June 22, 2012
Spring Black Bear Hunting (Part 3) - Nicole's Success
The second day found us riding the coattails of Jim’s success and we were anxious to get started chasing a bear for Nicole. Kipp had made his way back to our camp for a visit while we departed in the inflatable to glass a few hillsides. Even if we weren’t hunting, Jack bay is an astonishingly beautiful place, literally teeming with wildlife. There was no shortage of things to explore and take a look at. Cruising up and down the bay with my bride, enjoying the experience and the beauty made for a successful trip of its own. We spotted a bear after a bit of glassing and beached the boat. The hiking boots came on and we started up the steep and brushy terrain. As much as we tried to keep quiet, it was pretty much an impossible feat. Having any sort of success hunting in this terrain was truly a team effort as the bears were easily moving in and out of view. I can imagine that once the leaves fully bloomed and the hillsides turned their emerald shade of green that the hunting would be fairly limited to mossy old-growth areas, tidal flats, and the beach. To gain any sort of vantage point, we had to either climb on downed trees or try to gain elevation on small cliffs. We stayed put at a few of these locations, hoping something would move in the areas we could see. The weather wasn’t beautiful, but the skies held back the rain and we enjoyed the scenery nonetheless. Bear sign was plentiful, with beds and scat in many areas. Several hours passed and we decided to get up with the rest of the crew and glass a few more areas before we retired to camp for the evening. We anchored off of a tidal flat where we had seen a few bears previously and sat tight, hoping for more movement, but nothing showed. On the way back to camp, another bear was spotted near where Jim had harvested his, and the hike was on! Much more sweat was left on the mountain but we were unable to connect on the second stalk attempt of the day. Day three found a few drizzles here and there, along with another bear on the infamous hillside we’d been traveling over. We started up the mountain at 9 am, and were prepared to stay the day on the hillside if needed. After watching the bear activity, it was apparent that they were on a schedule, and if we waited long enough, we just might get lucky to intercept them while on an evening feed. Jeremy, Jim, and Patty sat patiently in the boats, trying to keep track of both us and the bears, doing their best to hand-signal a general direction for us to attempt to travel. While the use of electronic communication is strictly prohibited to aid in the taking of game, using hand signals is not. By roughly 3 pm, we had traversed most of the hunting area and were ready for a bit of a break, as it was apparent that no bears were out. We found a nice overturned tree stump that offered a bit of a flat spot to take a rest at. The stump also proved to be a good vantage point and we decided to park it for a while. A beautifully calm evening crept up on us and before we knew it, it was nearing 7 pm. We put three trips up and down the mountain, hunting over 20 hours over the hillside and Nicole was an absolute trooper for the whole thing. Though we hadn’t had the chance to see, let alone stalk a bear, we had put a really good effort in. Nicole was content to head toward the beach and see what the next day had in store. Leaving our perch, we saw Jeremy jumping up and down in the boat, waving his arms. We instantly went from ‘headed to camp’ mode, to hunting mode! Knowing this was likely the last stalk of the evening, we carefully picked our way as high and close to a cliff edge as possible, thinking that we would push the bear toward the beach as a worst-case scenario. Glassing inside of 50 yards in thick brush can be difficult, but this time it paid off, as I finally caught the movement of a black ear through the vegetation. We kept above the bear and moved to try and gain a clear shooting path. The bear was downhill from us and very close. Nicole prepared her rifle and got sights on the black bruin. It looked like a big, fuzzy ball and we didn’t even know which end was the head and which was the tail, because of the brush. The bear decided to help us out and move to our left, which caused us to reposition to clear a new shooting lane, and stick its head and high shoulder above a log. I told Nicole to take the bear in the high shoulder/lung area whenever she was ready. *click*, the safety comes off. Steady, even pressure on the trigger. BOOM! It was a solid hit! She performed a quick reload after the first shot, but it wasn’t necessary. Jeremy gave out an excited shout from the water along with us hooting and hollering over the hard-earned victory! How sweet it was to share the success with the whole hunting party as it was truly a team effort to get the hunters on the quarry. The trip down to the beach seemed much less cumbersome even though we had to bring the bear down to the boat! We were walking pretty tall that evening and it was truly special for me to share that moment with my wife and see her put all the effort in (and then some) required to pull of a success like that! Following a quick boat-ride to our campsite, we were greeted to a stoked campfire, fresh spotted shrimp to cook, and fresh black bear back strap! With two bears in camp, we were now even MORE excited to see what tomorrow had in store for us!