Jim's Outdoor Blog

Hunting, RVing and Great Escapes – Everything Outdoors

Bushnell Trophy Cam HD

Bushnell Trophy Cam HD black caseBushnell Trophy Cam HD camo caseBushnell Trophy Cam HD security box
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

If you are still looking for or thinking about a trail camera, I just bought this one.

It was a tossup between this one and DLC Covert Red 40. My most reliable camera has been the DLC Covert II (discontinued model), so it was hard to buy something different. What finally made me choose the Trophy Cam was the reviews and the warranty.

Bushnell Trophy Cam HD

This is the camera I just bought.  I looked online for hours and hours, and this is the best price I could find. They may have the lowest retail price in America – http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-2012-Bushnell-Trophy-Cam-8MP-HD-Video-Scouting-Game-Stealth-Camera-119437C-/200875665540?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item2ec51f6884

Bushnell has a two year warranty, as compared to one year for the rest. I read some hunting forums and guys ranted and raved about how good Bushnell’s service department is to deal with. No questions asked – they either repaired or replaced for 2 years, without whining.

There are a ton of Bushnell cameras on the market, from various years. It is easy to think you have found a particular model, $50.00 less than another site, but, you may be looking at a less expensive model or a different year. The one I just bought is the 2012 HD model; not to be confused with the HD Black, or simply Bushnell Trophy Cam – without the HD, and … the 2012 is different and improved from the 2011. The one I am talking about takes 3, 5 and 8 megapixel photos and the video records with sound. At $156 with free shipping, it may be my least expensive camera, but, their technology seems to get cheaper every year.

Reviews

http://www.trailcampro.com/staffpicks.aspx

http://www.gamecamerasreviews.com/

Metal Security Box for the Bushnell camera – the box protects the camera from elk and deer horns, bears teeth, thieves and weather – best price I could find online – http://www.ebay.com/itm/SECURITY-BOX-FOR-BUSHNELL-TROPHY-CAM-CAMERA-ALL-YEARS-2012-2011-2010-2009-NEW-/150858282819?pt=US_Camera_Camcorder_Accessory_Bundles&hash=item231fdab743

Master Lock, Python cable lock – this is the type of lock we use in the woods. On private property, you could just use deck screws or lag bolts and attach the metal box to a tree. You can just use bungee cords if you aren’t worried about theft or damage – http://www.walmart.com/ip/Master-Lock-8417D-3-16-in-Adjustable-Cable-Lock/19869873?findingMethod=Recommendation:wm:RecentlyViewedItems

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January 13, 2013 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws, Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such, Smile - You're on My Trail Camera, Turkeys, Grouse, Pheasants and other Feathered Critters | Leave a comment

The Buffalo Bear of Mt. Ashland

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The Buffalo Bear / Oregon’s Best Archery Bear – Ever

 

They say records are made to be broken.  Oregon bow hunter John Souza blasted his state’s 20th Century records, raising the bar for archers in the new millennium.  With an official score of 21-12/16, John’s bear is the largest bear taken with a bow in the history of Oregon, surpassing the record set by Ray Cross in 1989.  In fact, only one rifle hunter has taken a bear with a bigger skull. The bear that formerly held the number two slot was taken in 1900!

 

John is the owner/operator of a dive shop in southern Oregon, specializing in teaching underwater skills.  He stays in shape by spearing fish, playing cat and mouse with Dungeness crabs and prying shell fish from barnacle covered rocks in the frigid waters of the Pacific.  But that’s his “day job”.  For recreation he trudges up, down and across the rugged mountains of southwestern Oregon.  Armed with a stick and string instead of a spear and net, the prey he seeks is a bit larger.  Having spent decades pursuing elk, deer and black bear, John is an accomplished archer.  And gentlemen, he is fortunate enough to have a spouse who not only enjoys hunting, but she is his biggest competitor. 

 

While scouting public land in the rocky, dry terrain of Oregon’s Applegate Unit in Jackson County, John discovered a waterhole containing an elk wallow.  Located in a transition zone on the side of a large canyon, at a point where the timber (coniferous trees) meets large patches of oak trees, an active spring is almost impossible to find in this arid country.  Famous for its late fall and winter rainy season, the northwest is generally bone dry from July into October.  Only a small number of creeks and springs have water during the late August through late September bow season.  While deer are hiding from the sun this time of year, cow elk endure their estrus cycle and crazed bulls wear themselves thin.  John knew he had a real gem when he found a wallow, encircled by a large quantity of elk, deer and bear tracks.

 

On the morning of September 20, 2008, John parked his truck on the mountain long before the sun chased away the night.  He had a two mile downhill, side hill and uphill trudge in pure darkness to reach the waterhole.  Swirling winds forced him to journey well below his destination before making a straight-line approach, causing even more walking.  About 6:30 a.m. he sat with his back to a large oak blow-down, just 22 yards from the elk wallow and the main game trail.  Situated comfortably, he nocked an arrow and waited for light to come peering over the crest of the mountain.  The air was cool and crisp, a perfect morning to harvest a big bull elk.

 

By 7:00 a.m. the shooting light was adequate and John decided he would attempt to get things rolling with some calling.  Hoping to appear as two different animals, he first sounded off with a calf call, followed immediately with an imitation of a cow elk mewing.  After three or four sets of calling there was a loud snap from the breaking of a heavy limb, just 100 yards into the brush.  Having no doubt the sound was caused by the movements of an elk, John prepared to shoot.  Thrilled he may fill his elk tag so quickly, he gave two calf elk calls, “just to say hello”.

 

That did it!  He heard the animal running toward him.  He could see the movement of legs at ground level, moving quickly, causing his adrenalin level to rise a bit.  That was when the confusion began.  Rather than hearing a grunt, mew or bugle, John heard a “woofing” sound as the animal approached.  When it cleared the brush and was suddenly facing directly toward him, standing motionless at the waterhole, John’s brain was thrown a curve ball. 

 

His mind was in high-gear attempting to comprehend the information being uploaded by his eyes.  For the life of him, John couldn’t understand why a buffalo was at the wallow.  His thoughts kept repeating, “Buffalo.  Huh? What the heck…?” until suddenly the hard drive between his ears slammed to a stop and exclaimed, “BEAR! Not a Buffalo!  Bear, Really BIG Bear!”

 

It was extremely tall with long legs and a head that looked too big for the open end of a five gallon bucket.  There was a large hump on top of his neck and shoulder area, making him look even larger.  He was so immense he simply didn’t look like other black bears John had seen.  Danged if he didn’t look like a buffalo standing there ready to fight.

 

With an expression of anger on his face, disturbed there were no elk to be had for breakfast, he “woofed” a couple more times and drank from the waterhole.  John said there was plenty of time for him to calm his nerves.  He thought about the nice bear rug in his home, and the long standing agreement with his wife, that he would not shoot a bear unless it was much bigger than the one in their house.  He laughed to himself thinking, “I believe this bear will qualify.  She wanted bigger…”

 

John began making a mental checklist in preparation for the shot.  The bear slowly stepped forward and as luck would have it he turned to his right and stood broadside.  Fixed at full draw, John waited until the buffalo’s…bear’s left front leg went forward, fully exposing his rib cage.  Depressing the trigger on his release, the string of his Matthew’s Switchback bow sent an Easton T-LOK broad head silently through the 18 yards of airspace between man and beast.

 

When the arrow entered the bear’s body, he turned his massive head toward the entry site, snapping and popping his teeth, at the same time charging forward at full speed.  The bear was now heading straight for John and he braced for a collision.  John said he placed his bow in front of his body and for an instant he wondered how badly he would be hurt by the wreck that was about to happen – a wreck with a very big, very much alive and extremely angry giant of a black bear.  A fraction of a second before he slammed into John, the bear inadvertently veered to his right, avoiding the crash.  The hunter was breathless.

