‘Bear’ with me: the Bear facts, the Bear truth, and left Bear naked

THERE’S ONE!

Ugh! You are a beautiful color phase Black Bear, but I have to pass you up. It’s Saturday, it’s hot outside and I cannot process you without spoiling before I get back home tomorrow.

OH WAIT! THERE’S ANOTHER ONE!

Wow! You are a gorgeous color phase Black Bear, all brown and blonde. Wait…are you a Black Bear or an adolescent Grizzly Bear!? I don’t know! Hmmmm…yes…no…yes…no…too late, you are gone.

AND ANOTHER ONE!

Ugh! Show me your vitals so I can make a clean shot. Turn! Turn! Yes, I see your big fluffy arse, but I can’t shoot you there. I won’t shoot you there. Oh, you are taking off… Ugh! Another one gone.

A harvest of a Spring Bear this past weekend wasn’t meant to be.

I saw many bears this past weekend. One of them should have come home with me. Then again, as a hunter, you have to make proper judgement calls in your harvests.

In the end, I got to enjoy a hunting trip with my son and show him many different scenarios and wildlife around our cabin and Bobtail Lake. It was educational for him and I hope he took something away from the whole experience.

On Saturday morning, I left Fort St. James and headed towards Bobtail Lake.  I had a truck full of stuff designated for the cabin. The sooner I got it there, the sooner my husband could work on the cabin.  Normally, he would have had the truck in the first place, but he needed to work on my van Thursday evening but I was gone Thursday morning to do a Foraging workshop in Fort St. James. So we had to swap vehicles.

On my way to the cabin, I came across this beautiful cinnamon colored Black Bear. He wasn’t a big bear, but he would have been big enough for me. He had a big rump actually. I sat there, drooling over him. He stood broadside, making the perfect vital shot for me. A clean, quick, ethical shot. But I couldn’t take it.

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I love his Cinnamon Color

You see, it was Saturday and I don’t go home until Sunday. It’s not like fall where the air is cool and crisp. It was hot and muggy. Great conditions for an animal to spoil. So, if I did harvest it, it would mean that I would have to take it to my cabin, get my husband to take out everything out of the truck, and then continue on home, by myself, to get the bear hung in our garage, skin him, get the air conditioners out, and get a fan on him, wait until the next day, and then take him to the butchers or just do him myself.

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Love his surroundings! Made for great contrast in this picture. 

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I probably could have done it too, but those air conditioners are super heavy and awkward. They are beasts. Plus, I would miss out on family time with my kids and husband out on the lake.  So I passed him up. But got some nice pictures of him at least. I love shooting animals with my camera as well!

I got to the cabin around noon and greeted the family. My dad was there as well. After unloading the truck and organizing our stuff, we managed to get on the lake to do some fishing! I didn’t have my tackle box there, so I was at the mercy of my Dad’s tackle box. Let me say I have 3 times the fishing gear of my Dad.

He got two bites, and I got the only two fish that evening. One Kokannee and one Northern Pikeminnow. I was targeting trout when I caught the Kokannee. Go figure. I still out fished everyone. If anyone fished with me this past winter, you know it was my kind of thing to out fish everyone. I keep that lucky horseshoe up where the sun don’t shine apparently.

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Lucky catch!

Our friends Nicole and Dave came out to our cabin to stay the evening and we had a nice visit into the evening.

At 6:45am the next morning put the coffee on, woke up my son, packed the truck with gear and snacks and we took off by 7:30am.

It wasn’t long before we saw our first animal.  A lovely Red Fox trying to find a meal in a nearby clear cut.  I couldn’t get a picture of it. It didn’t stick around long.

We drove around for an hour before we got our next animal glimpse; it was a pair of Sandhill Cranes! This was a rare treat. They migrate through the area apparently in the Spring. They stop to rest and eat along their journey. They like to be in the open, so look for fields and clear cuts when out there.

