Bowhunting season is a wonderful time to be in the woods. Hunting elk in the high country is amazing. Hunting around Yellowstone means you are not alone. Bears, wolves, and mountain lions are on the prowl.
The other day I was bow hunting in the Gravelly Range. The area was familiar, and I was calling to locate a bull. Since I was hunting alone, I was staying in flat, closer to the roads, and less dense areas. No elk were calling and there was little sign. The rut should be happening now.
Suddenly I heard sticks breaking and saw low pines moving. I nocked up my arrow and went to full draw. Out stepped a bear. Then a second. Both were male grizzlies. Not huge bears but bigger than me and staring at me from 20 yards away.
I pulled my handgun, stood on a log and raised my bow and pistol. I prefer a 357 magnum with the hottest bear loads I can find. Bear spray was also on my belt, but I was pistol ready. I talked to the bears so they knew I was a human.
The bears were not aggressive and just looked at me. I had called them in with my elk bugle and cow calls. They were as surprised as me to see something other than an elk. Slowly they turned and walked off the ridge and back into the thicker cover.
I did not see much bear or elk sign. No smells or tracks. The ground is hard and dry. Only a few rubs were visible, but they were fresh. Very little evidence of hunting, camps, or hunters.
Hunting alone is not a good idea. I hoped to avoid bear encounters but… My potential hunting partners were busy, sick, quit hunting, or are lazy. Other reliable hunting buddies have passed. Finding a decent hunting Wingman is tough. I still have the health and spirit to hunt but not at the risk of getting eaten.
The woods have changed. The patterns of elk are different. The predators have impacted their behavior. I am sure that protected and private range offers different stories. It seems like the elk are staying closer to buildings and watersheds where predators are fewer. Elk that lived in the bedrooms of predators became dinner.
Non-hunters are probably happy about the rise of predators. As this population continues to grow, and humans encroach on their habitat, more encounters will happen. Dogs, pets, and farm animals will start to be eaten as well. Change is certainly inevitable.
I guess I will just Grin and Bear it!
For more Montana Grant, bear with him at www.montanagrantfishing.com.