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FISH REEL 2017 – Fishing Cinema Reel

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It has been a few years since our last FISH REEL. We originally started the “Fish Reel” back in 2011 to showcase some of our favorite shots in one short video. Well we’re back and so are the Fish Reels! These were some of our favorite shots from the past couple years.

Leave us a comment, let us know what you think and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE to our YouTube channel for our most recent uploads.

 

Travis

Ladies Bison Trucker – NOW AVAILABLE

ladies, bison, trucker, buffalo, fishing, hunting, archery

It has been a new goal here at Montana Wild to put out more female media content and apparel. This will hopefully be a start to offering more ladies products and showcasing more photo/video content with badass chicks in front of the lens. We are stoked on how the Ladies Bison Truckers turned out. Maddie got the chance to test the hat on a recent fishing trip. The hat proved fishy.

ladies, who, fish, women, buffalo, bison, hat, trucker, montana, wild, bozeman, fly fishing

Dropping off the drift boat.

ladies, who, fish, women, buffalo, bison, hat, trucker, montana, wild, bozeman, fly fishing

One of many trout Maddie fooled.

The Ladies Bison Trucker comes in four colorways.

ladies, who, fish, women, buffalo, bison, hat, trucker, montana, wild, bozeman, fly fishing

Mango Colorway

army, ladies, buffalo, trucker, buff, arrows, womens, montana, wild, hunting, fishing

Teal Colorway

 

army, ladies, buffalo, trucker, buff, arrows, womens, montana, wild, hunting, fishing

Army Colorway

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Stealth Colorway

Purchase the hat here: https://montana-wild.com/shop-montana-wild/

Please leave us a comment below to let us know what you think about the new hat or what you would like to see in future products.

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TOOTH & FANG – Discount Week

tooth, fang, coyote, hunt, hunting, montana, wild

If you haven’t seen the teaser for our 3-year coyote film project, watch below.

For this week only (1/15 – 1/22) you can rent the film for $1.99 or purchase for $7.99. That is almost 50% off the normal cost. Tooth & Fang is a 46minute film that takes a closer look at why the management of coyotes is necessary across the West. Filmed over the course of three years this film showcases some perspective as to why we hunt coyotes and why achieving a balance is important on so many levels. Purchase or rent the film HERE.

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10 Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts

Instagram is hands down our favorite social media platform.  We love photos so we inherently are drawn to it and it cuts out most of the worthless garbage you get on other platforms like Facebook.  Get on, scroll through some photos and your done, day not wasted.  With that said there are some individuals that crush it on Instagram and we thought we’d share a list of 10 Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts.  Take a look and enjoy!

#1 – Steven Drake (@stevendrakephoto)

Drake is one of the best photogs in the outdoor industry and can hang in the most remote and brutal conditions all while snapping epic photos.  He’s a force to be reckoned with and we’re stoked to see images from his next adventure.

steven drake, photo, photographer, moose, hunting, canada

#2 – Brad Christian (@bradschristian)

Brad helped lead the charge while at Mathews by utilitzing captivating, unique and beautiful images of the hunt to help shape the industry for the better.  He’s also one talented dude behind the camera himself and he now works with the fine folks at Sitka meaning you’ll be seeing more awesome work from him in the future.

brad christian, photo, photographer, mathews, sitka, bozeman, elk

#3 – Sam Averett (@samaverett)

Sam was one of our very first interns and he quickly became one of the dudes.  His solid skills with the camera have since then progressed quickly and now he’s one of our favorite guys to keep up to speed with.  He’s hard to pin down but we hope this won’t be the last time he will be showing up on our page.

sam averett, photo, photographer, elk, sheds, washington, badass

#4 – Nick Kelley (@ngkelley)

Nick works at Outside Magazine and lives up to the level of skill one would expect from an employee at such an inspiring brand.  He’s an exceptional photographer and his work takes him across the globe shooting and documenting the outdoor lifestyle.

nick kelley, outside, magazine, photographer, flyfishing, brown trout, underwater

#5 – Jordan Gill (@jordangillphotography)

Jordan is another young gun with a mean eye for sick photos.  His work has been utilized by powerhouses YETI, Sitka and Mathews to name a few.  He has a strong beard game, need we say more?

jordan gill, photo, photographer, montana, hunting, sitka

#6 – Puffin (@swishersweetswag)

Mixing it up here at #6.  We’re not even sure what this guys real name is but he’s darn fishy and doesn’t adhere to any standard fly fishing trends in the appearance department.  He’s a fresh look at fly fishing in an industry filled with old guys who think they know it all.  If you like looking at dandy fish, there is no shortage.

swishersweetswag, puffin, fly, fishing, trout, canada

#7 – Jerrin Uecker (@jerrin_uecker)

Another young guy making a name for himself is Jerrin.  His skill with the camera is beyond his years and his work is typified by great use of natural light and color.

