Monday, June 27, 2011

Black Bear Hunt in the Last Frontier with A/Z Outfitters

Everything was wet and muddy, the skies were socked in and dark, the air was brisk, this adverse weather was actually turning out to be a huge advantage for us.  Dutch Creek’s swift current was already at dangerously high levels, with temperatures so freezing cold that on contact you felt as if you were being stabbed with a million tiny icy daggers straight down to the bone. With the water reaching up to the bellies on the horses in most places, we couldn’t afford for the water levels to rise any higher.
The cool weather was keeping the snow in the high elevations from rapidly melting off while at the same time allowing the snow in the lower elevations to slowly dissipate with the falling rain. If the weather were to suddenly get too warm for too long of time, the water levels in Dutch Creek would rise to impassably high levels and we wouldn’t make the final trek up to Hyak camp.
We spent three hours packing and loading up all of our gear on the six pack horses, a farewell was bid to the Big Cabin, a special place that that possessed the welcoming feeling of home.  The plan was to head up Dutch Creek on horseback even deeper into the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, the only road less territory of its kind, the last frontier. Our destination, Hyak Camp, two cabins located roughly 30 miles from the nearest road and almost 50 miles from the nearest electricity, cell phone service, or town.
The remote cabins at Hyak were barely accessible just one week prior, blanketed heavy with over four feet of snow. Not knowing what lie ahead, I tightened the cinch on my saddle, swung my leg over the top of Whiskers the massive draft cross horse, once again on the trail bound for adventure.
A/Z Outfitters has been operating in the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy since the early 1960’s, co-founded by Bill DuBois. Today his son Brent DuBois owns and operates the family business offering everything from hunting trips to sight-seeing pack trips into some of the most beautiful and remote country in the world.  On this trip, we were in pursuit of black bears, with my tag already full; Jim Brennan and Rockie Jacobsen were up as hunters and me as cameraman.
1930's Trappers Cabin
Heading down the trail that is kept so pristine and un-touched, a place left as it has always been for hundreds of years. Glimpses of stories long forgotten lined the trail along the way; remnants from a fire that had ripped through the countryside in the early 1930’s, only leaving behind clues of what once was. A charred trap was hung on a tree along the trail marking a destroyed trapper’s cabin location, a monument of sorts.
One trapper chose to rebuild after the fire as we came across a tiny cabin that was constructed in the later part of the 1930’s. Inside we found a handcrafted table, a plate, and old kettles, left behind and seemingly mummified in time within the walls of the forest.  
After crossing multiple swollen creeks, avalanche slides, and many miles of trail we finally reached Hyak camp. The snow drifts were still over four feet deep in the heavy timber, but the face of the cabins had been revealed in less than a week’s time as the snow was nearly gone that had surrounded the cabins just days before.
My first glimpse of Hyak Camp
The cabins had been vacant since the last group of hunters had left in November of the previous year. We were the first people to set foot into this part of the territory in over seven months. The welcome mat of nails was still in place and un-touched on the front porch, the windows boarded and protected by steel bars, all had faired the winter without a single grizzly bear break-in.  
The two cabins at Hyak

