there are goats around but often you can cover many many miles without a sighting and hiking in 80-90 degree heat will drain you physically and mentally very quick.

5.  Your truck is easily picked up by antelope from very long distances.  If they see your truck they will be more alert and your chances of getting close diminish.  Strategically using your truck to get to new areas and then using your feet to move into good positions to glass lots of country is key.

antelope, hunting, bowhunting, montana, wild, archery, dodge, truck

6.  In our experience, antelope on public ground generally have no pattern.

7.  Antelope are small targets and are easily missed.  Practice with your bow daily while on your hunt.

antelope, bowhunting, montana, wild, archery, practice, bear archery, glendel

8.  Wind is almost always a factor and can and will limit your effective shooting distance to very close ranges on many days.

9.  Stalking bedded bucks, especially solo bucks is a great method for getting close.

10.  Bucks don’t stay bedded in one spot for long.  When you locate one try to make a sound game plan and act quickly.  This is where instinct comes into play.  Trust it and go.

11.  Hunting a blind will give you the best chance at getting a good shot and filling your tag.

12.  Don’t expect antelope to regularly hit the same water hole unless it’s THE only water for the surrounding 5+ miles.  This scenario seems to be quite rare.

13.  Antelope don’t like blinds.

14.  You can put up a blind and immediately hunt it with success but having it up well ahead of time will increase your chances of bagging a buck.

15.  Bring lots of arrows and broadheads.  Nothing kills a hunt like running low on either one of these.

antelope, hunting, montana, wild, bear archery, sitka, yeti coolers, empire

16.  Practice shooting from a blind and chair before hunting your blind.  You don’t shoot the same as you do from your feet and having confidence to make any seated shot will help you convert your opportunities into notched tags and meat in the freezer.

17.  Set your blind in a spot where the prevailing wind is in your favor and where you will get a good broadside shot.  Good blind placement is key.

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18.  Take lots of reading materials to your blind and having multiple games on your phone makes the time pass easier.

19.  Don’t overlook the use of a decoy.  Early in the season a well placed decoy can draw in a buck from a long ways away.  It’s best to get as close as you can and then put up your decoy in a spot where you can get a shot if the buck heads your way.  Use the terrain to your advantage and try to get them to take a pre-defined path to the decoy that presents you with a good shot from some type of cover.

20.  Being able to discern land ownership is very helpful.  Hunting GPS Maps makes a great line of products that make this very easy, and I actually shot my buck on land that I was able to access using their Montana chip.

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21.  Have fun.  This is key to any hunt.

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Hopefully one of the above will help you in your next hunt.  If you have any advice you’d like to add please leave a comment below and we hope your next hunt is a success!

-Zack

This past December we got the chance to collaborate with an amazing Bozeman based company, Seacat Creative.  Seacat Creative owner, Mark Seacat, asked Zack and myself to put together a Sitka film from the footage he shot on Carmen Island with the Foss family.  Mark captured some decent footage.  We had 5 days to put the film together.  Right away we had our hands full organizing foreign footage.  This was our first time piecing together a film with video that we had not shot first hand.

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Adam Foss and Steven Drake would be helping the process by helping create storyboards and recording voiceover.  Adam Foss and Mark Seacat had a first person account of the whole desert sheep hunt, so their input was critical in the creation of Band of 3.  The next week we spent most of our days working til 2am.

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Zack busted out the main sequence, while I worked on audio, motion graphics, and titles for the film.  The long nights were aided with  numerous Salmon Fly Honey Rye beers and the Adam Foss favorite,  a large batch of dark and stormy cocktails.

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Finally after a grueling week, we were in the final stages of post production.  The final cut turned into a film that intertwines hunting and conservation into one inspirational piece. Most people don’t know that we were the editors behind this piece.  Below is Band of 3.

 

-Travis

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.

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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.

Travis had moved away to check a small clearing to the left, Zack was stationed on a small rock and I had started making my way back to the packs. All of a sudden I looked up to see Travis frantically pointing up the hill, Zack had spotted a bear above us and motioned for me to get ready for a shot. Anthony VonRuden, Montana Wild, Mystery Ranch, Vortex, Long Range Shooting, Snowy Mountain Rifle Company, Idaho Hunting, Montana Wild I made a solid rest out of the packs as Zack got the camera ready. I steadied my breathing and Travis called out the yardage, 405 yards. I turned the dial on the Vortex to 2.75 MOA and settled the crosshairs. The bear turned broadside and I squeezed off the shot. It was a solid hit but the big boar turned and ran uphill, he slowed to a walk and I sent another round his way. I missed him just high but it didn’t matter the bear tipped over and rolled to a stop twenty yards down the hill. My emotions overtook me and I had to take a minute to gather myself. I told the guys that this was my most meaningful trophy to date. Bear Hunting, Sitka, Montana Wild, Vortex, Idaho Bears, Idaho Bear Hunting Our work was not finished, we snapped some photos and started taking care of the old boar. We made it back to camp at around two in the morning. After a few hours of sleep we broke down camp and loaded our mystery ranch packs to brim. It was still another 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. I know that I will not soon forget the adventure that we shared and look forward to many more challenges to come! Lone Wolf Knives, Bear Hunting, Punching Tags, Bear Hunting

