Technically, I guess you could say I have been on a black bear hunt before. But those hunts consisted of carrying around a bear tag in my pocket while I was chasing elk. This year, I got serious and planned a black bear hunt using a predator call. I’m originally from Missouri, and I spent a lot of time predator calling. Using a predator call to summon bears seemed like an obvious hunting tactic to me. I am not sure what everyone else thought about it, however.
Is A Solo Black Bear Hunt Crazy?
This year my family moved west to Missoula, Montana. I was on a personal mission to harvest my first Montana black bear. I read a few articles on using predator calls for bears and spoke with the great folks at the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks office. They seemed surprised when I inquired about calling. They asked if I knew that there were Grizzlies in Montana and followed with something like, “You do realize they come to those same calls, don’t you?” The more people I spoke to, the more obvious it became that calling bears is not something many people do here. Honestly, most people thought I was a crazy to be hunting solo AND calling for bears, not to mention that I was deep in Grizzly country during the springtime.
Maybe I was a bit naive to the risks, but I wanted to expand my options beyond traditional spot and stalk bear hunting tactics. I spent the late winter months pouring over Montana bear harvest statistics, researching calling strategies, and scouring Google Earth and OnXMaps. I put my plan of attack together and narrowed my focus to a good-looking bear area. There was a problem with this area, though. It had some older small logouts, but was lacking the big sprawling slides and meadows where I would traditionally glass for bears.
Maybe a solo black bear hunt is crazy, but I like to push the limits. I think a little crazy is good.
The Hunt Begins
The last week of May arrived, and I drove up to my area. The snow pack was receding, but there was still some at the higher elevations. I drove to the edge of the snow pack and headed in solo for the first day of my Montana black bear hunt. Day one was more of a hike and ended up pretty uneventful. I did not see any fresh signs of black bear, but was instead seeing far more Grizzly scat. The visibility and glassing options were even more limited than I originally thought. The logged areas were more grown up than they looked on Google Earth, and were not very conducive to spot and stalk hunting. It was only the first day, but I will admit, it was a little discouraging.
On day two, I decided I to hunt lower in elevation where the grass and vegetation was more lush. Day two started out much like day one. I was not finding a lot of black bear signs. The visibility was still very limited, but there had to be black bears in the area. What did I have to lose? I was ready to try my predator calling skills. I had practiced over the winter months and was confident the area had everything a bear needed. I walked down an old logging road until I found a small logged area. I found an elevated spot where I could see 360-degrees.
Calling In The Bear
Honestly, I was more than a little nervous. You are basically setting yourself up as prey when you call bears. Unfortunately, electronic calls are not legal in Montana, so I had to use a mouth call. This, of course, eliminates the ability to place the call away from me, making me even more uncomfortable. But, I had come to kill a bear, so I pressed on.
Since there were a lot of deer signs in the area, I decided to use my best imitation of a deer fawn in distress. I blew the same call for 35 minutes solid. When bear calling, it is important to keep the bears focused on your call. I kept my calling sequences solid and loud with very few breaks. Blowing a call for 30 minutes straight is actually much tougher than you might think. I believe one of the biggest mistakes hunters make is not calling long enough and not calling loud enough. If you’re uncomfortable with the frequency and the volume, you are probably doing it just right.
I managed to call in several deer which gave me the feeling that my calling was effective. The deer hung around the entire time. I was literally out of breath from calling and was just about to stand up. I had put my call away and was reaching for my pack when I saw a pitch black bear on a dead run, coming straight towards me! He was probably just over 150 yards away and closing fast.
No Time For Error
I remember being amazed with the agility of this bear. He was jumping over logs and brush piles with ease. I was impressed with his stealth and dexterity. He made no sound, and closed the distance to about 50 yards, stopping and looking straight at me. He knew exactly where the call was coming from. I was sure he saw me get on my knees and pick up my gun. He began to scan the log out and noticed the deer.
At that point, the game was on. I knew I was undetected, the wind was perfect, he was coming from the direction I had hoped, and at 50 yards, I could hear him breathing heavily. After a few brief moments, he continued his run straight at me. I centered my scope on his chest. He was now within 25 yards. I had no choice. I had to take a frontal shot. I rolled him over backwards with a 200-grain bullet from my Ruger 338 Win Magnum. He took the shot but somehow got up and kept running. Now he was quartering towards me. I hit him with another shot at an uncomfortably close distance. It was over.
Coming Home Moment
I sat there for a several minutes, trying to wrap my mind around what had just happened. I love being in wild spaces and my passion for hunting runs deep. Over my years, I’ve had a fair amount of success, but this time was different. We had only been in Montana for a couple of months, and this felt like a coming home moment for me, like I was finally where I was born to be. I sat there, alone with an absolute brute of a Montana bear feeling truly blessed to be exactly where I was at that moment.
My First Solo Hunt Living in Montana Was A Success.
If you’re an adventure seeking adrenaline junky, you may have just found your drug. I can’t remember many hunts that matched the level of anticipation and adrenaline rush of this black bear hunt. Hunting solo and predator calling in Grizzly country is not for everyone. But, those were the cards I was dealt, and I was ready to accept the risks.
Successfully calling black bears is more practical than many might think. Bears are opportunistic predators and they’re not known for passing up many free meals.
This hunt was perfect! Bear meat has quickly became the preferred wild meat in my family. Now the pressure is on for me to fill the freezer with wild organic bear meat. I’m already looking forward to next season.