A good night's sleep, and a day of rest did my body good. My legs were tight and we were both ready to charge up the valley. During yesterday's glassing we saw several bears including two real nice bears across the creek from camp. We also saw a bunch on what I called "far mountain" (how's that for creativity?) and a couple nice boars on Koelzer's mountain. We discussed the situation and decided to head back to Koelzer's mountain which is where I had the stalk on day 3.
The weather was fantastic, blue skies and moderate temps in the forties. Both of us cranked up the river at a record pace. We navigated deadfalls with ease and crossed the river several times before making the sharp ascent toward the bears. On the way upriver, the wind picked up sharply and the skies turned dark. In the distance, the mountains had vanished. A storm was moving our way quickly. Within 15 minutes Bryan and I were in a total white-out with bitter cold winds which whipped through our fleece clothing. Changing quickly into our rain gear to help block the winds was not enough. Bryan suggested that we find heavy cover. There was a small cove between the mountains and in that cove stood a thick willow tree. We stood downwind of that tree until the storm blew out. The landscape was now white with an inch of snow.
After the storm was over, we continued up the mountain until the sun appeared again. We stripped off our rain gear and made our way higher, above tree line. Then Bryan stopped in his tracks:
"Grizzly - 50 yards ahead."
I gently dropped my pack and moved closer to get a look. I could see the bear feeding in a draw ahead of us. The stalk looked doable and the wind was great. But Bryan needed to look the bear over some more. He eased closer and spent at least 10 minutes studying the bear. Bryan is an expert judge of bears, and when he spends this much time it usually means that it's not a shooter. Bryan slid back down the hill to me.
"I think its a big sow. The colors and behavior are questionable. I think we should pass her up." Bryan said.
I was ok with this decision. While sows with cubs are illegal, lone sows are legal but discouraged. Still, Bryan and I agreed at the beginning of the trip that we were after a boar, and a big one at that. So I was content with just getting in a position to film this beautiful grizzly as it fed on berries.
As the bear moved further down the draw, Bryan and I decided to go all the way to the peak of the mountain. Once there, another blizzard whipped in, this time much more furious than before. Snow pellets belted us as we both scrambled to get into our rain gear. A half hour later, blue skies again. Bryan started to see some really large bears on "far mountain". We counted at least 3 big boars from our high vantage point. Bryan and I looked at the time and discussed a stalk. It was late in the day and while we may have been able to stalk one of them successfully before nightfall, we would have at least a 6 hour trip back in the dark. We decided it was smarter to head there early the next morning.
We saw no more bears that evening, but we did watch a huge moose follow a cow on the opposite hillside. The weather had turned sharply colder. We headed back to camp during daylight and arrived there by 9:PM - a record for us.