 

Running just over 150 feet, the bear stopped and began looking around, primarily focusing on the waterhole.  One can only imagine what this predator, the king of this mountain, was thinking.  He was now 52 yards from John.  Limbs and branches created an extremely difficult if not impossible follow-up shot opportunity.  But, good fortune stayed with John.  The bear stepped out from the tangled mess and forged ahead.  The second arrow hit solidly in the main body cavity and the bruin ran over the top of the ridge and out of sight. 

 

Both arrows had passed completely through the bear.  The first was covered with frothy blood and the second with rich dark blood.  Using his cell phone, John called his wife and some friends.  He knew an animal this size, over two miles “downhill” from his truck, was going to require the assistance of as many folks as he could muster for the event.  He returned to his truck to secure his archery equipment and wait for backup.

 

Finding the bear’s trail on brick hard, stone dry ground was not easy. A bear’s thick coat of hair and heavy layers of fat often absorb or block blood at an injury site.  Before finding a clear trail, the hunter and support group spent thirty minutes on their hands and knees attempting to locate blood sign or tracks.  Leave it to a woman, Kim Souza discovered the barely perceptible droplets of blood that put them on the bear’s escape route. 

 

Once over the crest of the ridge the bear ran about 80 yards to an old skid road, then turned and travelled down the mountain at a steep angle.  Approximately 250 yards from the location of the second shot, the searchers found scuff marks leading off the skid road and up a steep bank.  The monster of a bear had collapsed about fifteen yards above the old roadbed. 

 

John said the bear was so heavy he was barely able to raise its head off the ground.  With the help of his wife, John Gilbert and Dave Heryford, they utilized a two wheeled game cart and actually got the animal to the truck intact.  This feat required five and half hours of strenuous labor. 

 

After field dressing, John Souza’s bear weighed 389 pounds.  Bear experts say you can attain a bear’s live weight by adding 18% to the field dressed result.  Doing this, we can estimate the big boar would have tipped the scales at 460 pounds as he was crashing towards John like a locomotive.  Nose to tail he measured an incredible seven feet – three inches and his front pad was eight inches across! 

 

When John Souza sent me pictures of his magnificent trophy, I had to chuckle.  Looking at the enormity of this critter with an unusually large hump on his neck and shoulders, I wholly understood why this bear will forever be known as “The Buffalo Bear” of Mt. Ashland.  Congratulations John!

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws | 4 Comments

Riverside Lodge in Manitoba, Canada

Black Bear, Whitetail and Waterfowl Hunting in Manitoba

Although I have not met face-to-face with Gildas Paradis, he is one of those people you quickly feel you’ve known for years.   I stumbled onto Gildas’ website (http://www.huntriverside.com/) while searching for black bear guides in Manitoba.  I emailed him with some questions and that began an email dialogue.  I found him to be as warm and personal as the words written on his website inferred. 

Gildas and his wife Joanne operate the lodge and outfitting business year round.  Fishing, guided hunts for bear, deer and waterfowl and ensuring their guests are comfortable and well fed, is certainly a full time job.  After viewing their site and conversing with Gildas, I wouldn’t hesitate to book a trip to their lodge.  I know Gildas would gladly supply references for whatever activity interests you.

If you like to look at photos of big deer and bear, and see bird harvests as large as “the good ole days”, check out their website (http://www.huntriverside.com/).

September 2, 2008 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws, Hunting Stuff | 7 Comments

Russia’s Version of the Grizzly

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Lords of the Taiga

Siberia is home to some of our planets largest bears.  Recently three Americans experienced the excitement and thrill of a winter hunt in the remote wilds of the former Soviet Union.  Searching for bears in subzero temperatures and knee-deep snow presented these hunters with a unique and memorable big game adventure.

Russia is an enormous country with immense tracts of untouched wilderness.  The opening of its borders has created an amazing opportunity for outdoorsman from around the world. 

Much of Russia’s diversity of wildlife is contained within Siberia.  Encompassing 75% of Russia’s overall landmass, Siberia is truly vast.  A person standing on the beach in Maine is closer to Moscow than a person on Siberia’s eastern coast.  Although Siberia is larger than Canada, it holds only 23% of Russia’s human population.  Three out of four Siberians reside within urban communities.  Those living in isolated rural areas are primarily nomadic herders, farmers or hunters. 

Permafrost covers nearly two-thirds of Siberia and winters are brutally cold.  In the eastern town of “Omyakon”, the temperature has been recorded at -71 degrees Celsius. 

Holding one-fifth of the Earth’s fresh water, Siberia’s Lake Baikal is the largest fresh water lake in the world.  Four hundred miles long and sixty miles wide, the lake is fed by 336 rivers and streams.  Lake Baikal has more endemic species of plants and animals than any lake in the world.  The area surrounding Lake Baikal and the neighboring “Taiga” region, are home to the Eurasian brown bear.  Known for generations as “Lords of the Taiga”, this bear is revered as Russia’s national symbol.

Also known as the Mid-Asian Brown Bear, it should not be confused with enormous coastal brown bears, like North America’s Kodiak.  Siberia’s giant Brown bears are the same species as those found in Alaska.  The Eurasian Brown bear is a smaller inland species, which can grow to a weight of 550 pounds and a length exceeding seven feet.  Like the North American Grizzly, these bears can be ferocious.  Although they would rather avoid human contact, they have a reputation for being a dangerous and menacing animal. 

In January 2005, three lucky Americans traveled to the Taiga region in search of this fierce and beautiful animal.  Their journey would be one of the greatest adventures of their lives. 

Taking part in the hunt were Rick Brophy, Joe Sebo and Wade Derby.  Wade is the owner of Cross Hair Consulting and has booked hunts for clients to destinations around the globe.  He had utilized his Russian contact to book eleven previous expeditions, which included hunts for this magnificent bear. 

The hunters met in Chicago and flew first to Germany, then on to Moscow.  From Moscow the group flew to Irkutsk where their translator met them.  The men were transported by automobile to the village of Oanlang, a drive of 550km by car.  The next morning Rick Brophy and Joe Sebo said goodbye to Wade, traveling to a hunting camp some distance to the north.

Wade described his comfortable accommodations in Oanlang as being similar to a bed and breakfast in the States.  Joe, Rick and Wade were among the first Americans to visit this remote village of about 1,000 residents.  Wade told me that as he walked about the village, groups of children gathered and followed him with wide grins and spellbound curiosity.  He said he could not have felt more welcome, or more at ease.

Finally the date and time of Wade’s hunt arrived at 5:00AM on the morning of January 5th.  The crisp morning air stopped the descending mercury at minus-41 degrees.  Their excursion into the Taiga wilderness began in darkness.  This far north, in January, dawn emerges about 10:00AM and nightfall arrives a mere seven hours later.  

After a five-hour ride in an automobile, the group stopped for lunch.  Then, Wade was seated in a sled and covered with animal pelts (furs) for warmth.  The snowmobile -sled caravan of five men and three dogs headed northeast across the Siberian wilderness.  As they traversed the frozen landscape, Wade had time to consider the history and solitude of their geographical location.  Mongolia is a mere forty-five minutes from their lunch stop, and China’s border was only two-hours to the south.  This was the land of Genghis Khan, home to Mongolian War Lords who in centuries past had conquered the mighty armies of Asia and Europe.  The Russian Steppes are ancient and timeless, holding great handfuls of the history of man.

The lead guide knew the location of an active bear den and steered the group in that direction.  About one hour into the sled ride, they discovered a trail with bear tracks lined out in the snow.  Gathering their gear, men and dogs followed the tracks on foot.  The three dogs, which resembled Akita’s and Huskies’, were restrained by leashes and were silent as the group trudged through shin to knee-deep powdery snow.  The temperature held tight at forty degrees below zero and Wade was grateful there was no perceptible wind.