Welcome mat for the bears
At first opportunity, I traded in Whiskers the horse in favor of riding a little sorrel mule that I affectionately called Little Stinker. Not knowing how high the waters would be, I played it safe initially by riding the much larger rounder horse but once I knew that Little Stinkers smaller size would be ample to safely transport me across the swollen waterways, I climbed aboard the sweet little mule with a huge personality that brings a smile to my face still to this day when I think of him.
The snow crunched under Little Stinkers hooves as we headed out to look for bears, Jim was up as shooter and armed with his bow, Rockie and I were running the video cameras. We tied up the horses and sat down to glass a large avalanche slide. The center of the slide was deep with snow but the sides boasted freshly growing green grass shoots, a delicacy for all bears in the spring.
Almost immediately we spotted a large bruin making his way across the slide feeding on grasses along his way. After watching the bear for a few minutes we got a good feel of where he seemed to be heading, with bow in hand Jim and Rockie with his video camera took off heading up the opposite side of the slide from the bruin with the hopes of stalking within bow range.  I stayed behind with Brent and my video camera to film a second wide angle of their approach on the bruin.
Moving as quickly as their legs and lungs would allow, Jim and Rockie, slowly made their way up the steep slide, their size diminished by the sheer size of the mountain. This country is expansive and deceiving and it is no wonder why the wildlife flourishes hiding in what seems like the wide open. With Jim and Rockies fantastic camouflage they seemingly disappeared on the mountainside with only their small movements giving their location away.
The scenario could not have worked out more perfectly if it were personally scripted by one of us. As Jim and Rockie headed up the slide, the bruin literally walked right to them.  From a distance, the slide appears open and grassy, in reality the brush is over one’s head in many places making for great bow stalks.
Brent and I sat in near disbelief as we watched Jim and Rockie made their way towards the bruin and the bruin towards them. The trio had gotten so close that I was certain they were going to be busted at any moment. With heavy cover, we were unsure if the pair could see the bruin so we gave them a hand signal for Jim to get ready to draw.
Just then, the bruin disappeared just out of our line of sight behind a large Spruce tree. As quickly as Jim spotted a glimpse of the bruin’s ears, he stepped just out of effective bow range and line of sight.  Rockie being an expert caller, made a short series of animal in distress squeaks that peeked the curiosity of the bruin causing him to come back for a closer look. With the curious bear sitting and staring a mere 40 yards from Jim and Rockie; Jim took aim and released his arrow into the bruin executing a perfect shot.
Brent and I watched the bear trot back into sight then walk into a section of small timber and out of sight,  and then once again reappearing on the other side taking a moment to sit and finally disappear into a heavy old growth timber stand. 
At this point, we were thinking that the bruin had busted Jim and Rockie and trotted off pretty much unaffected by their presence. We sat their waiting for Jim and Rockie to come running down the slide towards us with the hopes of catching the bruin on the other side of the old growth timber stand.
Instead they took their time videoing, finally making their way to us. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard what had unfolded and how perfectly the stalk had been executed, but I was even more awe struck when I saw Rockies video footage of how it had all went down. 
With darkness quickly setting in we decided to play it safe and make the hour long horseback ride back to camp with what little daylight remained so that we would be safe in traveling through the treacherous terrain, moreover, we did not want to get caught up in the dark over the remains of a freshly harvested animal in grizzly country; the grizzly bears out there own the night.
The following morning we made our way back to the slide, Jim successfully recovered his arrow that had been broken, with the bruin retaining nearly 20” of arrow shaft and broadhead.  Jim retraced the bruin’s final steps and blood trail, Rockie was behind him filming up close and I once again was filming a wider angle.
Brent called out just below me on the slide that there was a massive grizzly bear a mere 150 yards away making his way towards us. Running down the slide and towards Brent as quickly as I could through the brush and fallen trees I had hopes of capturing the massive bear up close on camera.
By the time I reached Brent, the grizzly had taken off in the opposite direction having heard him call out. I did get film of the bruin but not as closely as I had hoped, possibly for the better; we had made a wise decision the night before in coming back during the daylight hours.
Jim Brennan's spot & stalk archery black bear
