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My DIY Idaho Bear Hunt Story
By: William Cherek
Ever since I started hunting, a black bear hunt was high on my priority list. However being a resident Wisconsin hunter this meant I could wait up to 10 years for a tag with no guarantee. Over the last 5 years of my hunting career I fell in love with western hunting, the #publiclands #DIY #Built2Hunt #huntfit movement fit my personality and lifestyle. I already spent considerable hours in the gym, so I adapted Kenton Clairmont’s “Train to Hunt” and Built 2 Hunt’s articles to my fitness regimen.
Through a friend I was invited to join a fall gun bear hunt in the Nez Perce National Forest region of Idaho, eight days in the backcountry spot and stalk hunting. I had never bear hunted before, so I jumped at the opportunity. Months of preparation and research ensued, Steven Rinella and his various books on wild game preparation, YouTube videos from Randy Newberg, onX Hunt Maps, Built 2 Hunt Training articles and Train to Hunt fitness programs all played a crucial role in my preparation.
The drive from Wisconsin to base camp was long, around 30 hours or so, coffee and trail mix helped pass the time. Once we arrived we setup a base camp with the intent to pack in further as needed. Several days with very few black bear sightings ensued, but as group we stayed focused and kept on searching. Having two years of unsuccessful elk camps in Colorado under my belt, I knew what I was up against and the mental and physical fatigue I would face.
It was on the afternoon of the 4th day when I found success. After an entire day glassing with no results I had begun a rocky four mile hike back to base camp. In short order I crossed paths with a 300lb sow black bear at a much closer distance than I had imagined. All the training and mental preparation took control and the bear was harvested quickly and effectively, so quickly that it took all night to mentally process the magnitude of the situation. I had found success in the Mountains of Idaho, I was shaken with excitement for days afterwards.
The quartering out of the animal was a learning experience, somewhat like an ungulate but loaded with FAT! I couldn’t believe the sheer amount of fat present on this fall bear. Having read Steven Rinella’s book “Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game” I had planned to pack out the fat for cooking and skin care purposes back home. Once quartered, with moderate difficulty, a partner and I were able to fit the entire animal in two separate packs.
The packout was one of the toughest experiences I have endured. While it was only four miles back to camp, the steep terrain and never ending darkness made it feel like triple the distance. I learned quickly I should have purchased that Mystery Ranch Metcalfe pack I had flirted with for months, my old High Sierra pack wasn’t designed for the task at hand. I also realized why a lot of the western hunting experts take more than one trip, less brawn more brains. Nonetheless we made it back to camp after about eight hours. The trip ended with two bears harvested in our group, a success overall with plenty of unforgettable memories.
Be sur to follow Will's story on Instagram: @bcherek123