Jerrin uecker, photo, photographer, montana, antelope, Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts

#8 – Sean Kerrick Sullivan (@sully_land)

Sean crafted a spot in the snowboard community as a talented photographer and still shoots some of the best snowboard images year in and year out.  He also has a nack at taking great fishing images and is one that will keep you on your toes as to what his next post might be.

sean kerrick sullivan, photo, photographer, snowboarding, snowmobiles, backcountry, Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts

#9 – Derek Olthuis (@derekolthuis)

Derek is one of the fishiest dudes we know, possibly only surpassed by his good friends.  Whether it’s brown trout, bull trout, brookies or any other trout species chances are he’s caught one bigger than you and had a heck of a time doing it.  He keeps things fun and isn’t afraid to share some knowledge to make your next trip on the water more enjoyable.

brown trout, derek olthuis, fishing, Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts

#10 – Chris Hood (@chrisjhood)

Last but not least is Chris Hood.  He’s just wrapping up a long, long trip around the country in his van and the images are breathtaking.  Whether it’s hunting, fishing, landscape, portrait he can crush it on all fronts.

chris hood, glacier, park, photo, photographer, montana, nps, Great Outdoor Instagram Accounts

 

Written by Zack Boughton (@zackboughton)

 

 

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Goat Country – The Epilogue

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild

It’s now been over a month since I embarked on my first ever mountain goat hunt.  Since then I’ve spent a good amount of time elk hunting and every time there is high, rocky country my eye wanders looking for those white specs.  I’ve actually spotted about a dozen goats now in areas I’d never think of looking if it hadn’t have been for this goat hunt.  Each time I watch them I’m reminded of their sheer agility and willingness to live in some truly wild places.  Back to my hunt though.  The plan was to get on the mountain a few days before season, locate a billy I’d seen during scouting and fill my tag quickly.  The plan sounded good enough.

mountain, hunting, goats, montana, wild, backpack, kifaru, bear archery

Kifaru Markhor loaded for 5 days.

With a heavy pack and fresh legs we started up the trail.  The weather was clear and warm and we made quick time en route to our first glassing location.  Cresting the ridge two hours later and glassing down into the first basin revealed a billy working across the top of some large cliffs.  So far so good.

mountain goat, montana, hunting, mountain goat hunting

A younger billy showing off in a maze of cliffs.

The next two days would be spent glassing from a large ridgeline, affording us a view into 4 different basins.  The closest basin was where I thought our target goat was living and sure enough on the first day we located him bedded under a rock edge.  Despite their white color the mountain goats were proving to be difficult to spot at times.

mountain goat, montana, hunting

Our target billy taking advantage of the topography. Well hid and shaded.

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The daily jaunt up and down the ridge to glass and then glass some more.

That night we watched him peel around the edge of the basin headed towards the easiest trail to access and hike in the unit.  With a day till season he’d surely not make such a silly decision right?

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild

The last sight of this billy. Around the bend into a bad zone for him.

The following day was one that didn’t build much confidence for the opener.  Our day began and ended the same, posted up along the ridge letting the glass do our walking.  Only a nanny and kid were spotted during the long day.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, sitka gear, vortex optics, mountain goat hunting

Wondering where all the goats are at.

With all the nearby goats pushing further into the unit we hoped overnight we’d have a few work back into the closer basins.  The plan was to wake up first thing and look for our billy, if he didn’t show we’d make a long push along a ridge we believed was safe to travel along, leading us into a remote basin that seemed a sure bet to find a goat.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, camping, backcountry

Camped out with the next days ridgeline looming.

The next morning broke to more beautiful weather.  As soon as we could see we were scouring hillsides looking for white specs.  Thirty minutes revealed nothing and we knew we needed to make our push towards the remote back basin.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, sitka gear, bowhunting, mountain goat hunting

Goat country doesn’t lack in beauty.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, hiking

The route better than anticipated. Still a “no-fall” zone.

