I just returned from a hunt for black bears in British Columbia and the hunt was the absolute definition of what Outback Outdoors stands for. Wild adventures and hunting with new and old friends. I headed up to the Purcell Mountains in Southern British Columbia to hunt with A/Z Outfitters. Brent Dubois is a third generation outfitter in his totally road less area. His grandfather began guiding in this wilderness in 1954. The equipment and stock date back to the 1940′s.
I arrived after a short 3 hour drive from my house. I was going to be hunting with Kristy Titus from Pursue The Wild and my good friend Rockie Jacobsen from Bugling Bull Game Call Company. We all spent the night in the Cabins At Whitetail Lake. They are rented out for day trips, fishing trips, hunting, snow mobiling and hiking adventures.
After a quick breakfast we all met at the corrals to start and sort through all of our gear. We were going to be riding in on horse back some 24 miles the first day into a main cabin. Because of the limited space on the pack horses we were going to have to bring roughly 60 pounds total for each of us in gear. When you start to add up your clothing, sleeping bag, weapon and camera equipment it tends to add up fast. Everything was laid out and weighed and put in pack boxes or canvas bags.
The pack string was going to consist of 6 pack horses and 6 horses that we would ride. We had 3 hunters and 2 guides and a cook.
It would take them several hours to assemble all of our gear and strategically place it on all of the horses and mules. Some of the stock was better at carrying certain items and he trusted a few of his horses with our expensive camera equipment. In the mean time I found my four legged taxi and tied on my bow scabbard. I was going to bring just a bow while Kristy would bring a rifle and Rockie would carry both. I really wanted to take a bear with my Hoyt. Four hours later the string was ready and the entire crew began our 7 hour trip. Along the way the scenery was going to be fantastic and I kept my still camera at the ready. We also traded places running the video camera to document our wilderness trip.
The first few hours were spent in the narrow draw following Dutch Creek but as we climbed in elevation the valley began to open up. The problem we knew that faced us was the high amount of snow still in the high country and the high water crossings. I have rode horses in the past but never had taken a trip of this length. The secret from getting a sore bottom is to walk a lot and ride the horses up hills and across the water. This will help you from getting to sore and will also keep you in pretty good shape.
My still camera was clicking away at the beautiful grandeur that was in front of me. Pristine wilderness with very little human interaction. This is the kind of hunting that I love. Along the way we saw elk, deer and mountain goats. The huge avalanche slides were still covered in snow and the trail was difficult to find at times due to the snow level. These horses have made this trip dozens of times before so they were pretty much on auto pilot.
After a long but awesome ride in we had made it to the main cabin. The accommodations were amazing for being this far in. Two main cabins and several out buildings. We had nice beds and a wood stove in our cabin and the other was the main eating cabin and its where the guides would sleep. After taking off the steel bars used to protect the cabin and welcome mats filled with nails for the grizzly bears we unpacked and got our gear ready for the first hunt. The weather was very nice going in but clouds soon rolled in and the skies opened up as it rained for the next 12 hours. We opted to go out anyway and we rode about 3 miles up the trail and sat and glassed the first avalanche slide we came to. The only thing we spotted were mountain goats and elk. Bears are more of a fair weather critter and do not like being out in the rain too much.
If you plan on hunting in the harsh spring climate of the mountains you better have good rain gear and quality hunting equipment. This is no place to find out that your gear has failed you. I stayed warm and dry and the camera equipment did as well. After a night of no bears spotted we headed back for a warm fire and and a good hardy meal.
The next day the weather cleared and we decided to head to another cabin about 10 miles further up the drainage. We packed up all our gear and enough food for 3 days and rode the horses further up the trail. We had to negotiate the deep river and it all went off without a hitch. The country opened up more and there were slides to glass and greener grass where we could locate hungry bears. The second camp was much like the first. Warm and roomy and full of all the amenities you could want in a wilderness camp.
My excitement level was high on my third day and the weather was once again cooperating. We had just gotten off of the horses when Fred the guide spotted a black bear on a distant slide. After sizing him up and making sure he was a boar the Hoyt was taken from the scabbord and the long stalk began. I was going to have to go up the far East side of the slide in hopes of intercepting the bear. He was feeding along the tall willow brush and occasionally we would catch a glimpse of him. Once I was half way up the slide I had to rely on hand signals from the crew below. After nearly 45 minutes and a climb that yanked the breath from my lungs we staged by a big spruce tree. I looked down the slope and saw the guide motioning for me to draw my bow. I switched into panic mode and began glassing the hill side. I could not see very far due to the angle of the hill and the tall brush. After several minutes I spotted a set of black ears.
I could not get a range on him but knew he was close to 60 yards. I had to get closer so I dropped down and began working my way closer to the bruin. He must have heard our approach because he was staring right down on us but did not run off. These bears do not see many people so they are a little more tolerant of strange forms walking around. I finally ranged the bear at 53 yards. I did not have a clear shot and wanted to get closer if at all possible. I slowly kept walking toward the bear and found a lane made from a fresh slide which would lead my Gold Tip right to the bear. I ranged him one last time and got a reading of 41 yards. I made sure my camera man, Rockie was on him and drew back. I settled the pin on the near straight up shot and gently squeezed the release. I could see my orange wrap right in the sweet spot as the bear ran off. He went only 50 yards into the dark timber before piling up. I had my first spot and stalk bear and I could not think of a more prettier place to do it than in British Columbia.
If you are interested in a class A hunting operation for either archery or rifle hunts be sure to contact Brent Dubois at A/Z Outfitters. They specialize in black bear, grizzly bear, mule deer, white tail deer, elk, moose and mountain goat. There is no draw for most tags in British Columbia so reward yourself to a trip of a life time.
Rockie and Kristy both took good bears as well but that is for another story.