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black bear, hunting, spring, montana, wild

Today is the release of ALL NATURAL. The film is completely all natural audio. No music, no sound fx, just a day following Zack on a successful spring black bear hunt.

Want to find more info on the rifle used? Go here: http://www.snowymountainrifles.com

 

 

-Travis

12:23AM – The glow of my computer screen reveals a map littered with steep faces, jagged peaks, avalanche chutes, and small alpine lakes.  Since this time last year I’d been waiting to return these mountains.  As we bounced up the rocky back road the anticipation built as steep faces grew from the thick creek bottom.  For the past two years I’d wanted to wrap my deer tag around the thick antlers of a mature mule deer.

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Early last October I began to search the mountainous country of Western Montana with that purpose in mind.  Many days were spent without ever laying eyes on a big deer.  The only glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel was a day in late November when we arrived at a new trailhead only to see a bruiser of a buck down just above us on the mountainside.  A couple of hunters vibrantly glowed off the snow covered hillside.  I knew we were getting closer, but I would have to wait till 2013 to continue searching.

My 2013 deer season began on October 12th.  My Metcalf was full of backcountry gear and food and we headed off up the mountain.  The goal was simply to become more familiar with the area.  Our first day started with a moose sighting.  This bull stood patiently observing the area and quickly had me dreaming about one day having a moose tag in my hand.

moose, bull, fall, montana

We set up camp that night and laid eyes on a few deer through the spotter.  Day 2 was spent looping high onto a rocky ridge and inspecting an adjacent basin.  No deer were spotted, but we gained valuable knowledge of the area.  As we descended back to the truck we spotted 2 bears feeding on berries in the thick brush on the adjacent hillside.  The brush was far to thick for a bow stalk and we simply watched them disappear into the tall bushes.  No bucks had been spotted but we felt confident that we could change that when we came back with a rifle in hand.

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Montana’s general season found us back at the same trailhead with packs loaded down for 7 days.  We slowly worked our way up the uneven trail keeping our eyes peeled for the tan hide of a mountain buck.  That morning the spotter revealed two bucks nosing does high on the mountain.  Neither buck was the “one” and we pushed onward up the mountain.

Day 2 broke with a storefront rolling in.  Cold temps and snow were being called for.  We were ready for the nasty weather, but unfortunately I had forgotten to tape the drop chart to the side of my stock and only remembered the data for 0-300 and 600 yards.  To top it off Travis had come down with a head cold.  We decided to back out for a few days and then come back for a fresh start.

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Three days later we were again headed back up the mountain.  Our goal would be to hunt a loop taking us over 3 mountain passes and through some great country to try to find a big buck.  The gameplan was to get camp up to the first pass and spend two days there glassing the adjacent hillsides.  Without knowing where these bucks liked to spend their time meant we would be putting in a full days work behind the glass.  As we settled in for our first night, the sound of snow bouncing off of our tent was something we weren’t sure if we should be happy or mad about.  When our alarms went off the next morning, snow and fog surrounded our camp.  Low visibility, wind, and more snow meant we would be hunkered in the tent for some time, and we intended to wait it out.  To worsen a poor start to our hunt, I’d started the morning with a sore throat.

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The following afternoon the fog lifted just enough for us to sneak out for the last few hours  of daylight.  We slowly worked down and around a ridge working our way through the rocks.  Nothing.  It appeared that the the game would be found high on the exposed, wind blown slopes or far down the drainage below us.  We made it back to camp where a fire was built, and we dried out before taking refuge in the tent once again.

6:20AM  I’ve already been awake for a few hours.  My sore throat has developed into a full head cold.  Being stuck in a tent at over 7000′ with a cold is no fun, but the weather was clear and it was time to move.  We shook our snowy tent off and loaded up our packs once again.  We slowly began breaking trail through a foot of snow as we moved towards our second camp location.

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After two days of living in the tent we were low on water and took a detour down to a lake to pump water before continuing on.  As we did the unmistakable tracks of a buck crossed the trail and went up the hill.

With our water refilled we pushed on with high hopes of getting an opportunity in the next three days.  Just as we reached the flat bench we would be calling home another storm began rolling in.  We quickly got our tent up and immediately got out of the weather to avoid getting wet.  A few hours later the visibility had decreased to about 200′.  The decision was made to still stalk that evening and see if we could cut a track.  With no tracks found we headed back to camp.

As I unzipped the tent the following morning I was very displeased at what lay before me.  Another foot of snow and zero visibility.  Enough was enough and I made the decision that sometimes the mountains win.  This time, just as many times before they won.  We quickly packed up camp once again.  With two feet of snow it now complicated our descent back to the truck.

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The plan had been to traverse some avalanche chutes where the deer liked to live and then work down to the trail and finally make our way to the truck.  With the snow it made the idea of traversing avalanche chutes one that didn’t sit well with me.  I didn’t feel like dying, and we decided to slowly slip and slide our way down through the trees and brush.  Multiple small cliffs had to be navigated around and three hours later we finally set foot back on the trail.  Five days essentially wasted in a tent and hiking through snow.  Again I had failed to even lay eyes on a big mountain mule deer.  No one said it would be easy and when you must teach yourself everything and find your own locations to hunt it makes it even more difficult.  With no time this summer to scout I decided that our annual trip east must once again be done.  This time we’d be exploring on our own in hopes we could fill not one but two deer tags.

Read Part 2 HERE.

-Zack

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.

camping, idaho, wilderness, backcountry, msr, tents

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!

Yeti, coolers, bear, hunting, idaho, montana wild, travis boughton

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.

idaho, bear hunting, yeti coolers, mystery ranch, backpacks, coolers, ford, f-150

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.

Bear, Hunting, Idaho, Sitka, Mystery Ranch, Vortex, Snowy Mountain Rifle, Backcountry Hunting

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.

Sitka, Vortex, Hunting, Fire, Montna Wild

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.

300 WSM, Shooter Glove, Sitka, Snowy Mountain Rile, Montana Wild

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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.

Night Photography, Anthony VonRuden, MSR, Night Photos, Montana Wild, Idaho WIlderness, Star Photography, Camping in the Dark

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.