View Full Version : Newbie Bear Hunt

01-13-2011, 7:34 PM
It's almost November (2010). The sound of the hounds are trailing away…further and fainter as I run across uneven ground, leaping over rocks and fell trees in the filtered sunlight. The air is cold but my lungs, head and chest are hot. I am struggling to keep up. The dogs continue running…and so do I. I am beginning to curse my 50 year old body. Tomorrow I am going to pay for this…Motrin may not be enough.

The dogs begin singing a new tune. They’ve stopped. Somewhere up ahead, about 2300 feet above me on a mountain with no road, no cutbacks the hounds and one very pissed off black bear are squaring off. The mountain is steep, slippery and unforgiving. There is no dirt, just loose gravel, small and large stones with small areas of bedrock covered with moss and poison ivy is everywhere. You don’t even think about falling here. Plant a foot, see if it holds, then plant another. Up the hill, 12" at a time. Many times I find myself sliding back to where I had just been, this is tough climbing. It takes an eternity to get near the dogs. I can hear the angry growls from the bruin. Is he treed? I wonder what I am walking into. My body hurts, I have a spasm in my back, my breathing loud and gasping…the climb is almost over.

I am all eyes and ears now. I hear a crash and I know I am close. Suddenly the barking changes, a dog cries out in pain and I half expect to run into a bear that’s running away from the dogs. No…the sounds of the hounds are moving away…and towards the base of the mountain. I can’t believe it.

I look around and notice that the clouds I had looked up at when I got out of the truck are now below me. We climbed a long way…my guides did it with ease. Of course they’re half my age and do this everyday. Still, standing on that mountainside with legs of rubber, completely out of breath and questioning not only my body but now my resolve. I can see why some people give up. Bear hunting isn’t for everyone. This fair chase game is quite challenging and for anyone who has heard the old wives tale suggesting you can escape a bear by running downhill…don’t you believe it. Bears on a steep downhill run are so fast they become a blur of fur and you might as well try to outrun a car on the freeway.

I begin my descent. I take a step and literally slide two feet down the mountain. Take another step and slide two more feet. This is how it’s done, step, slide, step. It takes time but beats the alternative…falling.

At the bottom we learn the bear has charged up the opposing hill and so we follow. My guides are great and a constant encouraging force, always within sight and applying exactly the right kind of “pressure” to keep me moving…even at times when I could not.
By the time we catch up to this jet black male he has already inflicted some minor injuries on two dogs. He’s not huge but he’s mean and scrappy. The dogs will have some scars on their heads from the open cuts he gave em.

My rifle is no longer slung on my shoulder, I am unsure whether it was an offensive or defensive move but I am ready to aim and fire now. Pulse is slowing, focus is growing keener, the hunter I hoped resided within me emerges and I am strangely stoic. There is nothing but the sound of the hounds, the woods, the guides, the bear and me. Time seems to have slowed. Seconds blur and hang like drops of honey. I am not thinking about anything now…I am completely enveloped in the moment, sensing all and absorbed in this thing called bear hunting. I have never been more exhausted or more alive.

When I first lock eyes with the bear, it is jarring. He has no fear of me or anything else. I thought they were supposed to be timid? Not this bruin, he is all business and for a second I hesitate.

Strange to think that a couple hours earlier I was drinking coffee and wiping the sleep from my eyes. The dogs seemed more like house pets than hunters then. Breakfast consisted of eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, English muffin and juice and the biggest concern I had was whether or not my ‘normal bodily functions” would keep to their regular schedule or if I would have the discomfort of irregularity. Laugh young man, go ahead and laugh…it’ll happen to you too one day.

Bear hunters enjoy rock star status up along the Klamath River…those poor people are trapped in the homes from dusk to dawn because there are so bears running around. It’s been “wet” the last two years and the area holds more apples, pears, blackberries and acorns than the bears can eat. This has allowed them to carry 2 to 4 cubs instead of one or two. They gather where the food is and so…it’s a perfect storm of fur up there. They are even entering homes and I heard stories of bears entering homes and residents pushing back on the door to try and keep em out. Crazy!

I was also contemplating the day before when the hounds were all over the area in constant chase but only managed to bey a small cub. Cute little guy, climbed a tree right next to the road and I took a bunch of photos. A couple of the dogs continued to chase the sow who ran for cover in an enormous rock pile. Strangest darn place I had ever seen…it looked like it had been constructed. Almost like a massive vertical jetty full of big and small holes. I had no interest in shooting a sow but I wanted to get a taste of the chase so I followed the guides as they followed the hounds. The momma bear ran into this huge pile of granite and disappeared. Cody expressed concern that she could pop out anywhere since the holes seem to go 20’ or more and from my position below them, might find myself facing a bad situation should the female emerge. I hadn’t brought a weapon because I had no intention of shooting a sow. Hey, I’m new…I have much to learn. I looked into one crevice and saw what looked like two eyes staring at me and I froze and focused. It was two knots in the trunk of a fallen tree but the coloration and spacing was perfect and I am even less of a tree hugger now…if that’s possible.

Over breakfast I also considered the freshly snowed mountain caps from the previous day…the 1st snow of the fall. It was a thick, wet snow…the kind that breaks branches and falls trees and it did. As we worked the mountain roads the truck took a beating going over and under these trees…some of which we moved by hand. The snow covered countryside was spectacular and I felt privileged to witness the raw beauty of the first snow. I was carrying my bow that day and getting the feel for the rugged terrain hoping to take my bear with a broadhead. I quickly realized that there are few opportunities to do this given the bushiness of the trees and the vast number of deflecting limbs between the ground and bear. Yeah…I’m new.

Something I want to note real quick…the area near the Oregon border where we hunted is loaded with animals of all kinds. It took me 15 hrs to drive from OC to this place because of freeway closures (in LA where they are widening the I-5 in two places) and massive flooding as I got mid-state. In fact, my truck hit one section of the I-5 that turned my Dodge into a largemouth bass, fishtailing like mad. I had to stop and fill my ice chest with six 20lb bags of ice to lend weight to the rear end. When I finally reached my Bed & Breakfast, I was in no mood. All I wanted was a smoke and drink and I made it so. I’m sitting in front my free standing guest house with some Gran Patron Burdeos, an ice cold Pacifico and lighting my pipe (no cracks okay…it was tobacco) when I see a young buck looking at me twelve feet away. Not the average sight for us from Orange County. So…being a friendly sorta guy I starting talking to the deer, “Hi Bearmeat…you seem a little too comfortable around bipeds. You do know we enjoy venison right? Why you lookin’ at me like that? I got nothin’ for ya. Want some beer?” Did I mention I had just completed a 15 hour drive and hadn’t slept beforehand? And I was drinking.
Well I shot some photos of the little guy and was starting to relax when one of the guys who operates the B&B comes out and begins hand feeding deer on the front lawn. I went from deer whisperer to a-hole in five seconds and realized I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. This same character fed a family of foxes as well but was smart enough to let the bears fend for themselves. One of em had climbed up on a big chest freezer he had outside and lifted the locked doors up with its paws. Bent pointing straight up, the doors had become wings and the bear ate everything in the box. Just one of many bear stories on the Klamath.

So now I’m staring at the bear that we chased up the steepest mountainside I have ever climbed and I admit, somewhere between the ascent, descent and second ascent my legs began to give out on me and my lungs were right behind em. I literally saw stars at one point and four times nearly puked. When I say that climb was wicked tough, I mean it. “Nobody in his right mind would intentionally do this,” I thought. I later considered the appropriateness of scheduling myself a hysterectomy when I returned home. I felt like one big p*ssy. That mountain kicked my butt.

01-13-2011, 7:35 PM
The bear is in the lower limbs of the tree and oh how I wished I had my bow instead of the 45-70 Govt Mauser custom. I had convinced myself I had little chance of a decent bow shot up here and now I was looking at it. Of course, the bow was back at the B&B 40 minutes away and I still kick myself for that. I had carried it the previous day but left it behind. sigh

I was instructed to climb past the bear so I was shooting down on it, presumably because they don’t always cooperatively drop dead and if it hit the ground running, it might be like trying to block an NFL player carrying a chainsaw. When I had caught my breath and the dogs were safely secured I leveled the rifle, took aim and let the lead fly. Crack, thud, roar…the bruin gripped and bit the tree, a reflex action I am told. A second round drop him like a sack of wet cement and the hunt was over…a bittersweet moment but one my worn out body fully appreciated.

Anyone who thinks hunting bear with hounds is somehow less sporting or easy has obviously never done it. When you spot and stalk the physical demand s are significantly reduced because you are moving slowly and stopping frequently to glass. If you hunt from a treestand, boredom may be your biggest enemy. When you are chasing dogs up and down steep, treacherous terrain you are truly testing the limits of your physical ability and you never know what it is you’re running into. Is the bear treed? On the ground in fight mode? In a rock pile or cave? Will your shot be rushed by a charging bear as a defensive move or will you have time to line up a normal shot. You never know. Like many things…you must experience this style of hunting firsthand before you can truly grasp and appreciate it. Try explaining what chocolate tastes like to someone who has never had it. It’s kinda like that…only sweeter.
My smoking buddy:


Any leftovers in that truck?


I smell a friend. Yes...it's Mr. Wonder Bread:


View from my porch:


Locals mowing the lawn (what's left of it):


01-13-2011, 7:36 PM
Mr. Fox visits too:


Driving around waiting for the dogs to locate a scent:


Put me in coach...I'm ready to play, today!


Dogs promptly go AWOL...no sign of em on GPS as Larry wands for em, kinda unnerving for awhile.


First treed cub:


Hounds want cubby tar tar:


01-13-2011, 7:37 PM
I want my mama!


Larry looking normal. This changes once you get a bear. Trust me.


Then came the rain:


More sign! Bear's marked territory...


This is freezer meat and a future rug:



BTW...if it doesn't violate any board rules, I recommend using Larry & Cody at http://www.brawleysguideservice.com if chasing bears. They are great guys! Heading to Redding next month to hunt big boar with Cody. Can't wait!

01-13-2011, 7:45 PM
Do they guide coyote hunts? Good job on the bear.

01-13-2011, 7:49 PM
Fantastic photos and story, Great job!

01-13-2011, 9:09 PM
Do they guide coyote hunts? Good job on the bear.

I believe so, he had mentioned some hunters taking coyotes while pig hunting. If I had seen one it was understood I would shoot it and Cody said "Good." He has access to sprawling private ranches around Redding with big boar, meat pigs and coyotes. We spotted a lion out there but no yotes or piggies in Nov but I'm heading back in 5.5 weeks to take another shot at the bacon. By now they've all moved to the lower elevations and he said my biggest concern hunting em in Feb would be getting run over by one. Hounds are reserved for bear only-other hunts are spot & stalk. Cody found the remnants of a big ram on one of the ranches we hunted.


01-14-2011, 7:17 AM
Great report and photos, thanks! I would love to do this sometime.

01-14-2011, 7:22 AM

01-14-2011, 8:22 AM
I want some bear meat.:(

01-14-2011, 8:30 AM
Perhaps....after you get a life. :rofl2: