By Mike Deming
Ursus Americanus or Black Bear of North America, is one of the smartest adversaries walking the hunting woods today. This statement is especially true if you are after a trophy animal. A big male, which is called a boar, can live in excess of twenty years. Once that bear has at least a dozen years under his belt, he usually has a huge blocky head, stands well over six feet tall and is a veteran of many hunting seasons. He is usually fairly nocturnal, except during the months of May and early June, when he will travel many miles looking for a mate. This is the prime time to harvest a great trophy because these guys will let their guard down, but it still isn’t a guarantee by any means.
Harvesting a great trophy will depend on several things as well. The most important thing is to be in an area where the genetics will allow a boar to become a trophy. Second is that the state or provinces management practices will allow the animals to live long enough to reach their true trophy potential. Thirdly, you must have good knowledge of bears to be able to put yourself in a position to harvest a veteran of many seasons that knows his home range as well as you know your own living room. This task gets even more difficult when you decide to do it as a “Spot and Stalk” hunt.
Stewart and Sabrina Fraser, who own Itcha Mountain Outfitters in Central British Columbia, possess all of the above. They have been one of the Sportsman’s News Platinum Approved Endorsed Outfitters for nearly five years and consistently produce some of the best black bears in Canada every year.
British Columbia does not allow black bear hunting over bait, so spot and stalk is the only technique used and since very few Canadian residents opt to hunt black bears, hunting pressure is almost nonexistent except for the hunters who book with an outfitter. Itcha Mountain Outfitters has a specific area, which is theirs exclusively to manage and hunt. This unit covers over a thousand square miles and is loaded with big mature bears. Since Stewart only books about 20 bear hunters each and every year, his quality stays extremely high.
During the spring of 2010, the Sportsman’s News team made it back to the North Country to film and possibly even hunt ourselves. Mark Boardman of Vortex Optics would accompany me on the first five days of the hunt and Glenn Bradley, who won the hunt given away by Sportsman’s Warehouse and Itcha Mountain Outfitters, would be there to hunt the next five days of the season.
After picking Mark up at the local airport and shuttling him to the lodge, we immediately grabbed our bows and started driving tacks at fifty and sixty yards. We both had serious intentions of getting the job done with our bows, but we would also have a rifle with us at all times. The rifle would serve as a safety if we got too close and all of a sudden we became the hunted and it would also provide a sure fire shot opportunity if we found a true giant that wasn’t in a position for a stalk which would get us into bow range.
The bear hunting with Itcha Mountain Outfitters is structured to be a very comfortable, but productive hunt. The mornings are a nice casual start to the day, with a full breakfast at the main lodge around 9 a.m. The mid-day can be used for fishing the local lakes or streams, shooting your rifles or bows or just plain relaxing. This slow start can get a guy a little antsy on the first day, but after the first full day of hunting and not getting back to the lodge until well after dark (usually 11pm or later) the slower mornings are a welcome sight.
On our first day of hunting, we had the Suburban packed up and we were out of the lodge by 2pm. and with Mark hitting bulls eyes with every shot of his bow out to sixty yards, we just needed to find the right bear to seal the deal. We hadn’t been gone from the lodge for thirty minutes when we had our first bear sighting. It wasn’t the bear that we were looking for, but it is always a good sign to see bear movement that early in the day.
The standard mode of hunting within this region is to drive the logging roads that cover a good portion of the unit and glass the hundreds of logged and clear cut areas. This requires a lot of driving and a lot of glassing, but you can usually get the vehicle within half-a-mile of almost any bear you spot. So, regardless of any ones age or fitness level, they can usually harvest a good bear.
By late evening we had spotted fourteen bears, but no shooters yet. With a nice slow drizzle of rain for the past couple of hours, we could stalk almost anything if we could find the right bear. As if on cue we spotted a great boar in a small clear-cut, within a hundred yards of a group of horses. We parked the Suburban and made our stalk. The horses initially provided for some good noise cover, but when we got to within a hundred yards, they spooked and drove the big bear up a tree. Fortunately the bear had no idea why the horses spooked and climbed back down and bedded under a nearby pine. We closed the gap to about fifty-eight yards and just needed him to stand and present a clear shot. Darkness was coming on quick and an unstable wind finally gave us away, but instead of bolting, the bear climbed back up into a tree. We charged the bear as he climbed higher into the tree. At about twelve yards, he decided that we were a little too close and he jumped out of the tree and onto the low side of the hill before I could get the camera set up. We didn’t get him killed, but it was an extremely exciting end to a great day.
The next couple of days were a lot more of the same, with lots of sightings, but not the giant Mark wanted to take home. That was until we hit some open fields loaded with clover. One glance at the big bruin working the field and we knew it was what we were looking for. He waddled when he walked and his ears looked like small bumps on the side of his head. We had great cover along the edge of the field which would get us within bow range for Mark.
We grabbed the bow, camera and rifle and started closing the gap. After twenty minutes of hard walking, we had closed the distance to about 150 yards. We poked our heads out of the cover to see if our target was still in the field. He was, but appeared to be working his way to the cover. After a brief discussion, Mark decided that he would use my Browning X-Bolt chambered in 300 WSM instead of his bow to secure this giant. We set up the camera and Mark got settled in. All we needed now was a good shot opportunity. The bear fed plenty long enough for us to have closed the gap and we possibly got within bow range, but when the bear gave Mark the slightest opportunity, he put the hammer down and took at all the major vitals, as well as the opposite shoulder. We knew he wouldn’t go far. We waited nearly thirty minutes, but it wasn’t necessary because the big boar had barely made it into the wood line when he expired.
He was a true British Columbia giant, with a twenty inch skull and squares at over seven feet. It beat Marks previous bear by nearly two feet.
With Mark tagged out and hunt winner Glenn Bradley coming two days later, I wouldn’t have much time to hunt personally, but the rut was going hard and we thought I could get it done with my bow. Since this would be my 29th black bear, I for sure wanted to do it with my bow. At the end of my second and only day left to hunt, we found a beautiful chocolate color-phased bear. He was slightly over six feet, but had one of the best hides I had ever seen. With the sun fading fast, I made it to fifty-two yards and dumped the string. The arrow flew true and made for an extremely quick and humane kill. The bear traveled a total of ten yards and expired in less than a minute. What a great trophy.
Hunt winner Glenn Bradley also harvested a huge seven foot bear on the third day of his hunt. All total during the ten days that we were at Itcha Mountain Outfitters, there were seven bears taken. Six of the seven bears were in excess of seven feet. There was 100% success in the camp. It just re-affirmed why we endorse Itcha Mountain Outfitters as one of our Platinum Approved Outfitters. If you would like a premium black bear of your own, please call Stewart or Sabrina at 250-249-5424 or view them on the web at www.itchamtn.com