Thursday, May 26, 2011

BC Black Bear Hunt Gear List

Three weeks in the backcountry of Canada in pursuit of black bears is a lot of consecutive days in the field. To be sure that I am ready for all that Mother Nature throws at me, I have a very specific list of items that I am sure to bring along. Now keep in mind that I am driving to Canada with virtually unlimited space in my vehicle to store items that I will not be packing in.  This list will vary depending on where I am going.
Under Armour Clothing:

UA Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock

UA Base Layer Tops & Pants; 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 or 4.0 depending on weather and hunting conditions
UA Evo Hoody
UA Evo Henley
UA Evo Pant
UA Zip Up Hoody
UA Quest Jacket & Pant
UA Gators
UA Womens Camo Glove
UA Hurlock Glove
UA Beanie
UA Baseball Hat
UA Speed Freek Boots

Swarovski Optik:
EL 42 SwarovisionBinoculars w/ Carrying Case, Cover & Bino Harness
65mm HD Spotting Scope w/ 20-60x Eyepiece

8x30 Laser Range Finder
Lens Wipes or Cleaner
Remington Model 700 300 Win Mag w/ Sling
*Shooting Sticks
*Shoot & See Targets
*Ear Protection
Elite Archery  Hunter 26” draw, 51#
2 Releases
Allen Wrench
String Wax
General Gear:
Flashlight & Headlamp
*Lantern w/ extra Mantles
Roll TP in Zip lock Bag
Baby Wipes Un-Scented
*Un-Scented Laundry Soap
Seating Cushion
Game Bags
Sleeping Bag
Garbage Bags
Small First Aid Kit
Mole Skin
Basic Medicine such as Aleve, Neosporin, Imodium, Throat Lozenges
Mosquito Repellant
Bear Spray
Wind Checker
Extra Batteries
Cloth Tape Measure
Flagging Tape
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars
Wilderness Athlete Energy Gel
Wilderness Athlete Protein Plus
Wilderness Athlete Energy & Focus Drink Formula
Mixed Nuts
Low Fat or Wild Game Pepperoni
Water or filter
Horse Tack:
This basic horse tack list is based off of my outfitter providing most of the needed equipment.
Saddle Bag
Decker Pack Saddle with Sling Ropes
Canvas Manties with Rope
Bow & Gun Scabbard
*Truck Equipment:
*400 Watt Inverter
*Power Strip

*Items that I use upon arrival buy may or may not pack into the backcountry

Monday, May 9, 2011

Face to Face with a Bruin

 At the mouth of the bruin’s den with my heart in my throat, I didn’t move a muscle. Silent, I waited. Taking no time to think through the possible consequences of the situation, ignoring that eerie feeling crawling up my spine. Knowing that soon I would be face to face with the giant bruin that lay inside.

The lengthening of days, the dawning warmth in the air and the melting of the hard snow on the  steep mountainsides all signify one of my favorite times of year; Spring black bear season. Public land hunting for black bear in Idaho allows for several methods of take from baiting, use of hounds, and good old spot and stalk.
For me, there is nothing more exhilarating than spot and stalk hunting. The thrill of the chase is in my blood and I seek that rush on every hunt. On this spot and stalk hunt, an adrenaline rush is exactly what I got.
New plant life, fresh green grass shoots, the appearance of wildflowers, and warm sun filled skies are crucial in spotting the slowly emerging black bear. Overtaking snow covered mountain passes and getting beyond the covered frozen ground into lower elevations where the life of spring has began can provide a challenge of its own.
The sound of spinning tires echoed across the mountain. The snow was deep enough that our ATV’s were high centering making the pass nearly impossible without a snowmobile. The weather was bad for bear hunting with cold temperatures and rain driving down hard out of the sky.
Bear hunting was going to be on hold until the clouds melted away and the wind died down, only then would the bruins be eager to emerge from their dens in an effort to feed on the delicate spring grasses. I held on tight, anxious to get to the other side of the mountain and find out what I was in store for.
At first glimpse of the steep rugged canyon, I was awe struck. They type of terrain that you do not attempt to hunt alone and can be very intimidating to even the most experienced of hunters. This is the kind of place that I live for hunting and I was thankful to be on this hunt with Rockie Jacobsen of Bugling Bull Game Calls and pro staffer Don West.
Unfortunately for us, the weather did not break and we went back to camp with only seeing the rain pour out of the sky and lay thick on the ground like a slick blanket. I could hardly wait to get back there the next day and hope that the weather would break as well.
In the morning, I awoke to the subtle drum of the rain on the roof of my tent. The dark sky showed no sign of letting the warm sun peek through anytime soon. So I did the next best thing to hunting, I made a big breakfast for my fellow hungry hunters as we patiently waited for the weather to break.
That afternoon with the skies still dark and the rain gently sprinkling down on us, we decided to make the trek over the mountain pass in hopes that the weather would break and we would get an opportunity to spot a black bear.
We set up and glassed the mountainside from this vantage point the far side of the canon appeared to be wide open, nice and grassy, but looks in this type of ground is very deceiving.  We spotted a bear at approximately 450 yards grazing on the abundant spring grass.
The bear was playing peek-a-boo throughout the dense foliage. One second he was visible and the next he would vanish into the dense spring growth. We literally could not take our eyes off of the bruin as he would suddenly disappear and we would spend ten minutes trying to find him again.

