- Wait until the muddiest, coldest, wettest, most miserable time of year.
- Wait until cattle ranchers cows start calving. When some said cows die from difficult labor, go and pick them up so you can drive around town and get looked at as though you are a practicing axe murderer.
- Dump said dead cows in your yard, probably up wind of your house because... actually, I don't know why the men do this. I think it's to drive all women to complete and utter insanity as well as to ensure that every pet dog on the property smells horrible.
- Wait at least 3 days. 2 if it's sunny and warm.
- Cut up said dead cows into quarters and store in horse trailer for at least one week. DO NOT VOMIT. Also know that all the friends you think you have will mostly disappear during this time.
- On a very, very rainy, slippery day load cow quarters on horseback. It is very important that you get the bear bait somewhere on you in a way that will be noticed by others. Usually it will get in your hair also. This gets you bonus points (although with whom I'm not sure yet.)
- Ride up a slippery, sloppy mountain. (Don't forget the barrel which you will need a very good horse to pack it on. Also, DO NOT forget wire and wire cutters.) Go to predetermined bait site.
- Wrestle barrel to bait tree. Wire it.
- Wrestle with stinky rotten cow quarters for at least 10 minutes. Don't worry. There are absolutely NO BEARS around to attempt to eat you even though you, your horses, and the 5 or 10 miles around you smells like delicious dead cow. Definitely no possibility of getting eaten by a bear. Definitely not.
- Once you are thoroughly covered in bear bait you may or may not have gotten it near the barrel. Do this now if not. Then lift it in. Keep your face away from the barrel when the quarter finally drops in. Wire said quarter to barrel. Repeat steps 8 and 9 for each quarter of cow.
- Feel accomplished and stinky. Sometimes it's a good idea to rub yourself down with sagebrush or pine boughs so you can stand yourself on the ride home. If you swing by the bar for a quick beer and someone says, "What's that smell?" then you leave quickly. It's you.
- Wait patiently for bears to come. Check baits every other day. If bear eats all of the bait, bring more.
- When the bear is in the bag, have a bear party.
Maybe one of my most memorable trips was checking a bait we call Whiskey. I had been putting bait there and checking the thing every couple days. It was my first real instance of doing this on my own and I kind of felt like it was MY bait. I had seen some tracks the time before real close to the bait but there had been no hit. I thought for sure I'd have one this day. Me and my pony Tuff and my little dog Bo were headed in, nice sunny day, maybe about 10 in the morning or so. We topped out over the edge of the ridge and began our decent. The grass was coming on good and the wildflowers were starting to get going pretty well. It was a happy morning.
Just as we were reaching the top of the valley and beginning to head down the draw I looked up to see a sow and two cubs running like the dickens up to the head of the draw. I mean they were really cutting a rug. I pulled up my pony and called in my dog and waited a minute. I wondered where the heck they were headed in such a hurry. I couldn't see the top of the draw from where I was so I decided to go back up the top of the ridge and do a little glassing and see if I could figure out what was going on.
So, the three of us hit a lick back up where we could get a good view of the whole draw. I never did see the sow or cubs again and I soon found out why. From the direction they had come was a silly old boar rolling around in the grass.
Some people don't know this but a boar has often been known to kill and eat cubs in order to get the sow to come back into heat sooner. The drive to procreate being almost too strong, the cubs are often at risk when a boar is in their immediate vicinity. The mother literally had them on a run for their lives.
Me and Tuff and Bo sat on that ridge for over an hour watching that boar. He rolled around in the grass, ate some grubs out of a stump, pounced up and down on some logs. He was a real treat to witness. I decided to go on home and leave the bait to him. He would surely find it.
That night I went on my first bear hunt as a guide in training under old Cowboy Glenn. A rough and grumble character he doesn't always communicate well. We headed down the trail towards the bait with our client, also on his first hunt. As we came near the area old Cowboy Glenn commenced to shaking his head and swearing like a cub in a bees nest who couldn't reach the honey. "Get off your horses and get comfortable," he said. This ain't never going to bleepity bleeping work. Argh, argh, argh."
As the person who put the bait in and had been checking it I thought for sure I must have done something wrong. We sat down, me and the client in total confusion, and ate our lunch and waited for the cursing to die down.
Turns out it was the wind was blowing the wrong way. I told Glenn this story a year or so later and how I thought he was mad at me and we had a good laugh about it.
Anyway, we headed on in once the wind settled and I bet we hadn't been sitting there more than 20 minutes when my silly boar came in. The hunter made a clean shot and it was an extremely successful hunt. He was a beautiful bear with a sort of burgundy hue to his otherwise brown coat. A real prize.
I didn't get to take the rug home but I will always remember that bear and that hunt in a special place in my heart. What a privilege to witness that bear so intimately in all his wild glory for a little while. How nice to think that perhaps we saved those cubs another close encounter so they might grow up and become like him some day. What a great experience for our client, who still hunts with us today, many years later.
I know hunting has some controversy around it and I understand that it's not for everyone. But I hope people can understand that the actual pulling of the trigger is such a small part of what hunting is about. The experiences I have had hunting I wouldn't trade for the world. Hunting has taught me a great deal of humility, among many, many other things and has given me a heightened appreciation for all things wild.
"One does not hunt to kill, one kills to have hunted...."