By Julie Golob
I discovered a passion for the outdoors and hunting with my dad growing up in upstate New York. It’s a tradition I hope to pass on to my young daughter as well. I love the quiet, the thrill, the responsibility and the sense of accomplishment I get when I hunt. Hunting provides the opportunity to put high quality, healthy protein on the dinner table and as a mom, I love knowing where our meat is coming from. It is also invigorating being a part of the outdoors. I enjoy taking everything in with all my senses, learning about animals, and seeing how they live.
Non-hunters often have a hard time understanding this and how the role goes beyond just killing. As a woman of the outdoors, hunting is also about loving and caring for the environment. Some ignorantly associate hunting with death and brutal destruction. They can’t see it as establishing balance. They think humans have no right to be a part of the “majestic animal kingdom.” Hunters to them are the most ruthless of predators. In fact, that’s the reaction I received from some of my more self-proclaimed “environmentalist” friends when I shared that I was going on my first bear hunt. Adding to their confusion, the just couldn’t understand why their friend would want to do such a thing? Why kill a bear?
Bear has been on my hunter’s wish list for quite some time. Most of my hunting has been of four-legged herbivores with a bit of bird hunting thrown in. Predator hunting is rather new territory for me though. Even though bears dine on plants or scavenge for what we would consider less savory food options, hunting them can be dangerous business. They are, after all, super strong with big teeth and claws.
There’s also an added challenge that excites me when it comes to hunting bear. Even some hunters I know make an unpleasant face at the thought of eating this meat. They say it’s “gamey” or “greasy.” I haven’t had the opportunity to sample it other than a bit of some jerky that, I have to state, doesn’t really count. The idea of preparing the meat in a delicious way really gets me going.
Add all of this to the fact that as a Montana resident you can purchase a bear tag over the counter, I just had to take advantage of the opportunity. That said, I’ve always been more of the do it yourself kind of hunter. I even hunted and killed my first pronghorn buck from start to finish all by myself in an “I am woman, hear me roar” moment. Being a bear hunting newbie though, I wasn’t going to just traipse around the woods. I wanted to find someone who knew what they were doing to show me the ropes.
I contacted a fellow Prois staffer, Tracey Splechter from Outdoor Connection, to enlist her help in finding an outfitter. She linked me up with John, Sherry and Scott Cargill of Iron Wheel Guest Ranch. The Cargills were more than just my guides on a hunting vacations. They were seriously determined to help me have a successful hunt.
From the moment I arrived through the end of my five-day trip, we focused on bear. We went out and searched for sign at a number of locations before determining the best places to hunt in the evenings for “bear-thirty.” The Cargill’s answered every one of my many questions about bear and how to hunt them. They also took great pride in showing me and sharing all they could about their hunting experiences and this part of the Treasure State.
Not only was I armed with my rifle, I also brought my camera. I ended up taking over 500 photos and videos. Even though I have lived in Montana for several years now, I am constantly in awe of its wild beauty. I snapped photos of the intriguing insects, colorful flowers and, of course, great expansive views Big Sky country is known for. I saw so many critters I had to make a list of all them I had seen on the trip.
And, of course, throughout it all I was decked out in my Prois. My Ultra Fitted Pants and Ultra Hoodie combined with the Pro Edition Pullover Jacket for when temperatures dropped, kept me comfortable for spring bear hunting. It didn’t matter if I was hiking steep hills looking for sign in the warm afternoons or sitting quietly, glassing in the cool evenings, my clothing did the job.
After doing my research, I knew that hunting bear in Montana would be tough. Unlike other states, hunters aren’t allowed to bait or use dogs. Considering the expansive tracts of land we covered, finding a bear in the mountains of southwest Montana is like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
I also learned that bears are pretty smart and well, particular. We discovered sign from a large bear, most likely male, that had been hanging out in a lush valley. This bear ignored the thick patches of clover these animals typically indulge in and stuck to tearing up all the stumps in search of insects. An inspection of fresh scat revealed that ladybugs had been on the menu. After making a mess of the place, the bear simply disappeared. Just a couple days of hanging out, he moved on, not for greener pastures, but perhaps for more bugs, grubs and maybe even to get his groove on now that mating season had hit.
The experience ended up being an adventure beyond anything I could have imagined. But did I get one? Check out the video…
There’s always the fall.