Trucks loaded and wheels rolling, we left town around 8:30 a.m. headed for the mountains of western Montana. This would be my first spring spent in pursuit of the elusive black bear.
I decided I was going to try and fill my black bear tag with my very first gun. A Marlin .30-30 I had gotten when I was a young ten years old. This gun means a lot to me, growing up in Tennessee I spent many early mornings clutching it while waiting for those elusive whitetails. Taking down my first bear with my .30-30 would be extra special. I had my rifle sighted in with HSM 150 grain Flat Points, and I was interested to see the damage they would do on a bear.
Since this was my first time out bear hunting I was trying to learn as much as I could from the rest of the hunters at bear camp. I quickly found out that black bears like fresh green grass shoots, mainly in openings or along logging roads, since they are the first to turn green. Bears need water and cover nearby, so they can get a drink or disappear quickly if need be. We finally found all of the above in a secluded basin, and that’s where we saw a majority of the bears during the trip.
After many days of glassing, we finally found a stalkable bear on an old dirt logging road. Sock footed we crept after him, adrenaline pumping. He went around a bend in the road and vanished into thin air. Still it was a great first bear encounter for myself.
On the final afternoon we spotted a nice boar in the last hour of light and took off towards him. Stalking conditions were tough though, a bunch of blowdown and bone dry sticks covered the forest floor. Twigs snapped and popped underneath our boots as we drew near the clearing where the bear was. With swirling winds the stalk didn’t go as planned. As we slipped out into the opening we had low expectations of seeing the boar. The bear had picked a good meadow to hang out in, almost impossible to kill. We accepted defeat and trekked into the dark back to our truck.
If hunting wasn’t a challenge then the reward of filling your tag wouldn’t feel as good. You’ve got to put in the time to receive a prize. Although no tags were filled, time spent in the mountains is never time wasted. Eleven bears were seen on the trip, and good memories were made. The season isn’t over yet. There’s time still for me to use my .30-30 to tag my first bear, and I plan to do so. TO BE CONTINUED…
When it comes to shooting, safety is number one. Simple and easy is key when selecting a gun for a first time shooter, and I would recommend starting with a single shot. There are many choices out there in single shots. I went with the Savage Rascal for a few reasons. One this single shot rifle the safety automatically engages every time my son works the bolt. He then has to release the safety before shooting. The single shot also saves ammo once they figure out how to operate the rifle because they really focus on making that one shot count. One other reason for choosing this gun, was the peep sight. Simple and easy to use, and it helps get him ready to use a scope.
The gun is only one factor in safety though. You as a parent have to keep a constant eye on them. If they make even the slightest mistake, make it known to them. I am extra hard on my son when he makes a mistake as far as safely handling the firearm. One mistake can be fatal, make sure they understand that. You yourself have to make sure you always treat the guns the way you are asking your youngster to handle them. Set a good example because kids are always watching.
Next, make sure to work on good shooting habits, don’t just let them shoot to shoot. Work on trigger control, squeezing every shot off. I have my son put his safety on every time he loads it, find his target thru his sights or scope. Then, when he is ready, release the safety, and last putting his finger on the trigger.
Before we get into calibers and sizes of guns, I did start my son with the old Daisy Red Rider BB gun at a very young age. Using this gun we got him used to using sights and the use of the safety. The caliber of gun your child uses will depend on the fit and how used to shooting your child is. Do not over-gun them, if the stock is too long of pull, don’t let them shoot it. You will do more harm and scare them from shooting later. Not to mention they can get hurt or hurt someone else. My son at 7 years old, is shooting my AR, because the recoil isn’t too bad, the stock fits him, and he has proven that he can handle the gun responsibly.
Finally keep it fun, make sure they can hit the targets and see their hits. Shoot N C targets are great for this if you are setting up paper targets. The self healing bouncing targets are great, they last forever and can be used just about anywhere. Varmint hunting is my favorite target practice for kids. It shows they can do everything you have taught them and at the same time that the gun can be fatal. Teaching a healthy respect of firearms at an early age is critical to their experience with firearms down the road.
We are fortunate enough here in Montana to have resident black bear tags over-the-counter (OTC). Black bear hunting is one of my favorite hunts of the year. You see lots of game, find sheds, and get to enjoy glassing black bears in the pleasant spring temperatures. Over the past two seasons I’ve found that these five steps were keys to finding bears in the spring.
1) Find where bears live. – In the springtime bears that come out of hibernation primarily feed on green grass. Figure out where the first spots to turn green are in an area. Old logging clearcuts, open faces surrounded by timber, south facing slopes, and old logging roads are great places to start. One key is to make sure that adequate cover and water is available nearby. Bears typically inhabit these areas away from the presence of humans so be looking about 1-2 miles from the nearest access point or roadway.
2) Follow the snow line. – Many spring black bears will almost always be just below snow line where the grass is really starting to green up. The higher the snow line in your area, the higher your going to have to hike to find the bears.
3) Find the greenest grass. – You’ve picked a location, found some clearings and are up by the snow line, but still don’t see any bears. Find where the greenest and longest grass is in the area. These bears want a quick easy meal, and the longest grass is their best chance at filling their belly.
4) Search logging roads. – Old logging roads are a highway for spring bears. Logging roads that have been seeded tend to be the first to grow grass in an area. These black bears congregate on grassy logging roads and are a great place to search when looking for feeding bears. They not only feed on these roads, but use them to travel easily from one location to another.
5) Find bear sign. – Logging roads are a great place to start looking for sign. Find green grass? See multiple bear scats on the road? Your in the right place! The best way to fill your bear tag is to be patient. Find a good vantage point of the area where you have been seeing the bear sign, and wait. The best times for bear activity is first thing in the morning and last light. When I say last light, I mean the last 30min of shooting light. Somedays you will need to sit all day, just to get an opportunity. Often we have spotted bears briefly as they get up for a quick mid-day snack and are able to move closer so when they come out in the evening we are in position. Good luck out there and have a great spring black bear season!
Posted By: Travis Boughton