Jim’s bear was laying less than twenty feet from where we had last spotted him the night before, his bow and arrow had performed perfectly penetrating through the bruins forearm and into his heart and lungs.
After de-boning and caping the bear, we gathered up the horses and headed back to camp. Two down, one to go, Rockie was up as hunter and Jim and I were on the video cameras. With the chill of the morning melted off by a hot lunch and a warm fire, we set out on horseback for our evening hunt.
Our strategy was to ride straight out of camp an hour and slowly glassing each slide on the way back to camp until dark. Catching a glimpse of two black bears on the inside edge of some alder brush; we tied up our horses to get a better look.
With spring in full swing, love is in the air for black bears, we knew that this was either a boar chasing a sow or a sow with cubs. If it was a boar and a sow, we would make a stalk, if it was the latter, we do nothing. For this very reason, much of your time bear hunting in the spring is spent by glassing, saving you from doing un-necessary hiking and stalking. A considerable amount of time passed as we patiently waited for the pair to emerge from the brush into the wide open slide, to give us a better look.  Once they came out into the slide and immediately we realized that this was in fact a sow and cub. After getting some video of the pair, we made our way back to the horses and finally back to camp.
The chill that had crept down from my spine to my toes was quickly chased away by the warmth radiating from the wood stove. The sounds of laughter filled the cabin as I listened to the guys tell tales of adventures past while making them a fresh peach rhubarb cobbler. Simple things bring the most delight while in the backcountry, everything you eat always tastes better.  The sound of the last fork hitting the plate signaled to me that it was time for bed to get rested up for the big day that lay ahead.
Little Stinker never missing a step or loosing stride as he carefully maneuvered his way through the belly deep snow, heading deeper into the Purcell Wilderness than we had yet travelled.  Fred, our guide, frequently climbed off his horse with ax in hand to remove fallen trees that lay in our path. You could hear the water rushing down the mountain at ground level buried under the snow drifts, winter was quickly melting away.
The full moon had been high in the night sky, so we decided to change up our hunting strategy a bit and heading out for our hunt just after breakfast with the hopes of catching a bruin out and about midday. The sun was high in the sky warming the valley under her gentle rays.
Sitting on the base of a slide with our backs resting against a tree we were enjoying our sandwiches when Rockie and Fred spotted a whitetail doe bounding across Dutch Creek, fear striking behind her.  Everyone was instantly on alert, something was wrong.
Rockie stood up and worked his way down the slide to get a better look behind us and on the opposite side of Dutch Creek where the doe had just darted from while Jim and I continued to glass up the slide.  Running back to us, he had spotted a big black bear, a mere 100 yards away.
With video cameras in hand, Jim and I followed Rockie to the edge of the slide, the bear had moved into heavy timber allowing for a limited view of the bruin. One thing that was clear, he was eating something and we all feared that the bruin had taken the frightened does fawn for its meal.
After watching the bruin for a great deal of time, it became apparent that he was not moving off of whatever he was eating anytime soon, so we walked the slides edge in search for a better view and shooting angle. Rockie rested his gun against his backpack and waited for the perfect opportunity to take his shot. Moments later the bruin was down.
Getting the horses through the final snow drifts leading up to the slide was going to be tricky, but we could not forge the dangerous waters of Dutch Creek on foot. Without another option, Fred and I carefully laid out a safe passageway through the snows heavy drifts for the horses to travel through. This is where you are thankful to have experienced mountain horses to safely transport you through springtime’s rugged terrain.
Rockie Jacobsen's spot & stalk black bear
Once we were across Dutch Creek, we tied up the horses and approached the expired bruin.  Our fears were then confirmed, the bruin had been feasting on the newly born whitetail fawn. We were all deeply saddened by the sight but pleased with the knowledge that by having harvesting not only this bear but a total of three in the territory, we had saved the lives of many other deer fawns and elk calves.
Having spent 25 days deep within the remote Rocky Mountains of British Columbia in the Royal Kootenay Range and the rugged Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, we packed up our camp at Hyak in preparation to make the two day ride down the old trail and back to civilization, marking the end of this journey, leaving me longing to return.
My heart and soul soar within the mountains and an all too familiar voice deep inside calls me to return time and again, forever growing louder and more demanding.  I bid farewell for now only to return before long…

