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Article contributed by Field Staff Writer S. Stone.
Here I am, on my way to Northern Vancouver Island, to search for black bears. I love to hunt bears because of the challenges that hunting them brings, and the season is an indicator thatÂ a new hunting year has begun. This year I decided that I was going to try hunting an unfamiliar area. It can be very easy to get complacent in hunting the same locations over and over again, especially if you have had success. You learn all the trails, every rise, hill, and every nuance of the area. What if something changes in your area? Perhaps your area gets logged, or if it is private land, maybe it gets sold and you no longer have permission to hunt. There are any number of factors why you may need to look for a new location, but for me it is just time for a new adventure.
When choosing areas, for bears, there are a few different factorsÂ that I tend to focus upon, depending on the time of year. In the Spring, the only thing on a bear’s mind is eating, because many are just emerging from hibernation. Â It is important to note, in British Columbia it is not legal to bait for bears, so most of my focus, centers around food sources. Find the food, find the bears. In the early Spring, you want to focus on South facing slopes on hillsides and water sources like streams and rivers. South facing slopes get the most amount of sun earlier in the year and tend to green up faster than other areas of the mountains. Water sources always have lots of green vegetation early in the year, as well.
I left my house about 8 pm the night before I would hunt. The plan was to get into my spot early the next morning and hunt there for the next three days. On my way out of town, I decided I should pick up a second bear tag, just in case. We are fortunate in BC to be able to get two over-the-counter tags for black bear in a year. My thoughts were that if I didn’t have the second tag then I would need it. Hoping I didn’t jinx myself with double tags, I made good time traveling and pulled into a spot where I could stay for the night. I climbed into my sleeping bag, excited to see what the coming days would bring.
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After only a couple of hours of sleep, I awoke to the sound of birds singing, warming sunshine, and the excitement of exploring a new area. I contemplated sleeping longer, but instead I got up and fired up the JetBoil to made myself a coffee to help enjoy with the crisp, beautiful morning. After my coffee and bite to eat, I grabbed my gear and headed up the mountain to glass some areas and to get a better feel for the landscape. Once at the top, I was met with an incredible view of the sunrise, which alone made the trip to this new spot worthwhile.
Over the course of the next several hours, I spent my time glassing cut blocks and walking old logging roads. I did not see any bears on my hike in, but I knew there we some around as there was fresh piles of scat and grass cropped in a lot of areas. It was fairly early when I had the first sighting, although only very briefly. I was making my way back to my truck and I noticed two black ears sticking out near some salmon berry bushes. I saw the ears turn and frame the black outline of the body as the bear disappeared back into thick brush. This brief first sighting gave me hope for the rest of this trip.
After lunch, I decided to take a break from hunting and headed towards the lake in anticipation of a fine trout dinner for later that evening. That quickly changed as I traveled down the road. I noticed something on the left side of the road, stopped and used my binoculars to get a better look only see a dark patch of brush. As I lowered my binoculars, a large bear stepped out from behind some brush where he was feeding on the new spring grasses beside the road. I chambered a round, and brought my scope up on the bear. The doubt surrounding the quality of bear disappeared right away. He had a large, block head, thick neck and a lumbering gait. I settled my cross-hairs, squeezed the trigger, and my rifle jumped at the shot. The bear had spun 180 degrees and was heading back into the thick brush. The bear didn’t react as though he was hit, so doubt crept into my mind.
I scanned the area, and there was nothing; not a drop or a hair to be seen. I made my way closer to where he dove back into the thick cover of the forest, furiously scanning for any proof that my shot was true. Finally, after what felt like forever, there it was, the sign I was looking for. Three drops of blood and confirmation that my shot had struck the bear. At this point I decided to give him some time before I went to check any further. This brush does not allow you to see more than a couple feet, and is the last place I would want to come face to face with a wounded bear.
After ten minutes, I had not heard any sound, and felt confident that the bear had fallen. I chambered another round, shouldered my rifle and took up the trail at the ready, just in case. Fortunately, it was not at all necessary. What I couldn’t see from where I was standing when I first saw the blood on the tree was that the area dropped down a few feet and that is where the bear had fallen. Seeing the bear, those familiar feelings, a unique combination of ecstasy and sadness, hit me. After a quick word of thanks to this incredible creature, it was time to get to work. Now, I generally find bears, more often than any other animal will fall in the worst possible position. This bear was no different. He had wedged himself nicely between a tree and a stump.
After a lot of brute force and a few choice words, I was able to get him into a better position to have a good look at him. This bear had no ground shrinkage. He was a great bear.
I dressed out the bear and started the process of skinning him. I stood up to stretch my back and looked down the road. To my surprise there was another bear feeding along the edge. At this point, common sense would dictate that I have more than enough work for one person and the last thing that I should do is worry about taking a second bear. But, that second tag was burning a hole in my pocket. I made my way back to my rifle, loaded a round, took aim, waited for my shot. She turned slowly, and I fired. She dropped right there on the spot, and I was tagged out on bears for the year in under an hour. I finished skinning the first bear, quartered him, and got him into the back of my truck. I went over to examine the second.Â She was an old sow, who was way past her prime. She was missing half her teeth, and many more were worn down to the gum-line. I quickly cleaned her up, put her in the back of the truck.
In retrospect, I spent a great deal of time researching areas, looking for certain key features that I know bears focus on early in the spring, and it paid off in spades. Knowing what to look for when researching new areas and, just as importantly, the willingness to try new areas can help put you into a better position to be successful. Happy Hunting!