USA: Utah Black Bear Hunt

Firebird

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Spoiler alert: I killed my bear this past week, but its been a long and adventure filled journey to get me this far. I'll write out some highlight stories for the readers in the group and I love the pictures so will include many of them as I go.
I drew the multi season tag for the wasatch unit which is the unit where I live. There are better bear areas and easier places to draw but hunting close to home gave me options and lots of time to enjoy the permit. Utah is heavily in favor of color phase bears and my goal was a colored bear, preferably red or just a really big or really old one. My thinking is that there are loads of places to kill a black colored bear but color phase can be a difficult task. I am into color phases right now-as my wish list for next July's hunting safari will attest to!
My father in law used to run hounds, before I knew him and he still has a couple good contacts. I have run cougar with these guys before and Mark helped us when my oldest daughter was on her first deer hunt. Mark breeds and runs plot hounds and runs bears anytime it is legal to keep the dogs in shape and experienced. He has a helper named Jense that is younger and needs some guidance in life. My father in law is always ready to go hunting, retired but in great shape-except that he is waiting to have knee surgery and wasn't up to his usual agressive military fitness expectations.
Hunt started for us in May during which we could run dogs but no baiting. Mark had his hounds down in southern Utah and we would only get the last week to hunt on my unit. This worked well with my family and work obligations. At the fire dept where I work I had a couple shifts with a young guy who had been badly bitten by a pit bull-you can imagine the damage and the scars after playing tug of war with a pit bull. His name was Casey and he was a nice guy with a city network map of roads on the back of his hand. . .
Started our first hunt before light with me and pa in law and jense in a beater side by side loaded with dogs and Mark on his own in a beater single cab toyota loaded with other dogs. The objective is to drive around and when the dogs hit fresh scent, they bawl and clammor and verbally beg to be set free of their leads and chase the stinky bear. I love hounds and love this process. My father in law likes to check dirt roads and old cattle trails for tracks. The state had our main route closed for construction-paving the old dirt roads so folks can get their trailers all the way to the reservoir. Good for trailers and campers, lousy for hunting on every level. So we were looking over some new territory, which the guys knew but had limited experience in. I have even less experience here but am familiar with the lay of the country, deep canyons with livestock trails and this year, dry creekbeds.
We even set the hounds loose and just followed them around to see what they could find, following their progress on foot and by the gps collars each dog wears. Well boys will be boys and eventually we were awful far from the trucks. So we gathered the hounds on leashes and started walking down, always down. Past the dead angus carcass stuck against a tree trunk on a steep downhill slope. Past the naturally occuring hot suphur springs in the diamong fork drainage. At that poing I knew we were miles from pavement. I told Jense back when I was his age this was where we came to see boobs. The local naughty college girls would hike to these springs to take in the sun, drink forbidden alcohol and take off their clothes in front of boys. Jense marked it on his gps. . . The springs today were noticeably empty. At the bottom, in the parking lot we found a huge intimidating sign-Closed during covid. . . no group gatherings. We knew Mark was following the gps collars on the dogs so he knew where we were and would eventually find us. But a car pulled alongside us and I leaned in to ask the girl driving if she would mind terribly just taking me to the main road where I could be picked up. The girl looked terrified. Then the guy I couldn't see his face, put his hand on her leg and leaned over to talk. I recognized that scarred up hand-hey Casey! They gave me a ride back to the trucks and those guys and already made their way to Jense and the hounds so we were all together and safe albeit tired and thirsty. Tomorrow promised more of the same. I wasn't sure I wanted to do this again tomorrow!