Setting up to take my shot.

Don was keeping an attentive eye on the bear as I set up to take the shot on the bruin. “I think I broke my nose,” were the first words that came out of my mouth after I took the mighty punch to the face that the .300 Ultra Mag had delivered, ultimately missing the bear. This was not the knock down power I had been looking for.
After having waited for two days for the weather to break and give me an opportunity to see a bear let alone have an opportunity at taking a big bear, my disappointment in myself was beyond words.
Typically lessons learned in the field are from hard knocks and disappointment. Getting this huge reminder I knew that I would have to get closer to my target.
As the evening faded into darkness, we headed back to camp and made our plan to come back to the same spot in the morning and make the trip across the canyon in hopes of closing the distance and getting another shot at the bruin.

Stream swollen from snow runoff.

Venturing into some of Idaho’s steepest most rugged public lands, with the frost from the night before still laying like a slick blanket on the ground, traversing rock bluffs, shimmying logs to get over a swollen stream from the years snow runoff, proved to make reaching where we had last glimpsed the bear more difficult than I had anticipated.
As we reached the steep mountainside that the bruin had been grazing on the evening before, the grassy openings were coupled with patches of dense underbrush that reached towards the sky, well above my head in some places. Shale rock slides decorated the mountainside, all making for some rough terrain.
Glassing from a high vantage point we spotted a small cinnamon bear and a black bear making their way towards us. Neither of these bears were the bruin from the evening before. I passed on the opportunity that the smaller bears offered, still hoping that the bruin would show up on the mountainside once again.
Rockie Jacobsen and I.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the bruin appeared, 285 yards and across a small canyon from where I sat. Taking aim, I took my shot and pin wheeled the bear. As quickly as he had appeared, he was gone. Gone into his den; which was located less than 5 yards from where he had just stood.
There we all sat in a gasp knowing that he was now tucked away into his home. We were now faced with making the dangerous trek into his territory.
After a grueling hike and well over an hour later, we reached the mouth of the bears den. I had to question my own sanity as to what I was about to do. Quitting at this stage of the hunt was not an option. I never could have anticipated what was to unfold next.
The mouth of the bruin's den.
Cautiously moving forward, Rockie and I approached the mouth of the den.  This is a moment where you are thankful to have an experienced hunting partner, one that you are willing to trust with your life, and them instilling the same trust in you.
A little game of Russian Roulette so to speak was unfolding with the unnerving sounds of the bruins labored breathing and pounding heart beat slamming into my head like a ton of bricks.
The bruin lay less than six feet from the mouth of the den. There we were face to face and eye to eye with the bruin not knowing how incapacitated he was from the single blow that had been delivered.
We could see that we had seriously underestimated the size and mass of this bear.  Judging a bear’s size is one of the most difficult tasks you will face and the task becomes even more daunting in thick ground cover.
With few options, I stood at the mouth of the den waiting. Waiting for the irate and wounded bear to expire, or well you can probably imagine the infinite possibilities that were going through my mind at that time.
Slow motion is what I would say describes the next few seconds as the bruin moved towards me and the entrance of his den. I waited, knowing that in a blink of an eye the bruin could be on me, but there was no time for fear.
Two feet, and only two feet separated me from this giant bruin. As he emerged, he met me there, eye to eye. Aiming from the hip I put one last shot into the bruin. He instantly buckled on rolled down the steep mountains face.
As I finally approached the expired bear, I was captivated by his massive size. Measuring in at just over 7 feet nose to tail, weighing in at approximately 400 pounds and having a skull of over 20 inches, the bear was three times my size.
On every hunt you can only expect the unexpected and this hunt was no exception. Never had I dreamed that my spring bear hunting adventures would literally lead me to come face to face with a bruin this massive.

