High Altitude Adrenaline
It was finally the day I had been waiting for. I had drawn the spring bear tag and couldn’t wait to get out and find my bear. I started preparing by making a call to my long time friend, Wiley. He had just recently moved to the area that my tag was drawn for. I let him know that we were going to be hunting for a big Bruin and asked him if he knew someone who could help us get one. Wiley already had someone in mind that he was sure wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to help and of course, it was an excuse to get out with the dogs and chase a big bear. As spring came closer, with Wiley scouting and trying to locate bear, we decided on a specific weekend I would be able to come up and start my official hunt.
I arrived on a Friday and met up with Wiley and my new found friend and bear hunting expert, Robbie. He let me know that with his work schedule and family life, Sunday would be the only day he could go but still assured me that we would find a bear. He told me I would need to scout some areas that Wiley had been looking in and find a sign, as he would need fresh tracks for his dogs to run. So I set up basecamp at Wiley’s cabin and got on the wheelers to start the search for a big Bruin.
On that first day there was not much of a sign, just a lot of beautiful country. However, on the way back to the cabin we saw what looked like fresh scat on the road so we decided to investigate. While walking around the area, separated by maybe only 20 yards, Wiley shouted with a loud voice while holding his arms high. I scurried to see what was going on and sure enough, we had a bear down the hill. Having only my .40 clipped to my side, I hurried up the hill to grab my .06 but I wasn’t fast enough. The bear had ran off. As it started getting dark, we headed back to the cabin with the rush and excitement of seeing our first bear on the first day. We couldn’t wait to get started the next morning and hoped we’d find another day two scat.
We woke up early and with another good friend wanting to join me on the search. He had just recently returned from an LDS mission and was ready to help. It was a beautiful day. We covered a lot of country and saw a lot of nice elk and deer but we weren’t having much luck finding any fresh sign. I started to get discouraged. As night was falling quickly and it was getting more difficult to see, we decided to head back to the cabin. While we were sitting around and not sure what to do, the crew showed up with the dogs. We discussed our day and not having a definite idea on where to go we decided to start with the dogs at the location that Wiley and I had our first encounter.
We had a plan to wake up before first light and head to the trail where the bear scat was. I laid in bed wide awake, already packed and ready for everyone else to wake up. Finally, we had the dogs and gear loaded and we were ready to head out. As we came upon the spot that we had decided to start, my hopes weren't as high as they had been the last few days. Robbie unloaded his lead dog and began walking him around, trying to find a fresh scent. He decided to let him loose and his lead dog caught a scent. Off the hounds went running! The fresh, quiet morning turned into a mountain of howling and barking. My adrenaline was now pumping as I could hear the dogs going crazy. They were a long ways away but all of a sudden they get louder and closer as they were chasing something towards us. I started to get ready, thinking any moment I will have a bear in my sites coming at me. Then through the break in the trees, we saw a few of the dogs chasing a deer. As Robbie looks on his GPS, he said, “I think they might have a small cub treed because the dogs are acting weird.” Half of the dogs went one direction and the other two were moving slowly around the corner.
We decided to move up the trail slowly towards the corner the dogs were going to. We walked along, waiting to see what was really going on. As I sat talking with the crew, a few of the guys headed up the trail. The rest of us were tying up young hounds. I started walking up the trail to catch up and I heard Robbie yell, “Get up here with the gun! Hurry! Hurry!” I began rushing up the trail. About 100 yards ahead I saw them looking up. With my heart pumping the adrenaline and high altitude I look up the hill. They are pointing about 400 yards in a small opening and on some rocks there was a huge chocolate Bruin. While fighting off the dogs they say, “Hurry! He’s going to get away!” I drop to my knee and fire off a shot. Not knowing what happened, the guys began cheering and saying, “You got him! You got him!” Everyone starts high-fiving me. I was speechless. There was so much excitement and screaming with joy. We headed up to see my kill but he was not there but there’s blood everywhere. He had ran off with the hounds chasing him. With the GPS showing the dogs about 2500 yards down the hill, we started our long hike down the steep terrain.
As we weaved our way down through the trees and sharp rocks, we were on his blood trail and with so much blood we felt it wouldn’t be long before we saw him. The hounds were still going crazy. We saw him still alive and fighting with the hounds. I wanted to try and put another shot in him but I didn’t want to miss and hit a hound. I waited patiently, waited for an opening and BANG! I hit him again, rolling him but just like the last shot, he got to his feet and took off. I started to reload. I’m on him again as he is stomping one of the hounds. Robbie ran in yelling, screaming and charging at the bear to save his hound. The big Bruin ran off so we chased him down. Taking a close shot, I hit a rock. He continued to run with the hounds close behind him. I had another opening with him running away so I put another one into him, rolling him once more. As we all gathered our composure, I noticed my pack with ammo is still up at the top of trail. I pulled my .40 just incase and as we got into the thick trees, there he was, still alive with dogs around him. I got as close as my comfort allowed me to put another in him. He went down for a second but that relentless bear got back up! I shot another and then another. I had 10 shots in him and he still wouldn’t stay down. As I gave up one last shot he finally went down for good. I finally got the monster Bruin that I had been waiting for.
With all of my energy about gone and everyone laughing with nervous excitement over this amazing hunt, we called in for some help to bring us a sled. Everyone was dying to know the size of this amazing animal so we went to weigh him. After several hours of dragging, we finally had the beast loaded. Not believing what had just happened and how lucky we were, we headed into town to weigh him. We were greeted with several townspeople that had already heard about the big Bruin that was just taken. As I got to share the story over and over with those people and new friends that I had just made, I couldn’t help but to feel overwhelming gratitude for the amazing people that helped me connect on such a wonderful animal and create a memory of a lifetime. I’m especially grateful for the beautiful outdoors that God has created for our enjoyment.
By Shane Jones