The route proved doable and we soon crested over the top.  The basin sprawled out before us.  With game trails worn deep into the ridgeline we figured it would only be a matter of time before spotted a goat.  Unfortunately that afternoon only turned up a small group of sheep.  Disappointing but I guess that’s hunting.  We retraced our steps in time to take a last look for our same billy before we hit the tent for the night.  He was nowhere to be found and we got some needed rest before waking up hoping that the goats would reappear.  The next morning we quickly made it to our glassing point hoping a billy would be back into the nearest basin.  Nothing showed and the surrounding areas were devoid of goats as well.  Our move to test out new country in hopes of catching a billy off guard had proved futile.  We begrudgingly packed camp knowing today would be a long one.  A 1500′ drop would get us back to the trail and back up the mountain we’d go in the opposite direction.  As we crest the pass I got cell service and a text message told of a billy shot right off the trail where we now stood.  Apparently mountain goats can make easy and fatal mistakes.  With other camps on the pass we figured we’d drop elevation again to push deeper into the unit.  It wasn’t ideal but it would put us into some remote mountain goat country.  Three hours later we’d dropped to the bottom and climbed up to our next camp.  We were physically drained and took an hour to eat and take a short rest.  With rain in the forecast we knew we needed to push on and try to find a billy.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, vortex optics, kifaru, mountain goat hunting

More wild and vast country.

A look into a vast chuck of country only revealed one goat, two miles across the basin.  He’d be safe for now.  We quickly sidehilled across the ridge to the next saddle.  Only a few seconds into glassing a goat was spotted bedded under a rim of cliffs.  The spotter revealed he was a billy and we knew a move had to be made quickly.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild

Bedded for optimal visibility. Typical goat move.

With adrenaline fueling our legs we sidehilled hoping our remote movements wouldn’t be observed by our target.  His bed afforded a perfect view of all below him and a careful stalk would be necessary to get close.  A mile out we had to begin utilizing the small amount of cover we had.  Staying behind trees and small boulders got us to 1000 yards.  He was now up and feeding.  100-200 yard openings would need to be covered as he fed up the hill and not looking in our direction.  Some patience was necessary but eventually we got to 300 yards.  He was still unaware of our presence but with a rifle built for it’s light weight and ruggedness and not it’s accuracy I knew getting closer would make this stalk into a guaranteed kill.  Another sprint in the open with the billy feeding away put us underneath him and to our last zone of cover.  As I peeked up over the boulders my rangefinder told me he was 190 yards away.  With a good rest this would be a sure shot.  I eased onto my pack and chambered a round.  The view through the riflescope was utterly clear and somewhat unreal.  The moment had come, I looked at his horns and although I knew bigger existed on the mountain this day had been an experience that embodied what I wanted the hunt to be.  It felt right and I confirmed Travis had him in the spotter.  As he stood slightly quartering away I eased into the trigger until it broke and the last thing I saw was the goat flip over and begin a short tumble down the mountain.  The next few moments were spent riding out the adrenaline high and realizing that we now were deep in the mountains with lots of work to be done and darkness quickly approaching.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, wildflowers, mountain goat hunting

Life and death. A solemn and sobering moment.

mountain goat, hunting, montana, wild, mountain goat hunting

A beautiful location to end the journey.

A mountain goat tag is a very special thing to have.  That said mountain goat hunting doesn’t entitle you to a trophy or a goat, it only means you get to have an experience unlike any other and one you surely won’t forget.

Zack Boughton

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Grabbing Opportunity

black, bear, story, archery, bowhunting, bowhunt, montana, wild

Its not very often that my black bear tag makes it past the spring season. This year was different. I had limited days to spring bear hunt with my bow after preparing to move to Bozeman and had failed to get any decent opportunities to arrow a bruin. It was somewhat exciting to have a black bear tag for the fall season, and considering the locations I would be hunting elk and deer, the likelihood of seeing black bears was high. I was excited to see what opportunities would present themselves.

montana, wild, black, bear, hunt, brown, archery, sitka, gear

Chasing elk through prime bear country.

Fast forward to September. I had just finished a grueling 9 day out of state hunt. I failed to fill my tag and was now back in Montana to hopefully help call an elk in for Zack. After grinding through a couple days of work, we had just enough time to pack up the truck and head out for a 2.5 day backpack elk hunt. I must say it is nice feeling being able to enter the elk woods with a bear, wolf, and elk tag in your pocket.

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The hunt started with Zack taking the lead as we crossed creeks and finally entered a timbered stretch littered with elk sign. Zack ripped a few bugles along the way, hoping to locate a bull. With no responses, we slowly followed a game trail, still stalking the timber hoping to catch a glimpse of a bull. Magpies rang out their typical cry and Zack crept slowly in their direction. Suddenly Zack froze and waved me to creep up to his position. 130yds away was a stout black bear ripping at some sort of animal carcass.

elk, carcass, predator

Just what a bear is looking for to fatten up.

