Hunting Memories

The Bear That Was Meant To Be

My wife Sherry drew an Idaho black bear controlled hunt for the spring of 2002. The hunt method for this area is spot-and-stalk only, no dogs or bait allowed. I contacted a local landowner in order to get permission to hunt his place and was rewarded with, "Heck yes, come on up!" Apparently the bears in that neck of the woods are a real problem for the ranchers so we were welcome to weed one out.

We arrived at the ranch, unloaded the four-wheeler and set up camp. With chores done, Sherry and I drove to the end of the road and glassed a huge canyon. We discussed how hard it would be to get close enough to a bear when we found one. The canyon was very steep and brushy with limited approach routes. We decided to back out and explore another area. On the way out we ran into a group of guys from the adjoining ranch who were repairing fence. We talked for a while and told them that Sherry drew a bear tag for the area.

My wife is a surgical nurse in a local hospital and never forgets a face. Sherry mentioned to the rancher that he looked familiar and asked him if he was ever in the hospital. He said he had surgery 13 years ago. She said, "That’s where I know you from!"

He had been her patient 13 years ago! He said he had a soft spot in his heart for the nurses because they were so good to him during that trying time in his life. There were hugs going around and "I can’t believe this" from everybody. We talked a while longer and they offered to show us some hotspots where bears were known to frequent. We were escorted to a hidden trail at the foot of a huge basin and told to climb to a particular rock outcropping which offered a panoramic view of the basin.

We reached the rocks just as the sun set on the basin — perfect timing. We glassed about ten minutes when I spotted a jet-black bear slinking through the bushes. Sherry handed me the spotting scope and it didn’t take me long to decide to go after this bear. We grabbed the rifle and day pack and climbed the hill as fast as we could. We cut about 300 meters off the distance, reacquired the bear, and zapped him with the laser rangefinder. I was satisfied with 398 meters.

We have a rifle range in the back yard and often shoot out to 600 meters. Sherry was shooting a Robar 300 Win Mag with a 4.5X14 Leupold scope with target turrets. This rifle shoots a half-inch group at 100 meters all day long. I dialed the 400 meter dope on the scope and deducted two clicks to compensate for the uphill angle. The wind was calm, which surprised me, and not a factor. Sherry used a long, flat rock, which was angled uphill as a prone shooting platform. With bipod legs down and a shirt balled up to support the butt stock, Sherry settled into a solid shooting position. She wanted to know how far the bear was, and I told her not to worry about it, but just shoot him when he stopped.

I moved directly behind her to spot the shot. Just before he entered the thick brush, the bear stopped to nibble on some grass. The Robar sent a 180-grain Nosler Partition down-range and three things happened in the next second: I saw the bullet splash directly behind the bear, I heard the thwack of a solid hit, and the bear rolled down the hill.

He landed on his back and never moved. I told her that’s one dead bear. Sherry’s first words were, "I love this gun!" She used this same rifle to harvest a nice California bighorn two years ago, also with one round.

As we hiked up the hill, Sherry again asked how far the shot was. When I said 400 meters she got very excited. All the way up to the bear she kept saying how long the shot was. When we finally reached the bear we realized this bear was a sow! I have never seen a sow with a head that big! The teeth were worn down to nubs, she must have been an old bear. Sherry was very happy with her trophy! We took a few pictures and skinned her out. The hide was thick with a white diamond on the chest, and no rubs. I propped up the carcass so the meat could cool overnight and slowly walked down in the dark.

In the morning we returned with the backpack, boned her out, and took the meat off the hill. We met the rancher on the way down and told him the good news. He was very happy for us and invited us back to hunt the ranch.

I’m not a great believer in fate, but what are the chances of Sherry drawing a tag in this area and meeting a guy in the back country that you remember from 13 years ago? And then it turns out that he knows where bears are located! Like Sherry said, this bear was meant to be!

Submitted by Bob Mancuso
Boise, Idaho

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