Additional Information
A/Z Outfitters offers hunt opportunities for Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Mountain Goat, Moose, Mule Deer & Elk.  Visit A/Z Outfitters online at www.abarzoutfitters.com.
If you would like to visit the Purcell Wilderness with me during a summer pack trip, please email directly at ktitus@pursuethewild.com or visit A/Z Mountain Adventures.
For more information about the author, please visit www.pursuethewild.com or www.facebook.com/KristyTitus

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
Under Armour Clothing for Jim & Rockie
Ridge Reaper Jacket & Pant
Stealth Rain Jacket & Pant
Camo Big Logo Hoody
Camo Armourloft Vest
Swarovski Optik
Z3 Rifle Scope
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece
8x30 Laser Guide
Misc. Gear
Eberlestock X1 Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus
Nosler Custom Trophy Grade 180 Grain Accubond Ammunition




































Friday, June 17, 2011

Birthday Black Bear with A/Z Outfitters


Having the last road less hunting territory in the East Kootenany Mountain range of the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy, many might describe their experience with A/Z Outfitters as traveling back in time, where life moves at a slower pace; work is done with your two hands and the aid of a good horse.
The horses are free ranging much of the year.
A/Z Outfitters was founded over 60 years ago with Bill DuBois as one of the original founders. You will find him and many of the original guides still leading excited guests into the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy using traditional horse packing methods that have been passed down for generations.
With whip in hand, Brent heads out to round up his free ranging horses. Once spotted, Brent runs towards them cracking the end of his whip into the ground. The horses know what to do and immediately run towards the corrals, ready to get to work.
Handing Brent his tape measure, he carefully makes measure of the horses hoof. With single sections of un-cut steel he cuts the exact length needed to construct the shoes for his horse; the same way that it has been done for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Heat rolling out of the propane forge ready to heat the cut down sections of steel for shaping. 
Clang, clang, clang, Brent perfectly shapes the shoe, punches holes in it and while it is burning hot presses it against the horses hoof, smoke rises and the hoof sizzles, Brent making sure the fit is perfect before cooling the steel and setting the nails.
Waiting for my hunting partners Rockie Jacobsen, Owner of Bugling Bull Game Calls and Jim Brennan, Bugling Bull Game Calls Pro Staffer, and Mossy Oak Western Pro Staff Coordinator, I spent my last night amongst civilization at the beautiful Cabins at Whitetail Lake.
Growing up on the back of a mule, packing into the backcountry, I know firsthand how much work goes into preparing for a ten day trip into the backcountry; double that difficulty when you are packing in tens of thousands of dollars worth of valuable camera equipment and computers.  
Throwing all of your gear for the trip into a pile like an intricate puzzle, Brent DuBois our skillful outfitter and Fred Canning, his right hand man, carefully pieced everything together into perfectly weighed out packs that get loaded and balanced onto one of the good pack horses or mule.
Little Stinker
With each of us having a 60# gear limit including video equipment, one prioritizes carefully what must be taken and what can be left behind. Knowing we were going into some of the steepest, most rugged country in the world, I put in my request early to be on the back of Brent’s only saddle mule, that I called Little Stinker or just plain Stinker.  The smooth agile, carefully laid out step of a mule is priceless in the backcountry, especially when the terrain grows dangerous.
Little Stinker hadn’t been rode in almost a year as Brent’s father Bill had grown tired of his mule-isms and traded him in to ride a horse. Without reservation, I outfitted Stinker with my personal “fancy” saddle complete with silver and gold inlays, saddle bag filled with my video camera, laptop computer, handheld camera, Swarovski binoculars, and rifle with Swarovski Z3 scope.  Little Stinker became a $12,000 mule in a hurry.

Heading up the trail, it looks as if you are riding into the sky.


The warm summer like weather had warmed up the valley making the seven hour trail ride through some of the most beautiful country in the world a dream. Five saddle horses, a saddle mule, and six pack horses made the trek along Dutch Creek, swollen from the rapidly melting snow.  I frequently climbed off and on Little Stinker to take photos and video of Mountain Goats, Elk and stunning scenery along the way.
Little Stinker taking every advantage of being “free” to trot in front of the pack string or head downhill for a clump of green grass; filled with the joy of being out on the trail for his first trip of the season. On the downhill sections he would pin his ears back, trot a bit and shake his head side to side. I found his mule-isms quite comical, although some probably do not appreciate the character of a mule quite as much as I do.
Seven hours later, we arrived at The “Big Cabin” that was built in 1993 by the DuBois family. Everyone contributed to the construction with Brent’s mother Georgina designing the cabin, Brent and his father Bill salvaging the logs from original 1948 cabin to build the guest bunk house and hand scribing the logs for the construction of the main cabin. 

