Bear Hunting the Backcountry Selway

By Flying B Guide: Jeremi Syron

Joe DeProspero and black bearJoe made a great 350 yard shot on this black bear that we found feeding 4,000 feet above the Selway River.

This past spring Joe DeProspero and I packed into the Selway River for a spring black bear hunting trip. It was Joe’s third spot-and-stalk hunt in the Selway wilderness for bear.

He has been on many hunts at the Flying B Ranch since 2011, which includes the successful harvest of four bear, whitetail and mule deer, and the elusive mountain lion. He and I spoke in February about a particular drainage we had glassed on a previous hunt.

The drainage was intimidating and if there is anyone up for a challenge, it is Joe.

We made plans to pack in about 12 miles up the river and set up camp to hunt six days in an area we thought had probably not seen a lot of people for quite some time.

On the way to camp we were faced with our first obstacle of the trip. The creek was still up from the current snow melt and we had to find a way to cross it.

The safest plan was to throw gear across the creek, take our boots off, and wade the stream. The cool water of the creek felt invigorating on our tired feet. After our navigation, it was a short hike to camp.

The first day of bear hunting found us up early enjoying coffee around the fire. At daybreak we had our first visitor close to camp as we heard a wolf begin its lonely howl. We attempted to draw him into an opening close to camp, but found it had other plans, thus squelching our opportunity.

By now the coffee had warmed us and we headed out of camp early. By noon that day we had spotted a black bear up toward the head of the drainage that would require some work to close the distance.

We made plans to head toward the bear and see how close we could get.

In trying to cross the first drainage to close the distance, we found that the north facing slopes still had snow. We began to sink up to our waists as we trudged through the white powder-it was time for plan B.

Creek in the SelwayJoe navigating around the big boulders back to camp down Pinchot Creek.

Next we decided to drop back down to the main creek and get directly below the bear for a different route. On the way down we spotted a red bear that was sitting on the snow covered slope. While watching the bear, Joe noticed two little fur balls rolling around nearby. We soon came to the conclusion it was the sow just waking up from the winter with her two cubs.

They had wintered in the base of a cedar tree. Bears are tough!

Continuing down the hill, we entered an area that recently had a wildfire pass through it. We didn't know there were so many ways around downed trees as we were forced to crawl over, under, around, and through the spider web of trees.

It was very physical and tiring through the steep stretch and by the time we made it to the creek, it had turned into a full day and we still had to return to camp. With the bear still lingering in the same spot, we were confident it would be there the next day. We would try again.

Backcountry Camp FireA relaxing morning around the fire where we waited for the rain to pass and the fog to lift for clear visibility.

Another early start found us in great position at noon. Joe took his time and got comfortable with his rifle over a hunting pack looking at a distance of 350 yards to the bear. Being patient and waiting for the best shot opportunity, Joe took his shot...a perfect one.

Three days into the season we had our first bear down!

Once again we were faced with deep snow and two stream crossings to reach the bear. After making it safely, we both sat down by the bear and thought we had the best seat in the world looking over the Selway drainage.

We dressed the bear and requested a packer meet us on the river trail to pack the hide out. We continued the hunt for another bear and possibly a wolf. We spotted one the last evening of the hunt, but could not get a clear shot.

It was another awesome hunt with my great friend Joe. Thanks Joe! He and I have already made tentative plans for the next spring bear season. I am definitely looking forward to another fine backcountry bear hunting trip!

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