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

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


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