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An Idaho Bear Hunt To Remember

SCliving Outdoors

Well-known member
Feb 9, 2018
South Carolina
Every year for the past four years I’ve hunted spring bears. Three of those 4 years with my buddy Greg from Arizona. I’ll fly up and he will pick me up at the airport and we will head out into the mountains to hunt. These hunts are a lot of fun and give us a chance to get out and do some backpack hunting during the “off-season”. I really enjoy these hunts. The last couple of years my buddy Trent who lives in Twin Falls has also met up with us and the three of us have a good time hunting different areas across the state.

Spring bears have kind of been my arch-nemesis. I do pretty well hunting in the fall, but for some reason I haven’t been able to put it together in the spring. Every year we see bears and get a little closer and learned a little more, but we just haven’t been able to punch our tags.

This spring we switched it up a little bit and bought the discounted tags and we figured if the guys online could do it so could we. So we bought our tags and headed up to a wilderness unit. The hunt did not start out well. There were too many other people. The area we picked was crowded. There were at least three other groups of guys who were DIY hunting. One group with llamas. And at least one outfitter with horses and dogs. We kept hiking in farther but every ridge top that looked good had a tent on it. On top of that the weather sucked. It was snowing and just not great. We saw plenty of elk, mule deer, whitetail and sheep we just could not find the bears. After three days of this we had had enough and decided we were going to a new spot.

We sat in a town with some cell phone reception and looked at maps over and over. Finally I found an area that I thought met all the qualifications. We drove a couple hours and got to the new spot. Not one car or truck at the trailhead. Hiking in there was very little sign of use. In fact the trail was so overgrown in places we had to crawl to get through the undergrowth. This is the Idaho that I like. We were liking the spot better already.

To glass the hillsides that we had hiked into hunt we had to climb up 550 vertical feet and on the way up we started to see what we were looking for. Everything in this area was greening up really well and all the yellow flowers were starting to pop. The flowers were either open or almost open. Everything looked good. Up on top of the ridge was a massive pile of scat the size of a cow pie. We were excited. We knew we were in a good spot. We got our camp set up and headed up to start glassing around 6 PM. Within 5 seconds of sitting down I saw a large chocolate bear. He was about 1200 yards away. We watched him for 10 minutes as he came down the hill and began to feed on a green hillside about 1000 yards off. Greg has come with me on multiple hunts and has just been a good buddy the last few years. Even when he did not have a tag. I told him he was first shooter this year so he took off down the ridge to try to get a shot at the big chocolate bear. Everything played out just like a storybook. Greg came up on the backside of the adjacent ridge laid down on top and got a 236 yard shot at the big boar. The bear ran, stumbled and fell down into a jungle of a creek bottom, but bear #1 was on the ground. About an hour and a half after this I was still glassing and the big bear that we had found the scat pile of came out on the ridge adjacent to me. He was massive. I got in position and ranged the bear at 460 yards. This is a shot I’m really comfortable with, but my excitement got the better of me. I was supposed to dial my turret to 6.6 and instead dialed it to 4.6. I guess I got the 460 and 4.6 mixed up in my head. I had plenty of time I just made a mistake. I shot right under the bear and he ran up the hill. I was disappointed, but also really excited for Greg. He had punched our first bear tag on a 6’+ bear (his best bear ever).

The next morning we got up and took care of the bear and also did some glassing. The previous night while Greg was making his move I had spotted a very red cinnamon bear that I had named Spicy. We could tell the bear wasn’t quite as big but also not small. We guessed she was a decent size sow even though she did not have a cub. We spotted her again that morning but did not really have a way to get over to her based on where she was feeding. She also wasn’t a huge bear and I knew there was at least one other big bear in our area.

