Black Bear Adventures
“Last week a big black boar chased a bowhunter out of the woods we’ll be hunting…literally! He was walking to a ground blind he had set up last year when hunting for elk. According to the hunter the bear spotted him well over a hundred yards away and started walking toward him. The hunter started backing up, returning to his pickup. The bear kept coming walking faster, then started running directly toward him. At that point the guy turned and ran for his life. He reached his vehicle only a few steps ahead of the bear.” Dick Ray relayed the story as we drove to where we would be camped while I hunted black bear with him and his brother Sam on Arizona’s White Mountain Apache Reservation. Says he, “I know you’re looking for a big color bear. And we told you about a big blond we’ve seen. But, if you see this bear while we’re hunting I got a feeling you’re going to shoot him! He’s huge. And he might not give you many choices if he stays aggressive as he was with the bowhunter.”
The monster black sounded good, but I really wanted a big color-phase black bear. I had been fortunate to have taken some really nice and big black bear. But, my big bears had all been as black as the ace of spades.
After stowing gear, Sam suggested since it was too late to release their hounds, we go sit where we could watch converging trails headed to a waterhole, not far from where the bowhunter had been charged.
Sam and I pushed our way into several oaks that would hide us.
At the time I was hunting with a .50 caliber muzzleloader, stoked with 100-grains of Pyrodex below a 250-grain Hornady XTP sabot bullet. I had brought two muzzleloaders which I had loaded before we left camp. One rested on shooting sticks the other I laid immediately to my right within in reach for a quick follow up shot, in case one was needed.
The light wind blew from the waterhole into our faces. We settled back for an afternoon’s vigil.
We had been there less than 30 minutes when I heard something coming up behind us, downwind. I slowly turned to look in that direction. Through oak leaves and limbs, I could see a huge black hulk. As is got closer I could see the bear’s ears seemingly hanging on the side of his massive head. He was HUGE in every way. There was a shooting lane to my immediate right. I moved the shooting sticks and muzzleloader around so I could shoot left-hand.
In spite of the wind blowing toward the bear, he paid no attention to our scent. The bear stepped into the shooting lane to my right, less than twelve yards away. Soon as he did, he turned toward me, popped his teeth, laid back his ears and charged. Thankfully I had cocked the hammer of the muzzleloader and was ready to shoot.
The bear was so close and coming fast, I had to sight down the side of the barrel rather than look through my scope. By time I could pull the trigger, he was only fifteen feet away and coming fast.
The Hornady XTP hit the bear. He stopped, then turned and ran away. I reached for the second muzzleloader. I turned to look at Sam. There within less than six inches away was the muzzle of Sam’s .44 Mag. He smiled, “That so and so wasn’t coming any closer!”
I reloaded the muzzleloader, then we took off after the bear, which left a broad blood trail. We found him about seventy yards away. He was even bigger than I had imagined. Later on official scales he weighed over 500 pounds and squared 7-feet 8-inches. When we looked to see where the bullet had hit him, there was a burned hair spot about three inches wide on his chest. The Hornady XTP, we learned when field-dressing him, had taken out the top of his heart.
There was no doubt the bear I had just taken had every intention of completing the charge. He knew we were there. He was obviously not afraid of humans, based on the experience he had had with the bowhunter. And he thought he was “the king of the mountain”. He was obviously wrong…
“He’s not stopping! SHOOT!” Less than a heart beat later a rifle fired and the charging black bear died in mid-stride. Momentum carried him to less than three feet from where we stood. After making certain the bear was dead, I looked over at my companion, somewhat ashen in color and trembling a bit. I extended a congratulatory hand, “GREAT shot!”
“There wasn’t any time to hardly aim…” says he. I smiled.
What lead up to our adventure had started at the time the outfitter started baiting for the upcoming bear season. When my two companions and I had arrived in bear camp earlier in the week, our outfitters pulled me aside. “There’s a bait we have set up which has been taken over by a very aggressive boar. And he’s getting more bravo every time we freshen the the bait. Yesterday he charged me before I got to the barrel. I had to throw my bait sack at him. Thankfully he stopped and started eating the beaver tail I had in the bag, rather than complete the charge. But it’s just a matter of time before he completes his charge.” He continued, “We’ll give him three days, then go back with a hunter.” Before I could volunteer my services he added, “Got a couple of places where I’ve seen big boars I think will square over seven feet. Want you to hunt one of those.”