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Shortly after that, I came across the area I normally forage for Stinging Nettle, Fireweed Shoots and Morels. I did find 3 Morels, but that was it. The fireweed shoots and Stinging nettle were too small still. I am too early. In two weeks, it will be good picking. If more rain comes, the Morels will pop up too. I pray for same rain!

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Morel

I continued down my planned loop and I was coming upon an area where I normally pick Arnica and typically see Black Bears. There is something about this area, especially in the Spring that the Black Bears like, but I haven’t figured it out why yet.

I slowed down as the road bends and the area opens to the left. Yes! There is a Black Bear! Decent size too. I’m happy with that size. I stopped the truck and showed my son what I was looking at. He saw it and a large grin appeared on his face.  There bear was onto me now and started to makes its way towards the bush. I jumped out of the truck and yelled at the bear. It stopped and looked at me giving me time to set up a shot. Oh wait! It has cubs. Abort mission! I leaned back into the truck and grabbed my camera instead and started taking pictures of it. She stayed long enough to my surprise to snap a few pictures off.

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Her cubs in the tree line, hiding. She is beautiful.

Back in the truck, I discussed with my son why I couldn’t shoot it, and how normally I wouldn’t chase a bear to take pictures of it. But I explained how it was moving away from me. Her cubs were in the tree line, and I’m by the truck, so I felt safe to proceed to take pictures.

It wasn’t long after that we came upon a Cow Moose – a poor scraggly, tick ridden Cow Moose.  She didn’t stick around for a photo-op. I knew where she went…to the backside of the clear cut that I know well. But I chose not to pursue for a photo-op as the animal was clearly stressed out enough as it is. So I left her be. She needs all her strength!

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Couldn’t get a picture of the Cow Moose, but close to where she was standing was this Moss patch.
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Moss sending up Spore Capsules

As I was checking out this one foraging area, with no luck, this Spruce Grouse “fluttered’ away from the ground into this tree and scared the bejeezus out of me and my son! Love his bright red patch over his eye…like the Sandhill Crane.

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About 15 minutes later, along our loop, we came across this young Black Bear on the side of the road.  It was all legs and skinny.  It was a legal sized bear to harvest, but it was on the smaller and skinnier side, so I passed it up. In the end, I was forced to pass it up, not only was it on a part of the road, unsafe to shoot towards, I was by the only 3 properties on that road that had buildings that were inhabited.  I wasn’t allowed to shoot my firearm anyways.  Very glad it was a small bear anyways. If it was a big boar, I would have cried! So again, I had a discussion with my son about why we couldn’t shoot it. I discussed where it was on the road (no visibility beyond it), bedside inhabited buildings, and holding out for a larger bear. I didn’t get a picture of him/her.

The day was wearing on and I’m about 20km away from our cabin now. I checked multiple places along the way for possible foraging spots. Lots of them hold potential, if a good rain would come. It’s so hot and dry out there.  I made mental notes of these areas and hope to come back and check on them again after a rain.

My son and I eventually came up on a gravel pit. I paid extra attention to this area. There was discarded garbage left by ignorant people and I had a feeling a bear would be in the area. Bingo! A Bear. I pulled over. Despite driving by the bear, it didn’t know we were there. Or it assumed we moved on as I parked behind some Willows. The wind was in our favor, so it couldn’t smell us. This was a beautiful bear. It was golden brown on the bottom with hints of red tingeing its fur with a lighter, blonde back. It was walking slowly across the gravel pit. I placed my gun scope on it.

Wait.

There was something different about this bear. Its face is not typical of a Black Bear. A Grizzly!? No hump though…no prominent hump though. So it’s a Black Bear, just a gorgeous color phase Black Bear.  I put my Binocs on it.

Yep…Black Bear.

Nope. Grizzly. Young one…teenager.

No….Black Bear.

No….Grizzly.

Ahhh! What the hell is it!?

I watch it for five minutes trying to collect more clues. The lack of the hump suggests a Black Bear. But its face suggests Grizzly. It’s size is decent; it’s not a young lanky Black Bear.