The hunt was over and it was time to pack out the massive bear. My hunting partners carried out the meat and I proudly carried out the 70 some pound cape and skull back across the rugged canyon. 
Looking back I spotted a large herd of elk that were getting ready to start calving just above the den of the expired bruin, and was glad that this old boy was down for good. My role as a hunter was complete with a full freezer and having given some of these soon to be born elk calves a chance at life.

Packing out my bear.

Got snowed out the last day of our trip.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Under Armour OR Rio Grande Turkey Hunt

Beautiful south west Oregon

Time to hit the road to meet up with Kevin Perry, the Outdoor Account Manager for Under Armour, to help with the first Oregon Cabela’s pre-grand opening, new store training. Kevin is originally from Georgia and currently resides in Colorado; this was his first trip out to my home state of Oregon.
Wanting to share my deep rooted love of Oregon, I invited Kevin to hunt Rio Grande turkeys with me and my good friend Matt Thurman in the south west region of Oregon. Looking forward to a fun hunting trip with friends, I was excited as this was my first hunting trip in over a year that I had been out in the field without a video camera behind me.  
When Kevin’s plane touched down it was pouring down rain. I was nervous about the poor weather conditions continuing throughout the week and into the weekend; as this has been one of the wettest springs that I could recall for the valley. Even with the turkey populations being so abundant, the hunting had been tough going so far this season.
The skies are getting ready to clear up.
After we completed the in-store training for Cabela’s, we climbed into my truck and headed south to meet up with Matt, an area local and turkey guru. To our delight, the weather broke just as we finished our drive and we were able to use the last hour of daylight to get out do some scouting before our morning hunt.

Like a typical woman, always being prepared, I asked Kevin if he grabbed his binoculars for our scouting trip and he quickly dismissed me saying that he would just use mine if need be. Coming from Georgia, if a turkey spots your car a ½ mile away he is gone like a flash, Kevin was not prepared for what we were about to encounter. Needless to say, Kevin spent most of the hour with my Swarovski’s in hand literally getting an eye full of proudly strutting toms, while I took the back seat.
The next morning with the weather cooperating, we put our scouting trip to work and crept into position under the cover of darkness near a roosting site. Sitting side by side, Kevin and I anxiously played the waiting game. We had scouted the area almost too well and ended up getting a little too close to the roosting tree and we were literally sitting below the flock.
Good times with great friends.
At first light, a raspy jake was making every effort to gobble; we were so close to the flock that we could hear the toms spitting above us. The scene really broke loose when a goose sounded off setting off a chain reaction causing the big gobblers to light up. The scene was absolutely story book with jakes, hens and gobblers all around us.
A large tom took flight and landed directly in front of us with a second large tom right behind him. Knowing that there were more turkeys in the tree above us, after a quick communication between me and Kevin, we decided not to hesitate on the opportunity at the two mature gobblers.
Taking aim, Kevin fired first and I quickly followed suit. Sitting side by side with my friend, we had managed to pull a double on two huge gobblers. Kevin’s tom had a 10 inch beard and mine was right behind with a 9 ½ inch beard. The remarkable feature on my tom,  that we will now call “Capt. Hook”, was the size of his spurs, which measured in at over 1 ¼ inch which is HUGE for Oregon.
Being thrilled with our success and everything happening so quickly, we weren’t ready to quit hunting. We decided to surprise 11 year old Hailey Miller by having her father Jim pull her out of school to take her with us hunting under the OR Youth Mentored Program.
While we waited for Jim to pull Hailey out of school for our adventure, we decided to try and get Matt on a big gobbler. After changing locations, we had a gobbler respond to a hen yelp.
Quickly, we set up the decoys and put Matt 20 yards out nestled in a clump of trees with his bow in hand. Kevin and I set up 40 yards from the decoys with the hopes of drawing the gobbler past Matt and within bow range.
Our plan worked perfect once again as two excited young jakes came strutting up to the decoy. Matt decided to pass on the opportunity in hopes for finding a mature tom later on. By the time all of the action died down, it was time to go and meet up with Hailey and her dad Jim.
As a group we spotted a large tom strutting across an open field on the edge of a wooded lot. We made a stalk by looping around him and into the woods; setting up just off from the field’s edge and safely out of sight. Hailey set up with Matt by her side and the decoy just in front of her. Kevin, Jim and I hung back in the woods and called to the gobbler.
Quick to respond, the gobbler came in to our calls, but he was keen and held up 50 yards out strutting and displaying right in front of Hailey. Knowing her shooting limitations, Hailey patiently awaited the tom to come in closer to her.
With all the commotion coming out of the woods, the neighbor’s dogs decided to come over and take a closer look spooking the tom before Hailey had an opportunity to take her shot. This set up had busted but we weren’t giving up.

