Tod's Blog

Adventures with family & friends and other things I'm passionate about…

Labor Day 2005

Posted by todblog on September 9, 2005

September 9, 2005

This past Labor Day weekend was another blast at Aunty Bitsy’s Ranch in Imnaha. It’s a very longggg 11 hour drive for us to get there but, it is certainly worth it. We hunted grouse, bear, elk and fly fished for trout. It reminded me of living on Molokai where there was so much you could do in one day that you were totally exhausted after all the hunting and fishing. Lucky thing there is no night diving at Imnaha or I’d really be wiped out!

One of the most difficult things to decide….what do you want to hunt today and where? We would set up for bears in the morning and wait for them to move along open hillsides. They would feed on hawthorn berries, apples and plums and bed down in heavy brush during the heat of the day. That’s when it would be time to go fly fishing or swimming in the river.

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Jessie and Pua cooling off in the Imnaha River

It’s a nice thing to be able to work the dogs in a creek bottom where there is ample supply of fresh cool water to lay in and drink. I’m sure the dogs love being able to drink when they want and hunt without dog boots, unlike the rugged “death marches” we’d do at 8,000 feet on the slopes of Mauna Kea for chukars! This is way easier on me too, no more packing water. The creek bottoms offer good cover, water and hawthorne berries that the blue and ruffed grouse love.

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Jacob, Mele, Ipo and a pair of ruffed grouse along a creek bottom.dscn0026.jpg

Jacob and his .260 Rem. waiting for bears to emerge from the brush. The bears never did show up that morning but, we were treated to beautiful scenery and some elk walking around on the opposite rim near the timbered top.

On my way out of a brushy draw one morning, I encountered lots of fresh bear piles with plum seeds in them. This bear had been visiting a nearby plum tree at night and was coming up into this draw during the day. I sensed that he might be nearby and I crawled around as quietly as a clumsy person with two left feet can in a dense hawthorn thicket. Crunch, snap, pop, etc. there’s no way a bear was gonna sit still for this and I sure didn’t like the idea of crawling around in the brush with no room to stand or manuever if a bear came down the trail I was crawling on. It gave me the chills. I decided to exit out of there and report my findings to the group.

Back at the ranch, there was a bear being skinned out. It was Jennifer Lewis’ first bear that she got that morning with the help of a predator call operated by her dad, Gary. I told Gary about my findings and he said that we should set up and try calling in the late afternoon. Meanwhile, it was time to go fishing…

After several whitefish and rainbows duped with a prince nymph… it was time to gear up and head back to the draw with all the bear sign. Gary and I set up on an open hillside with the brushy draw below us some 50-80 yards away. We settled in on the loose rocky slope and tried to get as comfortable as we could. Gary turned on the FoxPro call and after a 20 second delay, the fawn in distress started to play. It was an annoying sound of a bleating fawn. To the bear, it was supposed to sound like a dinner bell. It would also sound that way for a lot of other toothy critters wandering around the area. I kept my eyes wide open for bobcats, coyotes, and cougars. Anything could respond to this free dinner call. It was my first time trying this method of hunting. After 7 minutes of listening to this rant I was ready to conclude there was nothing around or we scared them all off. “Maybe I scared whatever was in there this morning and nobody is home.” Gary told me to be patient, “Sometimes it takes awhile..” So, I readjusted the soft rock under my butt and shifted my weight over to my left cheek and re-focused my attention on the brushy draw below.

At 14 minutes, some movement caught my eye below. A dark head appeared at the edge of the draw and poked it’s head out to test the wind. It came out of the draw and began to climb up the opposite side to cautiously check things out. It was a good sized black bear and he was slowly coming out of the draw to investigate this distressed fawn who wouldn’t shut up. The bear would take a few steps and put his nose up to test the wind. The numbness in my butt was gone as I slowly planted my elbows into my knees and drew the Browning .30-06 caliber rifle into my shoulder. The bear was broadside and slightly facing uphill when I touched off the rifle. I hoped the 150 grain Core Lokt bullet had found it’s mark. The bear ran uphill about 25 yards, spun around and headed back down into the dark brushy abyss below. Brush was cracking and snapping and there was a roar and all was quiet. Gary and I waited a few minutes and listened intently for movement or anything. Nothing.

Gary said, “I’ll wait up here for awhile and let you get a head start, then I’ll come down behind you.” Now those were some comforting words. Somebody had to live to tell the story. But, he was dead right. It was my bear, my shot, my responsibility. I just hated the idea of crawling down in the hawthorn tunnels looking for a potentially wounded bear who was now waiting for me as the day light was soon coming to an end. I chambered a round and started peering into the brush where I thought the bear was last heard. I hunkered down and started to duck-walk in places. I covered 10, 15, 20 yards along the bottom of the draw and then I heard Gary, “Tod, I found him. You past him back here.” Lucky for me, the bear was out cold and on the other side of a log when I walked past him! I could’ve been toast.
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photo by Gary Lewis
Gary went to get more help as the sun disappeared. With help from the Garnett and Warnock families, it took us another couple of hours to get him out of that draw and back to the ranch.
The bear was carved up and provided lots of great eating. The inches of fat on its back and hind quarters were melted down in a pot, poured through a cheesecloth and into an empty coffee can. The next morning it was solid white like a can of Crisco. Apples were picked and the lard was used to make killer double-crusted apple pies! I left most of the meat for the families to make bear sausage. I took a quarter home to make kalua bear and we roasted some in Chinese sweet BBQ char siu marinade to make bear manapua. Both dishes were ono-licious!
That was another great busy action packed weekend. Thanks Aunty Bitsy!
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and some folks think I have big paws…

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