With no bear tag left for Zack I was the only option for a stalk. I picked my stalk line, made sure the wind was good and proceeded to ninja to 43yards. I got ready for a shot and waited for the black bear to turn broadside. The bear was moving around the carcass eating on various pieces and occasionally moving away and then wandering back. Finally he remained in a single position on the carcass. I drew, settled and released. The bear ran 15 yards, looked around and then proceeded to come back and feed. I must have misjudged my yardage or my broadhead dove as I missed low. I crept up to 37yards from the unaware bear. I drew, really took my time to pick a small spot and released. This time I saw my arrow hit its mark as the bear whirled and took off on a death march down the mountain and out of sight.

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Good blood on an intact arrow.

Zack and I looked for my arrow and found it completely intact and covered in blood. I felt good about the shot and with light fading fast I followed the direction the bear had sprinted. The blood trail was minimal, so I made the decision to just go look for the bear. Zack and I spread out and started searching. After about two hundred yards later I heard Zack holler.

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Cautiously approaching.

I crept his way arrow nocked, only to see the motionless mound of fur that lay ahead. He was done, a quick clean kill. The beautiful dark brown boar was a sight to behold as he lay in a patch of timber littered with elk rubs. The trees in the area were perfectly displaced and made for some unique photos.

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Good sized paws, but extremely stinky from the elk carcass.

This was my first time having a fall black bear tag and also my first bear with a bow. A memory that will live with me forever and an adrenaline filled stalk that I won’t soon forget.

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bloody, arrow, quartering, black, bear, brown, easton, fmj

-Travis

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Goat Country – The Beginning

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I guess I just figured I’d never get lucky drawing a Big 3 tag without a lifetime of points.  When I logged into MyFWP to check my status I stared blankly at the screen seeing a 2016 Goat License under the Successful category.  Travis was home and I quickly told him that I drew a goat tag.  He didn’t believe me, but one quick look at my computer brought him to life.  It didn’t seem real and for the next few days it still hadn’t set home that I’d be chasing mountain goats in some of the most rugged country around.  This year I would be able to say I was going mountain goat hunting!

mountain goat, montana, high country, goats, limited draw, tag, hunting

Montana’s high country. Beautiful yet rugged!

Once I started looking over Google Earth and planning my first scouting trip it started to set in.  I quickly realized I needed to get in better shape, learn more about mountain goats, and start making some phone calls.  Over the next few weeks I spent many hours dissecting my unit online and with maps.  A trip to the Forest Service office gave me the right maps that outlined open roads in the area and before I knew it I was packed up and headed for the mountains.

mountain goat, montana, high country, rough road, backcountry, 4x4, offroad

Rocking and rolling our way up to the trailhead.

As soon as we climbed up out of the valley I realized this would be an epic hunt.  Huge basins, rocky ridges, huge cliffs and wild, vast country spread all around.  My legs burned as we climbed to 10,000′ crossing over our first big pass.  It was setting in and soon we had located the first group of goats.  A set of nannies with kids and one billy scrambled through a steep face with huge boulders and loose rock and dirt.  I was quickly reminded they feel at home in some of the gnarliest country around.

mountain goat, montana, high country, wild, scouting

Climb, climb and then climb some more.

At this point I’ve spent four days scouting my unit.  Not a lot by any means but enough to start learning the lay of the country and how to navigate to each zone that holds goats.  With only a handful of days in this unit I’ve definitely learned a few things.

Google Earth Is A Liar!

I knew this but always seem to forget this when I go somewhere new.  That ridgeline you though you could hike across, Nope!  That little knob will be a ten minute hike, try 45 minutes.  If you’ve used Google Earth you know the drill.  Everything looks smaller and easier than it actually is.

mountain goat, montana, high country, scouting, hunting, wild, hiking

Frosted scree makes for an interesting morning hike to the glassing knob.

Grizzlies Abound

Only a few hours into our first day on the mountain and we turned up six grizzlies in the same basin.  A sow and three cubs roamed the head end of a grassy meadow and about a 1000 yards away two juvenile bears fed on grass and wild flowers on a long, flat bench.  Living in Missoula the last 6-7 years meant we only really dealt with black bears.  Grizzlies are on a different level and made things interesting when we decided where to camp just across the ridge.  It’s time we de-list these bears and start managing them like we should be.

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Juvenile grizzly bears roaming the vast backcountry.

Glassing Is King

Again we know this but up here it’s very, very apparent.  Perched in the right spot in the country affords you the opportunity to glass a MASSIVE amount of country.  A good pair of binoculars, a spotting scope and a good tripod are must haves.  Finding a spot with little or no wind is key and being able to mount your binos to your tripod makes picking up small details and movements much easier.

mountain goat, montana, high country, scouting, glassing, hunting

Searching and more searching on a brisk July morning.

