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The story of a do it yourself coastal grizzly bear hunt:
Ever since I started hunting, the grizzly bear was at the top of my list for my dream hunt. I have always been in awe of the top of the food chain, king of the North American forest grizzly bear. To say this grizzly bear hunt started with driving to the Bella Coola area of British Columbia would be largely incorrect. This in fact was my fourth grizzly bear resident draw in BC and to until this point I had not even seen one while hunting for grizzly bear. The timing was either too late or too early, or I was hunting in fall when I should be hunting in spring and so on.
This year would prove to be different beyond imaginable, this would be the hunt and animal of a lifetime. This success of this hunt was beyond what I could ever expect and I could never have done it with out the fantastic team effort from my hunting partners Randy Engh, Chris Dyck, and HBC members "Ike" and "Srupp".
As we arrived in the area I drew my tag in the Bella Coola area of British Columbia I could not help but be taken back from the breath taking scenery. The steep mountainous valley is quite the incredible view, some people from the prairies might feel clausterphobic from the mountains constantly hugging you but I find comfort those rugged mountains. Along on the hunt were 2 of my regular hunting partners, Chris Dyck and my Father In-law Randy Engh. Hunting coastal grizzly bears alone could prove to be disastrous considering all the stories of being mauled by grizzly bears we heard about from locals. Another common theme from the locals we were hearing is that this valley is a particular hard hunt due to the thick forest, steep mountains, and no shooting area 400m off the highway centering the valley. This fact was something we came to terms with quite quickly. Most of the hunt-able areas in my zone were showing no signs of grizzly bear, the odd black bear sign was appearant but I was beginning to thing I had timed this hunt wrong once again or something drastic had happened to the bear population.
We decided to stop in and speak with some locals to see if they were willing to give some advice. It was very helpful and affirmed much of the important aspects of spring grizzly hunting such as waiting till last light for the big boars and working the likely feeding areas that have grizzly sign. After that encouragement it gave us a second wind to continue pounding the areas we thought would hold a grizzly bear.
There was one drainage in particular that was very thick with small open feed pockets that had some grizzly sign and we hammered that area by walking miles in the morning and evening. By the fifth day we were a little discouraged as we did not see any new grizzly sign since we first came into this area, and up until this point we had only witness one black bear which is very slow for BC bear hunting. Soon that discouragement morphed into enthusiasm as there was fresh grizzly scat and tracks walking the very same trail for miles that we were hunting day after day. Those grizzly tracks led us further into the drainage and once I saw this natural slide loaded with vegetation I felt a feeling of promise. As the afternoon sun was at his highest we decided to head out slowly. Nothing was found on the way out.
Back at camp after lunch I had this overwhelming feeling of upcoming success. I said to Chris and Randy "I feel like tonight will be our best chance of the trip to get a grizz and we need to go back in there again for the dusk hunt". It would be our last hunt on the last day of the hunt but I for some reason felt confident we would be successful on that evening. I wanted to say "guys, I guarantee you we will get a grizzly bear tonight" but I did not want to jinx our chances. As we drove as far as we could before we started our lengthy hike in, optimistically I brought my meat pack and Chris' camera gear as I thought this was it. Two hours later we were watching the slide we discovered earlier that day as dusk began to set in so did the disappointment, my hunting partners were almost having to drag me away from the spot as they did not want to walk in the pitch black in grizzly country so I reluctantly decided to walk out so we could be at the truck as soon as shooting light dissipated.
On the way back I was thinking we were too noisy to see a bear as the grown in alders were rubbing against us, and in particular my meat frame pack every step of the way. No sooner than I said those words to myself I heard Randy say "Justin a grizz" I was in disbelief thinking my father in-law was playing a joke on me. Randy pointed me in to the tree line where there was a grassy swampy feeding area with a big grizzly looking broadside. I could not believe it. The grizzly bear was approximately 50 yards off our walking trail totally careless to our existence. Then all I could say to myself was "That's a big round head". The crack of my hand loaded 200 grain Barnes TSX bullets exiting my .300 Win Mag Weatherby Vangaurd rifle were not even audible to me. The bear was hit but not dead, it worked its way into a depression and was not visible but the roaring was unforgettable. Chris was walking a little bit a head of us so when he heard the first shot he fired up the camera and doubled back into feeding patch. The large boar continued walking out of the depression and I continued shooting from approximately 40 yards away, I did not want this beast to get out of sight for a tracking job on a grizzly through thick brush is not desirable. I also wanted the quickest possible death for this magnificent animal. It was not until the fifth shot entered the chocolate coated monster that is could be pronounced dead. Now for the opposite of ground shrinkage, this bear kept getting bigger as time went on.
At first we thought this bear would be a seven and a half footer but when we rolled it over I realized his pumpkin head was something special. The dream of harvesting a grizzly came true for me and it could not have been with a more magnificent animal. A true coastal British Columbia monster grizzly bear. We took lots of pictures then began the work of skinning as dusk and helicopter sized mosquitoes were falling on us. We were almost finished but decided we better get out of there before it was too pitch black. It was a long walk back to the truck in the dark with our headlamps. I was emotionally and physically spent and I knew tomorrow would be a tough task to pack that hide and head out of this drainage. We told one of the locals "Ike" that had been in contact with us that we harvested a grizzly bear and showed him the pictures. He was impressed, we told him where we were going to be pulling that bear out of tomorrow. At first light we were back at the kill site, luckily no animal came to destroy this trophy of a lifetime. We continued to finish skinning the beast and flesh the hide as best we could. This spring bear was quite fat and stinky.
To my hunting partner's surprise we folded up the hide and put it into my pack. Now for the hard part, the long hike out with this approximately 300 lbs hide on my back. I managed to walk at least an hour out with this monster on my back when we heard a vehicle running up ahead. Randy ran as fast as he could and to our delight "Ike" was there with his truck and drove us out to our truck. I was exhausted and my shoulders were quite sore but we were finished the hardest part.
We measured the hide with the skull in and it squared 8'6". We were all blown away, like I said this bear kept getting bigger, we did not know what we had. We packed up camp and started making our way home but along the way we had to stop off and show the prized trophy bear to "Srupp". It was nice to see one of the best grizzly hunters in BC impressed at our harvest. He was now the second grizzly expert to predict a Boone and Crockett record in this bears future. The last stop of our journey was made at Ray Wiens' taxidermist shop. Ray Wiens (778-241-0208) was very helpful and accommodating to me willing to work on this bear on short notice. Ray was also impressed at the trophy bear. The skull on this bear green scored 25 14/16."
The skull was officially scored on 2010-08-13 by an official Boone and Crockett scorer at 24 13/16" placing it almost an inch larger than the required 24" score needed to make the all time Boone and Crockett book. I cannot believe this happened. Everything came together perfectly for this hunt and harvest to happen. Thank you very much to all who helped "Ike","Srupp", huntingbc.ca (that has taught me so much) and my hunting partners Randy Engh and Chris Dyck. A very special thank you to my supporting and understanding wife, I could not have done it without this support group nor would I have wanted to. A grizzly dream came true for me.
Posted October 29, 2013 by Justin Ott