August/September 2011 EHJ (Issue 126) - To be honest, I’ve never really thought that much about hunting black bears. I was always one of those guys who would buy a bear tag every couple of years before I headed out on my deer and elk hunting trip just in case I "ran into one”. That’s before it seemed like everyone I knew was bear baiting and every show on outdoor TV was bear hunting. With gas prices so high and bear country so far from town, bear baiting wasn’t really an option for me. Some of the programs showed spot and stalk black bear hunting, but they were hunting Alaska and Idaho, where bear densities were much higher. Could this be done in Wyoming? Two seasons later, I would find out.
Feeling a little guilty about going hunting just three weeks after the birth of my first daughter, I headed out of town. The snowshoes were packed and I was early. As I made my way to my hunt area, my stomach sank. The turn south was blocked by plowed snow. What to do? Go somewhere I’ve hunted deer before? I pushed on, but I knew deep down I wouldn’t be able to get very far.
That’s when I saw it. A truck was buried in the snow just past the forest boundary. That was it, so I thought. I turned around and was disgusted that I wouldn’t be able to hunt that morning. As I headed south on the highway, I considered the lower country where there should be far less snow, but would there be bears? I headed up the creek and figured I would hunt at the point I couldn’t drive anymore.
After being stopped on the main road far short of where I wanted to be, I headed back and took a suitable twotrack up another creek. By now it was 9 a.m. and I briefly considered not going. It would be a good workout, so I put my snowshoes on and headed out. The snow had receded from the sunny areas and the snow wasn’t that bad in the trees, so I soon ditched the snowshoes.
I walked the road and kept my eyes peeled on the south-facing slopes of the ridges where I knew the bears would be out grazing on the new grass. That’s when I crossed the track! It looked big enough, but I didn’t really know. What I did know was that it was really fresh. The bear followed the road for half a mile and then up an open ridge. I picked it apart with my binoculars but found nothing.
I continued up the old road to a confluence of four draws and climbed the ridgeline to gain a suitable vantage point. As I made my way uphill, I heard it - nothing much, but it sounded like rocks and dirt sliding. I moved over to the edge of the ridgeline and watched the draw for whatever I had jumped. Nothing happened for minutes, but then something dark disappeared over the next ridge. It was gone, but what was it?
For a full account of Sean's adventure, go to page 42 in the August/September 2011 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.