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A few miles out a goat appears between passing clouds.

Mtn. Goat Scouting Isn’t Easy

When I first drew the tag I figured it would be real easy to locate most of the goats in my unit.  Get up high and glass the rocky open country and look for white.  We’ll it turns out they are elusive animals most of the time.  Sure sometimes they stick out like a sore thumb but during the summer when it’s hot they often bed in some shaded nook and finding them can be impossible.  They like to dip in and out of timber and if you’re not vigilant on the glass you might miss them when they hit the open areas.  I also found that they seem to move a lot.  Multiple groups have moved thousands of yards in a short period of time and a few groups moved to different basins entirely without being bumped.  Put a dirty goat on a hillside of huge tan and grey boulders and they can blend in with the best of them.

mountain goat, montana, high country, cliffs, rocks, mountain goat hunting

This billy was in a low elevation zone I wouldn’t expect to see a goat. Staying alert and having two sets of eyes paid off here.

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Getting some photo & video for later review.

Moving In This Country Takes TIME!

With camp on your back travel is slow but add in big, rocky country and it can take some time to move from area-to-area.  With so much country to glass you often find yourself stopping to take a peak into new folds of the mountain and those first trips are a bit rough after a long offseason.  Back here you can’t travel in a straight line.  Sometimes working into a specific basin means you have to loop around multiple miles just to find a route that isn’t cliffed out.  When you do find a route, the vertical is enough to wear you down quick.  2,500’+ climbs are the norm when switching basins without a ridge connecting them.  As it should be, life just happens slower back here.

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Loaded up and putting the test to a new pack, the Kifaru Markhor. So far so good!

mountain goat, montana, high country, summer, scouting, sitka gear, kifaru

Navigating a no-fall zone. Makes for slow going.

So far I’ve seen about 75% of my unit and found a couple billies that I’d be stoked to put my tag on come September.  Right now the plan is to make one more trip back into my unit and then pack the bow in for the opener.  It’s going to come quick and I can’t wait to be out there with the chance to get close and try to seal the deal!

Zack Boughton

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Stoked On The Smith – VIDEO

smith river, montana, copper mine

smith river, montana, fishing, tintina, copper mine

Stoked On The Smith is now live!!!  This spring we had the opportunity to float the Smith River in Central Montana.  We wanted to see this resource for ourselves and document the trip to help raise awareness about the Smith and the current situation with a copper mine proposed for Sheep Creek, one of it’s main tributaries.  To read about the trip you can start with Part 1 right here > Smith River Trip Part 1

Informative links regarding the Smith River:

www.saveoursmith.com
www.tintinaresources.com
www.smithriverwatch.org
www.backcountryhunters.org/sign_smith_river_petition

-Zack

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Curiosity Killed The Bear

bear hunt, montana, spring

As I approached the start of Montana’s 2016 Spring black bear season I didn’t really know where to start. Growing up in Wisconsin, spot and stalk bear hunting was far from the ordinary. In Wisconsin it’s a waiting game. Ten years of applying for a tag, and you might get lucky. Even then you will have to get even luckier if you plan on killing a bear over five feet. With that being said, your odds of success and a guaranteed tag make Montana a much better option for the aspiring bear hunter. In Montana, Spring bear season runs from April 15th to June 15th (in most units). This gives you two months of time to stop tying flies, forget about your fishing withdrawals, and hit the hills of western Montana in search of a big old black bear.

bear hunting, montana, wild

With short notice, I quickly gathered as much information as I could from reading articles and talking to a few seasoned bear hunters, and prepared to hit the hills come mid April. During opening week of bear season I was fortunate enough to be floating Montana’s famous Smith River. This would not only turn out to be an awesome experience, but it gave me the opportunity to hunt bears on a section of remote National Forest land.

Stars, Bear Hunting, Smith River, River, Hunting

Smith River Stargazing.

After a mild hike from camp to the top of the ridge, we found ourselves in the snow. As we worked our way up the ridge, we cut a set of tracks, and shortly after Sam spotted another bear on the other side of the canyon in some of the gnarliest country imaginable. As we sat and glassed the bear for a few minutes we exchanged a wide range of opinions on the bear’s size and distance. The bear was too far away. We chose not to lob one across the canyon, and returned to camp empty handed, but it was an exciting adventure none the less.

Smith River, Hunting, Bears, Fishing, Bear Hunting

Snow covered cliffs along the Smith River.

