This is the hunting story that I will be telling my grandkids one day. I was with Boulder Basin Outfitters last fall on a cow elk pack trip. I knew I was going into grizzly bear country but I also knew I was with professional outfitters who hunted this area for generations without incident. I like to prepare for my hunts, I worked out, packed light and read all I could about what to do if you encounter a grizzly bear. I purchased the required bear spray and kept it in my pocket close at reach at all times. I even slept with it on my cot in my tent.
Day one was spent riding the horses up the mountain to look for elk, with one missed opportunity. It was a long shot with high winds. Not ideal conditions for long range shooting. My hunting partner Stacy Jo and I hunted hard in the high country with our guide Flint. He was a true cowboy and professional hunter. Day two we changed our plan to spend the day in a valley sitting and waiting for the herd migration. We made a place in a small wooded pocket and built a fire for warmth. We set up our shooting sticks on the hilly slope above our camp area. We spent the day glassing the hills and looking for signs of elk. We took a ride up the mountain mid day to scout. About mid afternoon, we glassed a large grizzly bear cub, maybe like a two year old, about 500 yards up the valley from our camp. I was in awe and just fine glassing him walking away from us up the hills through my binoculars. Then came the last few minutes of daylight. When my senses are always hightened on a hunt. Waiting for that last minute of game movement and being ready to take full advantage. I was about to ask our guide if I could spend that last few minutes of light sitting on my sticks just in case an elk walked out from the valley above. When I turned to ask him, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a very large grizzly bear coming right towards us from below the valley. He was probably 50 yards out. Flint immediatly stepped out and confronted the bear with both hands up and with a deep voice he told the bear to “get on out of here, go on now, go on”. Meanwhile Stacy Jo and I were frozen and waiting on instructions from Flint. It was a quick encounter, the bear decided to turn and walk back down the trail. Flint quickly instructed us to put out the fire and pack up camp and get to the horses. I asked Flint if he would go up the hill and get our sticks for us, as I was so affraid to be out in the open and alone. Once he got to the shooting sticks, we heard a few choice words followed by “there are four more over here, get your gear and get on the horses now”. The cub we had seen earlier in the day was with his two siblings and his momma on the up hill side of camp. As he returned down the hill to help us walk to the horses the first big grizzly decided to come back for a visit from below camp. He was now coming right at us on the same trail and closing in fast. This time Flint confronted the bear and asked us to load our rifles. We were still in the pocket of woods and Stacy Jo imediatly told me we had to get out of the hole we were in. We both took ten steps out into the open and right behind Flint. As he began to yell at the bear, I loaded two rounds and sighted in on his face with my 7mm Rem Mag Remmington 700. Stacy Jo loaded her rifle and began to tell me we had to yell at it. She started yelling “get outta here” and all I could do was concentrate on the hold for the shot while my mind raced that I didn’t know when to shoot, how to shoot, or if I should even shoot! I was dead still and on him with my scope, but I could not find my voice to help yell at the bear. The big grizzly was the size of a small SUV. He never got on his hind legs but he did sway back and forth and raise his nose to smell us. It seemed like forever and was probably less than a minute. The yelling and the fact that the three of us were all standing our ground towards the bear must have helped scare it off. Flint was amazing and fearless, he was out in front and we were the back up. I never even looked up the hill or got glimce of the mother bear and three cubs. They must not have come over the hill enough to see us or the boar. I rember when he turned and walked away I placed the stock of my gun ontop of my boot in the snow and held the barrel and shook violiently before I could muster up the senses to unload and get back to the horses. Once we mounted the horses I had my bear spray in one hand and reins in the other. We rode out in a hurry, the horses wanted out of there as well. We talked really loud to one another all the way back to camp. After a few minutes to unwind and stop shaking we shared our encounter with the others in camp. I asked Flint if he like me, because I was going to be ten feet away from him the rest of the trip. I was amazed at his bravery and abiity to handle the situation so professional. Not one of us had any desire to shoot the bear. The joke at camp was, “did you get a selfie with the bear or a video for You Tube”, not hardly !!
Stacy Jo and I hunted until the last minute of the last light on the last day. She tagged a cow and we packed the meat out with a couple pack mules. On the trail ride out in the dark we encountered two more grizzly bears coming up hill to the smell of our fresh meat. The minute I heard Flint start yelling “get on outta here”, I put my hand on my bear spray and stated praying. This time was good as well. We were able to circle around them on the downhill trail. The hill got steep and Flint asked Stacy Jo and I to dismount and walk our horses. We both started whining immediatley and we were met with a sort of drill sargent voice telling us we have to listen to him because his was trying to get us off this mountian. We immediatly abliged Flint. He did get us off the mountain. He saved our lives more than once. I have a new sisterhood bond with Stacy Jo. She was an amazing friend to have along to help get us through the encounter. She was so strong and able to yell when I could not find my voice. I am extemely proud of the way we took direction from Flint and did exactly what we were told to do. He is the professional. I am amazed that I could stand and hold that 9 pound rifle steady as a sniper for the time the bear was shaking his head and turning towards us and trying to decide which way he should go. I laughed when Flint told us not one single male client had ever had his back the way we did with our rifles loaded and right behind him in the confrontation. All of this was an adrenalen rush that lasted weeks. It took me days to feel safe and comfortable again. I would say we had a small amout of post traumatic stress we had to deal with. As life changing and scarey as this encounter was, I re-booked the trip for next year and added another day to the trip. I can’t imaging I would have to deal with six bears in two days again. Surely I am not that lucky. I will be in good hands with Boulder Basin Outfitters.