2015 Bear-Good Start!

thecrittergitter

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For over a year now, I've been haunted by the missed opportunity I had in 2014. One of my dream hunts for an Alaska brown bear started so smoothly but a missed opportunity and weather problems, I came home empty handed. We all know that's part of hunting, but those things don't leave your mind easily. When my friend and Outfitter, Jonah Stewart, called me this spring and said he would give me an opportunity to come back for a bear, I immediately started scrambling to figure out how to make it happen! Although, these long trips are tough on my wife as she has twice the workload getting all four kids to all their activities, she knows what these trips mean to me, and supported my trip back to the snowy land of big bears! One of the many things that makes my wife one of the most amazing people I know!
So, April 4, 2015 found me in the Bozeman airport with my bags packed and one image in my mind, the big fella that got away. I've said since that day that given another opportunity like this, the final outcome would be much different for the bear. A very badly sprained ankle in February had me very concerned as it is still only about 70% healed. But I would tape it, brace it, limp on it, whatever it took, I was bringing home a bear this time. Hopefully the one in the images from last year!
 

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thecrittergitter

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Knowing it was on the early end of bear hunting, we figured we might be a week in before we find any bears popping out. Thankfully with the lack of snow and warmer weather in March, a few bears had starting popping out.
Easter Sunday would be our departure to the mountains. Jonah's folks made us a fabulous Easter breakfast and we started packing the plane. Mid day we were packed in and ready for bear action! Off we went.
 

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thecrittergitter

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Jonah mentioned that when he was flying plane fuel into camp a few days prior, he had one bear that we would check on first. This had my hopes up that this trip was going to be good! Once we reached bear territory, we headed to check on the bear that Jonah had spotted. Sure enough, we found him only 300 yards or so from his original den spot. We looked him over and felt that although he wasn't a great big bear, he was still a pretty nice boar. Because my gun case looked like the airlines used it as a hammer, we felt we better double check to make sure there were no issues. We landed at base camp and I got a couple targets up for verification. I shot two shots at 400 yards that were 1" apart and then moved to 700 yards just for verification. Dialed in 3 shots into a 4" group at 700 yards so felt that I was ready for a bear!
Jonah thought the best bet would be to throw in a spike camp and a couple days of food and go look for other bears since we felt the one we found would be a good backup plan if we couldn't find any others. This was great for me because I really wanted to go to check the same canyon I missed the bear in last year for a little redemption there:) We took off and spent the next couple hours searching the canyons for bears and fresh dens. These animals are absolutely amazing where they live! The places they den up seem like places mountain goats wouldn't even go.
It's amazing the places a good pilot can fly in this country. Thankfully I was flying with one of the best!
 

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thecrittergitter

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As we hit "my canyon" I had a good feeling we were going to see something good. Halfway up the canyon, Jonah found a den on the side of the hill. As we approached, I spotted two bears in the alders just up from the den. We came back for a second look and verified that they were both pretty young bears and not shooters so we continued on. As we hit the end of the canyon, Jonah banked the plane and we were coming back down when I spotted it. A den on the same hillside, literally 1/2 mile from the den the big bear denned in last year that I missed. Jonah gained some elevation and we came back around for another look. As we flew over the den, we noted that the tracks and day beds looked fresh and that he had not left the mountain. We figured that bugger was still in that hole. One last pass for verification was all we wanted to check and as we made the approach, I saw the big melon of a bear inching his way back into the hole! Boom, game on now! Without a good look at the bear, we figured we would try and land the plane and hike to a vantage point and get a spotter on him to see what kind of bear he was. My initial thought said he was a good one, but I figured I would leave that to the guy who has been on 81 kills:)
 

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thecrittergitter

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Now you want to talk about a little flashback........we landed the plane in the exact same spot as last year; this bear den was on the exact same hillside as last year, I started wondering if I was going to get redemption on the same big boar as last year! We packed up the spotter and started hiking up drainage to try and get a look at the bear.
About a mile later, we spotted him. We also spotted a huge storm rolling down the canyon! No sooner did we get the spotter set up and the snow hit. We never got a good look but based on what we could see, we figured it was worth camping out and trying to locate him the next day.
 

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thecrittergitter

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And very quickly, we didn't have a choice as the weather quickly made flying out impossible...... So, we hiked back and set up a tent and got ready to weather out the storm.
 

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thecrittergitter

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Once we got camp set up, we crawled in and had us a fabulous Easter dinner of freeze dried mountain house! I suspect it was a little less fancy than most people's Easter dinner:)
 

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thecrittergitter

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At one time, Jonah and I woke up in the middle of the night and it had snowed a heavy wet snow and the top of tent was about a foot off our faces! We got all the snow shook off and back to sleep. Next morning, we had us a little breakfast and packed our gear to go see if we could find this bear. With all the new snow overnight, we had a hard time locating the den area as it was just all white. However, Jonah had taken good landmarks from the plane and had the ridgeline pegged for where the den was. We strapped on the snowshoes and hiked up drainage to find a vantage and a place we could set up to shoot from. We sat at the bottom for a while making a game plan......just long enough to get soaked and cold so we decided it was time to move. The plan was to get to the little knob out in front of us and we guessed we would be within 500 yards of the den location. The right to left wind prevented us from getting to his elevation so we had to stay low.
 

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thecrittergitter

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Once we were there, we set up and got ready to sit the bear out. 7 hours we sat in the sleet, snow, rain, and crap weather. We really only had visibility of the den area about 30% of the day. We considered going back to the tent a couple times but knew if we did, we would be taking all opportunity away. That evening, we got a small opening in the weather for visibility and Jonah decided to hit the predator call just to see if the bear would come out to check things out. I got set up with the rifle which took me a while. The mountain was so steep, I had to build a wall, extend bipod all the way and dig out a spot for me to lay. I popped off my Rapid Cover that worked awesome on this hunt and got ready. That cover was awesome for protecting from not only bad weather but beating the gun up walking through brush and alders.
 

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thecrittergitter

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After about 15 minutes of nothing, Jonah decided to walk up and to the right about 100 yards just to see if he could get a better angle to see the den.
I sat ready, checking the yardages everywhere so I could be ready if he came out. I put the binos back in the bino harness and glanced over at Jonah.......I see him pointing up the hill and on his knees. I look back up and there he was! I jump in behind the rifle and flip the covers open. I look at the bear in the crosshairs and couldn't believe how the scenario was playing out identical to last year! I'm looking at a big boar, on a very steep hillside, in the same canyon, with nothing but head and neck in the scope. I quickly verified the range again and again. 402 yards. Steep hillside and angle says to shoot him for 343 yards. With all the shooting I did this winter, this is a slam dunk..............course, I said that last year:) I look back at Jonah 100 yards from me and he is nodding quickly and giving me a big thumbs up. Soon as I saw the thumbs up, I dialed for 343 and settled in. My heart was racing a hundred beats a second as I waited for the bear to show a little more than head and neck. After about 10 seconds, he was standing broadside and I could only see the upper half of the bear. All I needed. I held on and squeezed the trigger. The bear spun 180 degrees and stood there. I was sure he was hit but I wasn't taking any chances of that thing getting back in his den. I jacked in another round and sent another Barnes 225 TTSX up the hill. I look up to see this blob of a bear rolling down the avalanche chute at about 70 miles an hour! Coming down right to us! 400 yards that bear rolled all the way down the mountain and came to a stop about 50 or 60 yards from us! REDEMPTION has never felt so sweet in my life! When I walked up to this bear, I couldn't believe how awesome he was.
Here I was sitting in the same canyon, bear denned on same hillside, set up for steep shot, one year later, with the trophy now at my feet......off to a great start in 2015.
My goal was a solid boar and this guy fits the bill just awesomely. A 9 foot bear with incredible hair is going to look awesome in the trophy room:)
 

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thecrittergitter

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Taking a moment of thanks to this awesome bear for allowing me this moment.......
 

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thecrittergitter

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After we skinned the bear and got everything ready to pack back, another storm rolled in. We headed for the tent and decided to come back for the bear the next day. Jonah had a plastic sled that he keeps in his plane so we were able to bundle everything on the sled and the two of us pulled it back to the plane. We broke down camp and although windy as heck, we managed to get off the mountain and headed back for civilization.
 

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thecrittergitter

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And to top off an awesome trip, as soon as hit cell service, I had a text from my wife. It was a picture of a letter that my 4 year old, Lexi, wrote to me while I was gone. Absolutely made my day!

There is no question I've been truly blessed with the opportunities I've had in my life. There are many people and decisions in life responsible for that, but nothing more important that an awesome wife that will support these trips, even knowing it will be tougher on her. I have a feeling next week she is going to be sitting on the beach somewhere for a few days while I get to wrestle a flock of kids:)

Thanks to Mr . Big Fin for the fine hat I wore on this trip! Muskrat hats definitely keep the ol ears warm!
 

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ERSS

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That is awesome, great story, photos and perseverance. Certainly an amazing trophy, love that diamond on his forehead

What rifle/caliber?
 
Yeti

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