As the season continued I went out in search bears in Western Montana. The rugged landscape combined with the green grass made for some of the best scenery my eyes have ever seen, but to my surprise I was having a lot harder of a time finding bears than I thought I would. It quickly became apparent that if I wanted to fill my tag, I was going to have to check out some new country, and gain a lot more elevation than I thought.

Rocks, Hunting, Bears, Montana, Mountains

Chance making his way up a gnarly rockslide.

After crossing two creeks and packing into a gnarly canyon, we quickly bumped a bear off of a dead deer, and shortly after we were surrounded by bear sign. We hunted hard the next couple of days, but to my surprise, I still had yet to have a shot opportunity at a bear.

Deer, Bear, Hunting, Conservation, Mountain

Chance checking out a fresh bear kill.

The following Wednesday I texted Zack asking him what he wanted me to work on that day. He quickly responded with “I want you to work on killing a bear today Calvin.” and so I went. Having already missed the prime hours of the morning, I headed into a spot that I was very familiar with, and that I had seen some bears in the past. After glassing a large clear cut for the better part of the morning, I was left scratching my head wondering “Who would have thought I would have this much trouble finding a bear.” Little did I know, that was all about to change. As the afternoon rolled around, I found myself working a logging road to a point where I knew I would be able to glass an entirely new section for the next couple of hours. After glassing and again coming up with nothing, I decided to work my way up the ridge.

Glassing, Hunting, Bear Hunting, Bears

“Where da bears at?”

After hiking a few hundred yards up the ridge, I found myself surrounded in fresh bear sign. Although the wind was blowing my scent directly uphill, I decided to get settled in a patch of timber, and start calling. Not 30 seconds into my call sequence and I spotted a bear no more than 300 yards away standing on a log looking directly at me. Before I could get my rifle settled for a shot, the bear started running directly towards me as I kept screeching on the call.

Rifle, Gun, Hunting, Bears, Montana

Ready to roll.

With my heart racing, I quickly realized that this bear was going to get a lot closer to me than I had hoped. As the bear got to 50 yards at a dead run, I screeched one last time, stopping the bear. I settled my crosshairs, squeezed the trigger, and just like that I had harvested my first black bear.

Hunting, Brass, Guns, Bears, Montana

Bear, Hunting, Bear Hunting, Mountains, Montana

Bear Down!

A quick phone call later and I had help on the way to get my bear off the mountain in one trip. Gus and Tex quickly made their way up the mountain, and the work began. We made quick work of the bear, quartering out the meat, skinning the hide, and heading back to the truck with full packs.

Bear, Hunting, Meat, Conservation, Montana, Spring

The work begins.

The best kind of text message to send after a day on the mountain.

Hunting, Bears, Stoked, Bear Hunting, Montana, Mountains

 

– Calvin

 

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Bear Camp 16

bear camp, montana, hunting

Bear Camp, a most underrated event.  Montana bear hunting has to be, hands-down, one of the most fun hunts we go on each year.  You get the opportunity to test out new gear and work on fixing parts of your system that failed you the previous year.  You get to hone in your hunting skills and senses after a few long months off.  You get to lace up the boots and start busting you butt back into mountain shape and the things you see rarely disappoint.  The icing on the cake is tagging a bear and helping out the local ungulate population.  This year bear camp was going to be a little different than last year’s inaugural camp.  You can read all about why bear camp is so badass in our post > 10 Reasons Why Spring Bear Hunting Is The Cat’s Ass.  For 2016 we’d be a small trimmed down crew of three hunting in a new, more rugged location.  This year we’d be hunting the mountains and looking for those small pockets of green amidst a sea of dark timber and scree fields.

montana, bear hunting, spring, wild, black

Heading up the first canyon of the trip.

Camp started with a flat tire, rain, snow and general poor conditions.  With only three and a half days penciled in to get it done we knew we’d need to hunt hard and put some miles on the boots.  The first full day was spent driving and hiking into various locations we’d scouted on Google Earth and seeing if they translated in real life.  All the areas we hunted looked like they could hold bears but nothing screamed “hunt here!” The second afternoon was spent glassing green hilsides when the fog and rain allowed.

spring, bear hunting, montana, wild, mountains

A necessary hike up the scree revealed more of the opposite hillside.

With a few hours left we split up into two groups to try to locate a bear.  That evening turned up a sow and two cubs and a few elk and sheep.  With little to go off we trudged our way back to camp and fired up the wood stove to dry out and refuel for the next day.

wood stove, montana, canvas, riley stove, wall, tent, hunting

The wall tent is always welcome when the weather is bad.