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

Words by Anthony VonRuden

Last light was fading as I left our viewpoint and made my way over to the heavy pack that I had become all too familiar with over the course of this six day hunt.  Another day had passed and we still were in search of another black bear.  Our Idaho backcountry hunt had us located twelve miles back in a basin full of thick brush, broken up by small grassy meadows and a half dozen creeks. This hunt was very special to me because I had roots in the region, my dad was a logger back in the 80’s and worked in the very same area that we would be hunting.  Zack and Travis Boughton, the co-founders of Montana-Wild, were alongside on the hunt.  Travis would be hunting with myself and Zack was manning the camera during our week long adventure.  These two spend as much time in the woods as anyone I know and with the combined expertise of the three of us the expectations were running high.  We all had a role to play on this trip and I was in charge of research and logistics.  We all wanted to do something that would test our limits both physically and mentally and our destination would do exactly that.  After countless hours scouting Google Earth, checking outfitter websites, and talking to fellow hunters, I had scouted a basin that looked like a black bear haven, the only catch was that it was over 8 miles from the trailhead.  We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but the reward if we pulled it off would be more than worth the effort.

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After a five hour drive from Missoula we finally were close to the trailhead and ready to hit the trail.  As we drove along the river upstream we actually spotted a bear from the road.  Unfortunately he was inaccessible and we just watched him feed for a while before continuing on our way as planned.  We rolled into the trailhead and began making final adjustments to our packs before leaving the truck for seven days.  After a short time we we’re ready.  Our packs were far from light as they were loaded down multiple cameras and lenses on top of our basic gear such as tents, food, and other backcountry necessities.  We weighed the packs prior to leaving the house and the lightest pack weighted in at 60.4 pounds.  Not exactly lightweight.

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We made good time and were soon eight miles back and at the base of the hill that we would have to ascend to reach our campsite. The brush was unbelievably thick and far from what we had expected after looking at Google Earth.  It was nasty and steep and home to a few moose looking to evade the local wolves.  The 1600′ of vertical climb took us two hours of solid climbing to complete.  The hike made us all want to quit but we pushed through and finally emerged on the top to a wonderful view and a chance to finally rest.

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Once at camp we were treated to a king’s view of the basin and it quickly became evident that we would see plenty of bears throughout the trip.  We threw up camp and hurried over to a rock outcropping that would give us a commanding view of the drainage.  After five minutes of glassing we had turned up four bears out feeding.  Light was fading as we all exchanged high fives.  We began to strategize a game plan for the following day as we cooked up our meals in the soft light of an awesome Idaho sunset.

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The glow of the morning light was just becoming visible as we crawled out of our sleeping bags and began gathering our gear for the mornings hunt.  The plan was to work our way down the ridge that would take us to the head of the basin and into some clearings that looked promising the night before.  The brush was over our heads and the going was tough, but it seemed that every time we broke out into a clearing we would glass a bear feeding miles away on the other side of the drainage.  We just had to get closer to some open areas and hope we could locate a bear in a stalkable location.

Idaho, Hunting, Wilderness

Seeing those bears gave us the motivation to keep pushing forward until midday when we finally reached our destination and set up to glass.  Almost instantly Zack spotted a beautiful cinnamon bear about 800 yards below us.  Zack and Travis were gathering themselves for a stalk when I saw a little cub zip out of the brush to its mother’s side.  We just sighed and went back to glassing, hoping to turn up another bruin.  Hours passed and nothing showed itself, so we moved locations to get a better view of the area.  As we did, a spring storm blew in forcing us to take shelter under an old pine tree and wait for a break in the weather.

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After the storm had passed we pulled out the binos and Travis spotted a monster bear.  The large boar was on the move and never even slowed down to feed, finally making his way into the dark timber.  We were pretty dejected and decided to start working our way back towards camp.  We stopped at a small creek to fill our water bladders for the night.  As Travis was pumping water I looked up and something caught my eye.  The binos confirmed my suspicions and I excitedly whispered to Travis to get ready for a shot.  A beautiful blonde bear was feeding through a series of small clearings above us.  After a few tense minutes of scrambling to get Travis set up, fire up the cameras, and relocate the feeding bear, we we’re ready for the shot.  As the bear fed into a good clearing Travis settled the crosshairs and made a perfect heart shot at 388 yards.  A short blood trail led us to Travis’ first Idaho bear.  We all exchanged high fives, snapped a few photos before breaking the bear down for the pack back to camp.

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By the time we got the bear in the pack and started working back to camp it was pitch black and pouring rain.  We slowly followed a grown in horse trail back down the basin.  Our camp was located only a mile away, but with a 1200′ ascent in the wet jungle we decided that our best option would be to spend the night under a tree.  When your that far back safety takes a high priority and it was decided that we would find the best shelter available and tough it out.  After finding a group of large, old pines, we quickly scraped together a small area where we could all sleep around the fire.  We got a fire started and roasted some bear backstraps as we dried out our wet gear.

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I can honestly say that if we hadn’t invested in the the best gear available we could have been in serious trouble.  Fortunately we all had quality gear that mainly kept us dry and happy despite the poor conditions.  After fully drying out and filling our bellies, we began a long night huddled around the campfire.  Constant attention was required to keep the fire going through the night.

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The next morning it was decided that we would forgo returning to camp and instead try to get on another bear.  It was a smarter decision to hunt during the day rather then waste our energy just to bust back to camp.  We hunted new country all day in an attempt to double up but were unable to turn up any bears.  As the sun sank lower in the west it was decided that Travis would pack his bear back to the trailhead and sleep in the truck.  Zack and I would make our way up the mountain to our camp and in the morning we would pack up camp and relocate to the opposite side of the drainage where the majority of bear sightings had occurred.  Travis would meet up with us at the new camp after his twenty four mile mountain marathon.

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Tuesday and Wednesday passed slowly as we were forced to change tactics.  A lack of any good vantage points forced us to hunker down and wait out promising areas hoping that a bear would show up.  It was slow hunting but it was going to give us our best chance at a bear.

Anthony VonRuden, Black Bear Hunting, Idaho, Wilderness Hunting, Sitka, Mystery Ranch Packs, Vortex Optics, Hunting, Bear Hunting

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Wednesday afternoon I spotted a bear across the drainage feeding in the highest clearing.  It was a large chocolate black bear and I was eager to burn some rubber off my boots.  To much sitting around will make you itch to climb a mountain.  Zack and I quickly assembled our gear and began the trek.  We hoped the bear would feed while we crossed the basin.  As we crossed the creek and began to climb we soon realized the apparent stupidity of the idea.  What had seemed simple enough turned into a grueling two hour journey.  As we neared the top we elected to circle around the ridge and glass a few adjacent meadows.  The country was beautiful but all we turned up were two large elk in velvet.  As we made our way back down the avalanche shoot I spotted a large black bear across the drainage.  We quickly hustled to close the distance.  Five minutes later we were five hundred yards away but the bear was no where to be seen.  We had missed him by a matter of minutes.  A long nasty hike took us back across the creek and back to our camp.

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Day 5  was much of the same.  Our morning turned up zero bears and the temperatures were reaching the high 70s.  We spent the day napping amongst the aspens and waiting for the high sun to fade to the west.

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The golden time had finally arrived and we were set up over a wide high alpine hillside.  Time passed and we continued to patiently wait.  All of a sudden the silence was broken as Travis exclaimed “Bear, bear, up on the far hillside.”  A large chocolate bear had worked out into a clearing on the far side of the basin.  It was too far of a shot where we were at and we quickly scrambled to close the distance.  Five minutes later and the .300 was resting over my pack and a bear was in my sights.  The shot was 602 yards and the bear was feeding on fresh green grass.  His head was down and facing directly towards us.  As I settled the crosshairs on him I felt that instinctual moment when you know your ready to pull the trigger.  The shot rang out and the bear ran off to the left.  The guys were yelling saying I missed him.  A disappointing few minutes ensued as we all sat in disbelief.  I had taken a shot that felt right but wasn’t.  I got lectured on taking a broadside shot at that distance and we quietly retreated down the mountain for the night.  With only two days left to hunt it was coming down to crunch time.  Food was running low and our bear sightings were slowly declining in number.  It was now or never to redeem myself and make the trip a success.

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Crunch time was upon us.  The vibes were refreshed that night in camp and we hoped that the following day would allow me an opportunity to redeem myself.

Read Part 2 here > Part 2.

It was sometime in February after a day of fishing when Zack, Travis, Anthony and I huddled around a computer reviewing pictures and reminiscing the past hunting season.  As always the conversation turned to the coming hunting season and plans began to materialize.  We decided that Travis and I would start hunting the last weekend in April.  Zack and Travis had hunts planned for the first two weeks of May when the hunting would be ideal for spot and stalk hunting with a bow.  The goal was to try to get me my first bear with a rifle to start the season off with a bang.  After juggling school and work we finally made time to get out to the range and get the rifle dialed and ready to go.