The cabin walls come to life with murals of dates and names of past guests along with short stories of their successes; a section of tree that was found nearby that was carved by a settler over 100 years ago, a broken panyard from a mule wreck and other miscellaneous items that all tell an intricate tale. The main cabin is complete with the modern delights of a refrigerator and propane lights, the guest house boasted the makings for a good hot shower. 
If you prefer the old school, you can utilize the “Bug Light” which is an old tin syrup can with a hole punched through the bottom to slide a candle through and a handle on top. The old timers believed that you could light the candle within to use instead of a flashlight and that the natural light wouldn’t spook the elk that you were pursuing.
Climbing up the slide our first morning there was a small herd of elk grazing just above the horses, once they caught sight of us, they took off into the timber. Coming down the steep mountain slide, the horses tied literally nose to tail, was an amazingly beautiful sight with Dutch Creek below as the thunder started rolling across the sky and the rain pouring down.
Glassing in the rain.
With the rain relentlessly driving down, we saddled up and headed out to glass a few nearby slides for black bears with the hopes that the dark skies would return to blue and the bears would begin to move about. The drum of the rain on the hood of my jacket was a never ending tune that played all day long. We spent the next eight hours glassing, trying to stay dry under the limited cover of trees with no avail.
Making our way back to camp down the boggy trail, Brent spotted a black bear on the face of a slide across Dutch Creek. The bear played peek- a -boo within the heavy alder brush, giving us but only a single look at the bruin.  Unfortunately, the frozen heavy water flowing in Dutch Creek was so swift that it is simply too dangerous to cross in most places making a stalk on the bruin impossible from our current location.
We spent the next hour glassing for the bruin with the attempt at getting a second look at him while devising a plan to make a stalk the following day. Our time was well spent as we found two nice Moose sheds on our way back to the horses, or in my case mule.
With a hump the size of a grizzly’s, even Little Stinker had caught a shiver from the long wet day.  Brent was sure I was going to get an exciting ride back to the cabin when he caught glimpse of the hump in Stinker’s back, but he happily carried me down the trail and back to camp.
Drying out our gear.
Arriving in camp after ten o’clock that night, we converted the guest bunk house into a makeshift dry room with a roaring fire. With a belly full of delicious elk sausage and all the fixings, a set of warm dry clothes on, fully relaxed from finishing my second cup of Dutch Tea (hot water from the creek, whiskey, and honey) I gladly climbed into bed looking forward to another day on the mountain.
I awoke the next day a year older; this was my second birthday in a row being out of the United States, far away from home secluded in the wilderness.  The skies were dark and dreary with rain sprinkling down intermittently throughout the day. I took the opportunity to relax in camp, enjoying the simple pleasure of a nice hot shower and homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies thanks to our camp chef Aaron Cameron.
The slide where I harvested my bear.
After two long wet days, the rain finally subsided making us all anxious to get out on the mountainside to glass for hungrily grazing bears. Saddled up and rearing to go, we set out to check out a few slides. Without wasting anytime at all, we spotted a black bear feeding on the far side of Dutch Creek, before we had a chance to get a better look at the bruin, he disappeared into heavy timber and out of sight.
With Dutch Creek separating us from the slide, Jim and Rocky were not going to be able to put a stalk on the bruin with their bows if he were to reappear. With rifle in hand, I was up as shooter and they were on the cameras.
This yearling bull calf was less than 50 yards from us.
In the middle of the slide, we spotted a small black bear peeking in and out of the heavy brush, sitting back getting video of the small bear working its way across the slide feeding on the tender green grasses. A yearling Bull Moose made an appearance on the edge of the timber and leisurely strolling towards the edge of Dutch Creek nibbling on Black Birch less than 50 yards from us.
All of the wildlife seemed to be enjoying the break from the rain as much as we were and were happily moving about the basin. As luck would have it, the bruin that we had originally seen earlier that night reemerged into the slide feeding right towards us. Armed with my binoculars, it was an easy determination that this was a shooter boar.

The wind was in our favor, he was unaware of our presence a mere 100 yards away across Dutch Creek, laying on my stomach I readied my gun using my backpack as a rest. Waiting for the bruin to feed into the perfect broadside position seemed like it took hours. Finally, with the bruin perfectly broadside I took my shot.
Less than 40 yards from where he stood in the grassy slide into the timbers edge he fell, all caught on camera. My birthday present had been delivered, a beautiful black bear boar taken in one of the most beautiful places in the world. 
The young Bull Moose never spooked from my single gunshot, instead, he forged Dutch Creek heading right towards us.  I had been so focused on the bear that I didn’t even realize that a second larger bull moose was standing directly behind us at less than 40 yards, also unaffected by the sound of my gun shot.
With the light quickly fading, Brent our outfitter suggested that we wait to attempt our recovery until first light due to the freezing cold high waters of Dutch Creek. To cross in the dark would simply be too dangerous. With the sound of mud sloshing under my mule’s feet, I rode back to camp wishing that it were already morning and that we were on our way to recover my bear.
Surrounded by the warmth of a good fire and great friends Happy Birthday was sang to me by all, over the top of a homemade chocolate cream cheese cake. What a great birthday it had been.
The next morning, I traded in Little Stinker the mule for Whiskers the horse. Whiskers is a 1400 pound draft cross that is unbelievably big and strong, perfect for crossing the deep fast moving spring waters of Dutch Creek.
Once we reached the slide, retracing the bruin’s final steps was easy as we had seen his last steps the night before. The boar was old; his teeth were worn almost down to nothing, he had an infected bite mark on his hind quarter, most likely from another younger more aggressive boar. With a skull just over 16 inches and stretching over 5 ½ feet, the bruin had lived out his last day on the beautiful slides of the Purcell Mountains.
Often times, we all get busy and forget to take the time to slow down, get back to our roots and enjoy life at a slower pace. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoying a place un-touched by modern civilization on the back of a good mule surrounded by friends was the best gift for me on my birthday.
With Rockie and Jim both armed with black bear tags needing punched…the adventure continues.
Me and Brent DuBois from A/Z Outfitters.


