Published by archerchick on 23 Mar 2010 at 10:44 am
Eye Level Black Bears – By Rick Combs
Bow Hunting World Annual 2004-2005
The Scenario I had envisioned entailed spotting the bear in a clearing, mapping out a strategy, then hunkering down and executing the perfect stalk. What really happened was more like this: We spotted the bear at about 30 yards in a thicket of spruce and aspens just before it dropped out of sight into a small drainage, and my guide was shoving me toward it as I struggled to knock an arrow.
“Go! Go! Go!” he hissed. “That’s a good bear! That’s a good bear! That’s a good bear! Get up there!”
Half expecting the bear to have vanished, but fully aware it could just as easily be moving my direction, I began walking carefully toward the lip of the ravine, bow at full draw. As I peeked over and looked down on the gradual slope, the bear was standing broadside 10 steps away. He ran forward a few yards, and I thought he’d be in the thicket before I could get off a good shot. But then, inexplicably, he stopped and looked back.
I won’t pretend to know what goes through an animal’s mind at such a moment, but at the time it appeared for all the world he was thinking, “Wait a minute, I’m the bear. I’m not the one who is supposed to run” I swung the sight pin to the crease behind the shoulder, released the arrow, and watched the fletching disappear in the sweet spot.
The bear lunged forward, running further down into the ravine to a slough. Crossing it on a log, he stumbled once, nearly falling in, but made it to dry ground. Every bowhunter’s instinct after arrowing an animal is to keep it in sight as long as possible, but as I attempted to move forward and to one side to do that, my guide was tugging me away from the action, fearing that I was trying to follow the bear immediately.
That bear was not the first I’d seen on this trip, and it would prove to be far from the last. While in some ways the reality of my close encounter with a BC black bear did not live up to my fantasy, in all the ways that mattered British Columbia bear hunt was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.
To begin with it was a spot & stalk hunt. There is a lot to be said for baited bear hunting, beginning with the fact that in some areas, hunting over bait is the only feasible way to go about hunting bears. Hound hunting, too, has its following where legal. Man and dog have hunted cooperatively for thousand’s of years, and for more than a few hunters, enjoying that primal link is the main reason for hunting. My fantasy, though, was a spot & stalk hunt. I wanted to do it on the ground, eye-to-eye, so to speak, with the bear.
Pick The Right Outfitter
Nonresident hunters are required to
hunt with one of the 240 licensed guide-outfitters in British Columbia. Barring extremely bad luck (record late snowfall and low temperatures, a major forest fire in your hunting area), most any of them will show you bears, and your chances of getting a shot at a respectable
bruin are excellent. Even the most experienced trophy hunter with very high standards has a relatively good chance at shooting opportunities for trophy black bears or color phase bears in
British Columbia. The real question is,
what kind of overall hunting experience are you seeking? Are you interested only in a remote wilderness hunt from a spike camp, or would you prefer to stay in a comfortable lodge with hot tubs and other amenities! Either is available, as well as nearly every variation in between, from snug cabins to heated wall tents to bed & breakfast ranches.
Baiting bears is not legal in British Columbia, and though it is legal to hunt with hounds, spot & stalk hunting is far and away the most popular approach.
Still, “spot & stalk” is not a particularly specific term. At one end of the spot
& stalk spectrum, the hunter can hunt exclusively on foot in remote, fly-in or pack-in areas, scouting for sign and glassing mountainside, aualance chutes, or natural openings.
On the other end of the spot & stalk
spectrum, there is cruising logging roads on ATVs or in 4-wheel-drive vehicles.
Logging is a major industry in British Columbia, which means, that in much of the province there are miles and miles of dirt logging roads, not to mention clearcuts. Clearcuts and logging roads produce copious quantities of the fresh green growth bears love to eat.
Of course, logging roads and clearcuts can be hunted on foot. The vehicles, obvious advantage is the opportunity they afford to cover great amounts of territory in short order.
Yet another alternative is hunting waterways from boats. In the case of
both wheeled vehicles and boats,glassing the area and moving on. If bears are spotted from vehicles, hunters exit and stalk on foot to within bow range.
I spent a great deal of time researching my BC black bear hunt. With so many top-notch outfitters in the region picking one was difficult. In the end, I settled on Brett Thorpe and Bowron River Outfitters. My homework paid off. Though I’m perfectly happy to hunt from a tent camp in a spruce thicket, I have to admit the picturesque setting of Brett’s cabins on a lake reflecting surrounding snow capped mountains was a factor.
Brett himself was a factor, too. I think it’s important that a hunter “click” with his guide or outfitter, and I knew I’d enjoy hunting with Brett from the moment we first made contact. An avid bowhunter himself, Brett is intense about hunting, and his enthusiasm strikes a spark with anyone who is passionate about the sport. Though he is new to the outfitting business, having only purchased his BC hunting concession two years ago, he has years of experience as a hunter and a guide. He spent several years guiding and videotaping hunts for well-known black powder hunter and outfitter Jim Shockey. Depending on the needs and wishes of his clients, Brett will make use of wheeled vehicles on logging roads, hunt the nearby Fraser River by boat, hunt strictly on foot, or use some combination of these methods.
Short of references from hunting buddies whose opinion you respect, the Internet and email are great places to begin finding an outfitter. They’ll provide huge amounts of data in a hurry at little or no cost. It’s a good idea to write out a list of questions and issues that you
feel are important. Without a written list, you’ll quite likely get sidetracked on discussions of peripheral issues and forget to cover some thing essential. Make sure you understand what costs are covered, and ask specifically about any additional costs you are likely to incur.
Ultimately there is no substitute for more personal modes of communication, so after narrowing the field to several possibilities, you’ll want to make some phone calls. And though you’ve heard it before, it bears repeating. Get references from hunters who did not fill a tag, if possible. Then contact the references.
How Stalkable Are Bears?
I hate to say “that depends,” but that depends. In my experience, hunting pressure is a major factor in stalking any species. I have greatly enjoyed spotting and stalking wild hogs in relatively remote parts of Florida, but have hunted them in other areas where heavy hunting pressure made them almost entirely nocturnal and all but stalkable.
On the flip side, wild turkeys are often regarded as unstalkable, but on a memorable morning in Wyoming, I followed a flock of Merriams with my camera, back and forth along a ridgeline, several times getting within 20 yards of the birds.
Hunting pressure in BC is relatively light. Bears in remote areas are accustomed to being at the top of the food chain, and though black bears are rarely aggressive toward people, many of them are not easily intimidated, either.
The chief vulnerability of bears anywhere is their eyes; they can see alright, especially movement. Their sense of smell is excellent, and it is usually what betrays the hunter. Their preoccupation with food, both in the spring when they’ve just come out of hibernation, and in the fall when they’re bulking up to prepare for a long winter, is another vulnerability. In any case, the hunter who gets downwind and approaches carefully -using foliage and terrain for concealment, freezing when the bear looks up and moving cautiously when its head is down or hidden – should sooner or later get within bow range of a bear. After that, it’s a matter of not coming unglued long enough to make the shot.
A few hours prior to the incident recounted earlier, I muffed my first opportunity: a 40-yard shot at a good bear. Forty yards is a long shot for me, but not beyond my range if conditions are right and I don’t have to rush. The bear was up a hill and looking back at me, and my arrow went a good five inches to the right of my aiming spot. Luckily a spruce tree intervened to prevent a gut shot. I’ll blame the steep uphill angle, but I can’t deny pure excitement probably was a factor.
Reality may never live up to fantasies in all the particulars, but with a little homework to find the outfitter who will best meet your needs and desires, along with some planning and preparation, a British Columbia spot & stalk black bear hunt can be a reality you’ll look back on fondly for the rest of your life.
all rights reserved
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.