Saturday, June 4, 2011

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
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


  1. Awesome bear and beautiful country! I can't wait to see your show as well. You are an inspiration to both men and women!

  2. Great place to hunt,go there every year to hunt elk and goat.