Spring Bear Hunt - Cabinets / Purcell Mtns

ChaosOneZero

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Hey all -

East Coaster here with some previous experience in Colorado and the Idaho Panhandle. Looking for some comments/feedback on a spring bear hunt in the Cabinets / Purcell Mtns region. Particularly interested in info on snow pack/snow line and access. We’re looking to do a spring bear hunt and I want to get a handle on how access might affect the hunt so I can refine my e-scouting to accommodate. Understand it’s still pretty early, weather-wise, but I’m all ears on historicals or general info on where the snow line is in May. We’re going to have a truck, but will also be packing in with the ability to overnight if needed. Not looking for honey holes or confidential info, just anything that could really impact or influence how we hunt the area. Thanks in advance for the assist!
 

MarvB

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Haven’t hunted the Cabinets for a few decades so my info would be a tad “dated” but used to be decent hunting going in from the Noxon side. Just remember that is part of a grizz relocation area so keep your eyes out from humps and ear tags!
 

ChaosOneZero

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Haven’t hunted the Cabinets for a few decades so my info would be a tad “dated” but used to be decent hunting going in from the Noxon side. Just remember that is part of a grizz relocation area so keep your eyes out from humps and ear tags!
Yup, copy all. Saw the story and video @Gerald Martin posted in another thread; and a family friend is a forester out east near Miles City and he said his colleagues out west told him the same thing. Make lots of noise, carry spray, and be on our toes. Thanks, Marv!
 

MarvB

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Never saw one in our hunts there but did see tracks and a few piles of $hit that a guy could hardly run and jump over! Beautiful country (and BIG) saw lots of high country moose in there as well. The Yak is amazing as well👍🏻 6B3DF688-F533-4B83-9D7C-7103F3ECE968.jpeg A0FDD69B-01BC-461B-AF7C-9FD6ADC67CFC.jpeg
 

44hunter45

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Yup, copy all. Saw the story and video @Gerald Martin posted in another thread; and a family friend is a forester out east near Miles City and he said his colleagues out west told him the same thing. Make lots of noise, carry spray, and be on our toes. Thanks, Marv!
As dark as this sounds, I'm not trying to discourage you. Well informed is well prepared.

Regarding Grizzies -

Look in the Idaho State Issues forum for a thread on the ongoing anti-baiting lawsuit in Idaho. The plaintiffs contend that black bear hunters have mistakenly shot 10 grizzlies
I'm not getting into the merits of the suit here, but you sure as hell DO NOT want to be the guy who shoots a grizzly in the Cabinets right now. Even in self defense. I don't want you to be either. All spring bear hunting in the region is under a microscope by those waiting to capitalize on another grizzly kill.

A good friend of mine had a grizzly trash his bait site way outside of Recovery Zone, down south of I-90 near the Lochsa river. A Montana man accidentally killed a grizzly in the Smith Creek drainage (west of Bonners Ferry, ID) in 2019 and was charged by IDFG. Another grizzly was confirmed by IDFG within 3 miles of the city of Grangeville,ID in April 2020. USFWS researcher Amber Kornach was attacked outside of Libby in 2018 and that bear was later put down. (Hear her story on Meateater podcast #167).

You can now encounter a grizzly anywhere along the spine from Canada to West Yellowstone.

Regarding Spring conditions -

I can only speak to the Idaho side.

I tried to scout and hunt out of Avery,ID last year and could not get to the trailhead before late May. Expect blocked roads and very high streams. Trails may have downed timber, also. Scouting is a snow camping situation. Expect to hike even to get to the trailhead. You can sometimes hike in the snowmobile tracks and that helps a lot to cover ground.

I had a good time, but never got to my target area in the time I had. If I had paid for a NR license and tag, I may have had less so good a time.
Later is better.
 

Ridgerunner6901

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Later is better, if you want to hunt and put in the work you will get on them. Too soon to say what the snow situation will look like by the time season rolls around. I wouldn't figure on being able to drive super high or through much north facing country. But its big country so you have lots of options. And yes there's griz running around
 

ChaosOneZero

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Later is better, if you want to hunt and put in the work you will get on them. Too soon to say what the snow situation will look like by the time season rolls around. I wouldn't figure on being able to drive super high or through much north facing country. But its big country so you have lots of options. And yes there's griz running around
Yeah, that's how it was for us in Idaho in 2019. The access throughout most of the unit was fairly good in areas where the sun hit every day. But once you got back into the timber or the deeper canyons, the north-facing slopes still had a good amount of snow pack.
 

theat

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I live on the south end of the cabinets and do most of my spring bear hunting here. Hasn't been a whole lot of snow yet this winter at mid and lower elevations, but that can and probably will change as the winter progresses. This area is pretty low elevation for Montana and I can always find bears pretty early in the season on S and SW facing steep chutes and cliffs. The hunting does get better once May rolls around, but for my style of hunting I tend to see a lot less bears later in May especially if its an early or warm spring. Once it starts to green up in the trees the bears spend more time in the shade than out in the sun. Late season is better though if you want to walk gated roads, but I typically hunt steep drainages by climbing up one side and glassing across. Most years, my favorite and most productive time is May 5-15th.