Approximately thirty minutes into the hike they reached a small grove of trees and brush.  There was a raised mound of earth visible inside a spruce thicket, about fifteen feet directly in front of Wade.  The dogs were released and guides began speaking to one another in hushed tones.  Just to his right Wade observed claw marks on a tree.  The translator told him bears mark their den sites by scaring trees in this manner. Wade stepped behind the bear marked tree and brought his scope-less Russian made CZ75, .308 caliber rifle to the ready, bracing it on his hand and the tree’s trunk.

Almost immediately a dog began barking, announcing the presence of a bear.  Wade saw a vague impression of movement at the mound and heard a low guttural growl.  It was the bear, charging across the mound toward he and the guides at full speed.  Wade fired into the bear’s chest.  Almost simultaneously, two additional gunshots added to the blur of excitement.  Before Wade could function the bolt and fire again, the enraged bear stopped and fell nose first into the snow, only eight feet from his boots.  Wade said this nearly instant burst of time, transpiring in the blink of an eye, would be etched in his mind forever.

The second and third gunshots were fired by two of the guides, each attempting to halt the charging bear.  Only one of these bullets connected with the bear, striking a hindquarter.  Upon field dressing the animal, they discovered the round fired from Wade’s rifle had basically split in half.  A portion of the bullet had entered the bear’s heart, with the other half driving upward and penetrating the base of the skull cavity.  That was certainly a stroke of luck for Mr. Derby.

Due to subzero temperatures, the guides rapidly field dressed the bear, made their initial skinning cuts, and quickly loaded it onto a sled for transport. When they arrived in the village the bear was taken to a heated building in order to complete the skinning and to process the meat.  Experienced hands boiled the skull and salted the hide, preparing both for the long journey to America.  Wade said the guides were true professionals in their care of his magnificent trophy.

Wade’s bear weighed approximately 502 pounds, was nine years old, and measured 7′-2″ from nose to tail.  The skull was somewhat damaged by the bullet, but still measured approximately 21 inches.  Were it not for the damage, they estimated the skull would have scored 23 or 24 inches on the B&C scale.

Rick Brophy of Oakley, California and Joe Sebo from Atlanta, Georgia, each acquired their own Taiga trophies.  Joe’s boar measured approximately seven feet, and Rick’s was slightly smaller, at six feet long.  All three men spoke highly of the guides, and marveled at their knowledge and experience. 

Hunt Logistics

If you would like to book this hunt, or any of the thirty-six different hunts Wade can arrange in Russia, you can reach him at: http://www.crosshairconsulting.com/.  Wade explained some of the relevant issues and governmental requirements to me, and offered some advice.

Hunters can use their personal firearms in Siberia, but, Wade’s Russian contact arranged for he and his hunting companions to rent firearms in country.  Due to the short distances involved in this particular hunt, riflescopes should be removed and left at home.

The trip from Chicago to Oanlang took about 36 hours, which included a seven-hour automobile ride from Irkutsk to the village.  Wade told me there were no hitches or unexpected difficulties in their travel arrangements.  He strongly recommends spending the night in Moscow upon arrival in Russia.  This will provide an opportunity for site seeing and the chance to rest up.

Bears can be hunted in the spring, fall and winter, inland and along the coast.  The huge coastal Brown bears can be hunted on Sakhalin Island and the Kamchatka Peninsula, which is actually very near to Japan.  These bears sometimes measure an incredible 8.5 to 10 feet from nose to tail.

Some of the species available to hunters are Ibex, Snow Sheep, Marco Polo Sheep, Moose, Maral (like an Elk or Stag), Izuber (similar in size to a Tule Elk), Caberge (Siberian Musk deer or Fanged deer), Wolves, Wolverines, Black Grouse and Capercailzie – a turkey sized member of the grouse family.  These hunts range in price from around $800.00 to as much as several thousand.  In January 2005 the base cost of the Eurasian brown bear hunt was $4,500.00, which included all actual hunt expenses inside Russia.  With travel, the hunt experienced by Wade, Rick and Joe cost approximately $6,500.00.  When compared to the cost of hunting Grizzly bears in Canada or Alaska, or hunting the Alaskan Brown bear, this trip is quite affordable.

There are several certificates and clearances required by the Russian and U. S. governments, including a travel Visa and a CITES permit (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).  You must carry a copy of your hunting contract and Russian hunting license with you when returning to the U. S., as the bear will be traveling home with youThe guide must prepare a document written in English, which fully explains how you lawfully harvested the animal you are returning home with.  Wade has connections and practice to ensure each of these necessities is acquired, including a travel agent who arranges all international flights.

Mr. Derby strongly suggests hunters learn some Russian words and phrases.  He said he was thankful he had purchased a Russian phrase and wordbook, saying it was quite helpful while in the village.

Noting the differences in our cultures, these men suggest hunters should remain open minded.  The historical significance of the trip was not lost on Wade.  When speaking of his Russian experience, Wade said he felt it was a genuine privilege to hunt in Siberia.  In fact, he is making plans for a return trip in order to hunt bears in the spring of 2005 and Marco Polo and Ibex in the fall of 2007.

All in all, these hunters felt this was truly their trip of a lifetime.  Wade, Joe and Rick will always treasure their personal encounters with these “Lords of the Taiga.”

April 1, 2008 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws | Leave a comment

Trail Cameras, The Modern Way To Scout

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Trail Cams – See Who’s Coming to Dinner

 

You’ve been waiting and planning the better part of a year.  The boss approved your vacation request eight long months ago.  Your wife told you that if you don’t stop talking about it, you would be living in your tent until hunting season opens.  This year, with two full weekends and five-workdays you have a total of nine-days with no job related responsibilities.  But, with drive time and camp set-up, you will have only six days in the field.  There isn’t a moment to waste. 

Who wouldn’t want to know the size of an animal and when it actually utilizes a specific trail or feeding area?  How much money and effort would you expend for that information?  With the advent of digital photography, manufacturers are making the solution more affordable and reliable every year.  Trail cameras can save your vacation and your hunt.

These devices are called by a profusion of names, such as trail cameras, stealth cameras, scouting cameras, trail sentries and recon cameras.  You can still purchase trail cameras that use 35mm film.  But, manufacturers are focusing on digital cameras.  You don’t even need a computer with many of the latest models. 

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife uses trail cameras to help them determine the number of animals in a particular area, thereby aiding them in animal population estimates.  Dave Immell is a biologist assigned to ODF&W’s Roseburg office.  He showed me several photographs of bears taken in the Cascades, by means of trail cameras.  Their  cameras are placed along trails utilized by bears and other wildlife. 

Some newer trail cameras have a built in photograph-viewing screen, allowing you to see and delete photographs without removing the camera or digital memory card.  Most modern cameras are designed to allow the owner to view photographs on a television screen.  I especially like the idea of this feature.  I nearly always have a television in camp so my friends and I can view daily film footage, watch films from previous hunting trips, or be entertained by professionally made hunting tapes.  This trail camera feature would allow everyone to view hunt related photographs in camp.  And finally, some systems utilize a removable digital camera.  This means the camera can be placed inside the trail cam case, or used at home as a family camera. 

Trail cameras are not complicated.  They utilize a PIR sensor, a type of motion detector that uses invisible infrared light to detect movement.  If you’ve ever observed the cloudy white or gray plastic cover at the base of a motion detection light, that is the housing for the PIR sensor, which operates the motion sensitive outdoor light.  Be sure the trail camera you purchase uses a PIR sensor that requires both movement and body heat to activate.  Otherwise, every falling leaf or limb bobbing in the wind will activate the camera’s shutter. 

Josh Johnson, one of the owners of Spot-Hogg Archery equipment, lives north of Eugene.  He has been operating trail cameras for several years in western and eastern Oregon.  He and a friend built nearly thirty trail cam units at home.  Josh said they use about ten cameras at a time and each of them has hundreds or thousands of wildlife photographs.  They acquired many of their trail camera parts from Pix Controller (http://www.pixcontroller.com/). 

