Where is the time going?  It seems as though the November Newsletter has just rolled off the computer and here we are in the middle of June - WOW.

            The Hunting Season ended with quite a bit of snow on the ground, but the weather was bearable.  A well earned rest is taken between the end of hunting season (10 December) and Christmas and this year was no exception.  Guns well cleaned and a light film of oil to protect them until the Spring Bear Season (01 April), the rest of the hunting\camping gear gone over to ensure no repairs\replacements were needed, as it is usually tooooooo late when the Spring Bear Season starts to attend to these matters - smile.  lastly the clothing is laid out and inspected for wear & tear.  Once these tasks have been attended to, the Christmas shopping can begin and any replacement gear can be purchased  -  definite method to the madness - smile.

            Christmas came and went with the normal flurry of excitement and we were into January in no time.  Well this is the time of the year we look forward to some relaxation with the hunting of coyotes. I did not get out as much as I would have liked to as the business is demanding more of my time every day!!  My hunting partner is an expert at setting up and calling coyotes and likes to get out several times a week during the winter months.  This year was no exception, although I did not accompany him as much as I would have liked to.  The area we live in has fairly dense undergrowth and the coyotes seem to be able to sneak in to the call without being detected and vanish once they get our wind.  This does not prevent us from enjoying the outdoors during the winter and my hunting partner always harvests a few coyotes each winter.  Now, in my case, it seems I am just along for the company - smile. I would select a great place to sit (or at least I thought it was??) and patiently view the surrounding area, while my hunting partner set up his electronic call and started the scenario of an animal in distress, which in the coyote's mind is a "dinner bell."  Sometimes I would sit motionless for an hour or so and then I would decide to rejoin my hunting buddy to see if we were going to move to a new location. One day I had moved only about 50 yards towards my buddy's position when I was startled by the loud report of his 22-250.  Had he mistaken my movement for that of a coyote?  I knew better that to even let that thought enter my mind as were are both extremely safe and cautious when it comes to our love of hunting.  I continued on my way and soon saw him stranding on the trail.  As I approached, I soon saw a coyote laying at his feet.  "Great," I said.  He retorted, "The little gaffer snuck right in o me, and until he tried to cross the trail, I never saw him?"  Well, that ended another day in the field.


            Several days later, I received a phone call at home and it was from my hunting partner.  Apparently, he had been calling in the same location and things were slow.  Something made him look over his shoulder (most hunters have experienced this 'intuition' at some point in their hunting lives).  There, not 20 yards away from him stood a wolf, intently staring in the direction of the call.  It immediately became aware of the movement and focused its attention on the source of that movement.  Without a second thought the wolf made a quick exit from the location.  Fortunately for my friend, the wolf had to cover about 75 yards of open, undulating ground before it would reach the safety of the forest.  My friend had his rifle set up on its bipod and facing in another direction when this scenario played out.  Being a seasoned hunter, it did not take him long to reline the rifle and get a quick shot off at the fleeing animal.  He related to me how the bipod, which is usually the hunter's friend, had suddenly become his adversary as it swung freely, as he tried to swing the rifle and get a free-hand shot off at the escaping target.

            He went to the point where the wolf had entered the forest and was rewarded with the sight of several flecks of blood on the pure white snow.  He took up the trail and after what seemed a long time, darkness was fast approaching, so he decided to return home. His phone call filled me in on what had transpired.  He didn't think the wolf was hit very bad, but I told him I would be at his house early the next morning and we would follow the trail until we found the animal.  I have shot wolves before and also lots of coyotes and from this years of experience, I knew these animals could soak-up a lot of punishment before they would "give-up-the-ghost", so to speak.  We entered the forest and tried to cut the trail from the previous day.  The snow was fairly deep (near knee-depth) and the ground we started on was at the base of a small mountain.  We soon cut my hunting partner's tracks from the day before and followed them to where he had turned back on account of impending darkness.

            Well, I am not a young man by any stretch of the imagination and soon the trail started heading up the side of the mountain and traversing the steep slope.  This is not my idea of fun, but knowing the animal was at the end of the track, kept me motivated and seemed to knock a few years off my heaving chest - smile.  There were small flecks of blood every once in a while on the snow and these increased when he tried to climb.  This kept him on a more of a traversing lope across the mountain and I sure was glad of that - smile.  After an hour or so on the trail the blood splatter started to increase.  Every time he jumped a log or went through heavy brush, there was significantly more blood on the snow.  Soon it was evident he was hurt bad as we observed four blood-soaked beds in rapid succession.  Spirits certainly picked up at this point and I suggested to my friend that he focus his attention to the surrounding area which was fairly open with lots of deadfalls, while I continued on the trail the wolf was leaving.