A special thanks goes out to A/Z Outfitters and the DuBois Family, Fred Canning, The Cabins at Whitetail Lake,  Under Armour, Swarovski Optik, Nosler, Eberlestock and Wilderness Athlete.


 
Additional Information
A/Z Outfitters offers hunt opportunities for Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Mountain Goat, Moose, Mule Deer & Elk.  Visit A/Z Outfitters online at www.abarzoutfitters.com.
Email me at ktitus@pursuethewild.com or go to the A/Z Adventures Website, if you are interested in booking a summer pack trip into the Purcell Wilderness with me and A/Z Outfitters in 2011 or 2012.


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
Under Armour Clothing for Jim & Rockie
Ridge Reaper Jacket & Pant
Stealth Rain Jacket & Pant
Camo Big Logo Hoody
Camo Armourloft Vest
Swarovski Optik
Z3 Rifle Scope
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece
8x30 Laser Guide
Misc. Gear
Eberlestock X1 Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus
Nosler Custom Trophy Grade 180 Grain Accubond Ammunition





















Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rainbow of Bears in the Royal Kootenay Mountains


Jason glassing and filming.
The sound of the Palliser River filled the valley with a vibrant hum as it echoed off the mountainside. With snow crunching under foot, we got settled in to glass the avalanche slides and clear cuts with the hopes of filling Steve West from Steve’s Outdoor Adventures Television Show’s black bear tag with outfitter Sean Beswick.  Jason Martyn and I were armed with our video cameras and ready to roll.
The slowly emerging bears hungrily awoke from their deep slumber by the lengthening of days and the warm sunshine heating up the valley.  Green grass was sprouting everywhere that the sun was able to kiss now that the snow drifts had began to melt.
The Grizzly bear was spotted strutting powerfully across a slide through deep snow leaving behind a trail to the top of the mountain in the deepest of snow.  The massive bruin stopped every few yards to paw and dug its way deep into the earth uncovering and devouring the tender root systems below. 
You can see the digs above the bruin.
A beautiful sight with its fur dark chocolate on the body and tipped with silver, your classic grizzly with a pronounced hump and an air of authority; knowing that this mighty bruin would keep the black bears off of the slide and out of sight. With the sun fading over the horizon and darkness settling in, we called it a night and returned to camp.
Our lunch the next day was fit for a king or in my case a queen; with the royal Kootenay Mountains in the background and the Palliser River slowly meandering by, we built a fire to fry up our lunch on open flame. The setting was rich under the warm rays of sunshine with the company of good friends as we all shared stories while enjoying some of the best homemade french fries and an assortment of chicken wings.
Sean french frying potatoes over open flame.

The weather began to cool and the skies began to darken. The change in weather brought about a renewed excitement for finding a big bruin on the move. Setting up from a high vantage point, we spotted a black bear in the middle of a clear cut. We immediately set up for a stalk on the bear. Once we reached the edge of the clear cut, the bruin was out of sight. We made our way slowly to the middle of the clear cut and spotted the bruin grazing on the far edge of the cut.
Making our way across the clear cut dipping down in and out of a couple small valleys, in the middle of our stalk the wind changed with the keen nose on the bruin we were flat out busted. The bear had disappeared into the dark deep timber before we even caught a second glance. The stalk was over.
The moose were grazing in the cut.
With the snow quickly melting off the old logging roads each day we were able to expand our range of travel. Heading into a new clear cut Jason immediately spotted two moose, no black bears. A change in location and hours of glassing went by when our guide Sean decided to head back to the clear cut that we had spotted the moose earlier to take advantage of the last 30 minutes of daylight in hopes that a bear would emerge anxious to feed on the tender green grasses.
Sean’s hunch had been right; slowly stalking to the edge of the clear cut we immediately spotted two mature bears. With the territory having a large percentage of color phase bears we had lucked out and one of the two bears was a dark chocolate color phase.

Steve & his stunning chocolate boar.
The light was quickly fading, so Steve set up and took aim on the magnificent bruin feeding 150 yards down the mountainside.  As the shot rang across the valley and the bear fell in its tracks. After hunting black bears for an undisclosed number of years, finally harvesting a mature boar in color phase was a moment that Steve had been waiting for his entire life. 






Enjoying our last day in the Palliser valley, we paid visit to the Soda Springs waterfall and the memorial of Larry James Tegart an old time guide in the valley. One can only imagine all of the incredible stories a man like Larry would tell if he were still around. We can all understand the remarkable tribute that was made on his behalf with a plaque on display that will forever remind us all of how precious each passing moment really is.


The bruin was last spotted crossing the base of this slide.
With Steve having one more tag to fill, we spent our final evening in search for a second bear.  Spotting a black bear miles across the far side of the valley, the bruin was quickly moving across a clear cut, so we made like a bandit towards him in hopes of reaching him in time for a stalk. 
Once we reached the far side of the valley, we set up to glass checking every stump and the cut edge looking for the bruin on the move.  After glassing for over 30 minutes we spotted the bear high on the mountain at the base of a slide moving towards us and a timber draw. We set up in hopes that he would keep coming towards us at his current pace and into the clear cut that lay before us.

After patiently waiting for what seemed like hours, we decided to let out a little calf elk distress with the hopes of calling the bruin into us.  Almost immediately our call was answered, unfortunately, we only managed to call in a cow elk that couldn’t ignore her motherly instincts and came in mad. She paced around a bit, letting out a series of distressed barks. Once she realized there was no calf in distress, she quickly returned to the rest of the herd.
We were down to the last hour of daylight when Sean spotted another bear back across the valley where we had just come from. Once again we raced across the valley and quickly made our stalk into the clear cut where the bruin had last been spotted.
Filming & glassing.
The bruin was on the far timber edge of the clear cut and looking in our direction watching our appearance into the cut. Fortunately we had the wind true to our face and with bears having poor eye sight he didn’t seem to have a care. Steve set up to take the shot at 200 yards but was halted by Jason due to his poor camera angle. No film, no shot.
Successfully executing a stalk on an animal is tough enough as an individual hunter, having not one but two camera men following along, you can double the difficulty level.  With the light quickly fading and having to risk the bruin disappearing into the timber, we advanced with the hopes of closing the distance and getting a better camera angle.
At 150 yards Steve was finally able to set up for a shot with Jason and I both giving him a green light. Steve took aim and fired.
Lightning had seemingly struck twice. When we approached the bruin, we were all awe struck. Steve had successfully managed to harvest his second color phase black bear in two days. This one was a cinnamon brown boar, the largest of all our bears taken.
Although, I was not the person who pulled the trigger on these two stunning bruins, I was honored and grateful to be part of the hunt. We all can appreciate the feeling when the hunt draws to a close and everything has turned out beyond all of your expectations, with the entire trip caught on tape to tell the tale in living color to all of you.

Steve West, me and Jason Martyn.
To book a hunt contact Steve West at http://www.steveshunts.com/



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
Z3 Rifle Scope
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece
8x30 Laser Guide
Misc. Gear
Eberlestock X1 Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus
Nosler Custom Trophy Grade 180 Grain Accubond Ammunition



























 

Royal Kootenay Mountains Black Bear


When Steve West from Steve’s Outdoor Adventures invited me to British Columbia to hunt Black Bears for his television show and my future Pursue the Wild television show with outfitter Sean Beswick, I immediately started packing my bags anxious to get into the backcountry.
Crossing over the Canadian border was like turning on a wildlife switch. There were elk seemingly everywhere. Cows preparing to calf and bulls growing antlers for the year were heartily grazing on the tender spring grasses that decorated the roadside.
After 12 long hours on the road, traveling through Oregon, Washington and Idaho, I finally arrived in Cranbrook BC to get a night’s rest before beginning my pursuit of British Columbian bruins.
With spring late in her arrival, the mountains were once again dusted with a blanket of snow during the night. Bound for the Royal Kootenay Mountain range, my Excursion tore up the 90 minutes of muddy bumpy roads up the spectacular Palliser River Valley.
Height of the Rockies Lodge
Finally, I had made it into the backcountry. Landscaped with river frontage, the royal snow capped mountains surrounded the lodge. A glimpse into the history of the territories past was proudly displayed on the lodge walls with trophies telling tales of times shared in the backcountry with friends and family.
Finding the whole place intoxicating and I could hardly wait to get out and get hunting. Steve having two bear tags and me having one to fill, we started the first evening with a trip to the range to making sure that our weapons were spot on.
This Grizzly Bear was digging up and feeding on roots.
The air was cold as it ripped across the thick laying snow. Grizzly bears were digging their way out of their dens and hibernation high on the mountain tops. Appearing below the slowly emerging Grizzlies, Mountain Goats danced across the sheer rock bluffs.
The Black bears made their appearance midway up the mountain at snow line and in the low laying valleys and river bottoms feeding on fresh green grass shoots and patrolling the avalanches in hopes of finding the carcass of a fallen animal caught in the wrath of Mother Nature.

Love was in the air for both Grizzly and Black Bears and the boars were out excitedly looking for a sow in heat giving us the opportunity to catch a big bore on the move.

Taking advantage of our optics, saving our legs for future stalks, we glassed from a high vantage point, spotting two black bears feeding along an old skid road. The bears disappeared into heavy timber and out of sight. Later we spotted several other bears, a sow and cub patrolling the base of an avalanche and a boar feeding on fresh green grass shoots along an old skid road, all without opportunity for a stalk.
Glassing clear cuts, logging roads & snow slides.
Waking up to the aroma of homemade pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, and hot coffee filling my nose, by 7 AM we were once again on the mountain. Glassing for a bear that was spotted the evening before by a guide they affectionately called Duck, the bruin was holding close to a large herd of cow elk that were getting ready to start calving. We found fresh scat that wasn’t there the night before but failed to catch a glimpse of the bruin; instead we saw a group of three Mountain Goats seemingly soaking up the sun high in the mountains cliffs.  
Cow Elk were virtually everywhere feeding in the clear cuts.
Later that day Duck spotted another bear on an old logging road. Taking advantage of his find we took after the bruin. Parking on the edge of a clear cut just above a herd of cow elk, we headed into the dark timber. The old road provided a bounty of freshly growing green grasses for the eager bears to munch on.
We were quick to spot a bear in the road grazing on the bright green grasses. I set up on the shooting sticks, ready to take my shot when another bear suddenly appeared out of the dark timber. Wanting to make sure that this was not a sow and cub, I let down and proceeded to close the distance on the two bears.
Slowly creeping up the old road, hugging the side of the mountain, we were sure to stay out of sight of the two bears. With the wind in our favor, we were finally able to determine that this was a boar excitedly chasing a sow.
Once again, I set up to take my shot on the large boar. As luck would have it, one of the legs on my shooting sticks had come loose and collapsed underneath me, just as the bears became aware of our presence.
While trying to get my shooting sticks stabilized, the sow stood on her hind legs curiously with the attempt at getting a better look at us. Following the lead of the boar they both headed down the mountainside into deep timber and out of sight.
It had all happened so quickly, my chance had come and gone. Every hunter has felt the frustration that I was experiencing, where you are so close to getting it right and then Murphy’s Law kicks in.
Knowing we were in prime time for spotting more bears, we continued to hike down the old road towards another clear cut with the hopes of spotting another bear. After glassing the cut without spotting a bruin, we started our hike back to the truck.
Suddenly, we spotted a bear in the timber. I readied my gun and prepared to take a shot just as the bear took off deeper into the timber and out of sight, unknowing that there was a second bear less than 30 yards from me locked in and staring. The bear was just out of sight due to the steep decline of the mountain. Simultaneously the bear and I inched towards each other; there we met eye to eye.
This mature boar had massive paws.
Offhand, I took aim on the bruin standing less than 30 yards from me, his massive head and shoulders completely filling my scope. Firing a single shot the bruin was down almost instantly going less than 20 yards down the mountainside.  
My senses were on overload from the excitement running through my veins; it was truly indescribable. The sheer mass and magnificence became evident when I was finally able to run my hands through the bruins beautiful long black fur.
After celebrating the success of a thrilling hunt with handshakes and hugs, I reflected back on the hunt with fondness. On the steep face of the royal Kootenay Mountains, one of the most beautiful places on earth, with the help of knowledgeable guides and great friends at my side, I was able to harvest a beautiful trophy and take home fresh meat for my freezer.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

A special thanks goes out to Under Armour, Swarovski Optik, Nosler, and Eberlestock.
To book a hunt contact Steve West at http://www.steveshunts.com/
Gear List
Under Armour Clothing for KristyEvo Cold Gear Pants
Base 2.0 Top
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
Z3 Rifle Scope
EL 42 Swarovision Binoculars
65mm HD Spotting Scope with 20-60x Eyepiece
8x30 Laser Guide
Misc. Gear
Eberlestock X1 Backpack
Wilderness Athlete Performance Bars, Energy Gel, Energy & Focus Drink Formula, Protein Plus
Nosler Custom Trophy Grade 180 Grain Accubond Ammunition