May 21, 2014
A while ago, my mom asked me if I would consider taking a friend of hers on a bear hunt.
I had to think that one over for a bit… Sure, I hunt bears from time-to-time but, can I find one for someone else? in a short period of time? a non-resident flying from Hawaii? paying non-resident license and tag fees?
I was feeling the pressure immediately. I take good friends out fishing/hunting and feel the pressure of having to produce opportunities. I cannot imagine being a guide who does it for money. That’s gotta be a lot of pressure. This was going to be different, Gary Tasaka and his wife Lucinda were very special people to my mom. It was something mom wanted me to do for them. So, this took a tremendous amount of pressure off my shoulders. NOT.
Now there are a lot of bears in southwest Oregon. So many bears that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has three opportunities to hunt southwest bears (one spring and two fall hunts). Knowing what the bears are eating is key to finding them. In the spring, bears are focused on lush green grass. Finding spots like that with bear piles in it are keys to successfully locating bears. I thought a spring hunt would be a good plan for Gary to come up and try his luck. I told him I cannot promise you a bear but, I can show you some bear piles.
I spent several days going out and scouting for bears trying to locate a place with bear sign. My first day out I found some sign and suddenly I had confidence.
One week before the hunt, I went out one last time to see if I could locate the big brown bruin or sign of him and instead I found nothing.
After a year of planning, last week Gary and Lucinda Tasaka arrived in Roseburg to go bear hunting with me. I told Gary I’d take care of the hunting items and he just had to show up with his clothes and license and bear tag. My last scouting effort left me feeling a little nervous as I didn’t really have any solid spots to take Gary. I found some potential places but, nothing that gave me great confidence that we’d be notching a bear tag at the end of the day. Gary kept telling me not to worry about it. He just wants to be in the field hunting something he doesn’t have an opportunity to hunt back on Kauai. I’m thinking hunting snipe at dark would’ve been cheaper with the same end result.
Our first day out we visited a few sites hoping to pack a bear home with us and instead got soaked in the cold rain. We sat on the edge of clearcuts broadcasting a fawn in distress call. No bear came to the call. The only thing that came was the rain. Well Gary was getting a bear hunting experience anyway and I did fulfill my promise of showing him bear piles. The next couple of days were forecast to bring more rain and cold weather so, we put off hunting until a few days later.
I still didn’t have a clue where I was going to take Gary as the alarm clock went off at 4:30a.m. We hit the road and headed for the hills still not knowing where we were going to give it a try. We made a potty stop at a restroom and I looked at my map one more time and thought about all the places I had scouted and what felt best this morning. None reached out to grab me. I just started driving again once everyone was loaded up in the truck. The daylight was already at work painting the hillsides with golds and yellows as we continued to drive down the road unsure of our final parking spot. I saw a gravel road coming up and took it. I knew it led to a quiet meandering creek with lots of lush aquatic plants and grasses along the bank. Perhaps we’d be able to find some bear or bear sign at this place. We parked the truck and tiptoed in towards the creek. We looked around and listened. Nothing. We set up to do some fawn distress calls and after about 20 minutes of listening to that annoyance we opted to split up and cover the creek in opposite directions. If nothing else, it was a gorgeous morning as the rays of sunlight penetrated the tree canopy and the early morning fog rose off the creek into the sky blue above.
I walked along the bank stopping to glass the creek bottom and the opposite timbered edge. Nothing.
I felt myself slipping into negativity. “Where do I go now? How many more places before I find some fresh sign?” and that’s when I saw it.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black figure standing above the tall green grass and it was locked onto me. I froze. It was a bear on its hind legs testing the air and looking my direction. It was about 75 yards away on the opposite side of the creek. It looked away for a moment and I ducked behind a large tree. Did it hear me, smell me or see me? The bear didn’t seem too concerned. I got my camera out and took some pics to prove to Gary bears do exist. I backed out of there and took off to get Gary.
The three of us returned to the area and found the bear again. The bear was almost covered by tall grass and brush except for the top six inches of his back. Gary got set up for a shot as I ranged the bear to be 69 yards away. Gary waited for a clear shot as the bear moved around in the grassy area. The Mauser .30-06 rifle’s safety clicked off and a few seconds later Gary pulled the trigger. The bear reacted to the shot and ran out of the grassy area into the timber stand beyond. We listened for any hint of the bear’s path and where we might find him. We waited for 15 minutes and began trailing him. Gary crossed the creek and found the location where the bear was shot. It became clear why the bear was hanging around that area. There was a cow elk killed and partially buried by a cougar. It seems Mr. Bear was scavenging off the dead cow elk and guarding the elk carcass.
There was no evidence that the bear was hit except for a small speck of blood on a log just before entering the timber. Gary and I searched the timber for a couple hundred yards with no sign of a bear. We began to think the bear wasn’t injured badly and that it had fled the county. Gary began to doubt his shot placement. After two hours we dropped down from the timber and headed back along the creek and found Gary’s bear about 75 yards from where it was shot. The bear didn’t go very far at all. We just looked in the wrong places first.
I was so happy for Gary with his first Oregon black bear and I was extremely happy that the pressure was off. However, the weight upon my shoulders wasn’t totally gone yet. We still had to pack the meat back to the truck but, I can handle that kind of pressure.