            Soon, I heard him say, "There he is." I couldn't see anything which resembled a fallen animal along the trail I was following, so turned to look at my partner.  he was looking uphill and there, beside a tree lay the expired animal. I love to add to my knowledge of the outdoors and the workings of the animal's minds, so I continued on the trail and soon found where the wolf had lost massive amounts of blood. He had gone into the tangles of a blowdown and must have laid-up there for a while.  A quick survey of the area soon disclosed that he had left the confines of that shelter and made his way to a point which was elevated above the rest of the area and settled down to watch his back trail.  I have had wounded Black Bear do the exact same thing. It looked as though after being in this position for a time, he expired as we could see, by the blood and compacted snow, where he had slid down the hill and came to rest against the base of a fir tree.


Jimmy and his wolf

            Well, we knew the approximate area we were currently in and the direction to the truck. It was soon discovered that my friend had forgotten his camera.  We seldom carried a camera when coyote hunting.  I had some cord in my fanny-pack and soon had the wolf rigged, so I could drag him off the mountain.  Fortunately, it was all downhill and there was snow, hence the task was not as difficult as it could have been - smile.

            On 01 April, even though I am confident there will be no bears having arisen from hibernation, I am packed, my ATV is serviced and I will try to see just how high I can get and if there is, in fact, any sign at the lower elevations. I always describe being in the outdoors as FREEDOM, and I spend as much time out there as I possibly can. I do not apply for a Spring Grizzly Bear hunt, as I apply for the Fall hunt, because we are up in northern British Columbia for three weeks each Fall for our moose hunt and there is an abundance of Grizzlies there.

            Around here, it is usually a couple of weeks after opening day before we start seeing any sign, but in the interim, we are able to see what condition the logging roads are in and remove any trees, which may have blown across the logging roads during the winter. Our area has been destroyed by the invasive "Pine Beetle" and there are vast tracts of forest which are completely dead and the high mountain winds knock them down by the score. After years of hunting several of the areas, which are known to harbour large boars, the daily chore of checking them out for feeding bruins begins.  In my experience, boars in the area I hunt, do not like sunshine and I see this as a necessary way to stay away from the flying insects.  I usually find them out feeding earlier in the afternoon, when the clouds are covering the sun, but if it is a sunny day, we see them later in the afternoon, usually as soon as the sun goes down.

            This year was no different than other spring hunts, except we were not seeing any sows and their cubs for the first month and a half?  About three quarters of the way through April, we started getting our first sightings.  Nothing big was encountered, as most seen were under the six foot size. As time progressed, we started seeing more and more bears out feeding, especially in the high alpine grassy slopes.  Usually the boars arise first and the sows and their cubs follow a couple of weeks later.  That is why I like being in the mountains early, the bears we start seeing at first, will usually be boars.

            One afternoon, we decided to go check out a large meadow, which was sparsely filled with alders.  We parked our ATV's  -  did I mention, I seldom hunt bears by myself and if I do, I am extra cautious and let people know the area I am hunting and will contact them when I get home - one cannot ever be too safe out there - and slowly walked the several hundred meters to a place which overlooked this meadow.  My hunting buddy, Jimmy, was in the lead and we had no sooner made our way to the vantage point, when he turned around and whispered, "There is a good bear feeding in the alders." As I got abreast of him, I reached for my Leica 10 X 42 Geovid HD BRF Rangefinder Binoculars and soon had this bruin in my sight picture.  He was a beautiful bruin and didn't seem to be rubbed (after being out of hibernation and when it warms up, bears will scratch themselves against trees, rocks or any other object to get rid of that heavy warm winter coat). We watched him for a short while and he seemed rather content to mosey around in the little stand of alders, nipping at the lush grass.  I looked toward my hunting partner and said, "You spotted him, do you want him, as he is a nice bear?" Another quick look through his binos and he retorted, "No, he is all yours, if you want him." Well, I am partial to the colour phase bears and much prefer them to the black.  I had taken a nice 7' brown phase a couple of years ago, but this fellow was tempting.  We had lots of time to size him up and see if he was in fact a good specimen.  I ranged him at a little over 400 yards (I do not know, for the life of me, how I hunted without these super binos produced by Leicia). It was early in the season and although we live and hunt in a two bear area, and I was sure we would see larger bears, but his coat looked so thick, I decided I would try for him.  The wind was blowing at an angle across our front and away from us, so that would not be a problem, although it is finicky in the mountains and can swirl at any given moment. My hunting partner would watch through his binos, as I made the stalk.  I left him and dropped off the side of the vantage point and worked my way down a low piece of ground.  I had brush between me and where the bear was feeding and the wind held in my favour.  I slowly made my way to a point where I could observe the bear and also could plan my next stage of the stalk. When I reached a small evergreen tree, I was able to see the stand of alders, but no bear??  I used my Leicia binos to survey the stand and with their excellent, clear glass; was able to make out his outline deep in the stand. The old eyes were not what they used to be - ah, the aging process is not always kind - smile. I watched him for several minutes and he still seemed content to remain in that stand foraging. I mapped (in my mind) out my next leg of the stalk and proceeded to its end point.  I was taking more time as I got closer, as I didn't want to make any noise which would cause him alarm.  I was pretty confident while he was chomping on the luscious grass, there would be enough noise in his head from the process of chewing the grass to mask any I would make on the approach.