That afternoon Trent showed up just in time to head up on the mountain and start glassing. We got to our spot sat down and Trent immediately spotted a herd of cow elk. These were the first elk that we had seen in this basin in two days. About five minutes after that he said “There’s a bear”. We all put up our binoculars and saw a very large cinnamon bear skirting the group of elk just below them. Through the spotter we could tell this was a big bear. All the elk were on high alert. This was a new bear that we had not seen yet. We all agreed this was most likely a big boar based on all the characteristics we saw and we were assuming he was checking the elk for new calves even though it’s still earlier in the year. Eventually he worked his way towards a hillside not far from the elk and began to feed. It was my turn. I ran down the mountain and up the ridge on the far side getting into shooting position. As soon as I crested the hill I saw the bear for a moment go into a deep creek that was very thick. I did not see him again. Trent and Greg told me later that he worked his way around towards me, but I was unable to see him because of the hillside. He then cut away from me after smelling me in the swirling breeze. He went back down into the creek bottom. I didn’t know any of this and since I was all the way up on top of that ridge I decided I was just going to sit there and glass in hopes of seeing him again or another bear. Trent and Greg saw the whole thing play out, but the bear dropped back down into the creek and then started working his way through the thick bottom slowly feeding. They said they kept telling me to “SHOOT! SHOOT!” but I could not see the bear. Finally he popped out below me at a 199 yards. He wasn’t there one minute and then he was there the next. I already had everything set up and The quartering to shot was very simple to execute. The bear folded immediately falling a little ways down into a creek and coming to rest in a bush. I finally had my big spring bear and not just any bear. A big cinnamon boar. He’s a really cool bear. 1/2 of one ear is missing and the other is split. I was thrilled. It had been a goal of mine to shoot a cinnamon bear since I started bear hunting 4 years earlier and I finally made it happen. This was my 30th day of spring bear hunting. Trent and Greg made their way over to help me break down the bear and we got back to camp about 10 PM. It started to rain and rain didn’t stop until 3 AM. Greg and I stayed dry. Trent did not, lol.

The next morning we made a fire to try to dry out some of our items that were not in the tents and all of Trent‘s items. The tarp over Trent’s hammock did not work out so well. Greg said he was going to start taking a load of meat to the truck while Trent and I made our way up on the hill to glass. We did not get up on the hill until 10 AM and Trent and I sat for a while just talking and glassing. At 12 PM I glassed a cinnamon bear behind a big evergreen. Once we got the spotting scope on it I could tell it was Spicy. She was feeding in a chute between a couple groups of evergreen trees. If she stayed in that area and Trent could get over there in time he would get a shot at her. I stayed behind the glass and he took off. When I saw him come up the far side 20 - 30 minutes later Spicy had actually fed into a little bit of a better area. He got a 247 yard shot. He did not have the best rest because of the way the side hill was positioned and the lack of large trees or anything to lean up against. As I watched through the scope I could tell the shot was pretty far back. When I got over to him we started looking and eventually found her still alive so Trent had to put a finishing shot in her. She was exactly what I thought she was. A reddish cinnamon bear not as big as the boars, but still a nice bear. Trent was happy and so were Greg and I. We had killed three bears in about 40 hours out of the same general area.

We got everything back to camp and started breaking everything down. Greg had actually made a couple of trips to the truck that day and returned to camp in the afternoon. I was not willing to make two trips. Trent and I loaded up our bears and camp and headed to the truck. When I got back we weighed my pack and it was 135lbs. Trent made a comment I won’t forget when he saw my pack on my back he said “These packs are loaded up with a lot of pride.” I couldn’t agree more. I’d worked hard for my bear and I know the other guys had to.

This was a trip that won’t soon be forgotten. 3 color phase bears and two 6’+ boars.

Thanks for everything Idaho. I’ll see you again soon.

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Nice hunt and bears. Great pictures too!

I know you guys know what you’re doing, but dang I’d be boning out that meat for sure, for the sake of my future self ha.

30 days is a lot, persistence pays off.
Congrats on another great adventure, that is a very cool trip. 3 bears is a tough one to accomplish. Looks like you guys did very well.

Count em folks 139 pto days and counting. 😉
30 days of spring bear hunting is unreal. That’s got to be a record. Congrats on the hunt but that’s ridiculous😂😂😂