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Hammy’s Spring Bear Hunt

Hammy

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 11, 2015
Messages
64
To say it was “good to get up in the mountains” this spring, would be a huge understatement. Spring time in the Wallowa Mountains of NE Oregon is perfection. The new growth of wildflowers and budding vegetation, the wild swings in weather will have you huddled under a tree next to a camp fire one hour and then dipping your feet in a snow packed creek the next to cool off from the heat. Wildlife is so active after a long winter, herds of elk everywhere, deer/turkey/quails/coyotes and bears- it feels like a Safari. The crisp smells of spring, sage, wood smoke and meals cooked in the Dutch oven. Sounds of a raging creek outside the tent, the most intense thunderstorm I’ve ever been in, symphony of birds all day long (although the Red Wingsd Black Bird is my Dad’s and my favorite) and the waves of wind on our glassing ridges. Rocky Mountain Champagne chilled in the creek until the mountain shows blue and Pendleton and Spiced Rum kept on ice for each night around the camp fire to recount the day. The challenges of getting around in such rough country pushes us to our physical and mental limits. We pack all the necessary gear on our backs to thrive on the mountain so that we can spend all day exploring, survive any conditions and be ready to pack out a load of meat and hide in the worst of conditions and topography. We laughed until our sides hurt and even shed some tears with the most sincerest of thanks for the harvest of bears we came for. But aside from the incredible table fare of steaks, pepperoni and summer sausage treats and inevitable taxidermy bills, what we came for was everything mentioned prior to filling a tag.


Speaking of filling tags, Kevin harvested a beautiful Black Bear in the bottom of a nautical but punishing canyon early in the trip. With fading daylight, an impending rain storm and safety being the highest priority, we had elected to tag and gut the bear but come back for it in the daylight to better spot a safe route out of the canyon. Long story short, we finally made it the couple thousand feet from the creek bottom to the ATV by 1am. After a well deserved blue mountain champagne and few hours of sleep, Kevin and I descended back into the canyon the next morning and packed all the meat and hide out by mid afternoon. Thanks to some very understanding wives at home, we stayed one more night in our wall tent camp before heading home the next morning.
A week later, dad, Kevin and I were headed back over to a different spot in the same mountain range. A spot that dad and I have spent a lot of years learning and making memories. This trip would be no different.


Night one, we glassed up a mature, chocolate phase black bear before dark and made the game plan for the next day.
After a fun trail ride in the Polaris, we set up on our glassing knob for the evening. Straight up 5 o’clock is when I glassed up the same chocolate bear from the night prior. He was roughly 900 yards away, 1000’ higher in elevation and feeding on a sage covered face across the canyon. Knowing the area well, I knew a feasible route to side hill up the drainage, cross the creek in the bottom and climb up the other side to keep the bear from smelling, hearing or seeing me in the process. I made mental note of a big snow pack at his elevation and knew I would have to come in above that to mess up the stalk. I figured I would get to crest the ridge and have a short distance to take him. Well, that was an understatement…after about 45 minutes of sweating and praying the bear hadn’t moved, I did my best to control my labored breathing and adrenaline and poked my head over the ridge line. The bear was nowhere to be found but I found it amazing how hard it was to see very much of the slope given the steepness, rocky outcroppings and sage brush. I slowly made my way further and further out on the ridge face that the bear had been feeding on 45 minutes prior. I looked to my left when I noticed movement and came face to face with two elk that were feeding 50 yards from me. At first, I was deflated thinking that if they were feeding here then the bear must have moved off. Right then, I noticed movement below and to my right. It was the top of the bears back feeding through the sage- at 30 yards! With the wind in my face, the bear was so consumed with feeding on grass that he had no idea I was so close to him. I waited for a clear shot in the sage and one shot later, the bear was down almost instantly and I had harvested my very first Black Bear. All the while, my dad and Kevin watching the whole ordeal through binoculars from where I had left them at the glassing knob!
With reception, I was able to FaceTime Sara and the kids as I walked down to the bear. He had rolled further down the hill than he had ran, all of 20 yards after the shot. It was so cool to share that moment with Easton and Avery while Dad and Kevin dropped unneeded gear at their location and began the long climb up to me. After hanging up with the family, I had some time to just sit and admire, examine the bear and take in what had just happened. He was a mature boar, my favorite color phase of all. The improbable stalk had come together and in a very special place to me over the years. These mountains have held a lot of joy, hardship, success and failure over the years and it meant a great deal to have everything come together on my first bear, here in the Wallowas.
The three of us one-tripped the meat and hide out not long after sunset and enjoyed much deserved cocktails around the fire that night.
We spent the next few days having close calls with some really big bears in hopes dad would tag one. In the end, it wasn’t meant to be on this trip but it wasn’t for lack of effort and the camaraderie and scenery we got to experience sure made the effort worth
 

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2nd trip over.
 

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Congrats! Looks like an amazing adventure. Beautiful bears!
 
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