A call from the fish hatchery’s Sat phone finds a jet boat outfitter coming to take a tour group on the river. My oldest son negotiates a rate to take the rest of our gear and party across the river and get our rowboat and crew back across several days later. We didn’t time it but it seems the jet boat took longer to get across the river than our rowboat. My son is now our hero. No doubt about it.
All we have left to do for the day is backpack four and a half miles and gain 3000 vertical feet of elevation. Sounds pretty reasonable after our boat ride. Grueling. Did I mention it was grueling? The majority of the first 1200 feet of elevation gain came without a trail. Can you say “major muscle-group cramping”?
Thankfully, camp is made before the rain starts and the rain doesn’t stop now until two o’clock the next day. Dehydration makes leaving the tent unnecessary so we count our blessings and lick our wounds until the rain stops. An evening trip down the trail looking for bear helps loosen the muscles and get us ready for a few more hours in the tents.
The next morning finds us splitting into father-son teams to do our first serious bear hunting. My oldest son stays in camp to gather wood and organize. Elk are everywhere. The 12-40X Leupold reveals a single bear several miles away and 1000 vertical feet above us. I think the word is “grueling”. That bear is nowhere to be seen when we reach his home on the ridge several hours later. A predator call doesn’t bring him running but it does stir two different sows on the far side of the next drainage. One has a single cub. The other has twins.
It’s a long hike back to camp with feet so sore I don’t even notice the bear meat on the log behind me as I collapse at camp. I once again decide that this is the last time I will be hunting bear on this trip. My nephew, Gus, decided that stalking within yards of a carnivore is even more thrilling than shooting one at long range. (Just reporting the facts.) The blond and cinnamon bear fell to his .308.
The following day, I’ve decided once again I will hunt bear. Our entire party climbed 1500 feet to the snow line at the top of the canyon where the elk herds were so numerous in the canyons below that the use of a group of elk to point another person towards a potential bear sighting resulted in confusion because the wrong group of elk was used! The bighorn sheep and hawks were well below us. Yeah, this is a Hardcore Hunt. I don’t care what my brother says.