My daughter Emily had the luck this year in the Idaho controlled hunt draw, picking up a great elk tag in SE Idaho and a highly coveted bear tag in western Idaho. I am quite jealous! The bear hunt had an early opener of Aug 15th so the family and I took advantage of these pre-school start days to make the trip. We got to the campground late in the evening the night before. I took a quick stroll up the canyon with Ethan to look for bear sign. Just a few yards from the road I found a Fish and Game bear trap. This was a good sign that bears had been or were in the area, although all the sign was at least a few weeks old, and I saw no tracks. I was super excited, yet equally concerned about the trip timing and whether we would see bears.
Morning came soon enough, and Emily and I made our way up the northern ridge of the canyon right at shooting light. We arrived at the anticipated lookout spot and found a place to sit. It didn’t take long to spot a doe and fawn on the opposite hillside. Just 15 to 20 minutes into glassing, I spotted a bear! It was 430 yards away, just wandering around, but too far for Emily to shoot. I took a few pictures with my phone through the spotter. It looked like a good one!
Just as quick as he appeared, he disappeared into a small patch of brush and trees. This was pretty open country, but bears have an uncanny ability to hide. We saw a cinnamon bear a few minutes later that also vanished into the thick, yet sparse cover. Here is a picture of the canyon.
While glassing for bears, I was also looking for the food source that was bringing them to this area. At last, I spotted a tree in the bottom loaded with yellow fruit; it looked like an apricot tree. Many branches were broken and void of fruit, clear evidence that bears had been feeding in the tree. I knew they would be back.
Hunger overcame us and we headed back to camp for some breakfast. French toast and bacon was a delicious treat and really hit the spot. We drove down the river to look for further bear sign. “Right there”, I shouted, as I spotted a tree, just like the one up the canyon. It was covered in bright yellow fruit. All along the road were these trees with red and yellow fruit. We stopped and picked a bag full. I was first with enough courage to try them. “Plums”, I quipped. Wild plum trees were distributed all along the river and creek bottoms. Bears love them.
After a short rest, we grabbed a sandwich and headed back up the canyon. It was hot, 90 degrees or better. The soil cooked my rear as I sat on the hillside. Not long after taking our seat on the steep southern exposure, Emily excitedly exclaimed “I see a bear.” Sure enough, there it was, 150 yards below us. It again slipped into the brush and out of sight. I reassured her I was confident the bear would show itself again before light. We waited patiently. “Maybe if we get out the roast beef, he’ll show up again” Emily suggested. Perhaps he would, so we ate our lunch. A doe and fawn made their way along the canyon wall, right to the spot where the bear had stood. At one point, the deer spooked and ran up the hillside. “The bear must still be in there” I whispered. A few minutes later, a bear came out of the brush and headed up the same trail the deer had taken. I looked him over in through the spotter and made sure it had a good coat on it. Emily told me she wanted to take this bear. As quickly as he had appeared, he went back into the brush. This time it only took a minute or two for him to exit the brush heading straight up the opposite hillside 175 yards away.
I set up the spotting scope for a solid gun rest, and told her to take the bear when she had a good shot. “But warn me first,” I requested. Two or three seconds later she said “I’m gona shoot.” My binoculars were at the ready and I watched the bear stop and turn broadside. “BOOM”, the rifle barked. The bear hit the ground hard, and then slid 30 yards straight down the hillside out of sight into the brush. A few death moans later and we knew he was finished. The bear was standing right here when she shot.
I used the radio to summon the boys to come up and help skin and pack the bear. The boys hiked up the other side of the river, but Emily and I had to wade across the knee-deep river barefooted. We found a fresh bear track while doing so.
The short distance to the bear was mired with extremely steep hillsides, briars, brush, trees, and yes, a rattlesnake. We finally made it to the bear, and dragged him from the brush for a few pictures.
What a great time. Thank you boys for help packing out gear and the bear! I really enjoyed the time spent with Emily on this hunt. This isn’t Emily’s first bear, or her biggest bear. However, it is her first spot and stalk bear hunt, and one that provided a lot of very fond memories for me and her. The whole family had a good time, and now they can get home to football and drill team practice haha. Another bear hunt in the books.
I'm now ready to focus on elk hunting. Time to do some scouting, and setting bear baits, of coarse.