That settled that! I suggested he consider the guide who had come with from Texas as a likely candidate. Two days later I shot I shot one of the black boars the outfitter had told me about upon my arrival. I shot him with my .300 Win Mag Ruger Number 1. The 7-feet, 2-inch squared boar with a green scored skull of 21-inches (he dried to 20 6/8s, just missing the all-time Boone and Crockett Record Book, minimum 21) died essentially in his tracks. My Hornady 180-grain Soft Point had once again done its job.
“Chad has seen some bears but mostly sows and a couple of small boars. Think he’d be interested in tackling the aggressive boar I told you about?” Asked the outfitter. “I’ll back him up, in case he needs help. Bring your rifle, but don’t load it unless we get into trouble.”
We approached Chad over lunch. He was game!
A couple of hours later we beached the outfitter’s boat. Chad made certain his .300 Win Mag was loaded then we cautiously approached the bait site. When we got to within fifty yards of the site we could see a black form striding back and forth behind the bait barrel. We took four more steps, then here he came. Amazing how fast a charging black bear comes, like black lightning. Soon as I saw the bear coming I took a step backwards allowing Chad to swing his rifle into action…. I heard our guide say “Shoot!”
That night, long after the coyotes had finished their mid-night serenade, Chad was retelling his bear tale for the possibly fortieth time.
A couple of years later I hunting black bear with Buck Bowden’s Hidden Alaska Guides south and east of Anchorage. We, my cameraman and I, were spike-camped about fifteen miles from Buck’s Mosquito Lake base. First night we were “visited” by a three-year old boar. He walked around our three-man tent all night long, occasionally “woofing”. Thankfully he was gone the next morning when we headed out to hunt. But that night, he was back, this time he started out by brushing up next to the tent. During the night he began pushing his nose against the tent wall. I told my tent mate to grab my Ruger Blackhawk .44 Mag loaded with Hornady 240-grain XTPs. I grabbed my Ruger Model 77 I had brought to hunt, chambered 7x57 and loaded with Hornady’s 140 grain Soft Points.
When the bear again stuck his nose against and into the tent wall, I reared back with both legs, as I lay with my back on the cot, and hit the bear on the nose as as hard as I could. I heard the bear tumble back, growl and take off at a run. I laid back on my cot, thinking I had remedied the situation and the bear would not be back. I was wrong!
A couple of minutes later I heard the bear walking around our tent once again, woofing and popping his teeth. He kept that up for a good hour, then I heard him drift away. I went to sleep.
Next morning, before opening the tent I told the cameraman to be ready in case the bear charged us as soon as I opened the tent flap. No sooner I opened the tent, there he was about seventy-five yards away. Soon as he saw me, he came at a run. I picked a spot about twenty steps away. If he did not stop by the time he reached that spot I would have to shoot and kill him. He came hard, but at about twenty-five steps he slowed and stopped, then started walking back and forth popping his teeth and “woofing”. I waited with Ruger at shoulder. After about five minutes the bear retreated and disappeared into a thicket about a hundred yards away. I breathed a sigh of relief. I really did not want to kill the bear. But I was wondering if I would be given much of a choice.
As I prepared to cook breakfast the bear reappeared. Soon as he did, I picked up my rifle. The aggressive young boar, raised his head looked my direction and charged. At about thirty yards I I shot immediately in front of him, throwing dirt in his face. I did not wait for him to come any closer. If he indeed intended to complete the charge, I wanted time to reload and have time for second shot; this time to put him down. He stopped, thankfully, then turned and ran away. I thought we were finally rid of him.
Again, I was wrong! He returned a few minutes later, this time walking around camp about a hundred yards out. I knew if we stayed in the area, it was only a matter of time before I would have to shoot the bear or he was going to hurt either my cameraman or me.
I hated to leave the area because I knew there were huge black bear around, based on paw prints. I had one bear tag and I really wanted to use it on a big bear, rather than on a cantankerous one. Reluctantly I used the satellite phone I had with me to call Buck to come get us with an ATV and move us to another area.
While we waited on Buck to arrive, the bear kept walking in circles around our tent. As he did I recalled what Buck had told me about bear attacks. “if you are attacked and mauled by a grizzly, play dead and he’ll leave you alone. Get attacked by a black bear, keep fighting because if you play dead, he’s going to eat you alive!”
Thankfully Buck got us out of the area before I had to shoot the aggressive young boar. I have long wandered what became of that aggressive young boar!