Josh was a wealth of information.  He told me he has owned several name brand trail cams and each of them have positive features and particular problems.  One of the biggest concerns is battery life and the battery system utilized by a manufacturer.  With some models the batteries will last only about one week, even if no photos are taken.  Some will only work at very close ranges, reaching the limit of their capabilities at around 20 to 25 yards. 

Also, you want the quickest camera shutter speed you can find.  If you are constantly getting flank shots or nothing but close-ups, that may be related to a slow shutter speed.  Buyers must ask questions and look for retailers who have answers to specific equipment questions.  Go online and read everything you can find.  Visit “Trail Cam Pros” on line (http://www.trailcampro.com/) to read reviews of most retail trail cameras .  Lets face it, trail cameras can be expensive, some cost more than $600.00.   Do your homework.

Be careful how you affix your camera to a tree.  In addition to being concerned about theft, you have to consider that a curious bear may try to rip it off the tree.  While cable locks such as used on bicycles, will work really well in the woods, one of the biggest problems are curious bears moving them around on the tree.  If that happens directly after you placed the camera, you could lose many days of valuable preseason scouting.  Josh suggests you place long wood screws above and below the cable on either side of the box.  This will prevent the camera from sliding from side to side or up and down.  Be sure to remove the screws from the tree when you relocate your camera. 

Do not place your camera at a 90-degree angle to a trail.  Once the animal activates your camera’s shutter, he could be out of the lens view if you place the camera in such a manner.  Place your camera looking down a trail at a slight angle – facing the direction from which you believe your game will come.  In that way, unless the animal is running, you will get a photograph of its approach.

Ensure your camera isn’t facing directly into the sun for part of the day.  Have you ever tried to take family photos with the sun in your face?  It doesn’t work.  Place the camera facing north or south, or under a canopy of heavy tree limbs or tall brush. 

It is imperative that objects are removed from your cameras shooting lane or line of sight.  Leaves or fern branches warmed in the sun and then moved about by wind will activate your PIR sensor.  Also, hanging brush or branches may partially hide the body of the animal walking toward your camera.  Take a pair of brush clippers or a machete with you when scouting the location for your camera.

You will reduce the problem of bringing attention to your camera if you buy one with an infrared flash, rather than a standard white light.  Josh said bears and elk are more likely to damage the camera if it has a standard flash.  A bright flash of light suddenly blinding them on the trail could be enough to prevent animals from using that trail for some time.  In my limited experience this has not been a problem, the bears, deer and turkeys I have photographed paid little attention to the flash.  But, animals survive by avoiding things that scare them or which they cannot understand.  Keep in mind that high quality color photographs are more difficult to capture with infrared. 

Consider placing the camera at or near a favorite source of food.  When spring bear hunting, consider placing your camera in areas with tall grasses and perhaps skunk cabbage.  In the fall, put the camera near berry patches or on trails leading to those delicacies.  Where I hunt, bears use creek beds as travel routes in the fall.  Blackberries often grow along creek beds and they can be busy animals highways when the berries are ripe.

Josh Johnson lives and hunts in Oregon.  He said he has photographs of coyotes, cougars, playing bear cubs, big bears, and great bucks and bulls, all because he uses his cameras several weeks or months per year.  He told me the quality of his photographs has dramatically improved with experience. 

My grandfather wouldn’t believe the hunting devices we take for granted in the 21st Century.  I’m certain he would be astonished to learn that while we are sitting at home watching a ball game or sleeping soundly in our beds, miles away our digital trail camera is making a permanent record of bear, deer or elk going about their business at our favorite hunting locations.  I urge you to take advantage of every means possible.  Make the most of your vacation before it arrives.  Get a trail cam and see who’s coming to dinner.

March 29, 2008 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws, Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such, Hunting Stuff, Smile - You're on My Trail Camera | 5 Comments

Cougars, Too Close For Comfort

jim-gaskins-and-his-cougar-taken-in-the-coast-range-sm.jpgofficer-matt-sherwood-holds-cat-killed-on-the-porch-of-a-house-where-it-had-killed-a-dog-sm.jpgthese-three-cats-killed-168-lambs-sm.jpgp7100001-sm.jpgJim and his Sept 1, 2007 cougar (400)

Cougars Cause Damage and Create Fear on Ranches

I want to state up front that I believe cougars are magnificent animals.  Their power and hunting prowess makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck, and at the same time holds me awestruck.  Our great outdoors would be far less interesting without them. 

As you read the following, I would like you to consider that cougars are not an endangered species.  Their numbers are increasing by…”leaps and bounds” (pun intended).  And, I truly value the welfare of most humans over cougars.  Whether you agree or disagree with the point of view I espouse in this writing, I’d bet everything I own, that if your life or financial well-being were threatened by a predatory lion, and the problem could be remedied by killing the offending animal, you would say, “Fetch a shovel Jim.  We got a cat to bury.”

As I wrote down my thoughts, I stood higher and higher on my soapbox.  But, in my world of human contact, most folks would agree with what I’ve written here.  Please remain mindful of this certainty; no one loves the wildlife and landscapes of the west more than those who make it their home.

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Springtime means long days and sleepless nights for hundreds of ranch families across Oregon.  Looking like cotton balls that have magically come to life, lambs are born in pairs or triplets.  Playful calves and colts frolic in the sunlight and multicolored goat kids discover their voices.  Twenty-four hours is too short a day for ranchers who are busy acting as a midwife and day care provider to an enormous number of four-legged mothers and babies.  Unfortunately, during this time of prolonged chaos, killers are stalking their broods, hell-bent on destroying their livestock.  For ranch families, healthy livestock equates to their yearly wages. Across the west, coyotes, bears and cougars kill thousands of young ranch animals each year.  I am sure all parts of the country have depredation on livestock by wild animals, but I am most familiar with problems in my home state of Oregon.  Cougars have become an everyday topic in our part of the world.

One small rancher outside of Sutherlin, Oregon lost 168 spring lambs to three young cougars in less than one week.  His family had been in the sheep business on the same ranch, for three generations.  After multiple back-to-back years with extensive lamb depredation, the family had finally reached their limit.  With a total loss of nearly 200 lambs in a single season, the financial losses were too high.  More than sixty years of tradition came to an end.  Their remaining livestock was sold and their lives were forever changed.

Problem cougars and other predators are a full-time job for a small division of our government.  The jobs performed by these wildlife specialists are nearly unknown by the majority of Americans.  Where I make my home, Douglas County has three fulltime predator control officers, employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

Spring is their busiest season.  Working six and seven days a week, requests for their service vastly outpace their ability to keep up.  Using hounds, traps and outdoor skills, they are sorely tested by marauding lions, powerful bears and wily coyotes.  Stretching from the Pacific Ocean to east of the Cascade Mountain Range, Douglas County encompasses over 5,000 square miles of sparsely inhabited mountainous terrain.  Simply stated, in the spring, three men are far too few for any real success.  These fellows work year-round, but spring is their most hectic period of the year. 

Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODF&W) has regional offices around the state.  One southern Oregon regional facility is located in Roseburg, my counties seat of government.  As an outdoor writer and ODF&W volunteer, I have spent many hours speaking with their staff of wildlife biologists. 

As an agency, ODF&W has worked hard to overthrow a successful 1994 ballot measure, which outlawed the use of hounds (and bait) in the pursuit of mountain lions and bears.  Oregon’s wildlife agency had difficulty dealing with predator issues prior to 1994, but in the aftermath of ballot measure 18, the problem has steadily worsened. 

