2019 Spring Bear in Frank Church Wilderness, Idaho (Unit 20A)

JaredMoon

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Dec 26, 2018
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Hey out there to everyone in HT. I'm in the very early stages of putting together my 2019 hunt calendar and it appears that Idaho may be the spot for my first spring bear hunt. I have draw tags out for Prince of Wales and units in Oregon but I'm not sure my hunting buddy will be able to meet up with me even if I draw the tags. So we are looking at Idaho's 20A Unit: The Frank Church - River of no Return Wilderness.

I understand the Frank is challenging and I'm no expert but I have a fair amount of back country time from my 2018 season (~22 days solo in several wilderness areas). Additionally, we are both confident of our backcountry abilities as both my hunting buddy and I have served 10+ years active duty in the Army wherein I've spent ample time deep in the Amazon and he served as a mountain/cold weather warfare specialist Green Beret. Meaning safety is well in our minds and we will take as many precautions as necessary.

I listed out some questions below but am open to any general advice you all may have. Thank you all a ton in advance. I'm a new member here but have lurked for quite some time.

Method: Spot and stalk with a bow.

Time: About the first week of may. I am finishing graduate school and need to finish the year before heading out on any hunts. I know it's not super ideal but it is the best I can do.

Charter: The reason I am reaching out is to get as much info as possible on the unit to see if we can narrow our focus thereby increase our chances. We will likely fly in and have already reached out the mainstays for quotes (McCall, GemAir, Sawtooth, and G&S). Any others I should look into?

General E-Scouting So Far: Initial research always start with www.GoHunt.com and www.OnX.com but we are focusing on meadows which have large swaths of south facing slopes to glass into. So far I have picked out Middle Meadows, Hot Springs Meadows or the Meadow of Doubt (big fan of the name). Any advice as to locations I should check a little further into or stay away from? Not looking for you to give up your hunting spots just some good ol boy advice. I'm also very open to any other resources noting that I have and will continue to check with NFS and Idaho's Fish and Game. If you are more comfortable DM-ing me please feel free to do so.

Landing Strips: This will obviously depend on where we want to hunt but if there are some places that are worth checking out or worth avoiding I am very interested to know. I read a report that said Cold Meadows AF was socked in with fog and want to ensure things like that aren't common. We aren't against making some pretty long movements but note that if we are both successful it might be a pretty heavy movement back.

Other than that, I know this is a long post so thank you for sticking with me. More importantly thank you to everyone in this community for helping me for as long as you have. I will keep this post rolling with updates to my trip and planning as I go along (gear lists, food lists, etc.). Thank a bunch!

- Jared
 

IdahoPotato

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I don't know much about the church, but if killing a nice bear is on your list definitely check out applying for the controlled spring bear hunts in Idaho. Those areas hold a lot of bears with good quality. My concern with going into a wilderness area would be all that effort to not see a bear. Bear density can be hit or miss in certain areas. Good luck.
 

Schaaf

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I’ve found that the Frank would be tough to fit into my spring bear routine of drinking beer until after midnight and rolling out of the tent at about 9, but good luck.
 
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psycho

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Just curious what your spending for a flight in to that area when you get that info? I hunted bear for a week in 16 or 16a and saw 3 bear. Its rugged in there.
 

JaredMoon

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Just curious what your spending for a flight in to that area when you get that info? I hunted bear for a week in 16 or 16a and saw 3 bear. Its rugged in there.
I've only heard back from Gem Air so far but the one way flights are quoted below. I had them quote for a total of 3 hunters. With the Cessna 206 we were given a 1,000lb limit for men and gear meaning if any or all of us were successful we would have to upgrade on the way back. With hunters I don't think that would be a problem unless we both kill some absolute monsters that field dress to 250 lbs each:

Salmon to Chamberlain
Cessna 206: $640
Islandar: $840 + FET = $903

Salmon to Cold Meadows
Cessna 206: $590
Islander: $790 + FET = $849.25

Has anyone used a packer for this region? As we compare flights I am just curious to see a cost difference.
 

JaredMoon

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I’ve found that the Frank would be tough to fit into my spring bear routine of drinking beer until after midnight and rolling out of the tent at about 9, but good luck.

ha yeah, I'm going to have to cut back on the bourbon just for the train up so Im not sure hiking in beer from the landing strip would be a good idea. Stashing a small yeti locked with some beer in it at the landing strip for the return might be a good idea though haha.
 

JaredMoon

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I don't know much about the church, but if killing a nice bear is on your list definitely check out applying for the controlled spring bear hunts in Idaho. Those areas hold a lot of bears with good quality. My concern with going into a wilderness area would be all that effort to not see a bear. Bear density can be hit or miss in certain areas. Good luck.

Yeah I definitely understand that. But unfortunately I'm accustomed to not killing something so I have learned to appreciate the experience haha. My only major concern is that I want my buddy to have a chance to hunt as well which why I'm looking at OTC units.
 

JaredMoon

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So update, I just heard back from McCall Aviation. They seem to have a better deal (at least for now). They quoted me with their Fall 2018 price and noted that it is subject to change. See below for flight price estimate:

"[$525/person which includes:]
·. Roundtrip airfare from either McCall or Salmon to most strips used for hunting in the Frank Church wilderness area
· 150 lbs of gear per person (Extra gear can be accommodated for $0.55/lb.)
· Bringing your game meat out
· Use of our meat cooler if your game is brought to McCall"

Landing Strips available are listed below:

Airstrip/Htg.Unit/Abv.
Bernard/27/BER : Mahoney Bar/27/MAH : Big Creek/26/BCR : Mackay Bar/20A/MKB : Cabin Creek/26/CCR : Pistol Creek/27/PCR : Chamberlin B/20A/CHB : Root Ranch*/20A/RTR : Cold Meadows/20A/CDM : Soldier Bar/26/SBR : Flying “B”*/27/FLB : Thomas Creek/27/TCR : Indian Creek/27/ICR : Upper Loon/27/UPL : Lower Loon/27/LLN

Any strip with an asterisk (*) can only be flown into if you are using a guiding service...which I will not be doing.
 
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JaredMoon

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For spring bear I would think Cold Meadows and Chamberlain would be out of the question.
Legitimate Question: Why do you think that? Too much snow? McCall aviation mentioned that as well. Which air fields would you consider then? Cabin Creek perhaps?
 
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JLS

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Legitimate Question: Why do you think that? Too much snow? McCall aviation mentioned that as well. Which air fields would you consider then? Cabin Creek perhaps?
They are both high plateaus that will still be snowed in and would leave you too far to get to the river breaks where the bears will be. I’d look for airstrips with access to some mid level benches, preferably on southeastern aspects.
 

elker

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May could be too early, especially the 1st week. I hunted 21A last June and the 1st week or two is usually the best time. Also, hunted the Bitterroot/Selway last fall for bears. According to some guides in the area, late May or June is best. Just my opinion, but if you really want to be successful, bring in some popcorn and Bear Magnet (Cabelas had it). Pop the corn up there and you might as well set up baits. Put the bear magnet on the popcorn and hang some scent. You should have bears in a day or two. You can do 3 baits for each person. Put cameras on and see what time they come in. Exciting way hunt and you can still spot and stalk. Early May could have too much snow in most areas, although you never know. There's a lot of bears in there and have been much more successful with baits, some areas are very thick to glass and bears seem to like a lot of cover.
 
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JaredMoon

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May could be too early....
Awesome thank you for the advice. In reality my summer is pretty open so we could definitely push the trip later in the month. I would prefer to find that sweet spot where there are 3x 500lb monster black bear boars but no 500lb monster mosquitos. Did you speak with any pilots for your trip? Also how do you determine the snow level before setting off - do the pilots do frequent scouting trips?
 

elker

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Very true, the mosquitoes can be bad and they were at times last June. I don't like to use repellant because of the scent. I have a cabin in central Idaho and spend a lot of time around there so I'm able to keep track of snow levels. It would be a bummer to fly in early May with snow covered ground. Trying to stalk a bear definitely could be hard with the crunch. A couple of years ago, I had to travel to a different area in late May (around the 22nd) because of the snow level. Never have flown in, although backpacked in the Selway wilderness before on a moose/bear hunt. Quite a few wolves, getting a wolf with a bow or sidearm would be really cool. Bait gives you a lot more advantage, check the stats on F&G website, just the weight factor of baits, popcorn is light and it won't take much with concentrated scent to get them in.
 

Tjay

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Idaho 2013

Hunted bear in 2013 and went up the Salmon River in one of these.



Hunted areas like this.



This was a guided hunt but they do take hunters up to hunt with there own gear and camp.
 

1_pointer

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The posts would be OLD but poster “shinglemonekey” used to fly into the Frank and hunt bears in the spring. I always that it sounded like a very cool trip.
 

JaredMoon

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Very true, the mosquitoes can be bad and they were at times last June...
Yeah I will check the reg's to see if it's legal in 20A. Obviously doing it without the bait would be cooler as it's more difficult but depending on the terrain and foliage I'm not against it. Plus if the first one of us can take a bear in the first couple days the gut pile alone would draw some interesting stuff in. As for the wolves, I'll definitely be keeping a wolf tag in my pocket but I'm not sure how to even go about stalking in on one with a bow haha...maybe use that gut pile.
 

JaredMoon

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Hunted bear in 2013...
Awesome, great pics. I'm not going to be as rude to ask for the GPS coordinates but what were the dates on your hunt and do you remember the proximate elevation? The snow looks pretty much gone where you took that pic.
 
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