Beautiful CA Bears

sureshotshane

Active member
Joined
Dec 20, 2017
Messages
48
Location
CA
Howdy Folks,

This is a long one.

It's been a busy season taking guests on various hunts from Roosevelt elk, to Columbian black-tailed deer and bear. This is the story of a couple bears recently killed in CA. Hopefully I'll have time in a different post for a recent blacktail buck story. Still more hunts to come too. This is of a personal hunt..

Day Before Opener:

Story starts the day before opening day of deer/bear season here along the North Coast of California. I had a colleague and friend who I owed a hunt too and he had a deer and bear tag. I was bringing my rifle, but I had my bar set pretty high for the type of buck I'd pull the trigger on. I planned a hunt that I'd always wanted to do. There is a long ridge, that's extremely steep and rugged but the walking is relatively easy when on the top, the ridge runs about 17 miles as the crow flys. Nobody hunts it but I've seen bucks on the ridge from across the canyon a mile away. You can go in one trailhead and out another and make it a through hunt. We did the shuttle, and it took about 5 hours.

Day 1:

Opening morning was cold, 100% cloud cover and a bit breezy. Perfect conditions for deer. We mostly were making tracks in the morning trying to get away from the crowds, but periodically glassing. We spotted a small 2x3 early on that we passed.

A detail worth noting is that a storm came through on the first few days of opener of rifle deer. In California, that's what hunters dream of. To me it can be good and bad, depending on a lot of factors. The day before opener was overcast and cold, we started out in the evening and got in 3-4 miles. That landed us squarely where the 50 other hunters (no exaggeration) would be for opening day.

At 9:30 and about 7 miles in we found a camp that already had a small 4x4 back to camp and they were apparently in their tents napping. I "joked" that the buck was too small and we didn't want that buck anyhow. I assumed this would be the last people we would see for the next 4 days, I was right. We found a great glassing rock just beyond their camp and I quickly spotted a herd of deer about 1000 yards away and exactly in the direction we were going to be traveling anyways. Included in the herd was at least one buck. I thought at first glance in my 18X binoculars that it may be to small, but after inspection with the spotting scope I realized that I was totally wrong, it was indeed a massive 4x4 with width about 4-6 inches beyond its ears. A very respectable blacktail by any measure. Honestly I was a bit shocked to be seeing these deer in the location they were.

We made our way over, the wind was perfect but we couldn't get closer than 350 yards without losing our only shooting window through the trees and brush. We spent some time trying to get a good rest, but finding one was a difficult on the incline. The hunter said he felt good and shot, I saw it go right over his back. He overcompensated. We went over to investigate but I knew what happened. We did jump a small forkie in the meantime that we passed. I immediately started glassing to try to work something else up. It was midday but the conditions were perfect.

I spotted 2 bucks down the backside of the ridge. I had hoped it had the one that was shot at but after getting the bigger glass out, we knew they weren't worth the chase.

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Day 2:

Fast forward to 2 am and the real storm blew in. We had posted up for the night on the top of the ridge where we could glass come first light. The wind shifted in the night, it started blowing a gale, and the rain began. No big deal, my tarp can handle anything. Conditions at shooting light were so horrible you couldn't glass. Even if you could see more than 50 yards, the wind made it impossible to be stable even with a tripod. We hunkered in our sleeping bags, glassing out from the tarp when and if we could.The clouds lifted and rain turned to showers but the wind continued. We packed up camp and started down the ridge, trying to stay on the leeward side.

I spotted two bucks not long after we broke camp. Decided they weren't exactly what we were after, although they were in a good position.

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Day 3:

Fast forward through a long, windy and cold second day to the third day of the season. We were in an excellent area, not a hunter but us. It was overcast and cold but no bucks were spotted throughout the morning and midday. Our spirits not dampened at all though because I know there is infinite places for them to hide and the sign was there. Just needed to find one through all the cover. We hiked to what I would describe as blacktail heaven. We got there just as the shadows we're getting long from the burnt snags.

No bucks, no bucks, a doe and spike, no bucks. And in the last 10 minutes of legal shoot time a buck appeared out of nowhere. This is the reason you stay till the bitter end, what you hope for every evening. A buck appears where you've glassed a couple dozen times. Within shooting distance thankfully because there wasn't any time for a stalk. A beautiful perfect 4x4. It was 318 yards. This time it was my turn. I hastily used my tripod and a shooting yoke to make a shot. Buck runs forward and out of sight. I busted the rocks right in front of it. I quickly made my way over to be sure of what happened and I as I looked down at the perfectly white rocks that the buck was standing over, I saw no blood and when I glanced up the shadow of the buck could be seen sky-lined going up and over the ridge.

To be clear - this was a real bummer. Getting a shot on a blacktail of these stature happens to some people maybe once in a lifetime. Would I be able to repeat this in the same season? My shot felt solid but in hindsight you start to question everything when you miss. Had I hit it, we would have been high-fiving and talking about what a great hunt. Tomorrow is a new day.

