September/October 2012 EBJ (Issue 73) - Sitting behind the glass, deep in the wilderness, a couple of buddies and I laid eyes on a monster chocolate boar. The big boar fed out into springtime meadow grass on the opposite side of the canyon. It was my turn for the stalk, so I made my landmarks and started off. I quickly dropped two thousand feet to the river in the bottom. Between my big chocolate and me was 3,000 cfs of raging river. Combined with my buddies this was the seventh river crossing, so I had our system down. I stripped off all my clothes, put on my waders and rain jacket, then blew up my inner tube from my pack.
With adrenaline flowing, I kicked and paddled my way across the river. Safely across, I quickly started climbing up gaining 1,000 feet. Having my elevation and a steady wind in my face I worked my way over to where I last saw the bear. I caught the big bruin working down an opening. I quickly cut him off, and had him walk by within bow range with no shot. I slowly continued to chase, watching every step. Soon I found myself at 40 yards with him broadside, but a few limbs were blocking my shot. I jockeyed over a few steps for a shot, and SNAP…a twig broke under my feet. Just like that I was caught, the boar was looking right at me, and soon spooked like a whitetail clearing country. What an awesomely exiting stalk…I came up a bit short but it’s a long season.
There’s nothing like springtime in Montana. Bears are coming out of their dens looking for food. We are not allowed to hunt with dogs or bait stands, which leaves spot and stalk at ground level. The good news is black bear populations are good across Montana, and most of the West. Also, the lower 48 has a ton of great color phases. They vary from jet blacks, chocolates, cinnamons, to blondes. Over the past eight springs I have honed my skills to try to chase and harvest the most challenging bruins. Along the way, I’ve learned a few pointers that have helped me consistently notch spring bear tags.
Locating bears is the first piece to the puzzle. Game animals are in pockets of country, and bears are no different. There is a lot of country where there are no bears, yet there are pieces of country that are full of bears. Usually where you see one there are more. I have personally seen eight different bears in the same drainage, in one day. The key to finding these pockets is to get good vantage points. Get comfortable and do an hour to four hour glassing session depending on how good your view is. Change your vantage points up and down the drainage you believe bears are living. Bears are going to be at different elevations depending on time of year, and snow levels. Neon green meadow grass is always a good indicator. Bears like to be secluded; they love small green chutes or openings in the timber rather than a big open face. Bears also like bottoms more than most other game animals. The grass is usually super green and bottoms offer good cover. I find bears will hang out and stay in the drainage they feel comfortable until they are pressured out. So pick your stalks wisely, locating is more than half the battle. You don’t want to move in hastily and spook the bear you just took days to locate.
For a full account of Brian's adventure, go to page 46 in the September/October 2012 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.