A flock of jakes, eager to come into our calls.

Hailey was quick to spot the next flock of turkeys consisting of two mature toms and some jakes. We set up the same way that we had before. The flock was anxious to get to us but there was a fence separating us and no way for them to cross without flying, they quickly lost interest and moved on. 
At the end of the day, Hailey was really excited to have been out of school for the day with her dad and some new friends having some close encounters with some big gobblers. With anticipation building, Hailey now has caught turkey fever.
The quaint streets of Jacksonville OR.

Jacksonville OR surrounding area.

Kevin and I rounded out our trip by stopping in at the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Medford OR to say hello and picked up a second turkey tag, just in case. We spent the evening in the historic town of Jacksonville OR located at the entrance of the Applegate Valley Wine Country. This picture perfect historic village is a must see if you venture to southern OR.
Under clear sunny skies, while driving Kevin back towards the airport, we took the opportunity to take in some of Oregon’s most beautiful scenery in the broad and fertile Willamette Valley.  I was thankful to have been able to share such a wonderful weekend with friends in a place that I love enjoying all that is beautiful in the outdoors.

Capt. Hook

Thanks for the helping make this trip successful Under Armour, Swarovski Optik, Bugling Bull Game Calls & Eberlestock.

Click here to go to the Pursue the Wild website

Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy
Base 2.0 Top
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Hurlock Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
Swarovski Optik
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
Bugling Bull Game Calls
One Arm Bandit Turkey Call
Turkey Strutter Box
Gobbler Getter Turkey Tone Top
Raspy Cutter Turkey Tone Top
Misc. Gear
Eberlestock Mini Me Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Kansas Rio Grande

The first few months of my year was kicked off by traveling all around the country to various industry trade shows with Under Armour.  After a few long months on the road, I am more than ready to get back into the woods to do some hunting. This year, I was fortunate enough to get invited by my good friend Chuck Griffin to go hunting with him in Kansas for Rio Grande turkeys.
The old Stafford Train Station

Venturing to south central Kansas took me back in time and to a place that felt like down home America, right down to the delicious homemade pies at the historic Curtis CafĂ©. Nestled between the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and the quaint town of Stafford, you will find a large diversity in habitat from salt marshes, woodlands, water management areas and land management areas that the Rio Grande turkey flourishes in year round. 

I had two turkey tags and high expectations for this hunt, but Kansas decided to live up to her windy reputation on opening morning of turkey season with robust winds that blew steadily at 20-30 mph. My hopes of quickly filling both of my tags were quickly diminishing due to poor current and predicted weather conditions for the week ahead.

Opening morning, we set the decoys up on a known travel corridor between a wheat field and woodland roosting area with the hopes of calling in a gobbler after he hit the ground.  I began an aggressive hen yelp without getting a response or hearing a gobble.

Due to the conditions, the sound from my call wasn’t carrying out the way I would ideally like, with that in mind we decided to put our optics to use and try our luck with good old spotting and stalking.

We quickly found a group of turkeys flocked together pecking around in the nearby wheat field. For fear of being spotted by the flock I chose not to set up decoys and instead set up immediately on the field’s edge under the cover of the woodlands. One young jake was tempted to come in to the sounds of my putts, purrs and yelps, but the hens that he was following quickly changed his mind when they fed off in the opposite direction. With the morning fading away and the weather not cooperating, we decided to back out of the area.

Later that afternoon, the temperatures climbed to 75 degrees and the wind faded to a soft breeze. We set out our decoys just down from where we had spotted the large flock earlier that morning in hopes that they would once again return to feed before heading to their roosting area.

The ground I was sitting on was transformed into a sea of movement before my eyes. What I had not anticipated was the hundreds of ticks that had also decided to get out and enjoy the warm change in the weather. The ticks were crawling everywhere and I thanked god for Under Armour base layer that is tick proof and kept me safe from literally being devoured by the small creatures.

Set up and patiently waiting.
Despite the infestation, I sat tight and let out a series of soft putts, purrs and yelps, a single hen came in with an eager tom on her tail. The hen literally walked 5 feet in front of my friend and fellow hunter whom we will call “Bill” in order to protect his identity. Bill had taken the gift of warm weather and used it for a nap instead of an opportunity to hunt.