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Day 4:

We woke up ready. Remember this is blacktail heaven. We arrived early at the same glassing point as the evening prior. There was lots of ground to cover with the eyes. This time we knew we wouldn't get lucky with something in the vicinity so we glassed the distance, up to 1.5 miles away in some places. The fog would blow in and back out and we glassed when possible. Between drifts of fog I spotted a buck about 3/4 mile away. I knew was a good one at first glance. We got the spotter out but it wasn't needed.

This was going to be a tough stalk. Visibility would be extremely limited by brush and the hiking downright miserable but we had to give it a try. We watched the buck until it fed its way over a finger ridge and out of sight. A lot of bushwacking later and once we got up above the area we last sighted the buck, we knew that he would live another day. The buck went into its hole for the day and finding it would be impossible.

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sureshotshane

Active member
Joined
Dec 20, 2017
Messages
48
Location
CA
Isn't this a story about a bear hunt?

We had to head out that afternoon on the 4th day and get some work done at home and regroup for a couple days. Just as we got to the truck, a rain storm blew in and it was completely blown out. On the drive home I was explaining to my buddy how I found the holy grail of all bear hunting spots while I was guiding a client on an elk hunt. Now normally we see a ton of bears everywhere, we saw several during the course of the 4 days described above, but we were way too deep and there are plenty of big bears in closer.

This spot I found while elk hunting was loaded with bears, the scrub oaks were drooping with acorns and the bears were congregating big time. In passing he mentioned how he actually wanted to kill a bear more than a buck. We had 3 more days of hunting before he had to head home so I told him I'd take him to get a bear.

We headed for the "trailhead" in the evening and on the way up just along the road we spotted 3 bears. Good sign. We slept at the truck, woke up early, but not too early because I didn't want to start hiking until we could see because I knew they could be anywhere. We spotted our first bear within 15 minutes, not a big one. Walked another 15 minutes and spotted 3 more bears, and go over the next rise and 3 more bears. He was starting to believe me. I told him we weren't even to my spot.

I wanted to be at the bear hole in the evening. We rested in the midday glassing intermittently. Days were hot again so the bears were holed up for the most part. My buddy was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to go to "the spot" and when 5 o'clock hit I said okay lets go. No sooner did we get to the exact point on my GPS that I had marked and we spooked a bear from underfoot, and it ran scaring bear. In a normal situation you might be bummed that you blew out the area, but no I wasn't the least concerned. We spotted another bear in the brush but before we could make our minds up about him we saw what would be a 5th bear happily feeding below us near a creek bottom. We got a little closer but we were already well within shooting range, just as he was about to shoot I heard and saw another bear run from directly below us and I told him he better shoot before the bear we just bumped alerts the bear that you want to shoot. Of course the running bear heads straight to the bear my buddy is lining up, and it too starts to run right as my buddy touches off a shot. Good hit but I said shoot him again. He drops the bear.

Great - now it's my turn. I start glassing around and spotted a bear to my right feeding, and two more smaller bears. I wasn't sure if they were the right bear so I kept looking. We looped around to his bear keeping an eye out. Right as we got to the downed bear I heard what sounded like a bear messing around in the creek bottom just over a rise. Sure enough I go up and two bears run away but two more are still there minding their business. There it was - the bear I was looking for. Perfect size, great color. I was able to easily shoot off hand. I did have to shoot multiple times because he didn't want to go down. My shots scared another bear that was distraught and ran right towards us getting within 5 yards. There we had it - two nice boars killed within 100 yards of each-other.

It truly was unbelievable the amount of bears we saw in that area. We honestly can't really keep track of how many we saw. All I can say is it was over 20 that day. All of this happened within 20 minutes and in a 150 yard radius from my GPS mark.

We had them skinned and boned out by midnight and were home by 4 pm the next day. Hopefully I have time in the coming days to write a story about a big blacktail I just killed.

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shannerdrake

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 14, 2017
Messages
631
Location
Indiana
Really nice write up!

I know very little about bears. How much would you guess either of those bears weigh?
 

sureshotshane

Active member
Joined
Dec 20, 2017
Messages
48
Location
CA
Really nice write up!

I know very little about bears. How much would you guess either of those bears weigh?
I try to be conservative with animal weights because a new person to bear hunting might think the bear I shot weighed 500 pounds. They always look much much bigger alive. I might have seen one 500+ lb bear my entire life, I thought it was a cow at first glance.

With that said - we did weigh the hide, skull, and boneless meat that we packed out so that we could have at least some measure. We doubled that measure because we easily had more than twice the weight left in the woods in bone, guts, etc. Bears just don’t seem to have the best meat yield for their weight, lots of big heavy limb bones, and tiny back straps for their size.

My bear (color phase) I conservatively estimate 300 lbs. We could not lift the bear between us at all. We were able to drag it 6 feet to process it but that took coordination and a lot of work.

The black phase bear we estimate at 235 lbs.

My father was a bear hunting machine in his past life. His biggest was 450 lbs. It’s skull decorated our window sill growing up - it was huge. He told me I’m off and that they weigh more. Either way they both were respectable bears and man are they good eating.
 

Yogithebear

Member
Joined
Sep 10, 2017
Messages
64
Location
San Diego
Sounds like a country bear jambaroo up there. Do the numbers seem high compared to the past or has it always been high bear density there?
 

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