Story and photos by: Travis Nowotny
Each spring as the snow melt-off makes its way up the mountain, many of us take to the hills to rekindle our love for the mountains.
After the long winter, I find myself looking for any excuse to get out in the fresh mountain air. What better way to get out and knock the dust off than spring bear hunting? For me, I don’t think there is anything better. I look forward to putting my Kryptek gear back on after a winter long hiatus, stretching my legs and glassing green hillsides.
This spring, I started early hiked into a remote basin opening weekend of bear season. I was packing my bow instead of a rifle on this hunt and my hopes were high that I could locate a good boar to put a stalk on. The first night, I was able to get my eyes on a couple young bears but nothing that had me dropping into the basin quite yet.
After a couple days of glassing with limited bear sightings, it was apparent opening weekend was just a bit to early. Not many bears were out searching for food. There was just too much snow and the green grass that brings bears out on open hillsides was a week or two away. My weekend ended up with a handful of bear sightings and strong yearning for more adventure.
The very next weekend, I found myself hiking up a familiar canyon I had hunted in the past. The weather man was calling for 90% precipitation and I figured I would just day hunt from my truck. It was still early in the season and I didn't want to put myself through the misery of cold camping through springtime down pours and foggy canyons that would prevent me from spotting a bear. I knew I would be glassing between thunderstorms, but I had to try.
I got lucky and had a nice break in the weather during the last couple hours of daylight one evening. I was able to turn up a small cinnamon bear, but it wasn’t the mature boar I was looking for. Most of that evening, I simply enjoyed the view from my vantage point. I watched a beautiful rainbow fade as the sun set and I hiked back to my pickup with a bear tag still in my pocket.
By the last weekend in April, it was time to get serious about finding a big bear. I had planned on hiking deep into a remote canyon and spending a couple nights on the mountain intently searching for a good bear.
The hike was long and steep. It took me a while to get into the area I planned to hunt. Climbing the main ridge, I was about a half-a-mile short of where I planned on setting up camp when I reached prime glassing area. I could see nearby ridges and I figured I'd rest and glass for a few minutes before I continued on the camp site. Immediately, I spotted a giant chocolate bear straight across the drainage.
I knew right away the bear was big and even better, he was within range. I quickly got set up for the shot and I ranged the bear at 438 yards. I watched him for a few minutes, waiting for him to turn broadside. When he did, I slowly put pressure on the trigger until the shot broke the silence of the canyon. I hit the big bruin perfectly and he rolled over 150 yards to the bottom of the canyon. He finally stopped right in the middle of the creek. Bad luck goes with the good I suspect.
Managing a big bear in a flowing creek alone is a tall order, but I was able to get the bear out of the creek and skinned out. My friend Oliver made it to my location just shortly after it got dark and was able to help me get the bear back to our camp. It’s awesome to have friends that are ready to jump in and make a heavy pack-out a breeze. It was nice to have his company as we shared stories of our past hunts and a hot meal around a campfire. After the fire burnt out, we climbed into our tents for some much needed sleep.
The next morning, Oliver and I enjoyed a nice cup of coffee as the sun came up. Shortly after, we hiked to a nearby vantage point and glassed the canyon trying to locate a bear for Oliver, but no luck. We glassed until midafternoon and by then, the temperature was rising. We both decided we had better get camp packed up and head for home before the sun could spoil the meat or hide of my bear.
There really is nothing better than hunting bears in the spring. I absolutely love it and highly recommend it to anyone seeking adventure. God willing, there will be many more high mountain bear hunts in my future.