Backcountry Bear Part 3: When A Plan Comes Together
Part 2 of the series ended while falling asleep in the tent and wondering the whereabouts of the rest of our hunting party.
A tent zipper in the middle of the night answered that question. I was too groggy to remember the details of any late-night dialogue, but morning would reveal them.
Waking From An Eventful Sleep
After we had separated, the brothers had continued higher up the ridge, eventually getting into fresh green grass, and fresh droppings from furry things that eat it. As the afternoon progressed, they caught a glimpse of a bear traversing a mountain face, heading their way. They were able to get into position, and fate and skill led that bear to within bow range. Tiege made a successful shot. The mountain had decided.
They were able to track and locate the bear, but as weather and darkness set in, they were unable to retrieve it from the mountain. It was cold, and the bear had been gutted and opened to get cool and preserve the meat, but we needed to get back to it before any animals did, or weather turned and got hot, risking meat spoilage.
So after a cheers to Tiege and quick breakfast, our merry party of four was headed straight back up the mountain.
Back Up The Mountain
The Backcountry, Snow High in the Distance
It was just as steep as the day before (funny how that is), but we hunted our way up, keeping eyes peeled for any more bear in the area. Fallen logs made for some good rests for tired legs.
Eventually we hit the elevation where the freshest grass was growing, and got back into the bear sign the brothers had found the day before. It was definitely a very ‘bear’y’ area — thick timber on the edge of sunny faces, high on ridge lines. Once the fresh grass and sign began — it was everywhere. It was clear bears were using the thick cover, but also coming out to feed regularly.
The bear was found undisturbed where it was left. I was very happy for Tiege — first bear, spot and stalk with traditional archery gear is quite an accomplishment. By no means was the ‘success’ of this adventure going to be measured solely by successful harvests, but his part of the journey was full circle. Some time was taken to respect the bear, and they got to work caping and quartering the bear and getting it off the mountain and back to camp.
Lucky for me, the other three had that hard work covered, and I had the luxury of being able to stay up and spend the afternoon alone on the mountain. I started by going higher, but eventually couldn’t resist coming back to where sign was strongest, and keeping an eye on every sunny grassy pocket I could.
Sunny Afternoon Glassing Spot
My only company on the ridge that afternoon ended up being a boisterous grouse. I could hear him bellowing, but they are so hard to locate and often ‘throw’ their voices and aren’t where they seem they should be. I was looking all around, and eventually the strutting bird fifteen feet in front of me revealed himself. I love to bow hunt them (tastiest bird you can find) but they weren’t in season. Lucky bird.
A Silhouette of Mr. Grouse
Traversing High Slopes
As evening set in I started to ease my way back down the mountain towards camp. I’ve been really enjoying traditional archery and the history, style and challenges it brings, so took some to sit on a rock and go over the setup of my Bear Takedown recurve. It’s a great companion on the mountain, or flinging arrows in the back yard.
I probably should have thought more about those rocks I was sitting on and how rocks tend to get warm in the afternoon sun, and how certain critters like warm rocks. It wasn’t long after continuing down the mountain that I stepped off of one of those rocks and heard the tell-tale sound of snake species #4, and added the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake to my list of snakes found on the trip.
Snakes In The Grass
Northern Pacific Rattlesnakes
That was enough excitement to end my day. One bear in camp. One lucky step. Two tired legs. My mind shifted from thinking of bears on mountains to bears on dinner plates….