Idaho Bear Hunt… Going Long!!!
Some of the boys from Rokslide and Long Range Only get together each year for Bear camp. I have struggled for time as ranch work seems to keep my spring time filled up. But I vowed this year I was going and no excuses. The day came and off I went to see all these Idaho black bear I had heard about. Camp is nestled into a beautiful spot close to a raging river , I awoke each morning to the sounds of drumming mountain grouse. Pretty hard to not like a setting like this. But most of all camp is made up of friends that share the same passions for hunting. This year our group consisted of (L to R) Casey Harbertson from MTN OPS, Ryan Avery from Rokslide, myself- Jeff Brozovich from LongRangeOnly.com, Kelly Buroker, Billy George, editor for LRO, and Justin Crossley, editor for Rokslide.
Day one found Justin’s truck perched on the edge of a steep cliff ready to go in. To be saved on day two by a skillful wrecker operator.
Day two was also full of glassing from different mountain sides and locations. About midday Casey spotted what we believe was a bear, but it moved off to cover so quickly it didn’t offer an opportunity for a shot.
The end of day two Casey, Ryan, Kelly and myself met back up with Justin and Billy at one of the favorite evening glassing spots. Ryan , with his 12X50 EL Swarovski bino’s mounted up on a tripod with a pistol grip head, soon had a bear spotted. This combo and Ryan’s obvious skill for spotting bears proved to be the one to beat all of the hunt. Now the problem was, this bear, that appeared to be a large black bear, was way across a huge canyon. And we had only a couple hours of daylight left. A short discussion and we were off for a mile hike up and around a mountain trail to scrub off all the distance we could to get closer. So the packs went on and off we went. On day one I had been introduced to MTN OPS Enduro. A drink that is full of ingredients to offer hydration and dilation of blood vessels that offers cardio performance as well as superior focus along with the reduction of heart rate when hiking . Following these young guys in was basically a foot race to find the shooting spot. I was glad I had a charge of MTN OPS in my system. Not to mention soon after we started in we were rained on, and soon soaked. Once at the closest spot we could get, and still see the hill side where the bear was, we found fog covering what we needed to see. But looking away at the cloud movement there was promise of a clearing soon and maybe even a little sun to light the hill where this illusive bear was supposed to be.
As the fog cleared Ryan again spotted a bear up high. But we were all sure this was a much smaller bear, and not the one we were after. Never the less, I set up my Defensive Edge LRKM in 338 Terminator in the direction I figured we would be shooting, if we got an opportunity. The bipod was dug in deep and the rear bags solid for what just may be the longest shot I ever have taken at a game animal. Winds were light and pretty much steady. Air was clearing and vision was good and crisp. I watched the small bear through the NightForce ATACR Enhanced checking to see how solid I could be on him. It was about then that Ryan, again schooling us on finding bear with his Swaro set up, finds the bear we were after. I entered all the environmentals from my tried and true Kestrel into my Applied Ballistics app. Billy had his Vectronix Terripin rangefinder on a tripod and started ranging the bear as it grazed in and out of brush and clearings. It looked like the shot was going to be close to a mile, IF, we could put it all together. We discussed the percentage of success and the fact that I have practiced for this shot for years. In fact, I had just confirmed the rifle and my capability for this shot a few days before I left for this hunt. I knew the rifle was documented time and time again for a shot out to a mile and beyond. But believe me, if we could have gotten closer we sure would have. I was dialed and on the bear as all 5 of my spotters watched. Ryan and I discussed the last movments of some wisps of fog as they drifted slowly away. This was a huge plus as Mother Nature had just painted the light and steady winds for us. Several times as the bear stopped to feed, we elected to pass the shot due to some light brush or not a perfect angle to the vitals. As the bear headed up toward a downed log angling down the hill, we anticipated he would be in the clear and probably stop at the log to graze. This would be the shot we needed if he would be broadside and stop. Billy was on it and had the spot pegged at 1,702 yards. I ran the final numbers and gave the turret 41.5 moa up. All eyes and a couple PhoneSkopes were on as the bear approached the area. The bear fell into our plan and stopped broadside with a slight quarter away