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My 16yr old daughter and I just got back from a back country black bear archery hunt with Whiskey Mountain Outfitters in northern Idaho. If you are a summary type person, the trip was a 35 on a scale of 1 to 10. Would definitely book another hunt with Anthony. If you want the full story, see below.

I want to start this by saying I'm out of shape, from the flatlands and knew going in this would be a tall order with a bow. One of the reasons I love archery is there is far from certainty even if you get within range of your target animal. Self control and discipline are paramount on any archery hunt, but 1000 times more important on one like this. I cannot correctly convey the level of difficulty of a hunt like this. Sitting motionless for hours at a time with an animal that is very situationally aware within 20 yards in the dead silence of the mountains can be a challenge that's hard to understand.

So. We rode in on Tuesday mid morning. My daughter and I both had limited experience on horses, but enough to feel comfortable. Anthony was very good about reminding us any time we needed to change positioning or why we were doing what we were doing. It was around a 3.5 hour ride into the camp Anthony had setup for us. The ride was pretty uneventful, but filled with great views. The area we were riding through would transition between several types of trees and underbrush to open vistas and cool landscapes. There were lots of berries and mushrooms everywhere which explains the amount of bears we saw(and they had on camera), as well as the fact that all the bears we saw appeared to be very healthy and had great coats. It was later in the evening by the time we got close to camp, so Anthony had us sit a bait that was close to camp. It was setup more for a rifle(which he told me), but he said they could walk by within range at any time, and even if we just got to sit and watch bears I was definitely ok with that. This trip was mostly about trying to get a bear(her first hunt with a compound) for my daughter, so seeing bears and getting her a shot was the focus, though I did have a tag as well.

We sat and enjoyed a nice evening, didn't see any bears that night. We walked a mile or so back to camp and he had dinner waiting for us. We grabbed a bite to eat, chatted a bit and settled into our tent for the evening excited to sit on a bait the next day he had lots of pics of great bears on including one chocolate giant.

The next day we rode toward the bait in question about an hour or so away. We got there reasonably early afternoon and spent some time picking just the right spot to build a hedge blind for my daughter and I to hide in. We chose a spot about 23 yards from the bait with a big deadfall that had a large exposed root ball. I sat down in the depression left when the tree fell, and she sat a bit above me to my left. Anthony spent a good amount of time making the blind as comfortable and natural looking as possible(ended up being quite important). He carefully made a good shooting lane for her and had her draw a couple times to make sure our setup was right. He told us to be as quiet and still as possible and wished us good luck, and headed out. From my vantage, I could see very little of the bait. I mostly wanted to be able to see if she made a good hit, leaving as little exposure for myself as possible so I didn't risk spooking a bear. It gets insanely quiet in that area, so the smallest noise alerts the bears to your location.

We sat for a couple hours, and all of a sudden I noticed her broadhead start to shake in my peripheral vision. At the same time I saw a black furry butt appear just to the right of the bait. A large black bear with a very light colored muzzle walked out, turned to the left of the bait and walked straight at the blind. It stopped at 10 yards looking over the top of the blind into the hills above us calmly. It hung around for a minute or so, decided not to eat and wandered off without giving a proper angle shot. This was both our first experience with a bear, so we were pretty stoked. We sat there enjoying the moment, and very shortly after another bear popped up at the bait. This one was a stark black younger bear, probably just a bit below Idaho average. He very nervously approached the bait(clearly looking for larger bears), and made a small hole in the stick pile just big enough to dive his head into the bait, grab a mouthful and run off into the trees to eat. He came back several times doing the same thing. Through that process she drew and held her bow back 2 times, both for quite a long time. He never would quite enter the bait far enough for her to take a clean shot, and she made the right decision to let down both times. This being her first hunt, and much different than our normal setup I could see the long holds were taking a toll. Not long after the second let down, I saw her draw a 3rd time, but couldn't see a bear. Trying my best to sit still, I finally had a view of the animal in question. When he walked into view I knew for sure this was not only the bear we were after, but an absolute beast of a mountain bear. He was at a 90* angle to the bait, and had he taken 3 more steps forward she would have surely drilled him. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be. He turned the same trail the first bear did and walked to within 8 yards facing straight towards the blind. He paused with his head held high, chest in full view. At this point she had been drawn for well over a minute and a half. She ended up needing to let down, and he caught the movement and headed out. Being about 45 minutes before dark, I told her it was probably best that we head back to the trail since if another bear came in it would likely be at last light and we would have high odds of spooking it.