My brown phase Black Bear

One more check on his position and I then selected the spot from where I wanted to take the shot. I visually selected a downed log, one which would provide a nice rest for me while shooting from the prone (lying) position.  I made my way to another small evergreen, which was growing near the selected spot.  One last look, confirmed he was still where he was when we had first spotted him twenty minutes ago.  I slowly, with very deliberate moves, made my way to the selected shooting spot.  I got down on my belly and removed my gloves and laid them across the small log I was going to use as a rifle rest.  I was comfortable with the position I had selected and had just a couple of more things to do before taking the shot.  First was to locate him, range him and then relocate him through the rifle scope.  Once this was done I increased the magnification of my Leupold VX-3 3.5-10x40mm from its lowest setting to its highest.  I was situated 122 yards from the bruin at present, but he was shielded by the alders amongst which he was feeding. No big problem, time seemed to be on my side, at least at this point.  His outline was crystal-clear in the scope.  I am a true believer in spending top dollar for top optics - they are just so crucial to any hunt.

            Soon he fed his way to a small opening in the trees and I decided to take the shot when he was located broadside and in that opening.  Well, as the old saying goes, "The best laid plans of men and mice." He certainly entered the opening right on cue, but he was far from broadside. I will only take a good broadside shot on a bear, as I do not want to be in dense cover with a wounded bear, especially when one does not know just how bad it is wounded.  I would rather pass on the shot altogether. I relaxed behind the rifle and watched him continue to feed through that small opening. Next thing I watched him move to the edge of the trees and this presented the perfect shot.  Patience is a virtue - my Mother used to say - smile.  As he edged his way into the open, I rested the forestock of my Browning X-Bolt in 338 Win Mag on my hunting gloves, which I had placed on the log. I eased my way behind the butt of the rifle and slowly started the process, which would break the trigger and send the 250 grain Nosler Partition on its way.  The cross-hairs rested steady on his front shoulder and now all I wanted was for him to stop and feed. He complied, and I took up the pressure on the trigger and when it broke, the resounding noise startled me, as it is supposed to when you shoot properly and not jerk the trigger. I have a muzzle brake on this rifle and this allowed me to see the bullet impact and the bear hump in the front end.  I was on my feet immediately, racking another 250 grain into the breach and dodging around a small tree to see if another shot had to be administered. As I got up from the prone position, I dialed the scope power down to its lowest setting and quickly surveyed the area for him.  I caught movement and he was on the run, I shouldered my rifle and was ready to shoot again, when he spun around and fell over.  He did not move after that.  I walked back up the hill to my hunting partner's position and he said the bullet hit right on the front shoulder.  We walked back to the ATV's and drove down to where he was laying.  The first thing that struck me was the beautiful thick coat he sported.  After skinning him and getting him back to my place, I laid the hide out and without stretching him, he squared at 6'9" which is good for a brown phase.

            We went to a different place the next day and while sitting at one of our favourite glassing spots, my hunting partner, whose younger eyes put mine to shame - at least some of the time - smile - spotted a huge black down in the valley below us.  I mean this fellow was huge, the only problem was he was on a farm and the gates were locked and we did not have permission to enter.  We watched him feed for a while and then we headed up the mountain.  Knowing that fellow was in the area was great to know, as with the breeding season coming up, we would probably bump into him again and hopefully luck would be on our side. A couple of days later I was up in the same area and had not seen any bears and was starting the long ride back to my truck. About three quarters of the way down the mountainside, I spotted a black spot near the edge of one of the meadows across on the next mountain.  I immediately stopped the ATV and relying on my Leicia's immediately saw it was a bear feeding close to the edge of the forest, which surrounded this alpine meadow.  I was quite sure I was looking at my first sow and cub of the year. I watched it feed for several minutes and it remained in the same place and it looked as though the cub was feeding from her breast.  After a couple of more minutes, the bear started up a path on the mountainside, which traversed through this meadow and suddenly, I realized it was not a sow and her cub, but the big bruin we had seen in the valley below a couple of days before. I knew I could drive to within several hundred meters of that meadow and it would be well above me on the opposite mountain, so I stepped on it a bit - smile.  He was still feeding when I arrived at a point, as close as I would be able to get and the rangefinder said he was at 574 yards.  I watched him effortlessly climb the almost vertical meadow and I then slowly headed down to where my truck was located.  I always let my hunting partner know where I will be hunting and phone him when I arrive home and that night was no different.  When I told him what happened I also added that even if I had been able to shoot that monster, it would have taken me a couple of days to scale that mountainside to where he was - smile.

            As this is written, there are a couple of days left in our Spring Bear Season and they will see me up in the mountains trying to find that Big Fella.

            Next on the agenda is summer and some fishing and the preparation for the Fall Hunting Season.  Hope everyone has a happy and safe summer ahead.