Well the stars finally aligned for me this weekend!
Over the years I have carried and buried many unfilled AZ bear tags, most of them plain and simply due to not seeing any bears. My first missed opportunity about 5 years ago was a large cinnamon bear at fairly close range while I was turkey hunting as luck would have it I was only carrying a turkey load. And the only shot I took at him was thru my camera and it never came out better than a blur.
My second opportunity in 2008 had me in SE Alaska on a DIY black bear hunt, I was well off the beaten path traversing a steep ravine where a salmon filled river led to the sea. This was an area unlike anything I had ever been in before with thick dense forest and old growth trees up to 20’ in diameter, I had shouldered my rifle climbing up a steep wet and slippery hill, when I was near the top trying to maneuver over a large fallen tree I was met by a sleeping bruin on the other side of the log from about 20’ away he sprung up and looked at me. I think that I may have scared him nearly as bad as he had scared me but anyhow by the time I had readied my rifle the large bear which I estimate to be 6-700lbs had slipped into the forest never to be seen by me again. On this same trip I had a few other opportunities to harvest a bear but they just did not measure up to the one I had met over the log. Later that day I stumbled upon an unfamiliar sound in that dense forest that I quickly learned was the sound of two cubs playing in a tree only a few feet away from me, once their mother learned of me being there she was not all too happy and went thru the chomping of the teeth and the huffing but never charged. This hunt left me with a few what ifs that would lead to me purchasing a BLR in a 325wsm with open sites for using in dense cover that I would name as my bear gun.
2009 I had the boys out on their first deer hunt and came across a small immature bear that we ended up nicknaming Boo-Boo as we would see him on three more separate days, one of them coming in on top of our deer blind to about 15’ away. Boo-Boo we decided needed to grow up a few years before we would go after him.
2010 I did more bear hunting this year and lots of calling but seemed to keep missing the mark with my timing. One of my areas I kept watching for archery deer with a trail cam showed a large mature bear come in and rub against the tree the camera was mounted to only 14 minutes after I had left the area and begun walking back to camp. The last day I hunted bear in 2010 left me on the side of hill walking back to the truck just before night fall and finding many boulders that had been turned over by a bear that afternoon only 200 yards from where I had parked.
2011 I started archery hunting with my main goal to get a nice velvet covered deer and the first afternoon on my way out to my no longer so secret deer spot I spotted a decent size bear near the road and he spotted me and was not planning to find out what I was doing in his yard. I quickly circled around the mountain he had run up and I positioned myself in a spot I thought I could intercept him in. I stayed there until dark and was soaked from rain by the time I made it back to camp. The next morning I had set out another direction and shortly after first light found me at a nice vantage point where I could see along way. After glassing for about 30 seconds a nice black bear walked out from behind a tree about 400 yards away. I put down my binoculars and instantly checked the wind and came up with an attack plan that I thought would work. I picked up my binoculars and studied the bear for a minute and quickly counted two cubs that were playing in the tree line just behind her. Still wanting to increase my experience and also see if my plan could have worked I followed it thru and found myself 30 yards away from the bears watching them when the wind changed and she rose up on her hind legs looked right at me and they ran into the trees. This whole last week had taken off to do a little bear hunting and it left me wanting to go back to a few areas where I had seen lots of recent sign and I knew of bears in the area but my wife had other plans for me to work around the house, Thursday morning I woke up and said enough, the kids had been wanting to go camping and riding and I have had a bear tag in my pocket for since January. My wife said she did not want to go if I was going to bear hunt the entire time so I agreed that we would go to a different area as to help with my temptations not to hunt. We loaded up and went out Thursday night getting to new area late that night, we woke up Friday and did not care for the area so after letting the kids ride around for a few hours we packed up and went to one of my favorite areas nearby. After setting up camp (trailer) again and getting lots of fire wood I took the kids for a short ride down to the creek while my wife took a nap the kids shot 22’s and on the way back I found a fresh pile of bear scat in the trail about ½ mile from camp. After getting back I found my wife was still napping and thought well it will be dark in a few hours and I grabbed my hand call and my bear rifle and decided to go try my luck a little west of camp. My youngest son said he wanted to come along so I said ok we will take the quad and just go look around and maybe I will get a chance to call in a coyote or something? Not five minutes after leaving camp there it was a large black bear down in a small drainage near the road, I left my son and told him to ride up the road a bit and I would walk down his way in a few minutes. I was able to get within 90-100 yards before the bear decided he was ready to leave and I was positioned about 40’ above him. I had already watched to make sure there were no cubs in the area and I let loose a 200gr Nosler AB that instantly dropped him in his tracks but just as fast as he went down he got back up and started fighting and trying to get away so I followed up the first shot with two others that all proved to be hits. All three shots were placed from above the bear while he was turned away from me, one broke the spine and the other two entered each side of the spine and the last one exited thru the heart.
The bear ended up resting in an area that very easy to get to with a quad and only a short distance from where the truck could get to, but still took a good while to load and was not easy to move around. After arriving at the meat processor the bear weighed 342lb and after being skinned measures 6’10” from nose to tail. These are the only measurements I have gotten so far, but would think he will be one of the larger Arizona bears taken this year. I do not yet know the age of the bear but his fur is near perfect and no noticeable scars or scratches on his face, his teeth a still sharp and appear to be healthy.
Congrats!! He's a bruiser for sure. 6'10" nose to tail is a really nice sized bear, and he could very easily square over 7' when all the measurements come out. I'm curious how big his skull is. He looks to have a pretty nice sized melon. I'm sure there are plenty of guys who would salivate over killing a big AZ bear like that.