If I shoot a Grizzly, I’m in trouble. We do have a few Grizzlies too in our area. So it’s possible. Where I go Huckleberry picking behind our cabin there is a few that inhabit the mountain and hills.

I’ve never seen adolescent Grizzlies. How prominent are their back humps?  Also, I’ve only seen one blonde Black Bear in my life and it was cub.

In defeat, I can’t tell. I have to trust my judgement. I’ve seen hundreds of Black Bears and a few large Grizzlies. This one was different somehow, something didn’t feel right, something threw me off, and I had no one around to give me a second opinion. If you can’t 100% identify an animal, don’t shoot. It’s common sense and the law.

I’m fuming inside. If it was a Black Bear, I have missed out on a good sized Black Bear and the most gorgeous coat/fur I’ve ever seen on a Black Bear.

Well, I’ll take a few photos of it then! I go get my camera. I didn’t realize the wind died down though so as I was walking across the gravel road, it heard me and took off. So much for pictures. On a side note, when I got home last night, I looked on Google for Color Phase Black Bears and Adolescent Grizzlies…I still couldn’t get a clear answer. It’s 50/50! Ugh! Perhaps I’ll come across it another day and I can get a second opinion.

That was it for the morning hunt. After cleaning out the cabin, having lunch and packing things away, we headed out for home. I was in my van now with my son and my husband and our daughter was in the truck, pulling a trailer. He gave me a five minute head start so that if I did come across a Black Bear, he won’t be so close behind me to scare it away, and so he doesn’t literally eat my dust (roads super dusty).

On the journey towards the highway, I came across another 3 bears.

One was harvestable. It had no cubs, it was a decent size and had a gorgeous black coat. By the time I pulled over to the side of the road, he was in the tree line, in dense bush. All I could see what his big fat arse and a part of his head. I stand there patiently, waiting for him to turn broadside. There is no way I want to make a shot in his butt, it would probably wound him and make him run even further into the forest, in that dense bush. He would suffer until he died, or until found him and put him out of his misery. Plus a wounded bear is a dangerous bear. I find them dangerous in the first place, but wounded…the thought make me cringe.

I took a few steps to the left, and then the right, but I can’t get a clear shot. Large Poplar trees are in the way and too many Willows. The only place which is good is where he is showing me his big fluffy butt.  He won’t turn and he finally decides he doesn’t like the situation to he heads straight into the dense bush. No opportunity for a clean kill.

I hopped back into the truck and continue on. We eventually came upon that same, small, skinny Black Bear. You know, that one that was close to the houses along the dirt road. Only this time he is a bit further down from the houses and is a much better position and area for shooting. But I leave him be.  Let him grow bigger. Save my tag for a more suitable harvest. He didn’t stick around for a photo-op.

It was not long after that that I came across a mother Black Bear and her cubs on the side of the road. She had an interesting face, as you can see in the picture. All grey around the eyes and muzzle. Old mama bear perhaps?

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We hit the highway and the hunting is over for this weekend at least. It was a full, productive weekend with friends and family. Oh! On the way home, another Black Bear ran across the road bringing my total sighting to seven bears plus four cubs. Not counting the one I seen in Fort St, James on Thursday.  We have a lot of bears up here!

As for harvesting a Bear, I suppose it wasn’t meant to be. Too bad, I love Bear Hams and I am looking forward to making Corned Bear Roasts, Salami, and Bear Barley Soup too.

I’ll try again soon. I hope my son retained some information and lessons! It would have been great to harvest a bear with him. Maybe next time! Question is do I go back the same area or try a new area? Hmmmm….

To finish things off, here a few pictures of Stuart Lake in Fort St. James. Before I went to the cabin for the bear hunt, I got to stay at my friends place. Look at the view! I had a gorgeous 4 days out exploring a part of Northern British Columbia.

Get outside!

Bring Bug Spray.

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