Friday, September 21, 2012

Fall Bear Hunt in the Tetons

What an experience. The weather could not have been more perfect, cool evenings and nights, and mild days.  It was at the right temps for a jacket and maybe something underneath if you needed it.  The reservation to hunt bear with Bob Barlow, owner of Barlow Outfitting, had been made last spring and I was really looking forward to the trip.  The option is available to camp out in the mountains and enjoy the experience of a full blown campout, or you can stay at the Teton Mountain View Lodge in Tetonia, Idaho.  The Lodge was the place for me with comfortable beds and excellent service. (
View from Teton Mountain View Lodge.  Looking east toward the back side of the Grand Tetons

I selected Bob because of his experience and knowledge of the area. He has outstanding references.  He is a Wyoming native and grew up hunting, trapping, and fishing the areas of Wyoming.  He now leads people on successful hunts. Plus Bob makes the hunt a really enjoyable experience.  In addition coming from the flatlands, the altitude at times is a struggle for me, and Bob was very patient.

The berries in the mountains were in full bloom and with the cool down of the days and nights, the bears were starting to get really active.  Foraging heavily at this time allowed them to stock up for the winter hibernation.  This activity would give us the opportunity for a successful shot.  

Unlike hunting elk, you don't have to start out so early in the morning.  It is more leisurely, but just as stealthy when you enter the mountains.  Bob's horses were corralled right at the lodge, and were saddled up and trailored to the trail head.  Here we began to scout the hills and valleys slowly moving, stopping to glass the distant areas looking for bears.  There were several berry patches that Bob knew about, and we slowly made our way toward them.  One was in a valley. The horses were ridden up the back side of the mountain to a plateau area.  Here they were tethered in a grassey area.  We walked very, very quietly toward the overlook into the valley.  The foliage was in full bloom and the berry patch was thick.  Bear signs were everywhere.  It was here we sat down and positioned ourselves looking down into the valley.
Looking down hill to the berry patches

After an hour, Bob checked with me to make sure I was comfortable hunting by myself.  It was ok with me.  He then quietly walked back to the horses and to check on some other patches in the area for signs of bear. 

Even when hunting turkey by myself in Iowa or Nebraska, my back is always up against a tree and a 40 cal. pistol is laid by my side.  We have mountain lions in some areas.  A little nervous, but not afraid, the wind was right in my face and anything behind me would pick up my scent.  Precaution was a good idea.

Nothing happened, and we moved to another area.  Here the timber was more dense and the patches of berries were not as thick, but there had been a lot of activity.  Someone had made a nice pile of timber to hide behind.  A good tree was standing for me to lean against.  The sun just barely provided minimal light.  Bob sat with me for about an hour and then went  to check another site or two.  The balmy day, cool and crisp, made me very sleepy.  Fighting off a nap was really hard.  My head and eyes dropped more than once.  The wind was right in my face and anything behind me would have picked up the human scent.  A bear did not appear.
A second spot.  The berry patches are on either side of the tall tree.  Good signs were everywhere, but the bear did not show up.

During the day we checked other places and by evening came back to the lodge.  

The altitude was taking its toll on me, but a headache was avoided by hydrating really well.  I drank a liter of Gatorade every morning and I hydrated constantly during the day.  My biggest problem on this type of hunt was getting winded when climbing and walking around in the mountains.  Bob could walk up a mountain, never break stride, and was hardly winded.  I stopped and rested a lot. 

The next day was a repeat of the first.  There is nothing better than hunting with a person you enjoy and I was having a really great time.  Horseback riding in the Tetons was spectacular.

We started out late on the third day.  With bear hunting, there is no hurry, and we took our time.  We went back to the first site and the bear signs were everywhere.  We moved into the same spot where we had hidden.  I stood up right next to and a little behind a tree.  The sun really lit up the valley.  The concern was there was too much light.  The wind was light and variable, but generally right in my face.  Bob rode over to check a couple of other sights.

After standing there for about an hour, I pulled out the cell and called my wife.  This was amazing.  Reception in those mountains was excellent and better than at home.  I have no idea why.  We both talked in whispers. This was no time for noise.  All of a sudden a bear stuck its head out from behind a large bush about 75 yards down the mountain.   It was looking straight at me.  Bob had told me to make very slow moves if need be, and I needed to now.  I whispered to my wife, "There is a bear."  I slowly placed the phone into my pocket, not even waiting for her response.   The bear stood there and stared straight up the hill.  The gun leaned on the tree, and my hand slid down to the barrell and gripped.

The bear slowly walked out onto a large flat rock, stopped and looked up the hill straight at me.  The wind was still in my face, so I could not be winded, and I was in the shadows. The bear put its head down and started to take a couple of steps.  At this time it was quartering to me with its back end pointing up the hill at a 45 degree angle.  Slowly I pulled the rifle up and laid it across a tree limb that had been sighted through before.  As the bear stopped, it looked back up the hill.  The cross hairs were placed on the right front shoulder. I held my breath and squeezed the trigger.

The bear just leaped off the rock and into the brush below as the bullet found it's mark.  I pulled out my phone and tried to call Bob, but got his voice mail.  I left a message and slowly moved down the hill to the rock where he was shot.  I saw nothing and cycled another round  into the chamber.

It wasn't 10 minutes later until  Bob came down the hill.  Wow!  Can the locals of the area move quickly up and down these mountains on foot.  He heard the shot, saw the page from my cell phone, and was almost instantly back to where the shot was taken.

Pointing to the area where the bear had leaped off the rock, he moved cautiously and then announced, "Congratulations! You are now officially a bear hunter."  After just one shot the bear laid 10 feet down from the rock.
One shot. One Bear.  The Rifle is a Model 70 my Dad gave me as a gift in 1968.  I have added a Nikon 550 Scope.  Federal shell 180 grain with a Nossler Partition bullet
The shot was taken at the top of the mountain where the tall pines are standing.  It is a steep climb out and when I stare at this picture it almost makes me winded.

Bob skinned him out, and we checked the hide into the Wyoming Fish and Wildlife Offices in Jackson the next day. Then it was off for home.  The people with the state said it was probably 300 to 350 pounds and eight to ten years old.  A really nice bear.
Bob Barlow packing the hide out of the valley.

The taxidermist will soon make the bear into a rug for the floor. This has to be one of the best hunting trips of my life and it was all made possible by Bob Barlow owner of Barlow Outfitting.

Good hunting, good fishing, and good luck  Hank. 

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