In trying to make some headway, state officials have instituted liberal lion hunting seasons.  Oregon hunters pay only $14.50 for a cougar tag and can seek lions twelve months per year.  If a hunter harvests a cougar, he or she can go to any licensing agent and buy a second tag.  To my knowledge no other state allows cougar hunting every day of the year, and allows the taking of two cats.  So far this change has had little if any impact. 

Calls to law enforcement reporting lion sightings in Oregon towns have become routine.  Many missing pets have been preyed upon by lions.  I have heard dozens of “close contact” stories.  It seems nearly everyone has a cougar incident to tell of.  I’ll share one with you. 

A  couple of years ago my neighbor was working on a gate just off the road running past our properties.  I stopped to visit and he asked if I had heard about the cougar he ran off.  I had not, so I listened intently as he relayed his encounter from the previous afternoon. 

Busy working at his gate he suddenly heard a vehicle horn honking.  He looked to the sound and saw a school bus stopped in the road at the next driveway down, a few hundred feet away.  The bus driver was frantically waiving for him to come to her.  With shovel in hand he immediately began walking toward the bus.  He could see his neighbor sitting in her pickup, parked in the driveway adjacent to the stopped bus. 

As he got close to the bus he could see the driver was standing and pointing toward the ditch on the buses passenger side; the side of the bus where precious cargo steps out to the street.  He looked in the direction the driver was gesturing and was shocked to see a cougar standing low to the ground in a crouch, looking as if it were ready to pounce.  The lion was frozen in place like a statue, his gaze fixed on the bus door.  He said the lion was so intently concentrating on the doorway, he hadn’t noticed the human standing only forty-feet to his right. 

My neighbor said he began pounding the shovel blade on the pavement and yelling loudly, “Get out of here!  Go on!  GET!” This had no initial impact on the cougar.  Stepping toward the lion yelling and banging the shovel, the cat finally looked at him, but would quickly redirect his eyes back to the closed bus door.  Finally the cougar hissed and growled at him, turned to its left and with a couple of bounds or leaps it was over the fence and out of sight.

We can only surmise this cougar was waiting for the seven-year old girl who lived at this rural address to dismount the bus.  Is there another explanation?  This girl’s mother couldn’t think of one.  Even though their home is over one dozen miles from her school, this young lady no longer rides the bus.

When lions turn from deer, elk and rabbits to the slaughter of domestic livestock and pets, they discover an easier way of getting a meal.  A poodle, beagle, house cat, lamb or young calf is much easier to overtake than swift and powerful wild animals.  The only way to prevent future attacks; is to kill the offending cougar.  People sympathetic to the animals cause should volunteer to have the lion relocated to their own backyard, placing their families, neighbors and pets in jeopardy and not someone else’s.

The problem is often compounded by the fact that most of our citizenry live inside large urban areas, places generally unaffected, or certainly less affected by this issue.  When dealing with predators on federal lands, the problem is worsened further still.  People in Boston, Philadelphia and New York have input on how problems are solved in backyards thousands of miles from their land of concrete, black top and steel.  They can’t handle massive crime, poverty and other afflictions in their communities, yet they feel qualified to comment and even make demands about the ways in which western ranchers should deal with wild animal attacks.    

Sixty-eight percent of Oregon is federally owned public land.  Ninety-five percent of Oregonians live on only five percent of its landmass.  Some counties consist of more than 8,000 square miles, and have fewer than 10,000 residents.  Their land use and wildlife issues have no hint of similarity to those faced by folks living on our eastern seaboard. 

This problem isn’t going away.  In the past few years several people have been attacked, even killed by mountain lions.  In Oregon, I believe our government will eventually overthrow the will of the urbanites and allow hunters the ability to use hounds to harvest cougars.  Government officials function within a “damned if I do or don’t” existence.  Western families are longing for a solution to this sometimes-terrifying problem.  Until then, for some western families, cougars will remain too close for comfort.

March 27, 2008 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws | 5 Comments

Spot and Sneak Hunting for Black Bears

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Spring Bear – Spot and Sneak

I love to bear hunt.  Living in Oregon provides me with the possibility of taking up to four bears each year and the potential to hunt for up to seven and one half months.  With nearly thirty thousand individual bears and no slowing in their population growth, these liberal seasons and tag numbers should remain in tact far into the future. 

In the fall, bear season extends from August 1st through November 30th in eastern Oregon, and from August 1st to December 31st in the western regions.  Most spring hunts are six to eight weeks in length, extending from April 1st through the middle of June, depending on the location.  If the allotment of spring bear tags is not sold for a particular area, hunters can sometimes purchase an additional bear tag.  Where I live and hunt in Oregon’s southwest management units, hunters can purchase two fall bear tags over the counter, apply for one spring bear tag and potentially acquire a second SW Unit spring tag.

What’s the catch?  Why are seasons so long and tag availability so high?  Oregon’s urban dwellers represent over 95% of the state’s population and reside on less than 4% of the landmass.  In 1994 a powerful anti-hunting group spent tens of thousands of dollars on a campaign to deprive hunters the use of bait and hounds for bear hunting (and cougar hunting).  Their efforts were successful and voters readily passed Ballot Measure 18.  Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODF&W) vigorously protested the ballot measure, but to no avail.  In the aftermath of Ballot Measure 18, bear and cougar numbers have radically increased, creating a continually worsening headache for ODF&W and for large and small livestock ranchers throughout the state. 

Spring bear hunting is my preference for many reasons.  Hides are in their best condition of the year.  Animals are thinner, which makes for exceptional eating.  And, after months of clouds and rain, camping and hiking in the mellow springtime weather cures my cabin fever. 

To visualize the coastal mountains of the Northwest in April and May, “think green”.  Folks living east of the Pacific Coast Range Mountains, including my fellow Oregonians, are generally unaware that in a typical summer there is little or no rain from July through October.  But chisel it in stone; it rains from late October through June.  In fact, it may rain 50 to 70 inches in eight months.  The bulk of this watery deluge falls from the sky in the four months from November to February.

This area has one of the most temperate winter climates in North America.  The thermometer rarely dips below freezing throughout the rainy season.  In late fall and winter, daily high and low temperatures may vary only five or six degrees, sometimes less.  With a constant borage of clouds and rain for months on end, you can expect highs of 45 to 50 degrees and low temperatures from 40 to 45.  A result of this moderate climate is that some grasses, lichens, mosses and other vegetation are green all year. 

When rays of sunshine penetrate the clouds in March, there is an immediate explosion of plant growth.  Just when hungry bear, deer and elk need a protein rich food supply the most, Mother Nature provides a bounty of “green”. 

The climate of Northeastern Oregon is dramatically different.  With mountains ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 feet in elevation, snow blankets the landscape for several months per year.  With a much more arid climate, forested areas do not have the immense underbrush of the western rain forests.  This makes for open timber and vast mountain meadows. 

East of the Cascade Mountains, bear numbers are highest in the extreme northeast section of Oregon, especially those mountain ranges along and above the Snake River drainage.  The Eagle Cap Wilderness outside Joseph, Oregon and the rocky peaks near Imnaha, have dense bear populations, as well as bighorn sheep, mountain goats, mule and whitetail deer and elk, and of course there are plenty of cougars..

I live on Oregon’s far west side and usually hunt within 20 miles of the ocean.  Season kicks off on April 1st and extends to May 31st.  I often make short camping and scouting forays beginning about the middle of March and I have began the use of trail cameras.  With my ATV, video camera and a comfortable lawn chair, I spend many hours glassing clear-cuts and walking along grass covered antique skid roads. 

On March 27th in 2004, four days before the opening of my season, I videotaped a very large coast bear.  I’ll estimate his weight at approximately 400 pounds.  This bear was sleeping in the warm spring sunshine about 440 yards in the distance, on the opposite side of a steep canyon.   The drop-off beneath my perch was so steep; the napping bear was nearly straight down below my feet.  I watched and videotaped him for about thirty minutes.  The bear eventually woke and grazed his way out of my line of sight.  Although I worked hard to find this bear after April 1st, I never saw him again.  But, I took a really nice five-year-old boar on April 22nd.  This wasn’t the largest bear I’ve killed, but he certainly provided an exciting and memorable hunt.

The first week of season was unproductive.  I was hunting on public land about 60 miles from home.  In years past I was often the lone hunter in this area, but in the first week of April 2004 I encountered a dozen or more hunters.  Sharing the mountains with new, first time bear hunters was a double-edged sword for me. Bear hunting alone can be a bit dangerous, and somewhat lonely after a week or ten days without conversation.  Many hunters stopped by my camp to visit or to ask directions, and I enjoyed the company.  But, since all Oregon bear hunting is spot-and-stalk, their boots touched the same ground I’ve always had to myself.  I saw a few bears at great distances in the bottoms of steep canyons, and heard unpleasant stories of men lobbing rounds at bruins who were 600 to 800 yards from roadways.  After about one week I went home empty handed.

On April 20th I was back in the same camp, determined to fill my tag.  Nearly all the hunters were gone and the mountains soon returned to their normal springtime rhythms.  Unfortunately the weather was cold, windy and rainy, making my job difficult at best.  But, on April 22nd the sun broke through the clouds and temperatures rose into the 70’s.  As if someone had opened the gate to an enormous holding pen, the mountain’s critters were out in force.  In a matter of a few hours I saw deer, elk, strutting grouse and three black bears.

About 6:15 p.m. I found myself checking an old clear-cut on a dead end road.  I intended to leave my vehicle at the edge of the clear-cut and slowly walk and glass the area until dark.  Just as I reached the clearing I observed a bear eating grass on an ancient skid road on the far side of the canyon.  The bear stood behind a rocky outcrop, which lies beside the road.  As he grazed I could see the upper inches of his back and I saw his head when he raised it to survey his surroundings.  He had no inkling of my presence.

My laser range finder showed the bear was 406 yards from my truck.  My rifle was a Remington Model 700/BDL in Winchester 300 Mag., with hand loaded 180 grain Sierra BTSP rounds, which leave my rifle at 3,050 fps.  This gun and ammunition is certainly capable of a 400-yard shot, but attempting this feat under these conditions is irresponsible and unrealistic. 

As I’ve written many times, the under story of brush in the coastal mountains is extremely thick.  Grasses, vines, leafy plants and young trees cover the ground from the soles of your boots to far above your head.  Canyon walls are very steep.  It can take hours to retrieve an animal from a mere 300 yards off the roadway.  If you shoot a bear with less than instantly lethal results, it will charge into the foliage and head straight to the bottom of the nearest canyon.  This bear stood on a narrow hogback ridge with nearly vertical canyon walls to it’s left and right.  It would soon be dark and my chances of recovering a wounded bear would be from poor to nil.  I decided to exit my vehicle and walk to the bear. 

I knew if I walked to the top of the canyon, the road horseshoed around a rocky point and would lead me directly to him.  It took about fifteen minutes to close the distance and when I arrived at the location in which I’d seen the feeding bear, the wind was in my face and I was standing on six to twelve inches of new green grass.  My walk had been in virtual silence.

Stopping about 60-yards up hill from the rock outcropping I’d viewed from the opposite side of the clear-cut, I was surprised to discover I couldn’t see the bear.  Instantly I worried he had seen or heard me and had gone into the depths of the canyon.  Thinking about the wind direction and my slow and silent approach I couldn’t see how that was possible.  With these thoughts racing through my mind, I decided the bear must be close and was simply feeding just out of my line of sight.  I knew I had to be patient.  I would move a step or two closer to the branches of an eight-foot Douglas fir tree on my right and wait. 

As I took my first step, gravel on the old roadbed quietly crunched under the sole of my right boot.  The sound was nearly imperceptible to human ears.  About forty yards in front of me and to my left, the boar leapt into the roadway with the agility of a cat.  I was truly shocked at the sight.  The bear had been standing behind a large old-growth stump and the faint sound of my movement had caused him to literally spring into the road and look in my direction.  Fortunately he was as surprised to see me as I was startled to see him and he stopped broadside, momentarily frozen in place.  I raised my gun and planted him in the roadway with a shot that parted his heart and the tip of his right lung.  I stood there dumb founded for several seconds, attempting to grasp what had just taken place. 

With some minor brush removal and a little work with my chainsaw I was able to drive my truck to the animal.  I took a number of photographs before field dressing the bear.  I backed my ATV into the bed of my truck and utilized its wench to draw the bear up the loading ramps and onto the tailgate, making this the easiest bear recovery I have ever had. 

I was about twenty-miles from camp and darkness was setting in as I turned around to leave the dead end of this horseshoe canyon.  As always, I took a moment to soak up the scenery and the experience.  The mountain on which I was driving is twenty-five to thirty miles from the nearest town, and my camp was in the opposite direction.  I hadn’t seen another human being all day and I was surrounded by some of the most ruggedly beautiful scenery in our nation.  Alone in the timber with a great black bear in the bed of my truck, I genuinely felt I must be one of the luckiest people on earth.  At the risk of sounding corny, this type of experience causes me to stop and think about how fortunate I am to live in America and have the ability and freedom to enjoy the independence and quality of my life.  I will always treasure the memory of this SW Oregon spring bear hunt.

March 20, 2008 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws | 3 Comments

Oregon’s Bear Tracking Program

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Where Sleeping Bears Lie

Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, Dave Immell, has been gathering ‘bear facts’ for over sixteen years.  He is the lead supervisor for Oregon’s “Bear Den Project” and works tirelessly to gather information for the betterment of Ursus Americanus.  Upon learning about the existence of this program from ODF&W biologist Clayton Barber, I telephoned Mr. Immell and he agreed to let me tag along on a field outing.  On March 3, 2005 I accompanied Dave and two other wildlife biologists, Jacob Kercher and Zach Turnbull, on a trek into the forests of Oregon’s Cascade Mountain Range.

The Cascades extend throughout Washington, Oregon and northern California.  Some mountains in this volcanic chain have elevations stretching from 9,000 to over 14,000 feet.  Its tallest peaks are recognizable across America and around the globe.  Most common among these are Washington State’s -Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier, Oregon’s – Mt. Hood and northern California’s – Mt. Shasta.  The general topography of the Cascade’s will vary from 2,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level.

Our destination that morning was a mountainside about forty miles northeast of Roseburg.  During the drive from his office, Dave explained how they go about locating a sleeping bear within this enormous geographical area.  With a topographical map in hand, an ODF&W employee rides shotgun in a helicopter.  The pilot flies over the general area in which a bear had been released wearing a transmitter affixed to a sturdy collar.  Each transmitter is programmed with a broadcast signal assigned to an individual bear.  Using receiving equipment, a biologist waits for a signal and directs the pilot’s movements until the animal is pinpointed.  The biologist simply marks the bear’s location on the map.  On the ground, Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management roadways are utilized to drive as close as possible to the den site.  Using this technique, anyone possessing the map and an appropriate receiver, should be able to find that particular bear and its den.

Upon our arrival on the mountain, Dave dawned the portable tracking equipment and quickly located a signal.  The men determined our best approach, and off we went.  Walking cross-country in the Cascades is difficult.  The terrain is rocky, steep and laden with fallen timber.  Thankfully the bear’s den was relatively close to our starting point.  It took only an hour to reach the site.  But, naturally, we were forced to hike up and over several ridges in our journey down the mountainside.  The forest in this area is comprised of fifty to one hundred-year-old Douglas fir trees.  This was one of the driest and warmest winters on record in Oregon, so although there was no snow to contend with, we were forced to make our way through some islands of heavy brush.

