Spring offers a few motivating reasons to get out into the woods here in Montana. Cabin fever is a great motivator, as are turkey season and bear season. This year I am spending some time out glassing for the elusive black bear. One of the benefits of bear hunting is the vast amount of time I spend glassing the hills. Even if I don’t see a bear during this time I often see loads of other wildlife. I have seen a lot of deer and elk so far this season and these tid bits of information all add to my understanding of the species and their habits at this time of year. Information gleaned is always a huge benefit on future hunts.
I also find myself checking out new areas in hopes of crossing paths with a big old bruiser munching the fresh new shoots of spring forage. I wouldn’t know the more detailed aspects of the stages of growth and spring in our area if I hadn’t been spending time tromping through it and studying it through Vortex binoculars, trying to figure out where the grasses are growing the thickest right now. When I have the opportunity to experience squinting into a low setting sun while picking ticks off of myself and trying to see through the haze of falling snow, all at the same time, I just can’t help but jump at the chance. This time of year has its own magic and offers much wisdom about our environment and its creatures. I’m thankful to have the chance to get out and experience it and if through the effort spent I get an opportunity at a black bear I will be receiving an added bonus.
When I head out into the hills for bears I have a few items I always carry with me. My rifle is the first, a Ruger American rifle chambered in 270. This rifle has performed beautifully on elk and deer and I would love the chance to try it on a black bear. When glassing here in Montana, the chance for a long shot is quite real so having the ability to adjust my scope for distance in invaluable. The Vortex Optics Viper 4-16 x 50 is just the scope for the job. Knowing the distance is even more important so my rangefinder is a crucial piece of gear and always kept quickly accessible. In addition to my rifle I also carry a 44 magnum revolver. This is for close encounters with the predators in the event I find myself face to face with one, whether it be an injured bear, a mama with cubs or just the unlucky chance that I stumble upon one that feels cornered. Having another quick and close range option brings me added security when wandering the Montana mountains.
I always have my scalpel and pack frame with plenty of game bags. Here in Montana you are required to harvest the meat of the bear as well as the hide. In some states that is not required as they are often carriers of disease. If you are taking the meat and hide out you are in for a challenge, especially if you are hunting alone. Having a good quality and comfortable pack frame is essential.
This season I have had a couple of other things tagging along with me. On a few occasions my 2 year old son came and brought his toy gun along. He gets very excited about going hunting and is frustrated when the bears don’t get with the program and come out of hiding. Having him along is just so special. I know that my chances of killing a bear, when he is with me, are slim. The places I can go are substantially limited but I don’t care. The time spent with him building a love and respect for the outdoors are priceless.
The same goes for my daughter, Briger. She has also gone on a couple of hunts with me this year and while she is older and able to go more places than my son, the time with her is still more about quality time than tag notching. We bring snacks and lots of extra clothes. We are louder than normal and there is a lot of joking, squirming and even some complaining that comes along with kids in the woods.
My other daughter has been doing her complaining at home as she impatiently waits for her turn to go. She is next on the list. I soak up the whole experience, thankful that my kiddos want to spend the time with me in the woods where imaginations run wild and memories are made that last a lifetime. We are welcoming spring with open arms and focused binoculars. It is a great time to be alive and watch the world awaken from its long winters nap and just maybe, I will bring home a thick, old, bear hide to hang on the wall. In the meantime, I’ll keep glassing.