Of all the trips ( 10 or 11) I have taken to my normal stomping ground in Co., I have only seen 1 bear and didn't have a tag then. I have always seen fresh sign every trip be it tracks in the snow or rocks or logs flipped over or scat. So after the last couple trips seeing fresh sign within a few hundred yards of camp I decided it was time for me to look for my bear. Here's my story.
I was pretty bummed that this was the first trip that I didn't get drawn for a deer. Even when we don't get elk, we can generally get deer. I decided I would try to get a bear tag instead. Luckily they still had a tag left, I was in business. We got to our area and go through the ritual of loading the atv's and making our 9 mile run to our campsite. It was great weather and was not in the forecast to change. I was really wishing for a little snow. We spent the next couple days getting our wood cut and getting camp set up for our week on top of the world (10,400 ft). I told everyone that I had decided to go after a bear first instead of trying to fill my bull tag. They all said I was crazy, that I better just go after elk and if I see a bear I would be lucky.
Opening morning I headed up to glass the area where we found fresh tracks last year. I watched and glassed the area hoping to spy the bear or an elk feeding in the early morning light with no luck. About 10am I decided to check the area for any sign. We had seen so many elk in this area the year before that I decided to stay out until opening day. I made my way down the rocks to the patches of timber that stood between me and the meadow. There was still small patches of snow in the shade from a snowfall a couple weeks prior I assume. I get down the bottom and what did I find? My bear tracks right there in the little bit of snow they appeared to be a day or 2 old. Tracks looked pretty big to me I was guessing 5 inches or so. I am not a bear hunter but I thought they were big. I started the slow methodical tracking job of searching the small scattered patches of snow trying my best to figure out what this bruin was doing. I followed these tracks in a huge circle, probably about 200 to 300 acres worth and came right back to where I started. The bear was feeding in the shadows and not coming out in the open. Seemed like I was after a smart bear. I knew that I must have missed the tracks where they left the circle so I started around again. When I got to the northern most part of the perimeter I decided to look in the only covered escape route from the area. A bit of black timber between a huge rockpile that runs east and west for a mile or more and the peak of the mountain that I really wouldn't want to climb. There was a good 150 to 200 yards wide between the two and this drainage ran the distance of the rock pile. I was searching the patches of snow in the timber which were covered by elk tracks. I finally found the bear tracks again but could not determine which direction they were going. By now it was getting late in the day so I decided to go back and watch the meadow until dark and try again in the morning.
When I got back to camp I found out dad had gotten his elk. A nice little 5x5. I was so happy for him because this was his first elk. He was like a little kid at Christmas.
The next morning I went back and watched the meadow for the first couple hours of daylight but nothing again. I then followed the tracks around the area again to see if I had missed something. They took me to the same escape route as I had looked in the day before. I started looking further into the black timber patch and found them again a little further back. I continued to find a track every now and then following a cow trial but still sticking to the shadows. I had now tracked this bear about 2 miles from camp. It was about noon and I decided I would stop and eat a snack when I came out of the timber at the next meadow. I came to a rockpile going down to a meadow below. This meadow had the large rockpile on the south side and the base of the peak on the north. The meadow was about 100 or so yards wide and 500 yards long before it slope gently up to another larger meadow. I sat down at the rocks edge so I could see the entire area and started to dig a snack out of the pack and a brown movement caught my eye behide a small clump of pines in the middle of the meadow. I told myself "thats an elk". Black bears are supposed to be black right? After a few minutes I caught the movement again, but it was still on the other side of those pines. I ranged the pines at 227 yards and got my rifle positioned in case it was something I could shoot at. A few minutes later I saw what looked like a head through one of the openings in the pines. My binocs pointed to the spot like a laser and my heart almost exploded. I was looking at what seemed to be a small bears head attached to a large body. The briun stuck its head and neck into the opening and slowly gazed around the area. Then turned away from me and faded back into the trees. I was shaking and my heart was pounding, I thought I would have a heart attack. This sherade of hide and seek went on for about 25 minutes but I was going no closer. The bear looked like it was big enough to eat me! By now I had put the binocs down and was watching through my scope just trying to get a shot. When out of nowhere the bear stepped back into the little opening and stood up to get pine cones out of a tree. I had a clear shot from the bottom of the ribs up. I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger on my Ruger 30-338. The bear flopped and dissapeared behind the pines. I had to let my nerves calm down so I sat and waited. After the most grueling 25 minutes I have ever experienced I started the very slow and cautious walk across the meadow to look for my bear. I swung out wide from the clump of pines and could see anything that looked like my bear in it. I was getting a little worried and then a brown blob caught my eye about 50 yards past the pins. There layed my bear not 20 ft from where it was standing when I shot. The bear had actually been on the other side of those pines and I was watching through a small opening. The closer I got the bigger it was. I very slowly eased up to the bruin to make sure it was dead. No doubt, it was done, my 165 grain bullet passed through both lungs. I was amazed that I had actually had my bear. I rolled the bear over and to my amazement it was a sow. I didn't think they got that big. And sure couldn't tell by looking at her from a distance. Now the work would begin. I walked the 2 miles back to camp without stopping. Got some help and off we went to pack her out.
She was 6 feet from nose to tail and the DOW office in Glenwood Springs estimated her at 10 to 12 yrs old. I will find out for sure this spring. The officer that checked her in said she was large for a sow and figured 300 to 350 pound. He was very impressed by her size and told me I had a real trophy. He also said because of her color and the small ears, she would be mistaken for a grizzly very easily. When I got home, I weighted 86 pounds of meat to be processed. Now the long wait for the hide to be tanned.