Dave, Zach and Jacob could easily have a second career as tightrope walkers in the circus.  Rather than slide and slip to the bottom of deep ravines, they high-wired across them by walking on the trunks of fallen trees.  I was dumbfounded to watch Dave as he crossed these logs, some of them thirty or more feet above the ground.  He was wearing earphones, carrying a chest pack containing the receiver, holding an antenna above his head with one hand and concentrating on the directional meter he held in his opposite hand.  Jacob and Zach, both aged in their mid-twenties, ran from one end of these logs to the other, and then leapt off onto the nearly vertical slopes of the ravines.  I held my breath and teetered along, praising my good fortune when I reached the earth some 50 to 100 feet from where I started.  

Ultimately we located the den site.  With no previous invitations to the winter home of a black bear, I’m not sure what I had expected.  I knew it would not be a two-story condo in the wilderness, but I was somewhat surprised at the rudimentary nature of its choice for such a long nap.  The bear’s den was found under a fallen tree, on the upper edge of a deep gully.  The tree was quite large, possibly 42″ to 48″ in diameter.  Covered with moss, salal and ferns, it was obvious this old-growth fir tree had met its fate many years prior to our arrival.

The wad of upturned roots was still firmly attached to the base of the tree’s trunk.  Just in front of this root-wad, moving toward the top of the tree, the bear had dug under the log.  Belying the size of its animal creator, the entrance to the open space under the log was no more than an eighteen-inch oval.  Dirt was pushed upward against the log for approximately six to seven feet down its length.  On the opposite end of this earthen/log structure was an elongated opening only one-foot high and two-feet wide. 

One of the men hurriedly removed his backpack and lodged it into the entrance at the root-wad.  From the opposing end, Dave shone the beam of a flashlight inside the pitch darkness of the den.  Peering over his shoulder I could see the movement of black hair only inches from Dave’s hand.  Fighting an initial reaction to back away, I was fascinated to be no more than three feet from an adult bear, who was very much awake and aware of our presence.  Straining to see further into the dark recesses of the den, I moved in closer.  Suddenly a small nose, muzzle and face appeared within our view.  Thrilled beyond description, I knew there was an adult female and at least one yearling cub inside the den.  Both exits were blocked with backpacks and the biologists set about preparing injections, which would safely immobilize the bears.  I attached my video camera to a tripod and began filming.

Dave told me this sow had been wearing a tracking collar for over ten years.  Her health and status as a mother had been checked in each of the previous nine winters.  In 2004 they discovered she had given birth to two healthy female cubs.  The men had hoped to find both cubs with her on this visit in 2005.  Dave explained the missing cub was more than likely killed by another bear or maybe even a cougar.  There were other possibilities; she may be alone in a different den, she could have been struck by an automobile or died from some other mishap or accident.  But, the single highest cause of death for black bear cubs is being killed by an adult male bear, perhaps even their own father.  Male bears will sometimes kill cubs hoping the female will then become amenable to breeding.  But generally, they kill cubs in order to consume them. 

Chemicals were carefully measured and placed into syringes.  The syringe tubes are affixed to long poles enabling biologists to reach into the den.  The cub was injected first and was quickly napping peacefully.

Attempting to get a fix on the female’s location, Dave removed the backpack on the root-wad end of the den.  In order to look inside, he had to lay prone and push a flashlight forward into the tiny cavern.  Just as he got into position the adult female decided it was time to leave!  In spite of Dave’s presence in the small oval exit, she lowered her head and charged forward.  Dave scurried backward to get out of her way, slamming to a stop with his back against the root-wad.  Mother bear turned to her right and ran a short distance into the brush.  I was standing only a few feet from Dave.  When the bear was out of sight he turned to me with a wide grin on his face and said, “Well now.  That was a bit of a surprise.  I guess she isn’t sticking around for the show.”

Zach was able to pull the forty-pound cub from the den only ten minutes after the injection had been administered.  He carefully laid the forty-pound cub on a folded tarp.  Within seconds, Jacob placed a salve on the tiny bear’s eyes in order to prevent dryness and to make it more comfortable.

At this point all three men were busy with well-practiced tasks.  Dave removed a collar and transmitter from his pack and set about placing it on the cub.  Zach retrieved a journal of sorts, making required entries related to the morning’s events.  Jacob completed a form where he noted the frequency of the collar’s transmitter and other necessary data.  Assisting one another, Zach and Jacob affixed identifying tags to the bear’s ears.  For these men, it was just another day at the office. 

Its mother did not abandon this youngster.  Throughout the fifteen to twenty minutes we spent with the cub, the sow was never far away.  Dave kept track of her with the receiver, which showed she moved back and forth in a half-moon pattern on the mountainside above us.  It was a bit eerie hearing her move through the brush no more than fifty yards from our position.  For me, her presence simply added to the excitement.

Without transmitting collars, bear’s movements are invisible throughout their habitat.  There are over one-dozen bears wearing tracking collars within this general study area.  Dave told me this cub would be located and visited once a year.  Potentially, the cub would be visited every winter for the remainder of its life.  Critical information gleaned by this project, is simply impossible to gather by any other means.  The biologists will know at what age she first has cubs of her own.  They will know the age, sex and mortality rate of her offspring.  Knowing how far bears travel from their place of birth is critical to determining their need for space. 

Bears are solitary creatures, primarily living within a loosely defined geographical location.  Their intrusions into the home range of another bruin can be lethal.  Now, in the 21st Century, available space is limited for all wild animals.  Knowing the number of bears which can coexist in a specific region is crucial to the determination of hunting seasons, timber harvests, certain recreational activities and a myriad of other wildlife related issues.  Dave Immell believes continuation of this “bear den project” is critical to evaluating the over all health of Oregon’s wild places.

With the collar in place and all required data collected, Zach returned the cub to the den.  It had begun stirring to consciousness while lying on the tarp.  Equipment was gathered and we began our uphill climb to the forest service road.  I felt exhilarated and privileged to have shared in this important endeavor.  I came away with a much better understanding of the need for wildlife research. 

I could not have been in better company.  These three biologists truly enjoy their chosen profession, and believe me; they know how to have fun.  I can’t thank them enough for allowing me to participate in this trip to “where sleeping bears lie.”

March 19, 2008 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws, Hunting Stuff | Leave a comment

No Trees Handy – Use A Hoist

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Truck Mounted Animal Hoist

 

You’ve pulled it off.  After months of running scenarios through your head and dreaming while awake and fast asleep, you have at last filled your big game tag.  The critter is on the ground, or maybe on your tailgate, and you begin searching for a suitable tree limb or leaning tree trunk from which to hang your gimble.  With billions of trees to choose from, you would think this should be a simple task.  But, the right tree is harder to find than a flea at a Frontline convention.  Ever filled an antelope tag?  How many handy tree limbs were in the immediate vicinity?

Hunters can alleviate this problem with a bit of time and not too many greenbacks.

My friend Trace Schreiner built a portable and easily store-able hoist, which slides into the hitch on the rear of his truck.  Check out the basic necessities below and look over the photos in the slide show.  The description below merely details what my friend Trace did to build his hoist.  Use your own plan and imagination.  This is not meant to be an instructional guide, but merely a way to inform you of what Trace built to make his hunting trips a bit easier.

The older you get, the more importance is given to “ease of operation”.

Parts List

Two inch and 2.5 inch square tube steel.  The 2″ slides inside the 2.5″ inch.  The bottom large horizontal tube (2.5″) is 24 inches long and the smaller inner (2″) tube protrudes 8″, and slides into the tow hitch of the pickup.

Trace simply drilled holes into the large tube and used that hole as an access point to weld the inner tube inside the big tube.  Welding one short (small) tube inside one long (large) tube creates one section.  The sections are simply pieced together by sliding a large tube over the small tube protruding from a different section piece.  Drill a hole through both tubes in a section and run a bolt or pin through in order to secure your sections to one another.  In the photos on the slide show, you will not see the sections drilled and pinned together.

