I’ve never really liked still-hunting the forest, because it’s nearly impossible to walk the timber without making a racket. But this season, I grew tired of sitting in one of my many ground or tree stands without finding this year’s bear. It was my 8th day of hunting, and my previous week’s worth of effort was marked by variable winds that constantly gave away my position. I knew bears were around me because of the stellar’s jays and the mountain quail. Jays love to mob predators, including bears, and I could tell exactly where the bears were travelling by the mobbing that took place around me (but never in front of me). The flushing quail also gave away their location a couple of times. Man, it’s frustrating to be in a great bear location, but have winds that are completely unpredictable. So yesterday, I changed things up.
When grouse hunting earlier in the season, I came across an interesting drainage that had meadows with deer and bear activity. I decided I was going to sleep in until 5:30, and walk those meadows. I needed to stretch my friggin’ legs, if nothing else. The morning was cold, and there was frost on the ground, but the moisture kept things pretty quiet. I walked all of about 300 yards from the truck, and saw a glimpse of fur out in front of me, maybe 25 yards, and moving away. I couldn’t believe it. I needed to get closer, but there’s no way I could do it quietly. I inched forward a few more yards, and it appeared in full view, at about 35 yards. A nice black bear, color phase (which is typical in my area). He wasn’t a huge bear, but my adrenaline was pumping, and I couldn’t hold my rifle steady, even at that range. I usually don't get bear fever, but it was bad this time. I had the scope at 4x, and he filled all of it. I always carry a shooting stick I cut from an alder, and used that to steady myself. Even then, it was a miracle I hit him. He did a backwards somersault several times until he finally landed in the drainage. I walked up to him as he was breathing his last breath. I was amazed and grateful.
I included a picture of the scenery as I was carting out the bear, because it didn’t occur to me until after I saw the picture just how beautiful the surroundings are. Sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.