I wrote about this hunt shortly after it concluded, and it is from that which I will share it with you all. So here is how it all unfolded.
The waterfowl season was drawing to an end, which was a blessing considering how dismal it had been. My hunting partner John asked if we were going to put in for Spring Black Bear tags? My reply was that "I don't know" and his reply "why not"? to which I replied, "just never gave it much thought". He said, "well I think we ought to put in as a party". Well then so we did and there were four of us in that party. So we did some homework figuring which unit we wanted and then applied for the controlled hunt in the N.Cascades unit. This was early February and the application deadline was only a day away with the draw being on the 20th. of the month. Soon thereafter we got our draw results in the mail and we were successful and now had tags. The opening date was April 1 and there was considerable snow in the mountains where we wanted to hunt. We held off for awhile until we were just about out of time all together.
John designated the weekend of June 3 and 4 for our hunt. As it turned out John was busy with work and his son Joe had other plans which left it up to Sam and I. We decided to follow through and go on our hunt. I talked with my friend Larry who gave me some areas to check and told me what to look for as far as sign and habitat. He was our resident expert since he had hunted bears successfully a year prior. I was all ears and taking notes as best I could. Then I picked up a couple maps for Sam and I to look over and we set a departure time for o dark hundred the next morning. We had the usual assortment of gear and food. Figured to camp out and hunt both days if needed, and I figured we'd do just that as I doubted we'd get a bear our first day out.
We drove separate rigs to our hunting area and as daylight broke it was another overcast gray day. We had periods of sun breaks interspersed with light rain and drizzle. The temps were in the mid 40's to low 50's and quite humid. Sometimes the clouds covered the mountains making it difficult for glassing the edges of the clear cuts and meadows. The wild flowers were blooming and the foliage was becoming denser every day with the new growth. We were driving up near snowline stopping and glassing when we came across areas that looked promising. Eventually we figured out just where Larry was telling us to go. We could see the steep hillside from across the draw. It was an old clear cut that had been burned which had pockets of brush and old snags still towering. We drove until we ran out of road and then we grabbed our packs, rifles, bins and set out on foot.
We found a brush covered trail and began our ascent up the steep hillside. From below we saw an enormous Elk in the meadow when we were glassing from across the draw. We watched the elk traverse the steep slope and top out then head down the other side. That was the last we saw of it. We suspected it was a bull just from its size. As we moved our way uphill following the switchbacks we were a bit soaked from the waist down from the vegetation and looked forward to getting up to the ridge line. The trail we followed merged into a major trail and we were now out of the wet brush. We stopped for a breather and decided to traverse our way to the top and see what it looked like on the other side. When we got to the top we didn't see much on the other side in the way of Bear habitat. Quite a lot of snow, rocks and a small steep of water. We decided to drop back down to the main trail and sit awhile and glass. On our way down we saw a wooden sign and wandered over to it. It had mileage to Oakridge, Crescent, Eugene and a few other places. I'll be darned if we weren't on the Pacific Crest Trail. WOW, we found a comfortable log and sat awhile and shot the breeze. We had company in the way of a pair of Three Toed Black Backed Woodpeckers flying near us in the snags. I have remembered these from a hangman's game I played with my brother when I was quite young. I didn't believe their was such a bird, just sounded a bit much. Well, yes in fact they are real and I have not forgotten them since. Also we were serenaded by the drumming of Grouse. One was close by and the other was around the headland from us and sounded as a distant echo.
We hiked for a couple hours before we sat and started glassing some more. The rain had all but subsided and it had turned into a lovely afternoon. We had a snack and were conversing about this and that, the usual hunting drivel. We had a great place to sit and glass overlooking a large grassy hillside and beyond to the snow capped Cascade mountains. I wondered aloud if there were any bears in the area since we hadn't seen any sign. Sam replied as his usual optimistic self saying " at any time a big'ol bear can just step right out". Glancing at me with a sparkle in his eye and a mischievous grin. Mmmmm o.k. I replied and re situated myself on the log with a twinge of "what if" running through my veins and disappearing just as fast. It was almost 4 in the afternoon and as I glanced downhill on the green grassy hillside I was shocked to see a huge Black Bear moving from right to left. I said to Sam "there's a bear, a really big bear"! He said "Oh my god that's the biggest bear I've ever seen, shoot it, shoot it"! I said "I have to wait for it to clear those snags", Sam was looking at it through his scope too backing me up if needed. At this point everything was in slow motion and nothing else in the world existed. I steadied my shooting sticks took careful aim and squeezed off a round. I heard nothing but saw everything through my scope and was in even more disbelief when he dropped in his tracks like a ton of bricks!
We looked at each other and words fell short of our emotions and I said we're gonna sit here 10 minutes before we start heading down. I wanted to make sure the bear was down for good. As we sat there we were both amazed at what just happened. The bear was able to raise his front left foot a little and turn his big brown nose skyward, but that was all. He was definitely down. We gathered our gear and Sam led with his Ruger Redhawk 41 cal. on point and I followed. We crept slowly downhill, ever cautious of our quarry and the few times he did raise his paw we both froze like statues! Then looked at each other and laughed at ourselves, yea quite the hunters we are. Yet this was a serious matter until we knew the bear was dead we remained quite alert and vigil to our well being. I told Sam that while looking through my scope, I couldn't see see daylight between the bears belly and the grass. He was so big and getting even bigger with each step we took. As we got to within 10 yards Sam asked me where did I want him to aim the kill shot? I said anywhere but the head. . . try for the heart if you can. This was the first time that either of us had been in this situation. Sam fired 2 shots and the bear died quickly. I saw the life leave his brown eyes. That was hard to watch for sure.
Now the work begins, and boy was that ever a job! I'll save that for Pt. 2
Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt