2017 Spring Bear Extravaganza
by LRO editor Jeff Brozovich
Spring bear hunts are the best for me. A lot less chaos and duties from the fall seasons. So it is no wonder why I truly enjoy this hunt. I am always giddy during preparation, and this year was no exception. With my new LRO rifle build in 30 Nosler, “The Executive Order” New B4 15×56 optics from Maven, tripod and head from OutDoorsmans, and all the right clothing to stay dry and comfortable from Sitka, I was so ready. Billy George and myself even went in a day early to set camp and cut fire wood. Then we scouted out access roads. Many roads ended with deep crusted snow blocks, more hiking would be in order this hunt for sure.
Camp Billy, at night
Soon we were accompanied by the Rokslide team, Avery Adventures and of course MTN OPS. It was just one year ago when Casey from team MTN OPS introduced me to their product line. I realized the benefits last year with this hunt that included my longest kill to date. 2016 Bear Hunt.
Left to right. Eric, Casey, Jeff, Justin, Billy, Ryan, Gerry, Eric, Jim, Shane.
Hunt day #1, after much discussion of “where the bear would likely be?” We all broke into groups and set out. This group included many hard core backpack hunters. Jimmy, aka “Slim Jim” headed out with bow in hand covering 15+ miles some days. This guy is scary accurate with a bow, to great distances. He literally shoots almost every day. Look for more from Jim on our forum soon about Long Range Archery. I also think he should write about shed hunting. Jim packed back sheds almost daily on this hunt. Including a single, and a pair of moose sheds, and a nice bull elk antler. Eric and Shane from the Rokslide group cover lots of ground as well. Lots of boot tracks from these two with long range rifles in tow, as with the rest of the bunch. I would hate to guess how many miles were covered that week.
Billy and I headed to a favorite long range vantage point where we glassed till our eyes bugged out. Probably 6 hrs or so. With only some elk spotted, we returned from day one tails between our legs. That night back at camp, reality set in on how tough this year would be with all the snow. Not one bear sighted today.
Eight days go by fast in the mountains, but is still a long time. So my recollection of exactly what happened each day is a bit sketchy. But it was either day two or three when Jimmy came back with the story of a wolf coming in on him to 60 yards while he was eating lunch. Not enough time for a shot was offered. Typical with the wolves I have seen before. Gone before you even know they were there almost. Then his report of lots of fresh tracks got us all very interested.
Billy and I found a road blocked with down trees we felt needed followed. The next day we returned with a chainsaw and tow rope to clear the first tree. With it reduced to 7 pcs. about 10′ long, the road was clear. Then in the next mile we removed four more smaller trees. Once at the vantage point of choice, we soon spotted bear #1 for the trip. Not sure about recovery ability across a very steep canyon, we took a little extra time. The bear soon passed into the trees and out of sight, but we felt we did the right thing following the LRO code “Know when not to shoot” More assessment of the terrain and access was done. Then after talking with the group so eager to help, it was decided it would be safe to take one there. But for sure the pack out would be many hours and not one soon forgotten.
I believe it was day three when Matt from Rokslide rolled into camp with a report of a sighting of a black bear on his way in. That was bear #2 in the middle of the hunt. Lots more sighting in 2016, another bite of reality sandwich, finding bear was going to be tough sledding.
Tuesday, the day Ryan from Avery Adventurers, said. ” Justin (a great editor from Rokslide) and I are going in to kill that wolf. Then they did just that. With Foxpro call in hand, and Ryan’s new rifle built by Whaley Precision in 28 Nosler, they put some miles under their boots and set up. I wasn’t there, but this is how I remember the story went down. After placing the call about 50 yards down in front of them, they made a makeshift blind. Then waited for things to cool down from their activity before they fired the call up with a “pup distress call”. Right before the call was turned on Justin said “be ready, if this happens it will be quick”. The call was turned on and in only a matter of a couple seconds an adult female wolf was in sight blazing in a full run right to them. Ryan let the 28 bark, delivering a death blow with a 195 gr Berger Bullet to the charging wolf in full run. Then they looked at each other and I believe it went something like this. “Holy crap, what just happened”
Ryan and his Wolf
The next day, me having also purchased an Idaho wolf tag, was asked by Justin if I wanted go give it a go. I for sure did and the next evening we went in. Billy and Casey went in part way to watch a distant hill side for bears, as we trekked on up the trail to the same area wolf # 1 was taken. The same set up was tried again, but nothing showed. About 15 minutes after the call was off, right in front of us, from a timber only maybe 200 yards away, a wolf lit up. At first a long howl, then a few short howl’s with low grumbles at each end. Then nothing. I decided to mouth howl back, and sure enough he answered, but he was not coming out of the dark timber. We decided to move closer and did. We found his smoking hot tracks where he came in for a closer look at us, then retreated on his trail. We sat there for a minute, I howled again, he answered. This time closer, but right up where we were sitting when we first called. In a thick dark timber, with visibility of maybe 30 feet, this was his “A” game and he was circling us. Maybe not sure what we were, but wanted all the info he could get. We decided to leave and derive a new plan. On the walk back, as Mr. wolf followed us along the ridge with his low grumble and howls, I told Justin. “We will never beat him at his game, we need to entice him to play ours” On the way out in fast fading light, we scoped out the area, made landmarks, and looked for a vantage point that had cover, but offered some clearing for a shot if we could get him to come.
