Idaho’s Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness is some of the most rugged country in the Lower 48. It harbors elk, black bears, wolves, mountain lions and sometimes, hunters. Field Editor Jeff Johnston and crew rode 20 miles into the wilderness, set up camp and hunted each day for spring bears.
On horseback and afoot, your gear is limited by weight and so it must be chosen wisely. Due to the changing weather in the mountains, rain gear is essential, as is a great long-range rifle, optics and cartridge that can reach across a canyon if needed.
Perhaps 25 percent of each day hunting is spent climbing to a high vantage point to see into the forest’s endless folds and canyons. The other 75 percent is spent glassing. Top-notch optics, such as Leica’s world-class Geovid HD-B rangefinding binocular is strongly recommended. Bears are often spotted more than a mile away.
After an animal is spotted, the waiting/watching game begins as the hunters try to judge the bear for quality, determine if stalking closer is possible, or conclude that taking a calculated long-range shot is the best option.
There’s no cell service or Burger King in the Frank-Church Wilderness. Camp entertainment is left up to the campers. When Horse Creek Outfitters guide Donald Forbes isn’t guiding hunters to elk, deer or bears, he’s picking a guitar professionally in dives around northern Idaho.
The author chose the brand-new Hornady 6.5 PRC caliber for its inherent accuracy and long-range punch. It’s a short-action caliber that pushes a .264-caliber bullet at 2960 fps. At the muzzle, the 7mm Rem. Mag., for example, has more speed and energy. But thanks to the ultra-high (.625) ballistic coefficient of Hornady’s ELD X bullet, the PRC overtakes the 7mm Mag. at just 250 yards, and blows it away at 500. As such, it’s a wonderful, hard-hitting round with less recoil than comparable magnums.
Rain, fog and 30-mph cross-canyon winds are a fact of life in the Idaho mountains; the astute shooter much be prepared for it all. The Geovid can be programmed to provide exact dope for your rifle and load; In the end, however, making the shot boils down to skill.
Although a long-range shot was anticipated, after five days of hunting Johnston stalked within 125 yards of a black bear. One shot from his Proof Research rifle loaded with a 143-grain Hornady ELD-X Precision Hunter bullet performed the magic, instantly rolling the heart-shot bear into the roaring creek below.
Field Editor Jeff Johnston recently had the opportunity to test the brand-new 6.5 PRC (Precision Rifle Cartridge) on a black bear hunt in Idaho with Hornady and Leica. You can get an inside look at his trip with the gallery embedded above.