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Third and Long on Oregon Black Bears
Author: Kevin Underwood
Jul 25, 2013

Looking back, this story began in 2008, but it hardly seems that long ago. It was the first year Remington Clark and I hunted together. Actually it was the first time that he had stepped foot on a spring bear hunt and it was somewhere within those three days he fell in love with bear hunting as much as I already had. 

Here in Oregon, our tags for spring bear hunts are on a draw system, and our unit draws out about every other year with the occasional lucky streak. Remington’s first spring bear tag came in 2010 and that April found us curling up beneath trees, taking shelter in the rocks, and clinging to firesides as we survived the high-winded and long-lived snowstorms. We only saw one bear between flurries of weather in a week of hunting.

2012 brought more tags our way, and this time much better weather. With a full ten days to hunt, we clocked over a hundred miles with thousands and thousands of feet in elevation change. We saw several bears, we wrecked stalks, and in the closing moments of the season I ended up being in the right spot at the right time. I pulled the trigger on a nice cinnamon phased bear just 45 minutes after we decided to split for the first time of the entire hunt.

In 2013 Remington had one of those streaks of consecutive tags that I mentioned, which gave him a chance to settle the score. We charged hard right out of the gate, and headed for the tops of the ridges for a week of backpack hunting.

There was one small problem. Water that is normally in an adjacent draw during spring runoff had already dried up from the exceptionally high temperatures. We were experiencing dehydration, frustration, and a roller coaster of undesired emotions. We searched for water for hours in numerous draws but found nothing.  With our camp stashed on the ridgeline we made way to the truck to pack in five more gallons of water in a desperate attempt to salvage our hunt.

After a quick sleep in the truck, we filled every container we could scrounge with creek water and dumped in handfuls of iodine.

The next three days were spent glassing, which only got us one unsuccesful stalk.  With temperatures in the 80's we decided to head down the mountain and relocate to a spot higher in elevation in hopes that the bears had migrated to cooler ground.

By now our week was half over, and time was against us. It seemed like we were getting beat by the bears, the heat, and the mountains. Yet for some reason, we continued to go through the motions of spot and stalk hunting every minute of the day, even when we were starting to question our sanity

Finally, it paid off.

At 4:45 pm Remington turned up a bear in the spotter, a bear that we’d mistaken for an elk numerous times with the binos. It was a true blonde phased bear. Our energy rebounded, and the chase was on. We narrowed the last yards of the stalk and tried to muffle our erratic breathing, struggling to pump enough oxygen into our lungs.

The bear was a mere 50 yards from where it stood two hours prior, and one well-placed, offhanded shot from Rem’s gun at 70 yards ended the pursuit that started back in 2008.

We'd spent the last five springs enduring undpredictable weather, hours of glassing, miles of hiking, and pure mental exaustion. We broke down the bear and loaded up our packs, and though the weight was heavier, a load had been lifted from us both.


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Comments
I had my first opportunity to hunt black bear in NC this past Dec. Although I was grateful to participate and take my first bear, it was with dogs. Not the same as what you did here. Nice job.
Posted by Barrett Johnson on Sep 6, 2013 4:03 AM
Good stuff Kevin!
Posted by Luke Johnson on Jul 26, 2013 12:50 AM

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