British Columbia Black Bear Hunt, Day 3

An avid deer and turkey hunter, I typically find myself donning camouflage when dawn is a distant dream. Not so here, where an extremely “early” wakeup for bear hunting would be 10 a.m.. In fact, that to is way too early, as we didn’t hunt until 2 p.m. But, being on Eastern Standard Time, 8 a.m. here is 11 a.m. at home, which would, indeed, be sleeping in. Besides, I was too excited to sleep any later. Why start so late? According to Leonard and Chad Schearer, a former full-time outfitter in Montana, bears aren’t as active in the morning as they are in the evening. You’re simply better off being well-rested and focused for the evening hunt than trying the marathon method of hunting from sunrise to sunset. Leonard, however, will allow you to make the decision.

Waking before everyone else in camp, I took the extra time to rearrange and reorganize my camera bag and backpack for the hunt, always double-checking to ensure the “essentials”—my GPS, knife, first aid kit, two SureFire flashlights, extra batteries, et cetera—are there.

After breakfast, I rode with the Schearer family into Tatla Lake, a small community off of Bella Coola Road (Highway 20) with only the bare essentials—hotel, restaurant, and general store/filling station. As for the hotel, well, its outward appearance belied its true beauty. Inside, not only was well decorated and furnished, but also visitor friendly—WiFi Internet, television and a Wii system, the latter of which I pitted my bowling skills against Wyatt and Walker Shearer, and lost. The owners, too, were very friendly, with the gentlemen, a fellow gun enthusiast, showing me some of his collection. It was here that I made my first contact with my family from a payphone—they do still exist—using a prepaid calling card. No roaming charges for me, thank you. Nearing 2:00 p.m., the Schearers and I headed back to camp, where we finished preparing for the evening hunt.

The strategy today was much the same as yesterday—spend a lot of time driving and glassing. After a few unproductive hours, we headed to a farm where Leonard had talked to the landowner days earlier about hunting the property. Talk about large, lush green fields!

On the way in we met Joe, the owner and still-active farmer, even at the age of 93. One can only wish for such a life, and the ability to maintain your preferred daily routines and livelihood along the way. After securing permission, which came at no charge—an increasing rarity nowadays—we headed to glass some of the most beautiful acreage I’ve seen. Lush fields with snow-capped mountains in the background—what more could you ask for?

           Joe's Place

Having seen no activity at Joe’s place, we set out to check some pastures where Leonard had routinely seeing bears. Parking the truck, we hiked several a lengthy stretch to a large hill overlooking two meadows. If there were bears around, they’d certainly show… or so we thought. After about an hour, a “primetime” for bear activity at-hand, we followed an ATV trail to another large meadow, but once again to no avail. With the place “scented up,” Leonard decided we should try another location and come back to double-check those pastures closer to dark tomorrow evening. Few things keep you on your toes as does walking through dense, grizzly-infested country. But, as Leonard explained, “Always be ready, always be cautious, and you’ll be alright.” Good advice.

Not to be deterred, we got back into the truck and headed to a new area. After a short drive, we turned onto a narrow, rough (to say the least), and at times, muddy, water-filled logging road that wound to the top of the mountain. Along the way, we glassed several large clear cuts, as well a beautiful, wildflower-filled meadows, but to no avail.

With darkness fast approaching, we turned around and head back for camp. Nearing the intersection with the main road back to Tatla Lake, looking to my right in a freshly plowed field appeared to be two cows feeding in the opposite direction. Wrong! Try two grizzlies—a sow and a large cub. The two drank water, sat down, then milled about for a few minutes before a passing motorist’s annoying sounds—barking, yelling, et cetera—annoyed the sow enough to leave the field with her not-so-little one. Fortunately, I captured the two on camera before they left. It was a cool sight, but served as another clue as to why the black bears suddenly disappeared.

Over dinner, which occurred around midnight again, we discussed a change in tactics. Tomorrow we employ the boats, and hopefully get a black bear on the ground. Nevertheless, it should prove adventurous.

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