Idaho Bear Trip in the Clearwater National Forest

Day 1 on Knifes Edge first encounter
I had a chance for a bear right at dark (9 pm) on my 1st day on Knifes Edge after being in the stand about 5 hours. 1 mamma bear with two year-old cubs. The two cubs were about 125lbs each, mamma about 350lbs from what Jose (guide from El Salvador and prior Army) said. Another hunter has encountered this family and the cubs climb the tree with him and the mamma bear tried to knock the climbing ladder down while he was in the tree. Not sure why he didn’t shoot her or something. He made it out so evidently he made the right choice.
The bear family shows up around 9 pm and the two cubs were hitting the bait but the mamma stayed obstructed from view and couldn’t get a good kill shot on her. This terrain is so drastic you have to pay attention where you shoot the bears and where they are gonna fall or possibly run. (Impossible to track and could lose the bear). I’m assuming she winded me and slowly began to move into an area I could’ve taken a shot but didn’t want to shoot her on that side of the Mtn. Expecting she would return and hit the bait, I passed the shots and watched the cubs continue to eat.
2 min passed no signs of momma bear and I get a little nervous thinking she spotted me and is gonna clover leaf on my position. Then the cubs scampered in her direction with a piece of bread in their mouths. Well damn, I thought they for sure got my scent and was gone. About that time in a tree directly south of me, I heard climbing and it scared the crap out of me, at this point I have to stand and try to look around my huge pine tree I’m up in and harnessed to and try to see with just a small amount of light left. It was so fast how the mamma and cubs got up that tree by the time I saw where they were I was eye level with them. I can’t take a shot I have no clue which bear is which at this point and couldn’t actually maneuver myself into a shooting position anyway.
Normally, this would be the time (dark) I get out and try to make my way down the mountain but I’ll be damn if I try to do it with 3 bears in the tree that close. Every noise I made you could hear the momma bear getting more and more pissed because I don’t think she knew where I was exactly as I’m completely blocked from their view unless I try to peak around the tree. So I sat my ass down and turned on my comms radio (protocol) when you have a bear down or are coming off the mountain. I try comms to my pickup driver but no answer, so I’m in no hurry to get out of the tree at this point being my first ever encounter with bears and it getting so dark you can barely see your hand in front of your face. So, I sit down and listen to them. I’m sitting here with a Remington 700 .300 WinMag and my backup sidearm with a 15 round clip and I can’t really do a damn thing. Nature puts your ass in check really quick in these surroundings.
The sounds were like they were sawing and chewing on stuff and I could hear them climbing higher. The cubs, I learned, will climb all the way to the top of the tree and eat the tip of the tree off for digestion purposes. At this time, it’s about 10:30 pm and the fog is rolling in on me like pea soup and I can’t see anything and it only makes me more anxious, trying to figure out how I’m gonna maneuver down the mountain. I finally hear a voice yell for me from a distance and I respond that I’m in a predicament with 3 bears in the tree directly behind me. He responds he will go get more people to come help with the bears.
Well, needless to say, the yelling only freaked out the bears even more and I could hear mamma bear again getting really pissed at this point. So there I was, stuck 25 feet in the air in a tree on a mountain. I just kinda laughed under my breath with a exhale of “you gotta be shitting me right.” Lmao!!
It was 12 am when my crew finally returned and got up to where I was. I let them know from a distance where the bears were in the tree, but had no vision as I could barely even see the headlamps through the fog. Jose and Mark, two of the guides who track this mountain (hats off to these guys, holy shit) all the time (brutal terrain or at least this bait sight) got up to me and I got everything together and got out of the tree. Finally, we made our way down the mountainside rather quickly. Even with the terrain, at one point, I was sliding free fall as I lost my footing in the descent eventually getting my footing and now close enough to one of the climbing ropes we made it back to the foot of the mountain.
Relieved for sure is a understatement when I got to the vehicle. Day one was supposed to go differently, but they say if you wanna hear God laugh, tell him your plan. Ours didn’t match up this day, but I’m thankful He got me down from that mountain, that’s for sure. Fast forward the past two days in the same tree, I haven’t seen anything else come in yet. 12 hours in the stand day two got to bed at 12 am and back in the stand day 3 at 4 am for what will probably be an 18-hour sit. That would be 38 hours in the tree in 3 days. I’m not complaining because the views and being here in this Big country is a true honor. Words and pictures can’t really describe how unbelievably beautiful God painted this canvas.
As I’m sitting here typing, dipping Grizzly, and hunting Black bear, I can only picture the mamma bear chilling watching me from the top of the mountain. Hopefully, she’s hungry for the peanut butter, chocolate, bread, or grease at the bait site and not a hunter out of place from Kentucky/Texas. Hope my aim is true!!
Semper Fi’d I remain
Chad Calvert
GySgt USMC Retired
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