I took a couple veterans of past youth hunts this year. Both filled tags on their first youth hunt, but Solomon’s was a little fella so we were hoping to get him onto a larger bear this time. Solomon and Wyatt are a couple of young men that I’ve enjoyed investing in for several years now and with this year’s hunt, I was hoping to let these guys take this hunt to a new level, with them leading the stalks and me following their lead.
We were optimistic for the weekend when the first evening we passed on an easy to get little bear. Later in the evening I followed them on a stalk on another bear. We got set up in a good position. Solomon was prone over his pack as the bear came out into the clearing in front of us. It was disappointing to not get a bear that first attempt but to hear Solomon say “I’m not comfortable with this shot” and pass on throwing lead at the animal was heart-warming for me. I considered that a return on my years of investment. That’s a proud moment for a hunting coach, especially when we just got started…there’d be other bears.
The next afternoon we had a chance on a really big bear and as Solomon and I crept into the clearing, we found the bear only 25 yards away. We backed up and circled to get brush out of the way for a shot only to find the bear gone. We cautiously advanced till suddenly here came the bear running right at us with a loud whoof! I tossed the video camera aside and centered the crosshairs on his chest as he stopped at 10 yards. The look on the big bear’s face showed total curiosity as to what he’d heard approaching. It was a calm moment and while I was hoping to get a bear myself, getting Solomon on a bear was foremost in my mind. I remember thinking, “maybe I can still get Solomon a shot.” But alas, after a few seconds the bear turned and headed up the mountain in a sea of alders before Solomon could get cross hairs on bear. In hind sight I should have shot it. Everyone would have enjoyed that. Solomon says he’ll never forget that bear looking at us that close and was surprised that he wasn’t as scared as he thought he’d be in such a situation. Oh well, no bear, but a cool experience.
The only other stalk opportunity was an early morning run I made on a bear while the boys were still asleep (they’ve still got a bit of learning to do). He was a bear on the move and when I got on him I was breathing hard after the run/climb and my only rest was standing and leaning against a sapling. It wasn’t a solid enough rest for the 250 yard shot and I had to pass just like Solomon had done on the first bear we encountered.
Wyatt’s dad, and my good friend Joel, joined us for the last night to wrap up the trip. Bear sightings were few and far between, but getting on 3 of the 9 bears total that we saw was pretty good. It was a fun filled weekend with some good bantering, swimming in the river (it was dang hot), sleeping out under the open skies and stalking bears in a beautiful place. What a privilege to see these two young men advancing in their skills and character.