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TROPHY CLASS BLACK BEARS
“THERE!! There he is” A half a mile away and 100 feet below us was one of the biggest black bears You will ever see.The bruin had stopped in the middle of the road and was looking right at us. Ears up, nose to the wind, he knew something was amiss. As all bears will do when they suddenly realize they are in the wrong place at the wrong time he started to move his head from side to side, and slowly turning around to the direction he came from, he slowly started to move away like nothing was wrong, stopping to take a couple of bites of the rich clover that grew along the road and keeping us in his sight, he meandered out of sight over the crest in the road.
Moving immediately towards the spot we had seen him we crested the hill he was on and he was nowhere to be seen. We drove about a mile past this spot never stopping, finally I turned the truck around and went back and pulled over about a half a mile from where we had seen Him.“Don’t slam the door “I whispered to my hunter“He might be moving this way, we will set up on that corner and wait”We moved and set up and waited for about an hour“He made us” I said“Where did He go” asked the bewildered hunter from Texas “he couldn’t have spotted us from that far away.”
We walked over to the spot where he turned and walked out of our site and there were his tracks in mud on the side of the road. Following the tracks where he crested the hill and plain as day you could see that as soon as he knew he was out of our site he booked over the bank and into the bush.I have been guiding for Trophy Black bears for 10 years and this is a common occurrence, I have great respect for what is North America’s most underrated Big Game Animal, A Trophy Black Bear is as smart and cunning as they come.The old saying “They don’t get that big from being stupid “defines a Trophy Black Bear to a tee.
British Columbia is home to over 160,000 black bears and they range province wide. But there are only a few places to harvest a truly Trophy Black Bear. 6 ½ feet to 7 foot plus is a Trophy Black Bear, Skulls that range from 19 to 21 inches plus will also make Trophy class.Black Bears are now classified as 2 species, Mountain and Island or coastal Black Bears for SCI and Mountain Hunter Record Books. Boone and Crockett Minimum for Record book is 21 inches, Where SCI and Mountain Hunter Record books have a minimum score set at 18 inches.
There is a myth around the hunting community as where you will find the Biggest Black Bears, and this has been created by some very clever marketing by those that hunt Bears for a living, but this is exactly that clever marketing.You can find Trophy Black Bears from British Columbia to Manitoba and Alaska to the Carolina’s,So does theQuestion where do I go on a guided hunt for a trophy class black bear?First are you had to decide what for you is a Trophy Class Black Bear?
What You need to find out is Where have the most trophy Black Bears been harvested , this can be done by looking in the B & C Record book as this has the highest minimum score for entry level. Look for consistency. As a Resident hunter and a Guide Outfitter in British Columbia the Central interior of the province is home to some of the largest Black Bears in the world, Not only are Trophy Class Bears harvested each and every year in this area but the hides on Mountain Black Bears are second to none. The next step on your quest to Hunt for a Trophy Black Bear is to find a Guide Outfitter that consistently harvests a high percentage of trophy class bears on a yearly basis.
I will help you with this next time.
“WHEW”…. A huge sigh of relief escapes my lips as I watch the last of our spring bear hunters pull out of the drive and head on home. We just finished up a video for Primal Adventures which will view on Verses and Wild TV sometime later this year. Trying to catch the attention of women hunters with a video of two women hunters being guided by my wife, Sabrina. Another area in which to try to market our business in this ever changing Industry, to another group of hunters. These last few years has left us as a hunting business with no certainty in a world of uncertainty. Industries such as the auto mobile sector laying off huge amounts of employees that have for many years thought that they could not be unemployed has me feeling the same way.
As we wander back into the house grab a coffee and sit and sort of reflect on the last couple of months. From a devastating year at the sportsman shows where we usually book out 1 to 2 years in advance, having hardly booked anything has left wondering how much more we as an industry can take and where do we go from here. I have some ideas that someone needs to voice so that all sectors of the outdoor and hunting industry better look at long and hard if we are to survive not only the next hundred years but the next 10 to 20 years. I look at my 7 year old son and wonder if this is the last generation of guide outfitters, and hunters and I probably am not to far off on this.
So everyone it is time “WE WOKE UP AND SMELLED THE COFFEE” Talk about being put on the endangered species list.
It may be hard to read and understand what I am about to say but I have never been one to hold back my thoughts and opinions on things, and if something needs to be said then I guess I can do it. Hunting basically has 2 sides the local resident hunters which we all are to an extent and then there are those of us that operate Guide and Outfitting businesses or the commercial sector; this is pretty much the industry in a nut shell. Then there are all those others that feed off of the industry to supply everything from guns and ammo to flashlights and out door equipment. There are the manufactures of these products and then there are the big box stores and smaller family businesses that sell all of the gizmos and gadgets that the hunters think they need. This has become an industry in it’s self and there are billions of dollars involved in this industry. Probably more spent on gizmos than on actual hunting.
Well in a time where it is getting very difficult to retail our hunting excursions because of a poor economy in the US and other parts of the world something has to be done to help the crippled hunting industry weather the storm until things get better.
This is where the other industry has to step forward and lend a hand. If the commercial sector of the hunting industry goes under guess what, there is no use for all the gizmo’s and gadget’s that all you people manufactory and all you big box stores that need this products to sell because there will be no more hunters out there to buy. It is up to you people to do a lot more to help the actual hunting industry if you want to be around for a long time, it’s time to give something back to the people in the hunting industry.