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We made quick work on the range as we sighted in and then took a few shots over on the 600 yard range.  It was go time, now we just had to wait a few weeks until our schedules meshed and we could get up in the mountains.  After two long months of waiting the call finally came.  Zack and Travis would have a few days to get out after a win at the Simm’s Shoot Out competition.  They were on the road back to Missoula and it was time to load up the pack.  On Friday afternoon I met up with Zack, Travis, and Brandon to get ready for our hunt.  Before long, the bikes were loaded into the back of the truck and we were off to the trailhead.  After an uphill ride we reached the base of a steep ridge where we stowed the bikes and took off on foot.  The hike was steep but it felt good to be back in the mountains.

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After a couple of miles we rounded a corner and entered what looked like bear heaven, there were clear cuts separated by dark timber and a creek running through the middle of it all.  We soon spotted fresh bear sign and our excitement levels rose.  It was still pretty brown and seeing some sign definitely took a little bit of the edge off us all.  We continued hiking and stopped to glass every time the trees opened up enough for us to get a clear view of the opposing ridge and basin.   As we hiked single file along the ridge I heard the unmistakable voice of Travis saying “Bear!!…………I gotta bear!”  I turned to see Travis looking up the drainage through his Vortex binos.  Zack quickly set up the camera and got some footage as we discussed the game plan.  Everyone agreed that the bear was big and worth a stalk, but he was over a mile away and there was only about an hour and a half of daylight left.  The race was on and we busted ass up the ridge.  Once we reached where we had planned to camp we dropped our packs and continued towards the spot we last saw the bear.  Forty-five minutes after Travis spotted the bear we came to the corner where we had last seen him.  Zack and Travis turned the cameras on, I checked the wind and it was go time.  We crept around the corner as slowly and quietly as possible while keeping our eyes peeled for the bear.  We rounded the corner and the bear was no place to be seen; we decided to keep moving.  We didn’t go another 10 yards and I spotted the bear in a dip below us not 80 yards away.  I quickly dropped to the ground and everyone else followed suit.  We sat there and discussed the next move.  From where we were located I didn’t have a clear shot at the bear and we weren’t sure if the bear was heading towards us or away.  We decided that we needed to get to a high spot 15 yards in front of us if we were going to get the shot on film.  Travis and Brandon stayed back and filmed from their location as Zack followed me forward.   At that instance I felt what every hunter dreads……..the wind at the back of my neck.  I thought for sure the stalk was blown and the bear would be gone.  As we continued forward the wind switched back and was once again blowing in our face, but the bear was nowhere to be seen.  Still we crept forward until we could see the entire dip that the bear was in….still no bear.   My heart sank as I looked around.  At that point I was sure he had winded us and took off.  I turned and shrugged my shoulders to Travis and Brandon and figured the hunt was over for the evening.  When I looked back over my shoulder there he was, standing 90 away with his head down feeding.  I swung my pack off and sat down; quickly I rested the rifle on the pack and waited for him to come up on the road.  Adrenaline was now strongly surging through my veins and moments later he appeared back on the side of the logging road.  I turned to Zack and he gave me the green light.  I settled the cross hairs and squeezed the trigger.  A few seconds later and my first bear was dead not 50 yards from where I shot him.

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Congratulations and high fives were shared between us all as we headed downhill to the bear.  As I approached him I saw his gray face, split ears and large paws; the sure sign of an old bear.

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I was overcome with excitement to have killed such a big mature boar as my first bear and it was a surreal moment kneeling beside an old warrior of a bear who had seen many hunters in his time.

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I punched my tag and we raced to get as many pictures as we could before dark.  Soon we were all working away to get the bear skinned and quartered.

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Before we knew it the Mystery Ranch was loaded down with meat and hide and we were headed to camp.  The 3/4 of a mile back uphill to camp was grueling.  It’s a lot of work in the backcountry and the four of us all teamed up to pump enough water for 4 meals and gather wood for a fire.  The moon was out and it was all laughs around the campfire.

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Needless to say a warm fire and some freeze dried food put us to bed quickly.  The next morning we were up and heading down the hill with our packs heavier than the trip up.  Though the weight of the bear was a burden on my shoulders I couldn’t help but smile knowing I had killed my first bear with good friends in the backcountry.

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Finally we rolled around the last Forest Service gate and quickly dumped our packs and took a well deserved rest.  We unloaded the meat and threw it in the YETI.  The end of an amazing hunt was here and it had only been one day!

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I can’t thank Zack, Travis and Brandon enough! I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.  The next week will be spent finishing school and then we will be back in the mountains searching for a bear in hopes of sneaking close enough to let an arrow loose.

-Stan Spoharski