05 April 2013
Spring bear and hunting red stags in New Zealand are two of my favorite spring time pastimes. During the last many years I have been on at least a double hand full of spring bear hunts across North America. I’ve been fortunate and have hunted from near the East Coast to the islands off of the northwestern coast. I’ve hunted them over bait, spot and stalk, with well trained hounds, calling with a varmint call, and even shot them incidental to hunting other big game species. I’ve shot them with rifle, pistol, shotgun slugs and muzzle-loader. I dearly love hunting black bear, or for that matter grizzly and brown bear as well. I’ve never had a desire to hunt polar bear, which is probably good because their hides can not be imported into the USA.
Several years ago I was hunting black bear on Vancouver Island with Jim Shockey, there as a guest of Federal Ammo. Our intention was to take an out-sized black bear with a 12-guage slug. Jim and I at that point had already been friends for a long time. I met him about the time he first started trying to get into the outdoor writing side of things, so hunting with my old friend I knew was going to be a blast!
Vancouver Island is home to a large population of black bear which can trace their heredity to the monstrous cave bears which once roamed western North America. About three years prior to the hunt with Shockey is when I first hunted Vancouver...a truly interesting hunt because I was met at the airport by twenty screaming anti-hunters! One of these days I’ll tell you the entire story. My tactic to dealing with them since the followed us everywhere my guide and I went, was to engage them in conversation and repeatedly tell them how glad I was there because otherwise my trip would have been “just another boring bear hunt”! I asked them about their families, about what other things they enjoyed doing, asked them if they had seen a particular recent movie. All this just caused them to be less “virulent”. I smiled at them and told them again, how much I truly appreciated their presence. Thankfully however on my trip to the Vancouver with Shockey, the anti’s were not present.
Jim and I hunted near and far from camp. We passed up numerous good bear. One ancient bear we found had a head that would have made a much larger grizzly bear jealous. But the old boar was nearly hairless. Even though both Jim and I agreed the boar would easily have made the all-time Boone & Crockett record book (21 inch minimum) I decided to pass on the shot.
Several days into the hunt we spotted a bear feeding on the edge of a clear cut area (great places to find bears because of the abundance of food these areas produced for black bear, Roosevelt elk and blacktail deer). Jim and I started out stalk, but then as we moved toward the bear we felt the wind change from in our face to at our back. He and I both took off running, trying to run faster than the wind was blowing up our back. (Think it can be done???). Actually we found out it could be done. Jim and I ran “like the wind” and actually ran about 10 yards past where we had watched the bear disappear off of the trail. When we had passed that place, we stopped and turned to face from where we had come. Five seconds later, the bear stepped out and I shot him at less than seven yards. He squared just shy of 7 feet.
This year I have two bear hunts set up, but both are during the fall, actually on the same hunt in Alaska with Clifford Smith with Triple C Outfitters. On that hunt we’ll be chasing black bear and Alaskan brown bear. The hunt will take place in August, just as sea run trout start heading into the streams. To be frank I can hardly wait. The hunt will be filmed for DSC’s TRAILING THE HUNTERS MOON, 2014 show season. And of course I’ll be hunting with my Ruger .375 Ruger, topped with a Zeiss scope and shooting Hornady ammo. And this year too, I’ll be carrying my Nature Blinds’ Larry Weishuhn Signature Stalking Shield with me to get close for a precise shot.
I also earlier mentioned red stag as a great spring time adventure. I’ve hunted “the king’s deer” during our spring in both South America and New Zealand. I love that fact that in the southern hemisphere fall occurs during our spring in the northern hemisphere, which means our spring is the roaring season for red stag, “down under”.
My last hunt in New Zealand was with Shane Johnston’s Four Seasons Safaris. I had a fabulous hunt taking several animals on his South Island property, including a very nice fallow deer, chamois and tahr...but the star of the show (which was filmed for “A Hunter’s Life” which I was working with at the time, was the monstrous red stag I shot with my Ruger Model 77 Hawkeye .300 RCM. Later this summer I’ll tell you the entire story about taking it and possibly one I shot in Austria a few years ago.
I dearly love red stag hunting and I’m looking forward when I can again chase them either “down under” or here in the northern half of the world, this time I can’t wait to use the Signature Stalking Shield.
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