Some will say that hey do a lot already , and some probably do, thru donations to various organizations or supporting fundraisers of all types of guide associations etc, but what about the Outfitter, the people on the ground that provide the services to the hunters to get those awesome trophies, what about them. What can you do to help the down to earth people that provide the camps, the guides the livestock that work out in the hills and backcountry to ensure the success of the hunter, What can you do to help them, after all they are the Skeleton and the heart of the industry, without guiding and hunting there is nothing. Sure some of you can move into the non hunting sector of the outdoors and probably do already, but a lot of you depend on the hunters for your livelihoods some depend entirely on the hunters.
So what do you do to help, how do you do your share. Its pretty basic, start booking hunting trips with those outfitters will pretty much do it, it’s not rocket science, we need help from you people by booking more hunts, put a little bit of those profits back into the industry that has fed your families for so long, Talk to an outfitter about maybe a deal on a group hunt so you can take some of your clients on a trip for just being good clients. Fill up those vacant spots we have in our hunt schedule, there isn’t an outfitter out there that couldn’t use a half dozen more hunters for 2010 or 2011, by then maybe the economy will turn around and the retail hunters will be able start booking the hunting trip they have been dreaming of again, but most important maybe just maybe there will be a Guide Outfitter left to be able to provide that service for you , the hunters.
“NOTHIN TO IT, NOTHIN TO AT ALL”
“CRAP” I muttered to myself, as I cleared back the sleeping bag, realizing it was daylight. I had slept in. “Bad habit” I said again as I staggered out of the tent and over to the cook tent. No one was moving so into the cook tent, spark the gas stove for coffee, spark the light and the wood heater, grab the bino’s and out to the meadow for a quick look to see if there was any Caribou milling about.
Doug was our 2nd hunter and was still sawing logs, and I was grinning to my self wondering how fast he could get his act together if I had spotted a legal Caribou.
Seeing none, I wondered back to the cook tent in time to stop the coffee pot from boiling over, and to see Darrell come out of his tent, He had already tagged out as he took a real nice 6 x 4 bull 2 days earlier right in front of camp.
Within about 15 minutes camp was a buzz with guides waking to the smell of coffee. Doug was always the last one out of the sack as his new found philosophy on caribou hunting was he did not have to be up before daylight to hunt caribou as we were seeing them all throughout the day. This was more than acceptable to his guide, the infamous Hod Smith. Hod has guided throughout the Itcha Mountains most of his 72 years for one Outfitter or another, and I was fortunate enough to have him this year.
Doug had passed up a smaller legal bull a couple days earlier right in front of camp, and because Darrell had taken his bull in front of camp, Doug was content to sit the whole day and watch the flat, read his book, drink coffee, and of course Nap. We took turns sitting with him to add a second set of eyes.
The book Doug was reading was “Grass beyond the Mountains” written by Richard Hobson. Rich and another young cowboy named Panhandle Philips were 2 Montana cowboys who were the first white men to ride into the Itcha Mountains and started the famous Home Ranch on the head waters of the Blackwater River in the mid 1930’s, and is the first of 3 books of their adventures into this small piece of “Heaven on Earth”.
“Doug what do you want to do today” I asked as he entered the tent for his first of many cups of camp coffee, “Walk, Ride. Or Sit”. Knowing his answer already as sitting in a lawn chair, drinking coffee was the only way to hunt Caribou.
The first day of his hunt old Hod had taken Doug for a short 10 mile hike, so his immediate response was “SIT”
“Okay” snickered, then Hod and I went back to our plan to cut a new trail into the swamp system just north of camp to hunt for some of the 50 inch moose we knew were around.
Doug grabbed his cup and he and Rod LaHaise, Hod’s assistant guide, and Darrell grabbed a couple of chairs and headed to the flat just about 50 yards from the cook tent.
“CARIBOU” Darrell calls Just minutes later as he ran into the cook tent “BIG BULL”
“Quick Hod, You got your boots on” as I looked down at my slippers. Out the door and into the meadow and there was a good bull walking along the timber line.
“Quick, get going you guys” I said as he was about 600 yards away, and off they went. I ran back to my tent and slipped on my boots grabbed my rifle and off I went after them. The bull had gone into the timber but I knew that if they got to the clearing ahead of him they would get a chance at him. As I closed the distance to them, I saw Doug go down on 1 knee; suddenly about 8 nice bulls ran out directly in front of them.
“Oh don’t shoot” I said to myself, as there were too many bulls to close together to tell which was a legal bull, and shooting into a heard of running caribou is risky business.
No shot and off they went into the timber. Gone, just like that. Doug got up, then he, Hod and Lynn Christenson (the other assistant guide) advanced slowly into the clearing. Suddenly I heard the distinct sound of Caribou horns brushing timber as a straggler was moving thru the timber towards the unsuspecting group. Another bull was about to pop out and I was worried that the BOO would pop out between the hunters, me and a camp full of horses.
Then the caribou ran out of the timber about 100 yards ahead of the group, I saw Doug go down readying himself for the words from his guide “Good Bull, Shoot”
The bull wasn’t slowing down and I could see immediately that he had too many points to count; I let out a whistle, then another, the bull stopped just short of the timber and turned to look at us.
“BOOM” and down he went.
“ALRIGHT” I cheered then worked my way up to the group of happy hunters.
AS I approached the group Doug turned and looked at me with a grin that went ear to ear, he then quoted a famous Panhandle Philips saying from the book he had been reading
“SEE STEWART, NOTHIN TO IT, NOTHIN TO IT AT ALL”
Itcha Mountain Outfitter
Box 26 RR #5 Frontier Site
Stewart Cell: 253-306-1771
Sabrina Cell: 503-260-6540