Keeping it in the family. The author's nephew Ben Weston, back for a short break from Afghanistan, poses with a nice 6-foot bear skin.
My brother-in-law and the kids came out to visit us in Idaho one year. While here, my 16 year old nephew Monty said, "Uncle Tom, could I come out bear hunting?" I said sure. To make a long story short, he missed a big one.
Ever since then he's had a burning desire to come back and get a bear. So after a year of planning he and his younger brother Tom Robert flew in to Boise. One afternoon we took out for the mountains. (My little sister was not particularly overjoyed, but she went along with it).
My buddy Ed Sweet who owns a television show, "Kid Outdoors," was also going on this hunt to film it for his show. Joining him would be Gary Kirkpatrick.
Ed and I took Monty and Gary took Tom. As it was getting late, a bear came in. It was a smaller bear so we held off letting Monty shoot him. In a bit I saw a head pop out of the brush and right away I knew that it was a shooter so we told him to go ahead and take it when it came out.
It eased on out into the open and walked up to the bait barrel. It nibbled around a minute and then stood up. I knew Monty was nervous because this was the exact same shot that he had missed the year before, but he shot it in the back with a .50-caliber Knight black powder rifle and knocked it flat.
It reached over and grabbed a 3-inch diameter tree and took a bite out of it. It then jumped up and took off in the thick underbrush. We had to go in on a bear trail to track it. The underbrush was super thick, and it was a lot of fun crawling in on my hands and knees tracking a wounded bear.
|Tip: In some of the thicker brush you can actually see further if you crawl on your hands and knees than if you're standing up. I use a pistol when tracking bears because a rifle will get hung up in the brush in a panic situation.
I knew Ed wouldn't be any good if it charged — he was running the camera and all he cared about was a good filming for his show. We tracked it a good ways and then spotted it 50 yards out in front of us. Monty got a quick shot at it before it disappeared again. In a bit we caught up with it and finished it off. We cleaned it right fast and hiked out. We hit the four-wheeler and rolled into camp at dark. The next morning Monty, Tom and I boned it out and packed out the hide and meat.
The middle of the day I told the boys we'd try to lure in a bear from upriver out of a dark canyon that I knew about. We ate lunch and then went down to Monty's bait. I had a 5-gallon bucket filled with old cooking grease. I broke up donuts in it and we took off down the trail. There was an old overgrown logging road that sidehilled the mountain. It was overgrown but still walkable.
I cut out a piece of canvas and tied a string on to it. I dipped this in the grease and drug it for a mile down the old logging road to the dark canyon upstream. It was a beautiful canyon, and I knew it had to hold a ton of bears. I drug the rag around and then hit the trail again. Every 50 yards I'd put a one inch piece of greasy donut under an old log or pile of brush. That way if a bear followed our tracks down the trail he'd have something to nibble on and lure him in and the birds couldn't see it and steal it.
Little Tom meets Big One. Tom Robert Statton, 12, with his first bear. One proud uncle is taking the picture.
I drug the rag all the way back, stopping to dip it in the bucket and recharge it every so often. I didn't know if one would come in for a couple of days since we'd just shot one last night and been there that morning boning out Monty's bear and packing it out.
That night Monty and I went back to Monty's bait and little Tom went to the upper bait with Ed and Gary. At 8:05 p.m. Monty and I saw a smaller bear. It stayed for 35 minutes. Then at 8:55 p.m., not 20 feet away, I looked down and there was a cub stumbling by on an old logging road. I don't know where the sow was. About 10 minutes later he shot downhill like a bullet. I figured the earlier blonde bear had slapped him around.
About 10 minutes later I saw a huge black bear coming in. It was the biggest bear I've ever seen in Idaho. The grease trail had worked — we'd lured him out of the far canyon. Dang I wish little Tom was with us. We videoed him for 15 minutes and he finally left the bait and came walking down the trail straight as us. When he got 20 yards from us he cut up the hill. He was a beautiful bear. Here it was the middle of June and he had the most beautiful pelt that I've ever seen. In a minute I told Monty to stand up and see if he was sneaking in on us. I've had some of the super big boars scent me and walk off nonchalantly and then when they hit the brush turn and come sneaking in on me. He stood up and looked around but couldn't see anything.