You can make the sections as long as you like, and create as many as you like.  Trace made three sections:  two 36″ and one 24″.  You might consider two pieces 36″ long and two pieces 24″ long.  That would be ten feet of 2.5 inch square tubing for uprights and another 4-feet for the bottom and top horizontal large tubes.

Cut your small tubing into one foot lengths and dermine how many you need after you decide the number of sections you are going to make.  You also need a 900 pound boat wench, 30-feet of ¼” coated steel cable, two cable pulleys, three carabineers,  two cable fasteners (clamps) and a steel eye bolt.

March 14, 2008 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws, Deer, Elk, Antelope, Big Horns and Such, Hunting Stuff | Leave a comment

Oregon’s Biggest Bear

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Oregon’s # 1 Black Bear

Few people, places or things attain the venerated position or title of #1.  To reach this locale, it is required to become or to obtain – the biggest or the best in a given sphere.  In a world where second place is described as “first loser”, having the biggest, the most or being the best is the driving force behind a multitude of human endeavors.  Hunting is no exception.  Every year thousands of our brethren enter the field with a single-minded determination to harvest the biggest or the best Mother Nature can provide.  When it comes to black bear hunting in Oregon, one man can retire his boots and rifle.  In 1988 John Carnate took Oregon’s biggest black bear ever.  His record-book-bear stands alone today, and with the ever-diminishing natural resources of the 21st century, John’s record may stand forever.

I’ve known John Carnate for about twelve years, and although I had heard the story of his taking a huge bear, I had never been to his home and seen the proof.  The Record Book of Oregon’s Big Game Animals included John and his bear in their second edition, and I had seen their article and photos.  John’s bear has an official Boone and Crocket score of 22-5/16 inches

Boone and Crockett lists the largest black bear skull ever recorded as 23-10/16 inches.  This skull was found along a creek in Sanpate County, Utah in 1975.  In 1993, Robert J. Shuttleworth of Hayward, California, connected with the largest black bear ever legally taken by a hunter.  Its skull measures 23-3/16″.  By comparison, the largest Grizzly, Brown and Polar bear skulls listed by Boone and Crockett are; Grizzly bear 27-2/16″ (a three way tie – bears taken in 1970, 1982, and 1991), Brown bear 30-12/16 “(taken in 1952) and Polar bear 29-15/16” (taken in 1963).  When you take into consideration that the overall measurements from the skull of the largest grizzly ever taken is less than five inches larger than the skull of John’s black bear, it clearly puts his prize into perspective.  John’s bear was huge.

John has never been bear hunting, not once.  In spite of that, he has taken two bears and both were extremely large.  His second bear, taken in 1989, had a skull, which measured an incredible 19-5/16 inches.  Each of these bears was taken “incidentally” while he pursued hoofed game.

During the 1980’s, John and his family lived on the “Wolf Creek Ranch”, where John was the ranch manager.  Resting above the beautiful Umpqua River, this little chunk of paradise is located approximately fourteen miles west of Sutherlin, Oregon and about twenty miles northwest of Roseburg.  To the west, the ranch is bordered by the Pacific Coast Range Mountains.  With no private residences or other ranches for at least thirty miles, the landscape between the Wolf Creek Ranch and the ocean is truly wild.  At any given moment, the ranch is likely to hold more deer, elk and wild turkeys than bovines. 

In November of 1988, John simply walked from home to hunt elk.  On two evenings, he had seen what he believed to be a large bear.  On each occasion he’d observed the bear in thick timber while he walked along an ancient skid road.  Like most Oregon hunters, John had purchased a bear tag when he acquired his fall elk and deer tags.  But on these evenings, he hadn’t shot the bear for two reasons.  John didn’t want to hinder his chances of spotting an elk and he simply wasn’t bear hunting.  John told me he thought the bear had something wrong with it because it looked much taller and thinner than other bears he’d seen in the mountains.  He said he knew black bears should be extremely heavy this late in the fall, but the thin bear he’d caught glimpses of simply looked “different”.

On November 12th John found himself seeking elk on yet another evening, again treading slowly through tall trees on the same grass covered antique logging road.  It was late in the day, with sunset coming quickly in the shaded timber.  As he rounded a curve, John observed the same tall-thin bear descend a hillside and step into the roadway in front of him.  As he gained his footing on the flat surface of the road, the bear looked to his right and saw the hunter.  John said each of them froze in position, man and bear – waiting for the other to make a move.

John told me he couldn’t believe the size of the bear.  Reiterating that he was not a bear hunter, and in fact had never shot one; he said he knew the animal in front of him was huge.  At the same time he sensed the bear was probably old, telling me, “The bear’s appearance was just odd, he looked too gangly for late fall.”  It suddenly occurred to John that he had a bear tag in his pocket.  He raised his Model 99 Savage .308 rifle and fired, striking the bear hard.  The bruin’s legs collapsed and he came to rest in his tracks.

John told me when he arrived at the bear’s side he was overwhelmed at the length and width of it’s body.  The old boar measured nearly seven and a half feet (7.5′) from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail.  His teeth were worn, old, broken and missing, stained brown from decades of use.  John said field dressing the animal was a difficult task due to its extreme weight, in spite of the bear being shockingly thin.  Once the torso was vacated of entrails, John walked home to enlist the help of a friend.  The two men removed the bear to John’s residence on the ranch and completed the task of removing the hide. 

John did not have a workable camera at his residence, but was unconcerned.  He would get photos of the hide the following day.  His great fortune took an unexpected dive during the night.  John and his friend had spread the huge hide over wooden rails before parting company.  During the night John’s two Labrador retrievers were somehow able to reach the hide and pulled it to the ground.  The dogs tore the hide into several small pieces, dashing all hopes of photographs and tanning.  John retained the bear’s skull.

In 1997 John and his family were attending an outdoor show at the Douglas County fair grounds in Roseburg, Oregon.  He watched while Larry Griffith, an official scorer for the Boone and Crockett record books carefully measured some deer and elk racks.  Striking up a discussion with Mr. Griffith, John told him he had a really big bear skull at home.  Explaining the size of the bruin, Larry convinced John to bring the skull to the show for him to have a look. 

John told me Larry Griffith was shocked when he returned with the skull.  Larry told him it was by far the largest he had ever seen and immediately began taking measurements.  Once completed, Larry told John Carnate that his bear was one of the biggest ever recorded in the United States.  The skull’s length is 13-12/16″, with a width of 8-9/16″. 

David Morris, publisher of the Record Book of Oregon’s Big Game Animals was in attendance at this outdoor show, and he was summoned to look at the skull.  When Mr. Morris completed his measurements, he announced the bear had the largest skull ever recorded in Oregon and said it was officially Oregon’s #1 black bear.  John told me you could have knocked him senseless with a feather.  The story of John’s huge bear was published in the next edition of the Record Book of Oregon’s Big Game Animals, (http://www.huntingrecords.com/).  David Morris and Larry Griffith estimated the bear was thirty years old.

While deer hunting in the fall of 1989, John Carnate took his second and last bear.  That bear’s skull measured 19-5/16″, which secured its place in the record books of Oregon as well. 

John’s story can bring all of us hope.  It clearly shows the importance of choosing the right location for your hunt, and proves that still-hunting can work successfully – even for trophy-sized bears.  John was utilizing skills practiced by every deer and elk hunter, namely walking as slowly and quietly as possible, away from other hunters, and being in the field (timber) at the correct time of day. 

Okay – beyond that, it probably shows a splashing of just plain good luck.  I know one thing for certain, John Carnate can go “deer and elk” hunting with me anytime he would like.  If he tags along, I think I’ll take my bear gun.

March 14, 2008 Posted by | Bears, Cats and Claws | Leave a comment