I began this year by selecting a new hunting area. The timber company land I have been hunting for the last few years has continued to raise its usage fees. These fees were making the already expensive sport of hunting, even more expensive. So, the new area had to have everything I wanted to hunt; deer, elk, bear, and maybe a grouse or two. I also wanted the area to be inaccessible by vehicle, further weeding out the lazy hunters. With the new area located I began scouting during the offseason, and I liked what I saw. Lets take a look at the load out I used.
- Bow w/release
- Montac G5 100 grain broadheads
- Carbon Express 350 spine arrows
- Range Finder
- Archer’s Tool
- Small Survival Kit
- Hunting License w/tags
- Camelbak Mule Military
- Gerber Cleaning Knives
- Taurus Judge w/45LC
I use a Bear Dominion bow, when I purchased this bow it came with; Cobra 5-pin site, Tarantula wrist strap, Beestinger stabilizer, Trophy Ridge attached quiver, and Team Quad fall-away rest. The total for this package could have been well over $1000, instead I paid $400 because I was willing to go with last year’s model (at time of the purchase). I use Carbon Express Mayham (350 spine) arrows, with Montec G5 fixed 100 grain broadheads, and Nockturnal lighted nocks. I cannot overstate how useful lighted nocks have been for me, they have helped me find game, and recover arrows.
For me, and for a lot of new bowhunters, a rangefinder is an essential piece of equipment. Getting your range correct could be the difference between wounding an animal and getting a humane kill. There is no shortage of range finders on the market; it all depends on your budget and needs. I use a Nikon ProStaff 3i. It can read ranges out to approximately 600m, has 6X magnification, is rain proof, lightweight, and has single/continuous measurement capabilities (you can hold the button while targeting an animal and it will update range on-the-fly).
In my survival kit I have a way to start a fire, purify water, and land navigate. The only other addition I have is an Archer’s tool, in case I have any bow malfunctions while in the field. Your survival kit should be specific to your environment, and your particular needs. To round this off I carry the Camelbak Mule Military, Gerber knives for cleaning the animal, and a Taurus Judge (if it gets dicey).
**If you are from WA and these areas don’t sound familiar, it’s because I changed all the names to keep the area hidden. Do your own scouting**
Ash Mountain is nestled in Western WA. This mountain offers deer, elk, bear, and some small game. It is accessible only by foot, and requires the hunter to be in good shape (walking many miles to get into the hunting area). Ideally, one would need to spend a day hiking, set up a camp, and operate from the camp further into the woods. With limited access, and restricted to archery hunting only, this area has not been overworked like many areas in Western WA.
August 16, 2016 with my loadout set I began my hike up Ash Mountain. I had been scouting here this year already, and I had a spot set that I wanted to work this year. Although it was bear season, the primary purpose of this trip was to scout for elk. That being said I brought my bow (and kit) along incase I got on the trail of a bear. After a few miles of hiking I ran into a couple who were recreationally hiking the area. They asked me what I was doing, I replied “scouting/hunting”. As is typical in WA, I was initially challenged as to weather or not my actions were allowed. After I convinced the couple I was allowed to be hunting, they inquired as to what game I was after. “Bear is the only thing open right now”, I respond. They looked at each other and then the female hiker said, “we came across some fresh skat (bear poop) and heard a bear in the woods a couple of miles up, that’s why we are coming back down”.
With fresh intelligence I was actually starting to get a little excited about the prospects of harvesting my first bear. Having grown up in Northern Canada I have a healthy respect for bears. However, the WA bear is nowhere near as large as its Canadian counter-part. I headed up to the area the hikers had directed me. There was an intersecting series of trails, a small creek, bear skat, and blackberry bushes. I decided I’d take a break here and soak in the environment. After about 30 min I decided to head down one of the trails, after only going about 5 min, the trail restricted to about 20” wide with blackberry bushes lining the path (over my head) I didn’t like the layout. I wouldn’t be able to react very well with my bow, and if the bear cut into the bushes there was no chance. As I stood there trying to decide I heard a pop off to my right followed by a second pop. I retreated back to the intersecting trails location.
I waited another 30 min then decided to take the trail which gave me the best vantage over where I had heard the earlier sounds. I walked very slowly down this trail when off to my left I heard a loud rustling. I watched as the blackberry bushes moved as if an animal was walking through them. At this point I had thought I pushed a deer, however when the bushes stopped moving a black head popped out and was inquisitively looking in my direction (not at me, but in my direction). He then moved another 10m and stopped on the right side of two large alders. I slowly reached for my range finder and took a reading. With the overhanging branches near me, and the bushes near him I was left with ranges between 5-200m. I decided to range the tree beside him, 43 yards.
I tried to take one step, but it seemed to agitate him. I went to full draw and split my 40/50 pins, breathed slowly and released the arrow. The arrow went wide, but made the bear jump onto the large alder exposing his whole body now. I redrew, split the pins and released my second arrow. This arrow struck the bear causing him to jump off the tree and head deeper into the woods. I knew I had hit him, but I wasn’t super confident with the arrow placement (the overhanging branches on my side made this a difficult shot). I spent the next 20min fighting through blackberry bushes and undergrowth to get to the tree where the bear had been. There was about three cups of blood on the trunk/ground.
I began the process of blood tracking, which turned out to be fairly easy. Not as agile as a deer he was crashing through places leaving lots of good sign for me to follow. The trail led me deeper into the woods. It eventually got so dense I needed to shed some gear and actually had to low crawl in places. Finally I got to a point where I could hear him moaning. I waited another 15min, but the moaning wasn’t stopping so I decided to push on. I eventually found him lying on his side just outside his den. I decided to dispatch him with another arrow to hasten his death, and lessen his suffering.
With this done, I immediately gutted him (you want to remove the guts as soon as you can to cool the animal down) and began to prepare a path for myself. Over the next 2 hours, I would move all my kit to a point then slowly drag the bear to the same spot. I repeated this again and again, until I finally got him back to the trail where I had taken the shot. At this point I called a buddy of mine who came out to help me get him down the Mountain.
If I could do this day over again I would carry a small axe/machete, a game bag, and an L-framed pack (with rope). Having treated this as primarily a scouting trip, I was left less prepared than I would normally like to be. Luckily for me, I have a good friend who didn’t mind coming out and helping me. Even just having the axe/machete I would have been able to clear a more productive path saving me the misery of fighting through blackberry bushes with my hands and a small knife.
Although this wasn’t a giant bear, it was my first bear and I was stoked. Taking him with a bow will make this hunt all the more memorable for me. Do you have a good bear hunting story? Do you have any questions about this hunt? Let me know if the comment section below, or use our comms check. Good luck to all my hunters.