British Columbia Black Bear Hunt, Day 2

Remember the “half the adventure is getting there” saying? Today the saga continued…

Following a complimentary continental breakfast, courtesy of the Holiday Inn Express, Vancouver Airport, I took the hotel’s free courtesy shuttle back to the airport’s main terminal, where I would catch yet another shuttle to the South Terminal—something to keep in mind when traveling, hotels with free shuttle service to airports can be a godsend. The hotel’s shuttle driver was especially friendly, and he and I discussed black bears and techniques used to hunt them in route to the airport—a welcome relief from the all-to-typical non-hunting crowd usually found in larger cities.

My second shuttle, well, was the reason for a third. Waiting outside the main terminal for the free South Terminal shuttle, it was nearly time for its arrival when a Harbour Air van pulled up to the curve, obviously looking for the airline’s passengers. After getting out, he looked at me, then the woman a few feet away, and he asked, “What airlines are you flying?” Nearly in sync, we both replied, “Pacific Coastal.” Whether he had a momentary memory lapse or not I’m unsure, but he suddenly gathered our luggage and loaded it in the van. I thought it strange, so I asked him, “Are you heading to the South Terminal,” which he promptly replied, “Yes.”

“I guess we’re good, then,” I thought.

We had made it no more than a mile when his dispatcher contacted him, asking if he picked up the passengers. He replied, “Affirmative,” but what came next cast a sense of doubt. “Are they Harbour Air passengers?” Turning around, the driver asked, once again, “Who are you flying with?” Our airline hadn’t changed in the couple-minute ride, so once again, we replied “Pacific Coastal,” and he conveyed the information across the radio. There was an awkward silence, followed by, “You picked up the wrong passengers…take them back.” He apologized, saying it was his second day on the job. Mistakes happen, and as long as I caught the correct shuttle, which I did, there was no harm. It just added to the adventure.

But, the day was only beginning. After checking in and getting my boarding passes, I waited until 45 minutes prior to boarding to enter the security screening area (there was no bathroom in there, so why go earlier). Unbeknownst to me, a frequent domestic traveler in the U.S., unless traveling to an international airport in Canada you don’t have to go through security. Rather, you just line up when called. The friendly Canadian TSA-equivalent made me aware of this fact, and pointed to where I should wait—lesson learned!

Although my final destination was Anahim Lake, my flight first stopped at Bella Coola, dropping off and picking up passengers, then continued on. If you find a theme park rollercoaster exhilarating, try the Bella Coola leg of the Anahim Lake flight. Because of its location, flying into Bella Coola requires the unusual art of winding through the multitude of scenic valleys. Add to this inclement weather—rain, low cloud ceiling, and stiff crosswinds—and the last few minutes of the hour-long flight are fairly intense. As a rollercoaster lover, I found it enjoyable; others, not so much. After the Bella Coola stop, I was off to Anahim Lake, my final destination.

        Airport

At Anahim Lake’s airport I was met by widely acclaimed British Columbia grizzly guide Leonard Ellis, and daughter, Shannon. After a quick stop at a general store for snacks and lures (for rainbow trout), we were off to camp (Halfway Ranch, outside of Tatla Lake). Dropping off my luggage and Shannon (to prep dinner), and while waiting for host Chad Schearer (of CVA), along with his family, Leonard and I headed to the range to double-check the CVA Scout’s zero. Only minute adjustments were need for a 1½”-sight-in at 100 yds. Leonard reported few shots were past 150 yds., and most significantly closer, so I left it alone—even shots beyond 200 yds. wouldn’t be problematic with that sight-in. The rifle was outfitted with a Konus KonusPro 3-9X scope in DuraSight bases with integral rings, a Shooter’s Ridge bipod, a Vero Vellini Safari sling, and an Uncle Mike’s buttstock cartridge holder filled with Remington Express 200-gr. Core-Lokt PSP ammunition.

Following dinner and signing licenses, Leonard and I headed out for the evening hunt around 4:00 p.m. Since you can hunt until an hour after sunset and the days are so long,  there’s ample time even with a late start. From what Leonard reports, the hunting gets better closer to dark. This evening, we drove logging roads and scanned clear cuts and other openings, as well as went through pastures, looking for bears feasting. The first bear we saw turned out to be three—a black bear sow with two cinnamon-color-phase cubs. Pretty cool! As we neared the end of the logging road, Leonard pointed out a 6-7 ft. sapling near the road that had been broken off about 5 ft. off the ground. It seems grizzlies like to mark their territory. Less than 10 minutes after stopping to see the sapling, and having turned the vehicle around to head to camp, the large male grizzly that made that marking appeared 100 yds. from it. To say it was angry at our presence would be an understatement. Before bounding off, I managed to capture some footage with my video camera. As Leonard explained, that bear would be a bad one to come across in the woods, as it exhibited an unusual amount of aggression. Food for thought for sure. The rest of the evening proved fruitless.

On the way to camp we witnessed a beautiful sunset, and I had time to think about the day’s events. It’s difficult to explain the sensation of hunting bear, and especially in grizzly country. It’s an experience I love and cherish. Returning to camp, we ate dinner at close to midnight, which would be about 3 p.m. back home. Talk about being off schedule. Still, I’m so excited I find it difficult to sleep. What will tomorrow bring? Without a doubt, another adventure.

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