We got back to the trail a bit earlier than Anthony, and sat there quietly talking about the night. We were both thrilled to see so many bears so close to us our first real hunt. She was upset that letting down had spooked her target bear, but I reasured her that not only did I not think I could have done any better, but that's just part of hunting. If she hadn't drawn when she did and he went straight in, she would have likely missed the chance. I felt she made the right choice of when to draw, and not to take a frontal shot even though it was short distance.

We had a beautiful night ride back to camp. The horses had clearly been on the trail plenty, as we just sat in pure dark enjoying the occassonal stars through the clouds and ducking obstacles in the trail. It really was an experience.

The next day we chose to sit the same bait again. Anthony thought depending on what that bear saw it may just change its timing, since these bears do not get hunting pressure often if at all. It may simply not have known what it saw. We got there early(10 or so in the morning), and got comfy for the long painfully stationary day. Around 3;30 I heard her breathing change. I could hear a bear walking behind me, very close. I heard him stop, and resisted the urge to look. He huffed a little, changed course and hopped off a bit to our right and began loudly eating mushrooms, grass and berries at around 100 yards. Where he stopped was roughly 8 feet behind me. We sat quietly and watched as he worked around the area for around an hour. He finally decided the bait smelled to good to ignore, and came in. He spent 5-6 minutes walking from one side of the bait to the other(a large deadfall with a huge exposed root ball), but never offered a good shot. He stood up on 2 legs several times, and put on a real good show. It was a large, probably 250 or so pound bear. Just like that, he'd had his fill of the situation and moved off slowly. You could tell even the larger bears were always on the lookout for other bears. When he left he made an odd sighing noise(which he had done earlier and came back in). Shortly after, I saw another bear come in. My daughter moved her bow into position to draw. She waited as he fiddled with the sticks and bait. After a few moments, and knocking over all the sticks he paused. She drew back, flung and arrow. I heard the noise of an arrow hitting rib cage, and drilling a log. Unfortunately from my vantage all I could see was his head and butt at the time of the shot, so I couldn't verify placement. I asked her if she felt the hit was good, and she nodded. After that it was all downhill. Seeing so many bears so close to us, the excitement and frustration of the first day was all she could handle. Like most of us, the shivers and shakes that follow a shot took over. Being able to watch your daughter succeed on such a hard hunt is a unique experience. We bumped knuckles and tried to sit quietly for a few minutes to let him fall.

We radioed the guide, letting him know we had a bear hit. He said he was 10-15 minutes out. I walked over to see if I could find the arrow and verify hit. Upon getting to the bait, I was pretty upset. I found a broadhead lodged deep in a stick, a broken section that didn't appear to have blood on it. I'm very confident in her abilities, but stood there for a second trying to figure out how to tell her she missed. I wiggled the broadhead out of the branch and much to my relief it had hair and blood stuck on the ferrule where it was jammed in the log. The small arrow chunk I found didn't have blood but smelled strongly of the grease the guide uses on the trees around the bait. I calmed myself down and walked over to where she was sitting to let her know she did indeed hit him, and wait for the guide. He got there shortly after, and we started looking for blood. Not long(maybe 5 yards) away we found blood and started tracking. Wasn't the TV show rage blood trail, but was solid and could be followed easily in head lamps. We got around 70 yards from the bait(straight down the mountain in heavy cover), and Anthony stopped to return to the horses to get his GPS. The bear had bounced off a tree, but I was unable to find blood after that. I continued looking in the time it took Anthony to grab his GPS unit and didn't find anything. She was getting upset at that point, fearing as we all do sometimes she either made a bad hit or we wouldn't be able to find her bear. I reassured her I've often found animals that I lost blood at one point or another and not to lose hope. Anthony made it back, and shortly after we found that the trail had spun hard around the tree and went sharp left. We followed it another 50 yards or so into heavier and heavier cover. It had started to taper slightly. Then just like that we found a huge splot of coagulated blood and fat, and the blood really started flowing. I figured the 2/3 of the arrow he carried off caught something and popped it back open. We followed another 10 yards, and Anthony saw him laying just behind a small tree. She was elated to not only find her first bear and first compound kill, but also the verification she made a great shot. We were in a bad area, very very thick trees and deadfalls everywhere lots and lots of underbrush. We decided the easiest way to get him out without a pack(I left mine at camp so as not to be tempted to move all day), was to throw him on my back and start walking. Remember before when I said I was a fat flatlander in poor shape? Well, carrying that bear up a sharp incline 400 yards or so was quite the task. One that I was happy to do for her. After plenty of huffing and puffing we got back to the horses, broke him down and headed for camp.