Watching from 40 yards away, I was shocked that Bill could hold so completely still with the invasion of ticks and all of this action unfolding directly in front of him. The huge tom was staring at him when he let out a series of snores that spooked the keen hen causing her to take off with the tom in toe.

My only regret at this set up was not being able to capture Bill with the hen and huge tom only 5 feet away from him while he slept. To this day, I am not sure if Bill really believes what unfolded that afternoon.

Thanks to Hartz dog flea and tick shampoo, I was able to get a good night’s sleep and wake up rested for the following mornings hunt.  Under the cover of darkness, we set up the decoys; the toms were gobbling from the roost tree before the sun had even crested the horizon. With the weather cooperating and the gobblers vocal, I was sure that our luck was about to change and had high hopes of calling in a nice tom.

Kansas sunset.
When the birds hit the ground and the sound of the gobbles grew close, two nice toms quickly approached on the tail of a hen. Unfortunately for me, the trio did not cooperate and break out into the field where my decoys were set up, but instead chose to strut and display behind me in the cover of the woods leaving me no shot opportunities and no way of moving without being detected.

We spent the rest of the day trying to call in a fervent tom without luck.  The gobblers that we had encountered were not willing to abandon the hens that they were flocked with. We didn’t even find any enthusiastic young jakes that were willing to strut around for us.

The next day, Kansas had decided to throw in a severe storm with winds gusting at 60 mph and pouring down rain. We decided to take the day off and drove to the small town of Great Bend Kansas in order to prepare to hunt in a new location when the weather eventually broke.

The following morning presented clear skies and temperatures dipping down to 34 degrees.  It was cold but the toms were gobbling in the roosting trees from multiple directions. Once again under the cover of darkness, we snuck into position and set up on the edge of a new food plot that was near the roosting area. With the decoys in place only 20 yards in front of me I visualized success in finally being able to take that long awaited shot.

The birds were just as anxious as I was to get moving after being relieved of the heavy storm that had ripped through the day before. I called for just over an hour letting out a couple series of soft yelps and purrs when an aggressive gobbler responded quickly coming in out of my north. Moments later I had several gobblers also respond and start coming in out of my south.
Success in KS.

I was in the epicenter of eager gobbling toms. As quickly as the weather had changed, thankfully, so had my luck. A flock consisting of a jake and three mature toms emerged into the food plot out of the south and ran straight to my decoys. Without hesitation, I took aim and fired on the tom of my choice.

After three days of hunting, I was finally able to fill one of my turkey tags with a nice mature gobbler. Having to fly out the next afternoon, I knew I was growing short on time to fill my second tag, but I wasn’t going home without trying for another tom.

The evenings hunt was picture perfect with warm weather and windless skies. I had two hens come in behind me and peck around a pond; strangely enough they were without a gobbler.  I left the field that night being thankful for the beautiful day and looking forward to one more morning to try and fill my second tag.

The morning gobbles were erupting nonstop out of the sand hills at first light. Eagerly, I slipped in silently on the flock just as I would on a screaming bull elk. I set up just out of sight and called sweetly in an attempt to lure the tom away from his hens. Just like a big bull elk, he wasn’t budging, so I stayed in position for awhile in hopes that a younger tom would come into me like an eager sate light bull during the rut.

After growing inpatient and short on time, I attempted to creep over the sand hills and get within range of the flock. There were two huge toms, several hens and a couple of jakes in the flock, a lot of eyes in open country that made it impossible to be stealthy enough for successful stalk. Getting within 70 yards of the giant toms made my trigger finger itch but unfortunately today was not my day for scratching it. 

As time ran out, I headed to the airport thankful for my time in Kansas and the reminder that with each dawn lies a new beginning.  On this trip I was humbly reminded that within but a single moments time your success  in the field can change but you must always remain patient,  persistent and thankful of the extraordinary gift of the great outdoors.
Thanks for the great gear Under Armour, Swarovski Optik, Bugling Bull Game Calls & Eberlestock.

Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for Kristy
Base 2.0 Top
Camo Evo Cold Gear Pants
Camo Evo Cold Gear Hoody
Camo Full Zip Hoody
Quest Jacket & Pant
Women’s Camo Glove
Hurlock Glove
Camo Active Beanie
Speed Freek Boots
Hitch Lite Cushion Boot Sock
Swarovski Optik
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
Bugling Bull Game Calls
One Arm Bandit Turkey Call
Turkey Strutter Box
Gobbler Getter Turkey Tone Top
Raspy Cutter Turkey Tone Top
Misc. Gear
Eberlestock Mini Me Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus