As we were sitting on the rock Brent said that there is a chocolate colored bear on the hill. I looked through my binoculars and watched as he walked out of the brush and into the meadow and then he turned sideways. “That’s a grizzly” I said as Brent was getting the spotting scope out of his pack. That was on day eight of my 10 day grizzly hunt.
The hunt started with me meeting Brent and his helper Caitlyn as he walked up to me to fix breakfast at the cabin that I had rented on Whitetail Lake in British Colombia. After saying hello and talking a bit as he cooked breakfast we discussed how long it had been since I had been on a horse and what I knew about horses. I said that I knew that they were big and could carry me into the wilderness. He said that was all that I needed to know for now. As we finished breakfast Fred showed up with his dog Sadie, now there was one thing about Fred, you never saw him without that dog and for some good reasons. Sadie had saved Fred’s life a few times when he had encounters with a grizzly while he was guiding elk hunters into the area that we were headed. After breakfast we grabbed my duffels and rifle and headed over into the corral to meet the horse. While Brent was packing gear Fred and I went over to the rifle range to check out my loads and scope to make sure that it was still on. Three shots later and a nice quarter size group on the target Fred said that I was ready. We went back over to the corral and weighed my gear. I was a little light on one of my duffels so we stuffed some food into it to bring it up equal to the other one and then loaded them onto the pack horse and then we were ready to head out. I was finally on my way.
As we walked the horses out of the corral and up the road I couldn’t believe that I was actually headed up and away from the civilized world. We hit a side trail that kept us off of the logging road and then back onto the road for about a quarter of a mile, then across a bridge over Dutch Creek and then onto the main trail headed into the Purcell Conservative Wilderness area and away from modern life. As we rode I brought up the rear hoping that Brent and Fred wouldn’t notice how I was riding, I tried to imitate the last John Wayne movie that I saw and away we went. About a couple of miles into the ride we saw a small black bear just off of the trail. We watched him until he ran off into the underbrush. Then back to going up the trail. After a few miles we would get off and walk for a ways and then back onto the horses for the uphill ride. We rode through a prescribed burn that had been done a couple of weeks before. Brent said that this is the area that they hunt mule deer and then up we rode, walked, and rode some more. After quite a few miles I told Brent and Fred that I needed to take a rest. We had been on the go for fifteen miles or so and I needed to rest my tired bones on something besides the horse, then we were back to riding. I was just about to call another halt when we came to the Big Cabin where we would spend the first few days. Upon arriving I met the other two members of the hunt, Collins and Richie the cook. They took care of the horses and gave me the seat of honor, a nice chair with a thick piece of padding for my posterior to rest upon. Then Richie started dinner, a nice rainbow trout filet that would be cooked on the BBQ outside of the cabin. Now this cabin was a piece of work. The cook side had a long table big enough for eight or ten men, a wood cook stove and a propane refrigerator, along with four bunks for the guides and cook to sleep in. The other cabin was the bunk house. It contained eight bunks a table and a shower which consisted of a three gallon bucket with an on/off valve and shower head installed in it. You would fill the bucket with hot water and turn the valve on get wet and then turn it off while you soaped up, then turned it back on to rinse the soap off. Now that was a modern convince.
The first day hunting found us headed up the train for another four or five mile and across a couple of creeks. As we rode we noticed and nice sized grizzly track in the snow and mud headed in the same direction that we were. My hopes were high. We stopped at a area that a avalanche had come down wiping out our trail so we headed down the hill towards the creek only to find our way blocked with fallen timber. We finally rode up and over the slide and on the far side was another small creek. We crossed it and headed into the timber only to have Brent’s horse break through the top of the snow and down to his belly kicking to get out. Once Brent got his horse out he looked and me and suggested that I should walk mine through this area but I couldn’t get her to go. I finally took my rifle out of the scabbard and let her find here own way through and then remounted later down the trail. We crossed the river and headed up the hill to a vantage point where we tethered the horses and walked over to a snow slide to sit down and watch the other hill side along with what was below us. We stayed there until nine pm when we headed down and back to the cabins and dinner. When we reached a area that they called the sand bar we spotted a black bear high on the slide. He was about 900 yards off so we just watched him as he grazed on the green grass, then we were off down the trail and to dinner at 10:30 pm (did I mention that in Canada at this time of year that the sun doesn’t go down until 11 pm?)
Day two found Brent and I headed down the trail below the cabins. We left the horses since were not going to be going that far. We did get to one creek and the foot bridge that he had built was gone so we had to find a log to cross on. I did manage to put my foot through a pile of dirt and limbs and sunk up to my hip on one side. After I got extricated we went over to a slide to watch, wait, and glass without seeing a thing. Then back to the cabin for lunch. After lunch we headed back to the area that we had been in the day before only we didn’t cross the river today. We stopped at a rock that they called Dr’s Rock. A doctor that hunts with them regulary will just sit at this rock and he has always managed to kill what ever he is hunting from moose to elk from this spot. At about 6pm we saw a good size black bear in a meadow across the river while he was feeding on the grass. After a while he started down the hill towards the slide that we had been sitting on the day before and I decided that I had better get ready if I wanted to shoot this one. We walked over to the river and got set up just as a bear came into the opening on a large rock called “Pillow Rock” (due to the fact that they had taken a grizzly that was sleeping on it one year) and then started off to my right. Once he got to where the horses had been tethered he either smelled the horses or what we had left and turned around and was headed back into the timber when I decided that it was now or never on this bear. Once he hit the rock he stopped just long enough for me to take a shot. At the shot we herd it connect but the bear was off into the timber which was only a few yards away. We got onto the horses and headed across the river and up the hill. We tethered the horses in some trees below where the bear had been and then we heard some weird noises coming from the timber. Brent asked me what I thought and I told him that it was 6:45 now and that I though that it might be the best idea to wait for 7:30. He agreed and said that he might even go into the timber with me at that time. Well, after waiting we headed up to where the bear had been. We didn’t find any blood but a large piece of hair and skin. Brent went into the timber at this point and I went in a little bit lower. Now the timber was so thick that it was hard to see much further than 50 feet and it was dark but we looked for that bear until 9:30 that night before heading back to the cabin. The next morning all 5 of us headed up to where the bear disappeared. We brought all the horses since there was good green grass for them to graze on while we searched. Brent told me and Richie to go over and find a place to sit and glass the other side hill and that they would go into the timber and take a look. After about a hour they came out with my bear. After the hand shakes and pictures were taken we took a real good look at the bear. It wasn’t the same one that we had been looking at when we first saw him the night before. This one had a white patch on his chest and the first one didn’t. Well, at least I had a black bear even if he wasn’t the first one. We spent the rest of the day skinning, fleshing, and getting the hide taken care of before we headed back to the cabin later that night.
Day three of the hunt found Fred and me at the sandbar glassing slides and meadows. Brent had taken his horse, chainsaw, and a axe and headed up to the upper cabin or Hyak. He was not sure if we could make it all the way up to this area due to the amount of snow that was left on the ground. About all Fred and I saw was a couple of moose since they liked the marshy area where the sandbar was located at. Once Brent came back just after noon we decided to head back to the big cabin and get ready to pack up to Hyak in the morning. On the ride back we were following a grizzly track that was on the top of our horse tracks from that morning. So when we got back to the big cabin and were eating lunch Collins went to a snow slide below the cabin to check for the tracks. The grizzly hadn’t crossed the slide so after lunch we went down and found a nice place to glass from. Well, at about 9 that night we decided that the bear wasn’t going to cross and we headed back to the cabin for dinner.
Day 4 found us packing up to head up the hill to the Hyak cabin. Brent and I headed out early letting the others pack up the horses and follow later. On our way up we would stop and glass and then move on if we didn’t see anything. All was uneventful until we came to the river crossings. We had to cross Dutch Creek three times and the first two were no problems. The third came and my horse decided to let me know that the waterproof boots that I had on had a big hole in them to let the water flow in. So after changing socks we headed the rest of the way to the Hyak Cabin. We opened up the cabin by removing the grizzly proof window shutters and door bars. The door bars were 3 1 ½”x1 ½” steel bars bolted in cross wise to keep the door protection upright. The door protection was 2”x12” rough cut boards with nails through them to keep the bears at bay. The same features were on the windows on both the Hyak cabin and the bunk house below it. We ate lunch and then headed out to a area that they called the look out since you could see quite a bit of country from this spot. We sat there until 10pm with out seeing anything other than a moose and then headed back to the cabin for a nice moose stew that Richie had prepared.
Day 5 looked like it was going to rain so out came the rain gear. We rode up to the lookout and were joined later by Collins, Fred, and Richie since they had brought the horses up to pasture them on a slide across the valley from us. We glassed for a while without seeing anything and then Brent and I headed out to a new area. We crossed Dutch Creek and tethered the horses and headed to a vantage point when a coyote came out of the brush. Brent pointed at it and I wasn’t sure if he wanted me to shoot it or not so after it left I asked him what I should do incase I saw a wolf of another coyote. He said that the coyotes don’t bother anything up there but if we saw a wolf that I would get the hint after he had fired his six shots out of his pistol and that if the wolf was still alive that then I should shoot it. We never did see a wolf. After the coyote we went over to a area that they called Blue Berry Slide and began to glass. After a couple of hours without seeing anything we decided to take a hike through the timber and check out a couple of other slides. All we saw the rest of the day was one black bear and a lot of holes where a grizzly had dug around for ground squirrels. He had managed to dig about 20 or 30 holes and weather he found any or not we couldn’t tell. We got back to the horses and headed back to the cabin by another route. Once we got into the trees we found that we were following a sow grizzly and a cub down the trail. We followed them about a mile and never did see them so it was back to the cabin for dinner and a nice nap until the next day.
Day six we were back at blue berry slide and a glassing, we saw one black bear wander out of the timber and then back into it and a couple of elk but no other bears. We got back onto the horses and headed back toward the cabin and wouldn’t you know it, in the trees and in our horses hoof prints were another sow grizzly tracks with two cubs. They were all around us but just not coming out into the openings. We got back to the cabin and packed up our gear and headed out back down to the big cabin. Now we had to cross Dutch Creek three times again and it had been raining a little. The first crossing I managed to dunk my left boot in and over the top of the boot. The second crossing I managed to do it to my right boot and then came the third crossing. My horse started in and I knew that it was going to get interesting. By the middle of the creek the water was up and past her belly, and then we started to head down stream. Now I had both of my feet up on her rear end hoping that we would keep going across the creek and as long as I herd here hoofs hitting the rocks in the creek I figured that we were ok. Then we got to the other side and she walked up the creek a ways and then out. I was wet from the knees down and all my dry gear was being packed up to be moved back to the big cabin, so I decided that I needed to tough it out and live the way that I was. We arrived at a clearing above pillow rock and tethered the horses there and then hiked over to pillow rock and started to glass. About a hour later here came the rest of the crew with the pack horses but by that time I was fairly dry so I didn’t bother changing. They passed buy and we continued to glass. Then about 7pm Brent said that he had the chocolate colored bear on the hill and I looked and saw that it was a grizzly. The bear walked into the same clearing that the black bear had been in a few days later. Now this bear was stunning. When the sun would hit his fur and the silver tints of the hairs on his back would stand out. This was the bear that I had been waiting for. Only one problem, he was had been in a few days later. Now this bear was stunning. When the sun would hit his fur and the silver tints of the hairs on his back would stand out. This was the bear that I had been waiting for. Only one problem, he was 500+ yards away and in a small clearing. Brent and I talked about taking the shot from where were at and didn’t come to any conclusions. Brent went over to where I had taken the shot at the black bear and came back and said that there was no shot from that location and that I would have to take it from where we were. We watched that bear for over 30 minutes with no way to get any closer. I even once laid down on the large flat rock with my pack as a rest for my rifle and watched him through the scope. The more that I watched him the more I thought that I could make the shot but I didn’t take it. Even on a calm day which this day wasn’t it would not be an easy shot. The distance and angle of about 45 degrees along with a swirling wind were all working against me. I finally decided that even with a perfect shot that hit both front shoulders that the bear could still make it to the dark timber that was all too close for him to escape into, and a wounded grizzly isn’t what I wanted, even if he was dead in the timber it would be quite stressful to go into the dark timber after him so I passed on the shot. At about 10pm we saddled up and headed back to the cabin and a fine meal cooked by Richie.
Day seven, my last day to hunt was spent on pillow rock watching and waiting for the grizzly to show himself again but he never did. We watched a bull elk in a meadow just above where the grizzly had been and hoped that he would be spooked by the bear but no luck. Brent asked me a few times if I would like to check out some other slides and I always said no. That this location was as good as the next and he would agree with me. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t find that bear that had eluded me. At 6pm that night I called it a hunt and we headed back to camp and some time to just enjoy the company of some new friends.
It rained all the night before we headed back to the real world and into the next morning. We packed up the horses in the rain and headed out in the rain. We had 23 miles to go that day.
As for the hunt I don’t think that we could have done anything else to of changed the outcome. For some reason the bears just were not coming out of the timber during the daylight even if we did have about 18 hours of it each day. Brent took me into some unbelievable country that is very seldom touched by man except for the hunting seasons. We saw mountain goats, whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, moose, and a coyote. Along with a spruce grouse and ground squirrels, a osprey show us his fishing talent or was he just mocking us showing us how it was done. Some people would consider this hunt a failure since I didn’t come home with my primary animal, but after seeing what I saw and experienced I would recommend this kind of a hunt to everyone that could afford it. It was fantastic in more ways that one.