Seat 24A was the numbers I read while I was given my last boarding pass which would take me from Denver to Bozeman. The anticipation couldn't have been higher, as it always is when I board that final plane before I reach my destination. As many of you already know I've become obsessed with traveling the world with a bow in my hand and this trip was definitely one that I couldn't wait to get started. As the plane took off I couldn't help, but stare out of the window and think, "man I wonder what kind of adventure and experience Montana has in store for me." I was soon about to find out that I surely wouldn't be disappointed.
Brian Barney, a good friend of mine who writes for Eastman's bowhunting journal and runs The Eastman's Elevated podcast, invited me out to chase spring bears with our bows in Montana's beautiful backcountry. I had never hunted Montana yet, so I jumped at the chance the minute the offer was on the table. Brian is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to backcountry bowhunting the west, so I couldn't wait to share an adventure with him and soak up as much knowledge as possible. He's a super high energy guy like myself, so I knew it was going to be a great time with a ton of miles and country covered during the week.
Bear hunting out west, like basically every other type of Western hunting typically consists of covering lots of miles with your legs and even more with your eyes. A guy will spend a lot of time glassing off of vantage points overlooking the greenest features looking for bears. Bears during the springtime are keying in on the greenest features they can find. Basins, hidden meadows and bottoms are great places to catch a big, old boar feeding during the day. Typically more movement takes place in the evenings, but good weather will have them feeding all day at certain times.
Our plan for the week was to cover as much ground as possible in some of the most beautiful public ground I've ever hunted. Montana surely is all that it's cracked up to be with gorgeous scenery and tons of animals to hunt. We were hoping that if we went for it everyday, sooner of later we'd find what we were looking for and could then put together a good stalk.
On our first full day of hunting I really thought it was going to happen. We had changed locations from the morning hunt and decided to go into an area that Brian has always had great luck getting into big boars. Tension was high as we locked the truck doors, threw our packs on our backs, grabbed the bows and took off. Right away we got into bear sign. Tracks and droppings were everywhere, so we knew at least one or two bears were calling this hillside home. As we slowly made our way up the mountain we caught movement to our right and sure enough it was a blond bear! Quickly grabbing the binos we both confirmed that it looked like a nice boar that we needed to get a closer look at, so the plan was made for a stalk.
I couldn't have been more excited as I slowly made my way towards this bear as he was feeding on the tender green grass. Closer and closer we inched our way as quiet as we could be. Once we got to within 100 yards we made the judgement call that although it was a beautiful boar, he wasn't mature and that we weren't going to be taking a shot. But we decided to sneak in as close as we could which ended up being to around 25 yards. Brian was able to snap some incredible photos as I made my final approach in on this bear without him knowing we were even there. What an experience!!! On the ground, spot and stalk bowhunting at its finest.
The next few days we covered hundred of miles with our eyes and feet. We found a few smaller bears and even ran into a sow with three cubs, which we found sound asleep on the side of a rock cropping down in a bottom. With the trip halfway over we decided to switch gears and hunt a few spots that we had yet to look at and man did it pay off! Just before dark one evening while watching a cow and calf moose we spotted a gigantic chocolate boar feeding along the edge of a lake. With daylight fading we weren't able to make a stalk, but we put together a game plan for the next day hoping he would make the same move. I couldn't wait to match wits with this old bruiser the next day! On the way home we spotted two grizzlies which for me, was the first time I ever got to see some in the wild. What a cool sight that was to finally see.
Unfortunately the next day did not bring the results we wanted and the huge chocolate wasn't spotted again. These bears can really cover a ton of ground, so from day to day it's not unheard of for a big bear to cover a lot of miles searching for the best food available. But hope was not lost we still had a whole day left and I made the judgement call to change my flight which would give me one more whole day of hunting instead of just a morning. I decided I was just going to SEND IT!!! It was a "go big or go home" decision and with great weather in the forecast I decided to roll the dice and see what would happen.
My last day started out great with Brian and I getting into bear sign right away. Knowing that bears had been in this area recently really gave us a good feeling for what might be in store. As the day continued on we kept finding more and more sign along this bottom as we still hunted our way to the main vantage point that we wanted to watch that evening. Brian felt really confident that we would run into a bear before dark and sure enough he was right!
With light fading faster than I would have liked it too, Brian and I were glassing our tails off trying to cover as much ground as possible from this vantage point. All at once I heard the words come out of Brian's mouth that I had been waiting to hear, "Clint there's a bear and it looks like a boar." Boom! Back in the game! Quickly we threw the spotter on him and both agreed it definitely was a boar, but he was a long ways away and with light fading fast we had to make a call immediately on whether we wanted to go get a better look or not. When the words rolled off Brian's tongue, "are you ready to go for it as hard as you can?" I excitedly said back, "let's go for it my man!"
With two, maybe three miles to cover and light quickly escaping I knew this was going to basically be a full blown run to get to this bear in time. Our plan was to fly down the mountain off of our vantage point, get down in the bottom and run it all the way up to a saddle that this bear was feeding towards. I couldn't have been more pumped up! In my head I just kept thinking, "This is it. This is your opportunity you've worked for now go get it done!"
As fast as I could go I followed behind Brian as he flew down the mountain. We were covering ground fast, but light was fading so we had to turn it up a notch for the final approach. Finally, after a long run we had made it to the saddle. Luckily the wind hadn't shifted on us and there were some giant rocks for us to hide behind because as soon as we got there minutes later we saw black moving our way. He was coming right at us!!! At this point my mind pretty much shuts off from everything besides me focusing on the task at hand. I knew I was going to get a shot and it was going to be close! Closer and closer the boar made his way to us and at about the 80 yard mark we both realized that although he was a nice boar, he just wasn't as big as we had anticipated.
50-40-30-20!!! He was right in our lap and it was so cool to be that close and him not have a clue we even existed. I really wish he would have been bigger, but that experience and the adrenaline rush I felt flying down off that mountain to make this stalk was worth its weight in gold. What a blast Brian and i had on this trip and i cannot wait to get back at it again out in Montana.
Switching gears to whitetails, right now I'm sure most of you are super busy putting out cameras and watching fields in the evenings, or at least YOU all should be. We've got some great stuff for you guys in podcasts and blogs all focused around early season tips and tactics and summer scouting as well. I really think you'll enjoy it and hopefully will learn from it as well. As always we want to thank all of you for the amazing support on the blog and podcast. You guys rock! And remember, chase your dreams, not your liquor and GO SHOOT YOUR BOW
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