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Author Topic: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure  (Read 1565 times)

Offline castnblast

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A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« on: April 12, 2018, 01:40:33 PM »
Bear with me hear, this is my first “real” post and its a bear story.  It is spring bear hunting season so I think it is fitting. It is also undoubtedly the craziest thing that has happened to me while hunting.  So I might as well throw out my best story my first go round. Then I have a decent excuse for not posting more stories.

First of all, let me say that I have been a [mostly] lurking member of Hunt-Washington for years, posting only here and there and being more a consumer and less a producer of information.  I keep quiet mostly because I don’t feel like I’ve got much to offer. Which I know is inaccurate, but still it is tough to overcome the startup inertia of posting online. I feel awkward and self-conscious, but I’m going to push through and because even if I can’t tell the story as well as I want to, it is a story I think is worth telling.

Quick background
I moved to Washington 14 years ago for work after being born and raised in southeastern Idaho and grew up hunting and fishing thanks to a great dad who shared the outdoors with me.  The first hunter I met in this state told me that I would be disappointed when he learned I was from Idaho. There has been some truth to that, but I have to say that some of my best hunting experiences have occurred here in Washington.  That’s probably because I’ve worked harder at making things happen and devoted more time and energy improving as a hunter. So yes, I miss my home state of Idaho but there’s no excuses to still having some great hunting here in Washington. 

“It is better to be lucky than good”
I killed my first bear in the fall of 2015, and the way it came about is the point of my story.  The saying, it is better to be lucky than good really fits for what transpired. I was out hunting for deer during modern rifle with a buddy in a drainage we had hunted several years in row and knew fairly well.  After accidently calling in my first bear (a sow with two cubs…that got interesting) the previous year during archery elk while cow calling, I figured I’d better have a bear tag in case I got lucky. We had biked in about 3 miles behind a gated road to avoid the annual October orange bloom, set up camp the day before, and hunted up the drainage against the morning thermals.  About 2 miles up the drainage I spotted two bucks a few hundred yards away feeding across the creek in some brush. Let’s just say I got caught with my pants town. You know what I mean. This was not the first time I spotted animals while "taking a time out." Sometimes you just need to slow down.

It was tough to tell if they were legal (3 pts or better) since they were feeding heavily and moving their heads back and forth never holding still for long enough to be confident with my point count.  I watched them for about 20 minutes or so with the wind in my face hoping that they’d feed out in to the open and I’d be able to put a third point on one of them. I was out to fill my tag and would be happy with any legal buck on this trip after having had some ups and downs on my archery elk hunt the previous month.  So here I was, eyeballing a couple of bucks on opening morning with the wind in my face and nothing but time on my hands. Things were looking pretty good.

Suddenly both bucks busted out of the heavy brush and out onto the open hillside.  Now in the open, I could see both bucks were 3-pointers. Their eyes were locked on something back across the hillside and they stood stiff and alert.  I immediately assumed some hunter was coming over the hill and had bumped them. As I quickly steadied for my shot on one of the bucks, I noticed in my peripheral vision a flash of movement and saw this dark mass of an object headed quickly up the hillside toward the bucks.  Bear! The lightbulb finally went on! I swung my rifle to my right and took aim on the bear as it closed the distance to the bucks. They weren’t quite sure which way to run. The two buddies looked confused as to whether they should retreat up the steep hillside or go down to the brush in the bottom of the drainage for an escape.  While they stood there, the bear had closed to within about 200 yards of them. One thing was for sure, that bear was gaining on them fast!

I’m pretty sure those bucks had a good chance at making an escape, but that bear would have given them a run for their money.  Who knows, he might even have chased one down. But I interrupted the process and helped determine the outcome. I was in absolute shock as I watched in real time how fast that bear made it up the steep hillside toward the deer.  Later, I would come down that same slope and almost slide down on my rear it was so steep and have to work around bands of rocky cliffs. Steeper than a cow’s face as dad would say. He made it look effortless. What a powerful and well equipped predator.