Our goal for our last full day was to head up into a long draw I’d spent some time looking at back home on the computer.  It appeared about 3 miles up the canyon a few large avalanche shoots opened up and would be a nice, secluded spot to find a mature bear.  5:30 A.M. came quick and a look outside the tent showed us that the visibility had dropped overnight.  With our prospects of glassing looking dismal, we decided to sleep in till 8 and then see if the forecasted sun would start to burn off some fog.  By 9 we were in the truck headed off to find our trail winding up a thick canyon.  As we pulled off the main dirt road we found our access road covered in trees.  I mumbled a few comments that I’ll keep to myself and fired up the chainsaw.  Two trees out and we hopped back in to head up the road.  Around the next bend lay a group of about 10 more trees draped over the road.  As I was cutting Brandon informed me my pull cord had frayed and was laying on the ground.  Well that’s just peachy.  I now had to keep the chainsaw running until we hit our trail.  After cutting the visible trees out I jumped on my tailgate and keep the chainsaw humming while Brandon quickly navigated my truck up the mountain.  Eventually we made it to our trail, a small, grown-in trail that seemed like a bad idea.  We contemplated the options from the comfort of the truck and decided we didn’t cut all those damn trees out for nothing.  We’d start bushwacking up the wet canyon and see what we thought in an hour.  What started out as a decent trail soon faded into a trail that appeared it hadn’t been cleared in 8-10 years.  We navigated wet and snowy brush and downfall for two and a half hours before breaking out into our first big opening.  Within seconds I’d put my binos on a suspiciously black spot and we had spotted our first bear of the day.

spring, bear hunting, montana, kimber, mountains, sitka gear

Brandon sizing up the first bear of the day.

black bear, montana, bear, hunting, snow, mountains

An epic spot to see a bear but this one had cubs and eventually moved off.

Brandon quickly had a pack down and his gun lined up on the bear staring down into the valley as a light snow fell through the valley.  The encounter was surprisingly calm.  Brandon explained he wasn’t sure how big the bear was and he was going to watch it for a bit.  I snapped away on the camera enjoying the wild mix of conditions.  As Brandon examined the bear two small black cubs came crawling up the mountain navigating the boulders twice their size.  We both were glad we hadn’t rushed into taking a shot at this bear.  It’s a hard thing for new guys and even experienced guys to do when bear hunting, but watching a bear and determining its sex and if it has cubs is a necessity.  We watched mom lead her cubs up through the timber and we threw our packs back on and continued up the canyon.

bear hunting, montana, spring

Brandon picks his way up the canyon among snow covered downfall and an almost non-existent trail.

Soon we had climbed into the next avalanche chute and it was looking good.  Snow was still slowly filtering down and the upper half of the mountain was fogged in but we were starting to see the kind of habitat we were looking for.  After examining the side of the creek we were on we slowly worked out into the bottom of the clearing when Brandon spotted a bear across the creek.  Living in a small alder choked chute in the hill was a black bear, completely unaware of our presence.  Brandon quickly got a good rest on his pack and settled in for a good broadside shot.

montana, bear hunting, kimber, mountains, spring

Patiently waiting for the right shot.

As bears will do they seem to feed in all the right spots that don’t offer a good shot.  We waited in position for about 20 minutes as the bear feed amongst the alders and then climbed the cliff up next to some pine trees where she rubbed her back on a dead tree.  Finally she worked downhill and stood quartering to the right.  Brandon eased into the trigger and the Kimber rang out through the tight canyon.  The bear dropped like a sack of potatoes.  We were jacked!!  We gathered our gear and set out to attempt to cross the creek that was swollen by runoff.

bear hunting, montana, spring, creek, crossing

The second crossing creek crossing. This one was slick!

bear, hunting, montana, spring, wild, mountains

Bears living in crazy zones.

We were able to track down two different logs and made it over the river in one piece.  A scramble up another scree field and up through the alder choked chute led us to a cliff edge and Brandon’s bear laying feet from a 75′ cliff.  A little work and we got the bear off the cliff and down to a safer place to skin and quarter the bear.

montana, spring, bear hunting, wild, black bear

Finding a good spot to make quick work of this younger, dry sow.

From our new vantage point we could see the entire other hillside and new that we had found a nice pocket that definitely held a number of bears.  We pulled out our knives and began the process of skinning his bear and deboning the quarters for the pack out.  An hour later we were finished and I moved off next to an alder to take a piss.  Mid way through I noticed a very tan shape moving on the opposite hillside.  I instantly knew it was a bear and when I could finally put my binos on the spot I knew it was a good one.  I quickly rushed to grab my gun and pack and had to scramble down in the scree about 30 yards to find a boulder big which was high enough to get behind and get a rest to shoot uphill across the canyon.

bear, hunting, montana, spring, mountains

Set up and waiting for a cross canyon shot.

