Let’s Be Very Very Quiet, We’re Hunting Bears.
Even though it seemed that winter would never end we are well into spring and in some states bear hunting is in full swing. As a big game hunter, being cooped up in the house for the past five months really has me itching to get out in the mountains and behind the glass. Sure, there is waterfowl hunting for the winter months followed by spring turkey but nothing really scratches that itch like glassing up big bears and hiking around with weight on your back.
It is incredibly disappointing that in my home state of Washington there is no longer spring bear hunting. Some of the members on the Fish and Wildlife Commission decided to vote to get rid of the season because they believe it is unethical and there are not enough bears to support a hunting season, opinions, not facts.
The Price of Admission
Since the closure of Washington’s spring bear hunt, we have since turned to Idaho and Montana so we can still get out and chase black bears in the spring. In comparison to hunting deer or elk as a non-resident, purchasing a spring bear tag as an out of state hunter is quite a bit cheaper. If you’d like to hunt in Idaho as a non-resident it will cost you $231 for a spring bear tag, and $350 in the state of Montana. Idaho also offers a reduced priced bear tag that is only legal in certain units. These units tend to be very rugged and remote but can offer some fantastic opportunities with an even more wallet friendly price.
Last year I was fortunate enough to harvest a bear in the state of Montana. Zack spent some time in Idaho but was not able to kill a bear. He encountered nasty weather that kept his visibility low and he had to spend a majority of the time inside of the shelter due to torrential downpour and wind. Being prepared for the unexpected weather that can occur in the mountains during the spring is something that everyone should be prepared for. The last thing you want to have happen is to get completely soaked and not have a way to dry out your clothes. Being cold and wet will ruin a hunt real fast.
A great way to stay warm and comfortable is to have the ability to dry out your clothes and gear if you get wet, which can be done with a shelter and a stove. This year we will be using a couple of new lightweight shelters from Argali that we can pair with a stove which will be a game changer. Spring bear hunting is also a great way to test out your gear and get everything dialed in for your fall hunts. While I do not recommend breaking in boots on a backpack hunt, this season is a good trial by fire type way to make sure your gear is vetted and ready to go.
The Feast of Champions
Dialing in your food and calorie intake is something that a lot of guys overlook. You want to make sure that your body is properly fueled in the backcountry because you will be exerting a lot of energy. Hitting anywhere from 2500-3000 calories a day seems to be a sweet spot for most. If you really like to eat and don’t mind carrying the extra weight and bulk by all means bring more food. It seems that Jeff can run off of 1000-1500 calories a day and be totally fine, he is strange. Personally, I like to be more towards that 3,000 calorie a day mark. If you are doing an extended backpack hunt, let’s say anywhere from five to ten days, having a variety of foods is always nice. It can be a big morale booster if you’re excited to eat something after a long day of hunting and not seeing anything. An example of a day’s worth of food for me would be: Peak Refuel breakfast, Dark Timber Coffee, an assortment of bars, trail mix, and a Peak Refuel entrée for dinner. I’ll also bring electrolyte packets to mix into my water, either Liquid IV or Wilderness Athlete Hydrate & Recover.
Ready At A Moments Notice
You could have the best gear and have a great hunting spot picked out, but if your rifle is not dialed in you might as well just stay home. It is the single most important tool when it comes down to successfully notching your bear tag or going home empty handed. Spending time at the range and knowing where your bullet is going to impact at the distances you plan on shooting is very important. This season we will be running the SOLUS Hunter short action from Aero Precision chambered in 7 SAUM and 6.5 PRC. We had the opportunity to put the new bolt action rifle through its paces at the Aero Precision indoor range and it put the tightest groups on paper at one hundred yards that we have ever shot. While shooting factory ammo the rifle shot just over half a minute, or .5-inch groups at one hundred yards. I cannot wait to see what these rifles will do with handloads and more time behind the gun.
The Technological Advantage
Technology has come a long way over the last decade or so within the hunting industry. It used to be that you had to put boots on the ground to scout out a new area, but not anymore. Online and mobile maps have changed the game and made it extremely easy and convenient to scout. Having digital mapping in your pocket while in the field is a must and easier than ever with products like GOHUNT Maps. Before going on any hunt I will spend a good amount of time on GOHUNT Maps dropping pins for hunting spots, camp spots, and where water should be. South facing slopes will be a good area to focus on for spring bears because those hillsides will be the first to produce green grass, which bears will be feasting on. If I had to paint the perfect picture of where to find a bear in the spring it would be a south facing greened up hillside with an avalanche chute on one side and heavy timber on the other. Add in a nearby water source and you are bound to find a bear if you put in enough time behind the glass.
Another reason to have the entire area that you plan on hunting downloaded on your phone is that it can literally save your life. With GOHUNT Maps you can download huge areas on your phone and use them even with no cell service. Every time I head out hunting I will bring my Anker power bank that has the capability of charging my phone at least six times. Having the ability to communicate with EMS and loved ones with no service is also a must, and that is why I will always have my Zoleo satellite communicator on me in the field. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and you can text message family just to check in, or contact EMS in case of an emergency. It will also provide weather updates which is a great feature when you are in the backcountry. A few other items that will always be in my pack in case of an emergency is a first aid kit with a tourniquet, an extra headlamp and batteries, and plenty of fire starters with multiple ways to get a fire started.
Spirit Of The Hunt
There is no doubt that hunting, especially hunting in the mountains of western states, is physically and mentally demanding. It is a fact that if you have a good overall level of fitness you will be a better hunter compared to an out of shape version of yourself. In the past I have experienced what happens when you attempt a multi-day backpack hunt and haven’t prepared properly, the mountains seem steeper, the trails seem longer, and the weight feels heavier. Exercising throughout the year will not only keep your body in shape but it will also keep your mind mentally tough and resilient. Your brain will tell you to quit long before your body is ready to. Being mentally tough and prepared for those moments will keep you in the mountains longer, giving you a better shot at notching your tag. Throughout the year I like to run, lift weights, and do CrossFit style workouts to keep my mind and body strong enough to handle any hunt.
There’s just something special about getting ready for that first big game hunt of the year and getting into the hills during the springtime. The birds will be chirping, the animals will be moving, and the mountains will be coming back to life after a long winter. It’ll be sure to inject some life into your soul and put a smile on your face. So grab yourself a spring bear tag, a good buddy, hit the hills, and go bear hunting this spring. See you on the mountain!