shot opportunity. I checked with my spotting team “Should I take him?” Now… five spotters, camera running, and not that long since a brisk mile hike in and up with a 40 lb pack on my back. Yet, my heart rate was down, I was super focused, and had no issues getting calm and collected as I broke the trigger. I have to tell you this was not an assumption, but an obvious testament that the MTN OPS Enduro had done its job. As the HBN coated 300 Grain Berger OTM took flight, I watched the trace all the way. The rifle recoiled with a puff of mist from the wet grass around us and the bear never left my view through the ATACR. The trace looked great and at what seemed to be a simultaneous hit of both bear and dirt above the bear after the 2.25 second flight time. Some called the shot high. But I was pretty sure it was good and the bear jumped and kicked off his rear legs like a hit deer does. So I replied, “Are you sure that was not a hit?” The bear made about 3 bounds and went into a small patch of trees and was out of sight. All eyes watched and the bear never came out the far side, or the top of the trees. We were not sure it was a hit, but we knew we needed to go comb the area and look for blood or a bear. The steep terrain was too rough and treacherous for a trip in the dark. So we started packing up to hike back out. As we sat there getting ready to leave, Billy and I went over and over all the shot data from distance to Coriolis that we had entered into my Applied Ballistics app. All entries were spot on. This was reassuring. It had to be a good hit. It was decided we would hike in over the mountain from the other side for easiest access in the morning. We were close to the snow line so we knew the meat would be fine. Especially with night time temps in the 30’s.
Once back at camp, Billy prepared one of his signature gourmet meals. We ate, then down loaded all the video footage onto Ryan’s laptop. We reviewed the video at slowed speed and watched it at least 100 times frame for frame. We caught what looked to be the far shoulder of the bear jump up on the hit. But, was it a hit or just a reaction to the bullet landing close? Since the bear never showed again, I was confident. But it was surely going to be a long night. Here is the footage of the shot, and a pan back taken later from the shooting area. Different footage from 3 cameras so please excuse the editing.
Morning finally came and we were all off to find the bear, if he was there. Billy, Justin and I packed in and the rest of the crew went to the shooting spot and set up their glass in case we needed them to dial us in. Once up and over the mountain, at first we could not see back to the shooting position as more morning fog was in the canyon. But Justin, knowing this area well, lead us right to the log where the bear was for the shot. Immediately, Justin found where the bear’s rear paws spun up the dirt as he took off. A few steps more, where the bear bounded down the first time, and there was a large spray of blood, then another with the next bound. After that with the very wet and tall vegetation we found no more blood. So we spread out to comb the patch of trees where he had gone out of sight the night before. A short time later as we searched the brush, Justin announced, “Here he is!” The bear had only traveled about 30 yards and fell dead. I very happily notched my Idaho spring bear tag.
We pulled him to a flat spot on an old logging trail, took a few pics and began skinning.
We soon knew the rest of the story. The 300 Berger entered in the crease behind the near shoulder with an impact velocity of 1648 feet per second, perfect elevation and a caliber sized entrance just clipping the back of the near leg muscle. Soon after entry, about 1 1/2″ in the wound channel was large enough for my index finger. The big Berger then traveled through the bear’s vitals, and out the far side at the base of the neck, clipping the far shoulder with an exit hole in the hide close to 1″. Awesome low velocity expansion from the true flying Berger.
Billy and Justin were no strangers at cutting up a bear and this bruin’s hide and all the meat was soon stored in the packs. Did I mention how lucky I was feeling to have such great hunting partners that made this so easy for me? Well, I was plenty grateful.
The pack back down was not bad, especially with these two machines Billy and Justin basically doing all my work. Ryan, Casey and Kelly picked us up at the nearest road and we were off for camp. The next few days were filled with more comradery, more bear sightings, good evening meals, and plenty of glassing . But it was time to say good bye and get back to reality in Montana. Next year I hope I get invited back. This hunt was one for the books for sure.
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LRO Admin / Editor