My first range on the bear had him at 630 yards.  I practice to 700-800 consistently out in the field and knew anything shooting for 700 or less was fair game if I could get a good solid rest and settle down.  The bear offered two opportunities for a shot in the first few minutes but I couldn’t settle into a good rest and my adrenaline was keeping me from holding steady enough to feel comfortable taking a shot.  I knew the bear wasn’t going anywhere and we watched him as I tried to find an ideal rest and wait for a better shot.  Over the next twenty minutes the bear fed up the hill offering no clear broadside shots.  It was frustrating to say the least.  Finally the bear popped up on top of the large cliff and began traversing across it.  It was a cool moment to watch a big bear cross a cliff like that in such an epic setting and made the whole trip worth it right there.  We knew he was headed to the next avy chute over and I ranged and got settled in for a shot opportunity.  My shot yardage would now be in the 650-670 range.  I had now settled down considerably and found a solid rest.  As the bear came out in the next chute he began moving downhill.  He wasn’t really feeding and wasn’t stopping much at all.  Finally he cleared some brush and stood broadside.  I slowly squeezed the trigger and my .300WSM barked.  I lost sight of him as my gun kicked my scope off the bear’s location.  I reloaded and quickly was back on the bear.  I didn’t know if I’d hit him but sent another shot at him as he slowly ran uphill straight away.  The second shot had good elevation but missed just a foot right.  I was pretty upset.  My track record with a rifle has been pretty much spotless on big game over the past three years and this was my first flat miss.  We knew we’d see that bear on the hillside and we held our spots.  Soon we saw the bear running left through the timber and picked him up again as he hit the next scree field.  At that point we lost sight of him.  We vigilantly scanned the hillside for the next ten minutes without any sign of him.  I was sitting there with my eyes looking for movement when I noticed a bear crossing a lower clearing and this time he was headed towards us.  My binos revealed it was the same bear!  He was going to cross below the cliff he had earlier crossed and the new range was 470.  I spun my turret to 500 and got ready for the boar to hit the rock field.  As he hit the center of the rock field Brandon whistled and somehow the bear stopped.  This time my shot was perfect and I saw the bear spinning holding and biting at his off shoulder.  A quick minute later the bear lay dead in the rock field among a few sparse aspen.  Emotions were extremely high as we’d just had an epic double unfold in some of the most beautiful and rugged country either of us had hunted bears in.  We quickly loaded up Brandon’s bear and set out across the canyon.

blood, trail, montana, bear, hunting

Who says bears don’t bleed?

When we got to the bear it was apparent the bullet had made quick work of this bear.  A quick kill is what we strive for and after my initial miss I was glad I pulled it together and made a great shot on my second opportunity.  As we looked the bear over we both noticed the size of his paws.

black bear, paws, hunting, spring, montana

Big ole smackers.

I’ve killed some 6’+ bears in the past but this one had the biggest paws of any I’d shot.  He was a beautiful chocolate color with thick forearms and a big round head.  A bear any sportsman would be happy with.  This day had quickly turned into one of the sickest hunting days either Brandon or myself had ever had.

black bear, spring, montana, zack boughton

Zack breaking into the color phase club.

With a nasty two hour hike out ahead of us we knew it would be advantageous to not hike out in the dark.  With the day quickly fading we decided to skin and quarter the bear quickly and then hang it in the nearby aspen trees and retrieve it in the morning.  We made quick work of the second bear and soon had the quarters hanging and hide safely hanging in the trees.  We shouldered Brandon’s bear and set off back down the trail.  Two hours later we emerged from the forest at the truck and went back to camp to drink a few celebratory beers, fuel up and get some needed rest.

black, bear, hunting, montana, zack boughton, brandon purcell, stoke

Resting after a long hike in.

The following morning we came back up the canyon to retrieve the second bear. After two and a half hours we made it back to the kill site and began the process of deboning the quarters and divvying up the load among the three of us.  The weather was beautiful and with no other bears spotted we headed back down the canyon.  As with every kill the sweet weight of success hung on all our shoulders as we bushwacked our way out of the tight box canyon and ended our bear camp for the year.

bear, hunting, packing, out, meat, hide, montana, wild

Better be able to handle the bushwack back in this canyon.

Words by: Zack Boughton

Photos by: Travis Boughton, Zack Boughton, and Brandon Purcell