I was half tempted to shoot him myself he was so big but I wanted little Tom to get him. He was the bear of a lifetime, and I only had my .44 mag with me anyway. But we had some good footage of him and he turned up as a star on "Kid Outdoors" promo DVDs. Even Idaho Fish and Game wanted his picture.
The Big One
Upon arriving at camp we found that the other group had seen the Mohawk bear again. (He'd rubbed off most of his hair except for a ridge along his back.) A big bear had come in right at dark but too late to shoot. I bet it was the one that Monty had missed last year.
|Tip: You want to buy good optics. That way you'll see more game, plus at daylight and dusk, when bear are moving, you'll pick them up better. Crank your power down to the lowest power at dusk so it will pick up more light. I've always had good luck with Leupold products. Bushnell makes good optics as well for the more economical buyer. You'll never regret buying good optics.
The next night Ed and I took little Tom to get the big one Monty and I had seen, but all we saw was a little one that was rubbed really bad. Gary and Monty saw a small one and their big one again.
Little Tom looked up at me and said, "Uncle Tom do you think I'm going to get a bear?" Ah, that about killed me. I had to get him one. On Sunday night Ed, little Tom and I set on the bait where the big one had come in but he never showed up.
Though Monty flew back home Monday morning, little Tom cancelled his ticket and we headed back up by ourselves that night. (My little sister got a little hot over that move!) At that point we'd seen nine different bears — two really big ones — so hopefully we could pop one. The season ended the next day, and he really wanted to get the big boar. We set there and set there but nothing came out. Finally, around 9:15 p.m.. I saw a bear slipping in.
He finally stepped out and Tom said, "There he is!" He was a decent boar, so Tom lowered the hammer on the 7 mm-08 and flipped him. He was clawing, biting and going ape crazy. All of a sudden, he jumped up and took off. I thought, "Oh no. Here we go again." And we were by ourselves.
I told little Tom to keep calm. I told him I was going in first and to hang back 15 feet and take his time if he had to shoot one off the top of me. We couldn't find a trail. I decided to circle down low instead of dropping straight off the mountain on the bear trail. I went down 10 feet further and there he was. I told Tom to poke him and if he moves, shoot. He poked him, stepped back and sighed a breath of relief. About that time a 2-foot weed that was bent under him popped up. Little Tom shot backwards like a crawdad. We had a good laugh.
We skinned him and boned him out by a flashlight and then packed everything to the four-wheeler. We hit camp and loaded up. I had one happy 12-year-old. We got home and crawled in to bed at 2 a.m., bone tired but happy. Good job guys; it was fun. Thanks for sharing your kids Bob and Ann.
Some More Tips
- If you're wanting to go bear hunting, it's probably best to hire a guide if you don't live out west. I love baiting and think that you learn a lot more about bears if you do the baiting yourself; however, that's normally a 2-3 week project at the least, which means you pretty much have to live out here.
- You can do a Spot/Stalk do-it-yourself hunt. To do that I'd probably put in for one of the draw units. That way you know that there are a lot of bears in your area. You can do this but here's some of the equipment you'd need: a good camp, four-wheeler to haul your bear after you shoot it, and bring a backpack to pack him out since you'll probably be back in a ways.
- I'm partial to .30-06 rifle but for the kids we have them use a 7mm-08. Of course you can also hunt them with bows and blackpowder rifles.
- You'll also want a good skinning knife such as the Elk Hunter by Knives of Alaska and a Havalon Barracuta to cape out the head and skin the feet/toes. Talk to your taxidermist before you leave so you know how he wants you to handle the hide.
- Everyone loves game cameras nowadays. I've had good luck with Bushnell but bring a protective box or you'll find your camera in a pile of bear poop!
- For clothes, you may encounter hot weather, rainy weather or last year it was 25 degrees and snowing. Be prepared for anything.
- Well, I'll warn you. If you ever bear hunt once, it will become a lifelong passion. I spend pretty much nearly 2 months every spring bear hunting. It's fun, challenging and in the end, you'll have a winters supply of great sausage.