By this point it was real late 1230 or so. Another star light ride back to camp with the relief and excitement of success. Anthony made us some dinner and we all hit the sack. He needed to head back to base the next morning to get some more supplies for the horses, so he told us to sleep in and if I wanted I could walk down and check the trail camera at the first bait site, and if I felt it looked good sit for the evening. We spent the day watching some grouse that wandered into camp, walking a few trails and just relaxing and reliving the previous night.

I decided to head down to check the cam and let her rest at camp. The camera looked pretty good, several good bears and one chocolate sow with 2 chocolate cubs. Unfortunately the biggest bear on camera was there when I walked in(I never saw him), so I didn't think I had great odds but it was a beautiful day. I moved off a bit, made a nest for myself in the underbrush and settled in. Occassionally questioning my strategy as I really didn't want to force a bad encounter with mama and her cubs. I sat for a couple hours, and at one point had an animal(most likely bear) walk very close behind me, but never saw anything at the bait. I heard the horses coming up the trail an hour or so before last light, and decided maybe I'd pushed my luck enough that day and followed them back to camp. We talked about where I wanted to sit the last evening(we needed to ride out sunday so I could get her back to school), made a plan over dinner and went to bed.

Saturday afternoon we rode an hour or so to another bait that hadn't been hunted. We freshened it up, moved the hedge blind from rifle to bow distance and settled in. She was getting pretty wiggly from sitting so still for several days in a row. We sat a few hours over a beautiful bait and watched a white tail doe wander through. Unfortunately for me, no bear decided to make itself a target, so my trip ended without a shot. As mentioned above, the focus was really on her getting one, and we had so many cool encounters I was honestly pretty pleased to not have to haul a big bear out of a very deep valley on my last night. Though.....I still would have.

If you are looking for a trip of a lifetime in beautiful country with a guide that is not only very nice but really cares about making a memory I would highly recommend doing a back country hunt with Whiskey Mountain Outfitters. They also do base camp hunts and back country elk hunts as well as trail rides and other family oriented options. The food was good, and plenty. The views were incredible. Bait sites were clearly hit hard and often by bears and Anthony knows right where to put them. Asking a guide to take a 16 year old girl to a back country hunt with a bow has got to cause some anxiety. I would rate the hunt an 8-9 out of 10 for difficultly with a bow. He handled it professionally and truly cared that she not only saw bears but got a chance at one. He was very good about congratulating her and making her feel proud of her accomplishment. I can honestly say that this trip was something she will never forget, and there is no price you can put on that as a parent. His pricing, since I mentioned it, I also felt was extremely fair. That man put in work to make her hunt memorable. We ended up seeing 9 bears. 2 of them were within 8 feet of us, all within 30 yards at some point. Having been on 2 prior trips other places, both without seeing a bear, I was thrilled to be able to sit, watch and learn from these amazing forest ghosts. As a father, I couldn't be more proud of how that kid handled herself over a week of very hard hunting, extreme highs and a couple tough lows. It takes a lot of mental fortitude to do a hunt like this, and I honestly know a lot of adults that would have quit early on or made a poor choice and taken a bad shot.

Hope you enjoyed the tale. There were many awesome things we saw along the way that didn't make the narrative. Just know that if you've ever been on something like this, you can imagine everything a novice like me simply cant put into words. Since its the internet, I was in no way paid or reimbursed to say any of this. These are my honest opinions about a trip I had to scrounge to pay for. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn't even blink before loading the truck and heading out.

Happy trails.
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Awesome story from a very proud father.Best of luck with I am sure many more stories to come.
 
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