When a discussion turns to black bear hunting, several locations are mentioned almost automatically. Besides the obvious Canadian Provinces and Alaska, the bulk of the New England States have huntable black bear populations as do the Carolinas and Virginias. The northern most states in the Midwest also have large numbers of dark-colored bears.
There is one more section of the country that may not hold the sheer numbers of black bears as the above mentioned areas, but certainly has its share of record book animals. The West and Southwest parts of our nation also draw trophy bear hunters from all over the world.
Big bruins are common and the hunting fast and exciting on Boulder Mountain. (Photo by Greg Nixon)
One of those trophy black bear hunters is outdoor photographer and publisher of “Bearhunter Magazine,” Greg Nixon. Nixon, a member with trophy animals in both Pope & Young and Boone & Crockett record books, has spent many years learning how to consistently put arrows through big bears. His Fort Apache, Ariz., bear is one of the top 10 sows in the P&Y book.
Besides Arizona, Nixon often travels to Utah to hunt with bear-hunting outfitter, Clint Mecham. Nixon and Mecham have teamed-up before for Nixon’s Boone & Crockett mountain lion. Nixon was the first non-resident to draw a black bear hunting permit for the Boulder Mountain Unit. Last year’s black bear hunt gave Greg Nixon an opportunity for a bear the size of which he had never taken before.
The pair planned a seven-day hunt. On the first day, the dogs ran a bear leaving truly huge tracks. For half-a-day and over two mountain ridges, the hunters rode their reliable horses in pursuit of the bawling hounds. However, for some reason, that bear just would not tree.
Nixon told me that adult black bears do not climb trees because they just get tired of dealing with the dogs. Often the bear will stand its ground and fight. These fights can be deadly for the hounds and luckily, they seldom last very long. Most often the bear will be forced to go up a tree to avoid the pesky dogs.
Tries To Spot And Stalk
On day two of the hunt they left the dogs at home. Nixon wanted to spend at least one day hunting using the spot and stalk method. He wanted to find a track of a big bear, then quietly sneak to within sight of the bruin.
The next step is to work his way into a position to get an arrow into the bear. Spot and stalk, running bears with hounds, and hunting over baited areas are the three primary methods of hunting black bears.
The “spot” portion of day two was very successful. Nixon saw some nice bears, but the “stalking” part fell short and he was never able to get close enough for a shot. After hiking many miles on day two, Nixon was glad to remount the horses and turn the hounds loose for the rest of his hunt.
On day five the action heated-up. The dogs ran a solid track and treed one on a mountainside. Nixon said his horse could tell what was happening when the dog’s voices changed after the bear went up a tree. His only job was to hold-on for dear life as the sure-footed mountain horse cleared rocks and deadfall getting to the dogs.
A Monster-Size Bear
Mecham arrived at the dogs a bit before Nixon. He was yelling at Nixon to hurry up. He said it was one of the biggest bear he had seen in years. Nixon looked up a tree and saw a rather small bear. “It’s a cub!” Nixon exclaimed. “It’s a monster! Get over here, now!” Mecham screamed over the bawling hounds.
Nixon scanned the tree a second time. This time he saw not one, but two small bears. “Clint, it’s a pair of cubs!” he yelled. It was obvious now that they were looking in two different trees. Nixon found the cubs while Mecham found a sow of positive record-book proportions.
Both hunters stood there looking at a truly world-class black bear, knowing neither of them could do a thing about it. You see, in Utah and all other states and provinces that allow bear hunting, it is illegal to shoot a sow who is with cubs. It does not matter if the cubs are suckling or if they are a year old. If they are still with mom, she is safe from hunters.
Face To Face With Bruno
With a level of disappointment and understanding, Mecham gathered the dogs and lead them off over the rise. As Nixon stood there for one more photograph of the huge bear, she stepped down from her perch and stood 10 yards, face-to-face, from the defenseless hunter. He was only 25 feet from a black bear with cubs. All of the bear horror stories he had ever heard flooded his mind. Was this the moment of truth all bear hunters dread? — no it wasn’t because the big sow turned, gathered her family and lumbered off down the mountain. Nixon mounted his horse shortly after he stopped shaking.
On day seven, the last day, the dogs ran a hot track. It was a big track, too. Not huge, but plenty big enough to satisfy the hunters on the final day of the hunt. After about two hours of hard riding the hounds treed. When Nixon got to the tree with the bear he was thrilled to see that it was a red bear. Red is one of the most sought after color phases of the black bear.
Greg Nixon is a bear hunter in the purest sense of the word. This is one of many record-book bruins he has taken with bow and arrow. (Photo by Tom David)
Red AND Big
According to Nixon, the black bear can be black, gray, chocolate, cinnamon, blonde or red. He has seen only a couple of red ones and had never had a shot at one. This one was not only red, but it was big as well.
The tree was thick and they were standing on a 45-degree angle mountainside. Nixon had a tougher than usual time picking a good shot. Shot placement on any bear is critical, but a treed bear is even more dangerous. A wounded bear can do a lot of damage to hounds in its last few moments of life.
Nixon’s shot was good as the Boulder Mountain bruin was cleanly harvested.
To reserve your bear hunt in the Utah mountains, contact Clint Mecham at 435-679-8761 or write to him at Scenic Rim Trail Rides, P.O. Box #58, Tropic, Utah, 84776.
For a fine selection of Big Game Hunting gear, click here.
For a fine assortment of Archery gear, click here.