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Next morning I roll into Marks camp before sun up again. Even the hounds are too tired to mark my arrival. I bang on the trailer door and the intrepid houndsmen greet me with apologies and a flurry of activity. Once loaded and just at first light Mark heads one direction alone and me and Jense the other. Father in law not with us this trip. We pull up a two rut "road" and I comment that I don't think its a road so much as a trail cattle have made going to and from a visible water tank. Behind a screen of old gnarled pines and tall thick trunked aspens is a gorgeous meadow, fed by a little log fenced spring. This is the source of water for the tank where the cattle water. And right in the midst of the spring is a heavy, sizeable bear track-fresh! We all have two way radios today and Jense beckons Mark and we start looking for more tracks-we've got him headed back up the long aspen covered ridge away from the sage and oak brush. When Mark arrives we dump all the barking, bawling, baying hounds and watch them flying through the bush in a sea of adrenaline and a century on instinct.
I offer to follow on foot and Mark laughs. They might go 10 miles of mountain, stay in the side by side and we will do the foot thing when we get closer. More sound instruction was never given!
The last available road ends at the top of a never ending canyon. No fire has ever touched this ancient pine woodland. It is thick with thick frosting and a thick thickly center. The dogs show treed in there, and we are going in after them. But then they break and off again and then who knows what the hell is going on. Some dogs just wandering around, others running downhill and two others showing treed in the absolute bottom. Might as well get eyes on them, so me and Jense head off. Mark will circle to the other side of the canyon and try to find an extraction point. He has a debilitating back problem and does very little hard hiking. Halfway down we find the dead Sandy bitch. She is small and very fast. No doubt she got there first and in that thick morass of deadfall and snowberry the big boar just made short work of killing her and moving on. We found some others alive but chewed and swatted and sore. I carried one female with a bad leg and led another. Jense had a couple on leash now but we needed to find the rest. Clear at the bottom we found a creek and I cleaned up my two partners and watered them and the one I had carried wanted to walk now. I told Jense that Sandy got to die doing what she loved, what she was born and bred to do and it was just the risk of running bears with hounds, the bear did what old boars do and Sandy just didn't have back up. My soul was not in the lecture and tears were still in young Jense's eyes. Mark met us on the wide, deep cattle trail. The dogs had lost the bear and he had gathered up the last two males. He was telling us all about the race trail down the mountain, how it must've been a bulldozer of a bear when he realize we were a dog short. It was a long, hot, dry walk the two miles back to the vehicles. We were back at the truck when I realized I had lost the two way radio from its harness. . .
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Firebird

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My hand side to side is 4.5 inches and from wrist to tip of hy middle finger is roughly 8 inches. I am using my older hoyt element and slick trick "griz trick" broadheads. They are 125 grains and 1 1/4 diameter. I used maxima hunter arrows with weight added behind the broadhead. It is a great elk set up and will surely work on black bears.
A track this size is a good boar around our parts. They do get bigger but a track this size will be a bear too good to pass up.
Mark had a good supply of meds for the dogs and I stayed long enough to treat the things we could treat. I couldn't hunt for a couple days while I was on shift and when I got back I couldn't tell any of the dogs had even been injured. Animals are amazing!
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Firebird

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Less pix of tracks, more of bears! Before the season ended we did tree several bears. I'm pretty sure I hurt Mark's feelings by passing one bear as it scowled at us from the tree. My brother and his son came with us one day for a textbook race. We treed a pretty cinnamon sow that day on the easiest run I have ever been part of. The dogs put on a show that day and the bear was really something shimmering in the morning sunlight!
One day we met some other houndsmen. We told them about the boar and the hellish canyon and our hound. The guy goes on to tell us that they ran the same boar, a big red colored bear with a dozen hounds and the bear went to the same canyon and proceded to fight his way from top to bottom and eventually earn his freedom. The man also mentioned that the boar likes to water at the "secret" pond and they sometimes run him from there. He should not have mentioned a secret pond!
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Looks like you earned your bear. Great story so far.
Bruce
 

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Sorry to hear about the dog. It does happen and it helps knowing they died doing what they love but it never makes it any easier.

I enjoy hunting bears with hounds, it is amazing what those hounds can do.
 

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After looking at a few of the pictures I felt like I was back hunting in my old haunts.

I have wore a a fair number of boots in that unit
 

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Gorgeous chocolate sow !!
 

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This is one of my favorite trail camera pix I got on a water hole. Tried to concentrate my efforts in areas I might potentially encounter bears, deer and elk. This is a pretty brown sow with a black cub and a very blonde cub-very cool genetics. In this particular part of the unit reddish brown is the dominant phase.
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It sucks to lose a dog. Speaking of the color phase bears does anyone know why they dont occur on the east coast.
 

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It sucks to lose a dog. Speaking of the color phase bears does anyone know why they dont occur on the east coast.
Because not much is unique on the east coast and it lacks the diversity and political correctness of the west coast where bears can identify what ever they chose to be. Get into the mountain west where bears are bears and men are men, they will be what ever the good lord made them to be! Lol
 

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In June we could start baiting but no longer could use hounds. My houndsman friend had found a place with multiple trails all with bear tracks and we decided to set up there. In Utah you are allowed two bait sites and they must be registered with the fish and game dept. They prevent hunters from setting up on top of each other.
we loaded the spot with molasses and bread and popcorn and dog food. A friend had a truckload of expired sno cone syrups and it mixed wonderfully with the other ingredients. Our first night we got bears!
A lovey red sow with a blond cub would become a regular visitor. I was telling people I was supporting a single mom and kid-they were cleaning up 20 pounds of food a day. They came day or night, no rhym or reason. The trail cam showed a big bear coming only at night and several other random bears. One thing we noticed was that often bears came in that were wet or muddy.
My friend wanted to be part of the hunt so we set up a second tree stand. Having him there made it easier to stay after dark. But, I quickly realized having two guys in the area was bad for bears. After several days without seeing a bear, I kindly asked mark to stay home. Twice the scent and wiggly humans or whatever wasn’t going to work. By myself I started having bears come in again, mostly the sow and her cub amd a couple two years olds I had no interest in. One night while walking in, I bumped a bear right off the bait. We were both rattled and I decided to walk off the shakes. Up the trail one mile on my gps there was another bait. No wonder there were so many tracks and bears! It was far enough the fish and game hadn’t flagged it but to bears it was just another restaurant down the road. But I had an epiphany, hidden pond, wet bears, maybe I needed to do more exploring. The bears were using cattle trails but the cows weren’t on the mtn yet. It was not hard to follow the trails and in less than an hour I walked into Valhalla.
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One of my favorite evenings on bait was kind of a sleeper. . . Me and Mark were in our stands and all evening there were ravens carrying on-I later found that they had a nest and raised three young. But the bears were a no show. Normally I would get out before dark but tonight there was lots of noise behind us. With Mark there I felt brave enough to sit it out and hopefully see the culprit. I was certain it was a sow and cub tearing up rotten logs and digging up roots, maybe chasing squirrels or perhaps driving a steam roller. Finally Mark who was only barely visible gestured "antlers" showing his hands above his head. I used my phone but the flash was too weak to get an image. So I slow and quiet dug the bigger Nikon out of my pack. He was literally underneath me, so close that I heard him fart. The flash when it went off was something otherworldly blinding and both me and the bull elk got a bit freaked out. I think he was embarrassed about the farting and after the weak phone flash, I did not expect the Nikon to light up the entire forest. There were three bulls but I only caught this one, that I believe was wandering up to check the smell of molasses on the bait.
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While we were hunting the first bait, I set up a second on the other end of the unit, near where I like to bowhunt elk. I checked it several times and added more good stuff to it, but nothing ever seemed to find it. At the end of the June baiting season I went in there to take it all down and clean it up. Of course while I was ignoring this site, a big boar and his lady friend cleaned it up for me and a little black sow and her cub found it, eating what was left and as you can see in one of the trail cam pix, the cub helped take down my bait site permit. . . I never did hunt this spot but should have had more faith in it.
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This young bull moose showed up on camera a couple of times-sweet smelling molasses I suppose. Racoons became a holy terror later in the season. Notice the bear that is half wet. I finally found the secret pond, which was really just a muddy spring on a hillside. I set up a camera and a pop up blind. I had elk and deer and the red sow and her blonde cub come in, but nothing else interesting during the June season. July is not a hunting month, but my hounds
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man could use it as a training month. The next season would be late August into late September but they do allow you to start baiting two weeks before the hunt actually begins.
 

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Starting in August I moved the moose bait to an entirely different location. It took a night or two for a skunk to find it, and then the racoons moved in. Mostly they came at night but once in awhile a hungry one came in daylight. I was never on stand when anything came to this bait. Wildfires were raging the western united states so I was busy covering shifts for those who were activated to go fight them. I missed some hunting but the overtime paid my plane tickets for next summers safari in South Africa. I also had deer and elk tags so many evenings I ignored the bear baits and sat water holes where I had a chance to see any of the desired big game species.
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Because I had tags for multiple species that overlapped, I often sat waterholes hoping to tag a deer or elk or maybe a bear. There were some experiments along the way-some good, some not so much. I bought an ozonics generator to try. I have a couple treestands that are 20 yards from water that are hit or miss depending on wind or whatever. I thought the ozonics generator might give me an edge. My experience with this product was very poor. From short battery life to getting busted every time I used it, I simply wish I had not spent the money. In fact I never had an animal come in while using it, but when I left it in the truck, I started seeing animals at water that very day-a young mule deer buck I video'd with my phone but had no other interest in. The next day a whole herd of elk but not the legal spike I had a tag for. I never used the ozonics again. When I gave it a negative review the guy called emailed and called to sort things out. Thank you Mr. Burgdorf, but I'm not a fan and thought it terribly poor form of you to try to contact me. In fact every night after I quit using it I saw animals in range.
The new watering spot I found was amazing. At least one bear came every night and some nights I would see multiple bears. I figured out that they were eating chokecherries up the mountain and coming down to water before continuing their activites. I saw sows and cubs and young bears but nothing I considered shooting. I have lots of phone videos as well as pix of a bears wet and muddy tracks climbing up my tree to my stand. One of the really great products I used this year was Muddy brand three step ladders-strap them on and climb safe and easy, much better than screw in pegs and I could carry all I needed on my soft daypack. Another item I really loved was Kuiu pants. I already had multiple pairs but the two lightest fabrics were all I needed through the whole season. I started using them when I kept ruining my day to day pants and tried them on a friends recommendation-they last for years under brutal use and are very comfortable, handle moisture very well. In fact their pants worked so well that I bought a small back pack for my daughter and a larger one for myself in that brand. I don't love their jackets and coats but that is a personal preference as well as a cost issue.
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One of the other products I really liked was Moultrie brand flavored bear magnet which was awesome on dry dog food and expired bread. While sitting water, I kept my baits stocked and was actively feeding multiple bears but not really hunting bears on the baits.
One evening as I geared up to leave my wife reminded me that my daughters futbol team was so good they would be in the high school playoffs this year and my young son is a bit of a natural with a baseball bat-and I had not been to either of their games this season. Sometimes they tell me NOT to come to these same games since I hate the refs, the other teams parents and womens soccer in general (loved it until I found out they are just politicians in cleats, now I can't stand it). But I do love my kids and my own parents supported most of my childhood stuff I was never good at, so I attended a game now and then-and promptly got asked to be the team photographer. . .
I had hunted more this year than ever and my wife had been a very good sport, but archery seasons were winding down and it was probably time to finish up. I had met my goals, we had successfully treed multiple bears, successfully baited bears and I had passed multiple opportunities, but now I probably should TRY to kill one.
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One evening I sat on the spring in the pines. Cattle came in and sloshed around and made a mess of the place. I love cattle and their prescence is always welcome (especially on a bun) but they sure do make a mess of a nice clean spring or pond. This is an especially dry year and those whose lease the rights to graze cattle on these mountain pastures are having to bring water to tanks by truck. Some of the cattle don't want to trek to the tanks and will frequent these little out of the way spots to water. Out of nowhere a young reddish brown bear came hustling down the well worn cattle trail. The cattle were offended and the little bear lost his confidence. After a good deal of snorting and foot shuffling the cattle who were not the least bit afraid, sort of wandered off. The bear jogged in and found a spot to drink from. The bear seemed nervous and I assumed a larger bear was near, or maybe just the cattle giving him some second thoughts. At one point the little bear went about ten feet up a tree and then back down, finally it left, not in a hurry but not calm either.
Not ten minutes later a bigger bear sauntered right in to the waters edge, not huge but not small either. I was watching it through the video screen on my phone and at some point it occurred to me that this bear was bigger than most I had seen. I could make out its ears clearly but I had thick "wrists" and more head that the others I had seen. I was confident it was a boar and at twenty yards I decided it was go time.
I drew the bow and put my pin on his vitals and released-just as he shifted to get better footing on the cow hoof pocked muddy surface. I was certain I had hit guts and spent the long drive home wishing I had given it ten more seconds. I called the hounds man and we made a plan to go back in the morning. I called my brother and he was excited to come walk around in the woods and look for a gut shot bear.
At first light, a small pack of humans walked up the cattle trail to the scene of my shame. I had dragged a pine bough out behind me and we could find three sets of print on the trail. One is a large boar that comes to my bait every night around 0500. The other I was sure was the red sow and the other I believed to be a younger dark sow-the one I had seen last night. We walked right to my mark and from there we could see blood. Me and Mark went down the trail and my brother and his boy goofed around the spring looking at tracks, bear as well as coyote. Mark and I followed a serious blood trail to a bed under a big pine, only 50 yards from the spring. We were looking for the next blood when my nephew called out-"Here's your bear!" We believe he had tried to go back up to the water but had only made it about 20 yards and was dead, cold and rigored when we found him. The slick trick had passed on through the abdomen and into his off side leg, cutting a big artery and mincing the muscle as the bear ran. Could reuse the head if I wanted, but will instead put it in the safe with other little treasures from past years. Lots of help for pictures and we could go straight down hill to the road so getting him out was a breeze. Mark wanted the meat and he even took the liver and heart. He makes jerky with most of it but I do know he eats bear roasts and things. The skin is remarkably pretty, my brother offered to take it if I couldn't find room. I dropped to skull to a taxidermist friend and after it is cleaned and dried we will score it and see if it makes pope and young. I don't sweat the record books but size is a reasonable indicator of age. The fish and game did come to my house and take a tooth to age the bear and permanent tag the hide.
All told, this was a great adventure and I am thankful to all those who made it possible and helped make it successful. Wish I could do it more often but bears are carefully regulated here and now it is my turn to help someone else get theirs.
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Great season you had, really enjoyed reading your story. Also enjoyed the photos. Congratulations on a long hunt!
 

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Thanks,
Rob
Bearhunter46 wrote on Philip Glass's profile.
Philip, do you still have the 416 for sale?
 
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