The dark reddish brown colored bear made it to the top of wrinkle in the hillslope where he must have temporarily lost sight of the deer.  He paused and scanned his head for the bucks, and I took my shot aiming high on his shoulder. In less than 5 seconds I had gone from eyeballing two bucks to taking my first shot at a bear!  The shot dropped him instantly, and he rolled backward in a ball of fur back down the steep hillside. I thought he was still rolling after about 100 yards but then realized he had his feet under him and he was running not rolling down the hill.  I took a follow up shot and missed. I shot again, this time hitting him a bit back – he was moving so fast! I was going to keep shooting until he was down, remembering the advice I’d heard and read about bear hunting. He angled down the hill and was coming straight toward me at about 250 yards and I took a frontal shot.  Time is a funny thing. I was able to see and admire the white V on his chest and the log he was moving over as I squeezed the trigger, even though it was in the blink of instant. The enlargement of time and images burned into our memory while hunting is one of the most miraculous and awesome of things. I could see in the scope that the bear was hit hard again.  He slinked into the heavy brush near the bottom of the drainage. What a fighter! I sat there in shock with that adrenaline-gratitude cocktail flowing through my veins, cycling some rounds into the magazine out of habit.

How about those deer?
My walkie talkie broke the now silent air.  My buddy, who was on the next ridge over about a mile away, asked if it was me doing all the shooting.  “Bear down” was my reply. Without fully thinking, I began to quickly recount the events, telling him about how I had been watching these bucks, and when they spooked from the bear, I saw the bear….  Oh, yes, the bucks!

I threw the radio down and scanned the hillside for the deer.  Where did they go during all the shooting? The two bucks had moved up the hillside another hundred yards or so.  I steadied my aim on the buck standing broadside. Thankfully, I was able to drop it right where it stood. I already had a bear down somewhere in the heavy brush, so I felt extremely grateful to know the deer was down and would be easy to locate.  Did that just happen? In hindsight, maybe I got a little greedy and caught up in the moment. I have the slightest little nagging wonder even today if I should have held off and been a witness rather than a participant in the predator-prey relationship as I watched that bear chase after those deer.  But I followed my instinct without thinking philosophically in that brief moment. I don’t regret it in any way and in fact I treasure this as the rarest of opportunities. In any case, I was in shock as I radioed my buddy adding to the story of events and telling him, “Buck down.”

It was a chilly October morning and knew I didn’t need to rush over to the buck to start breaking him down to avoid spoilage, so I waiting another half hour to give the bear some time to expire.  I quickly located the bear, starting at the blood trail from where he was when I took the first shot and following it down to where I found him tucked into a thick hiding spot.

With help from by hunting partner, we had the buck and bear quartered and packed in a single trip down to our camp about 2 miles down the trail.  Filled my bike trailer with game bags the next morning and rode the brakes on my bike all the way to coolers waiting at the truck.

I included a few pictures of the 2015 bear at the bottom of the post.  It was a nice boar about 5’ 10” from nose to tail and aged at over 6 years old.  The meat was excellent! I grilled buck and bear tenderloins side by side in a blind taste test with the family and they all said the bear was hands down their favorite.

With this experience, my bear hunting juices were flowing.  I scouted and hunted hard for bears the next season (2016) having caught the bug.  I purchased and read Saylean’s books on bear hunting. Got calls and good advice from bearmanric.  Saw a few bears during the pre-season scouting and put in some good hunts during September, but turned my time and focus to my Entiat late season archery tag the remainder of the fall. 

I was learning more and more the importance of the wind and I also feel like I got better at spotting bears by “looking for them”.  What I mean, is that as a deer and elk hunter my whole life I’ve been looking for heads and shoulders or butts that stick out. But with bears they are so low to the ground, you have to look into the brush and grass and not above it. 

Last year in 2017, I was more focused on bear hunting than anything else.  I scouted for bear every weekend during the late spring and summer, seeing a half dozen bears before the season started.  I was getting better at locating and spotting them with each trip. But still very much a rookie.

I didn’t hunt opening weekend of 2017 in order to do a Mount Adams backpacking trip with my brother.  That was a blast by the way. Well, I got out the following weekend into some areas I had scouted and spotted bears previously.  The berries were in full force and we saw two bears that first day but couldn’t get on them before the weather hit. It rained hard and lightning struck all around us.  Figured it was time to hightail it back to the trailhead when the next ridge over erupted in flames in what became a very large forest fire that burned for months. With fire closures, we had to hit a new area the next weekend.  I was able to have a great backcountry bear hunt, tagging a “grandma” sow about 8 miles in from the trailhead. The Kifaru pack paid for itself every step by the way (see picture below)! She was smaller than my first bear, right at 5 feet in length, but a beautiful colored bear with so much character!  Light color phase and her canine teeth were completely worn down and rounded off from her many years of life. I don’t have the date back yet, but the taxi thinks she’s really old based on the tooth wear and missing/decayed teeth (he guessed it at 12 years…wow that seems old!). The meat was again excellent just like my first bear. 

I’m not just hooked in the side of the mouth, but I’ve swallowed the whole bear hunting hook!  I drew the Wenaha Spring bear tag, and I hope to have an opportunity at my third bear. I’ve scouted the Wenaha a bunch during some backpacking trips and archery elk hunting and it is downright intimidating.  Exactly where a bear should live, and exactly where a bear hunter should go looking for a bear hunting experience. Thanks for reading. Hope to have some more stories from this spring.

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Offline banishd

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2018, 01:53:13 PM »
Very cool story, I had a similar situation where I passed on a bear opening day of modern deer. I wont do that again! Ended up without a buck or a bear. Did get a pic of that bear though.

Online cbond3318

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2018, 01:55:59 PM »
Great story! Thanks for sharing it. Those are the times that will be relived for generations! :tup:

FWIW , I too am constantly finding myself on the fence of content observer and harvester. The events that put you into these places are the story!

Just tend your own and live.

Offline Yelper Guy

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2018, 03:14:05 PM »
Great story castnblast!
Glad you decided to stop lurking, and come out of the closet so to speak.

Offline Gringo31

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2018, 06:21:49 PM »

Thanks for sharing and welcome to coming out of the closet  :chuckle:   You're a good writer and I enjoyed it!
We must reject the idea that every time a law's broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.
-Ronald Reagan

Offline elkoholic1

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2018, 04:58:57 PM »

Offline Lucky1

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2018, 05:25:49 PM »
Awesome. Makes me want to go bear hunting. Good job.

Online redi

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2018, 09:08:12 PM »
Good story. Welcome to the site. Good luck this spring

Offline PastorJoel

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2018, 09:17:13 PM »
Great story.  Thanks for sharing.  :tup:

Offline pianoman9701

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2018, 08:29:20 AM »
You're a good writer. I hope you're submitting your stories. Thanks and good luck this Spring. Welcome to HuntWA.
"Restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens based on the actions of criminals and madmen will have no positive effect on the future acts of criminals and madmen. It will only serve to reduce individual rights and the very security of our republic." - Pianoman

Offline castnblast

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #10 on: April 18, 2018, 06:22:42 PM »
Thanks everyone for the encouraging and positive feedback.  Hopefully I'll have something to write about on my Wenaha bear hunt this spring.  I'm headed up there Friday after next. 

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Offline Pinetar

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #11 on: April 18, 2018, 06:38:46 PM »
Great story and good read. Thanks for sharing. Good luck this spring!

Offline LittleKiller

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #12 on: May 07, 2018, 07:54:22 PM »
I’m so glad to see you post this story, it’s too good not to share, and you’re a great writer as well! I hope we’ll get to meet again this weekend over a big bear or two, and good luck!

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"The struggle of man against man produces jealousy, deceit, frustration, bitterness, hate. The struggle of man against mountains is different. Man then bows before Something that is bigger than he. When he does that, he finds serenity and humility and dignity, too." - William O Douglas

Offline pd

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #13 on: May 07, 2018, 08:32:03 PM »
Great story.

But did you type that whole thing on a cell phone?  Your thumbs must hurt.   :hello:
Si vis pacem, para bellum

Offline willapawapiti

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Re: A bear story with a little deer thrown in for good measure
« Reply #14 on: May 07, 2018, 10:00:32 PM »
Story's even better in print!! See ya on the trail this weekend👍

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