The following day, mid afternoon, we went back in. This time Billy, Eric and Shane went along hoping to hear some close wolf calls , and maybe see one too. We set the call out in a deep drainage where we could set up prone above. But once down on the rifle I reluctantly said, “I don’t like this”. “It’s still too thick, only a flash of wolf won’t get it, we need him in a more open area.” So Justin got the call and we moved down the gulch. This time we were good. Cover, but open in places where we felt he would circle the call if he came to the party we were holding in his honor. The plan was to call for less than 1 minute, then shut it down. This hopefully would entice the big bad wolf to come in slow, sneaking and provide time for the shot. As I set up in the prone position from a higher point, I moved weeds for a little more cover. I also ranged all the possible shot areas with my Sig Kilo 2400 and got dial ups ahead of time. With the likelihood that the longest shot would be just over 300 yards, I decided to dial up 1 1/2 moa for a 250 yard zero. This should allow point blank aim for the entire area from 20 yards to 350ish with a little holdover of center mass. I set the magnification of the Swaro X5I on 5 or 6, chambered a round in the Executive Order 30 Nosler built by Dan’s Custom Gun Service, and nodded to Justin I was set. Billy, Eric and Shane got set up behind us with a great vantage point and well out of sight if the special guest showed up. Justin played his cards to a “T”. Ran the distressed pup call for just under a minute and shut it down. My eyes scanned the drainage quickly watching for any movement. Then a flash through some evergreens and cedars grabbed my full attention. There he was, right in front of me. I got on my rifle just in time to watch him go behind an evergreen. I got on the other side but he didn’t come out. The pressure was real, where was he?, would he slip away? , I had taken my MTN OPS Ignite, and glad I did. I stayed calm and focused as I came off the scope to offer a wider field of view. My eyes soon picked up on the front 1/3 of the wolf protruding from a bush. He was scouring the area looking for where the pup call had come from. Back on the rifle I went and I was on him. Knowing if he made it to the timber it would be a tough tracking job, I centered the reticle on near shoulder, with a far side exit in the crease behind the shoulder, Then, let the 30 speak. I watched as he went down rapidly, and kicked his way down the hill for about 15 or 20 yards. Then he was done.
Through the scope right after shot
I think I can speak for everyone when I say the general feeling right after the wolf fell was, “Wow, how did this happen” Two wolves in 3 days from the same pack. “Simply unbelievable”
We gathered up our packs, dropped off the steep grade through the drainage up to where the wolf now lay limp with a blood trail second to none behind him. The 215 Berger Hybrid with an MV of 3100 fps entered the near shoulder with a .308″ hole and exited with a 2″ hole sucking the life out of this large male wolf for a quick dispatch. All camera’s were in hand for some victory and hero pics. The stories I had always heard about the stench of a wolf were reality now. From even a few yards away it was strong as heck. After some pics, it was decided to pack him out whole and skin at camp. My weak knees and worn shoulders ached as I watched Billy bundle the entire wolf in his Kifaru pack and sling it up to get into the shoulder straps in preperation for the 2.5 mile pack out. This man is a beast!!! He is a great friend to all and cooked food fit for a king for us all week. I recommend to anyone, Billy makes a great friend. And, I don’t believe for a minute, any sane man would want to have him as an enemy.
Group at kill site
Jeff and his Wolf
Billy Locked and Loaded
Down Hill From Here
Once back to camp, a few more pics and Justin and I skinned the beast. Even still a little warm, the musty critter hung on to his hide like an old lady does her handbag. The hide was shedding and thin in places. I will seek taxidermist input to decide if there will be a shoulder mount or just a tanned hide.
Back at Camp
For the remainder of the hunt, I hoped to be of some help to fill others tags. Whether it was wolf or bear. Determination was still strong among the group. Billy and Justin spotted Bear #3 in the same area we saw bear #1, but no time for a shot was presented.
Looking back, this is yet another hunt I will never forget. The wolf kill was scratched from my bucket list, but now replaced with more wolves, and moving a black one to the top of the wolf category.
A very special Thank you, to ALL involved. It was a great adventure, and I am honored and humbled to call you friends.
Go HERE to the thread for comment or questions. I will post some more random pics from the hunt there.