I like hunting this type of terrain, but you can find bears on grassy gated roads, logging units, and wet green creek bottoms. If you want, send me a message and when spring rolls around I can give you updates on snow levels.
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ChaosOneZero

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I live on the south end of the cabinets and do most of my spring bear hunting here. Hasn't been a whole lot of snow yet this winter at mid and lower elevations, but that can and probably will change as the winter progresses. This area is pretty low elevation for Montana and I can always find bears pretty early in the season on S and SW facing steep chutes and cliffs. The hunting does get better once May rolls around, but for my style of hunting I tend to see a lot less bears later in May especially if its an early or warm spring. Once it starts to green up in the trees the bears spend more time in the shade than out in the sun. Late season is better though if you want to walk gated roads, but I typically hunt steep drainages by climbing up one side and glassing across. Most years, my favorite and most productive time is May 5-15th.

I like hunting this type of terrain, but you can find bears on grassy gated roads, logging units, and wet green creek bottoms. If you want, send me a message and when spring rolls around I can give you updates on snow levels.

Hey @theat, appreciate the insight, thanks for sharing. Unfortunately, my buddy has an Army course scheduled that ends in early-mid May, so we're kind of locked in on third week of May likely being the earliest we can get out there. I think we're going to be prepared to hunt both ways you mention above. Personally, I like to sit and glass a lot of country to confirm there are animals in those drainages and clear cuts before hoofing it up in there.

Here is another question - on the eastern side of the Cabinets, how are the trails up into the wilderness areas around May timeframe? Can imagine there is probably a lot of overgrowth and roaring creeks, which seems it would make the creek crossings a little more treacherous and increase the likelihood of surprising a grizz down in those bottoms.
 

ChaosOneZero

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Looking out my window right now at the No. end of the Cabinets. Sunny and 42degrees with literally only a few inches of snow. It will get deeper but strange weather right now. Access as always will be unpredictable. Good luck.
Thank you, sir. Mind if I shoot you a PM with a couple questions regarding the northern end?
 

theat

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NW Montana
Hey @theat, appreciate the insight, thanks for sharing. Unfortunately, my buddy has an Army course scheduled that ends in early-mid May, so we're kind of locked in on third week of May likely being the earliest we can get out there. I think we're going to be prepared to hunt both ways you mention above. Personally, I like to sit and glass a lot of country to confirm there are animals in those drainages and clear cuts before hoofing it up in there.

Here is another question - on the eastern side of the Cabinets, how are the trails up into the wilderness areas around May timeframe? Can imagine there is probably a lot of overgrowth and roaring creeks, which seems it would make the creek crossings a little more treacherous and increase the likelihood of surprising a grizz down in those bottoms.

Most of the “trails” on the east side of the wilderness are actually old roads. Some are pretty overgrown in places especially once you get towards the head end of the canyons. For the most part, late spring snow is pretty hard packed after many days of freeze-thaw cycles so it’s not too bad to hike around on. The actual forest service trails that go up to lakes are for the most part in decent shape but there will be at least a few trees across the trail that fell over the winter. I’ve been false charged twice by grizzlys and both occurred on trails in the Cabinets. Even if the trails/roads are clear, this area is very thick and the creek bottoms are very brushy so you won’t be able to see much into the woods on either side of the trail. Creek crossing can be difficult in places, but I can usually find a spot where I can cross a log or a safe area to cross with my wiggys waders.

This is an article about a biologist that got mauled by a grizz in one of those east side drainages a few years ago. I’d recommend having bear spray handy even if your rifle hunting in this area.

 

ColtCRX16

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Joined
Jan 5, 2020
Messages
15
Hey all -

East Coaster here with some previous experience in Colorado and the Idaho Panhandle. Looking for some comments/feedback on a spring bear hunt in the Cabinets / Purcell Mtns region. Particularly interested in info on snow pack/snow line and access. We’re looking to do a spring bear hunt and I want to get a handle on how access might affect the hunt so I can refine my e-scouting to accommodate. Understand it’s still pretty early, weather-wise, but I’m all ears on historicals or general info on where the snow line is in May. We’re going to have a truck, but will also be packing in with the ability to overnight if needed. Not looking for honey holes or confidential info, just anything that could really impact or influence how we hunt the area. Thanks in advance for the assist!
Happy Hunting Friend, I've been e-scouting NW MT for about a year now. My buddy, my daughter and I will be out in that area this coming May 12-22, 2021.

Rec.gov list and updates some of the road closures in that area as well as the entire state. If your snowed out in that area I'd try between Big Hole, and Baldy, and Thompson Peak.
 

ColtCRX16

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Jan 5, 2020
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Happy Hunting Friend, I've been e-scouting NW MT for about a year now. My buddy, my daughter and I will be out in that area this coming May 12-22, 2021.

Rec.gov list and updates some of the road closures in that area as well as the entire state. If your snowed out in that area I'd try between Big Hole, and Baldy, and Thompson Peak.
PS we are from VT.
 

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