Part 2 of the Montana Bear Hunt Series
Looking for the right Rifle Scope for your mountain gun? You came to the right place.
If you missed Part 1 you can read it here. The gist of the story up to this point is that Brandon and Cav got invited to hunt black bear in Montana and made a Great American Road trip from Texas to Helena National Forest. They stopped at Specialty Sports and Supply in Colorado Springs to check in with a loyal dealer, then made stops in Wyoming at the Kifaru showroom, and then in Bozeman, Montana at the Stone Glacier shop.
The guys picked up some world class gear from both stores that, as you will see, came in handy later in their adventure. As we rejoin our fearless hunters they are just pulling in to Helena National Forest, eager to get out on the trail.
End of the Journey, Beginning of the Adventure
The apex of this Great American expedition was the Helena National Forest, just west of Helena, Montana. Covering 985,000 acres in central Montana, the Helena National forest was established in 1906. If you are familiar with the history of forest fires in America you will recognize the Helena National Forest as the site of the Mann Gulch Fire, the 1949 blaze that claimed the lives of 12 smoke jumpers.
Though the scars from that fire have long-since healed, the land is still marked by the remnants of more recent fires. For the duration of the hunt the air was hazy from the smoke of the fires currently burning in Canada.
The Right Rifle Scope for the Job
At the trailhead Team Accufire unloaded their gear and checked their rifles and rifle scopes one more time. Brandon carried a Crown Precision 6.5 PRC with Proof Research carbon fiber barrel, topped with an Accufire ATRO 20 rifle scope. The ATRO 20 rifle scope is perfect for this kind of hunt. It is not the most lightweight scope on the market, but at 1.8lbs the advantages outweigh the few extra ounces.
The locking turrets on the rifle scope allow the shooter to dial in windage and elevation if the situation allows for it and the Mil-comp reticle allows the shooter to make precision holds if that is more appropriate. The 2.5x-20x magnification range gives you the right amount of power whether you are across the valley, or close enough to throw a rock at your target, making this the perfect rifle scope for this hunt. If you want an ATRO 20 rifle scope of your own, or any of our other rifle scopes, you can see them here.
On The Trail
After all the gear was double checked the team linked up with Ian and prepared to begin their adventure in earnest. It was at this point that the guys got their first inclination this hunt was going to be something different than they had ever experienced. First, Ian Fisher is a mountain of a man, and by all accounts the most chill and down to earth Naval Academy Grad you’ll ever meet. He’s even a former Naval Aviator, which usually ranks just below Vegans and Crossfitters for most annoying conversationalists. Ian, however, could not have been more humble and fun to be around.
The second indicator that things were going to be a little more “western” than the boys were used to was when Ian started unloading and saddling the pack horses. In the Lower 48 west of the Mississippi River, and in many parts of Alaska, pack animals are often used to help haul the bulk of the necessary equipment out to the areas where wild game can be found.
Hundreds of pounds of gear and supplies can be loaded on to horses, mules, or donkeys. Humans have used this technique for thousands of years and it still exists today. Ian’s horses, Moksha and Big Mo, were each carrying around one hundred pounds of gear.
Cav got the privilege of leading Moksha for the first part of the hike in to camp. The path was a gentle incline up the mountain, through the trees, but Team Accufire realized in short order that the combination of elevation and incline were going to make this little six mile stroll out to base camp much more of a challenge than they had anticipated. Ian failed to mention there was a cool two thousand feet of elevation gain from the parking lot to the camp site because he is a physical monster and such trivial details don’t bother him.
Cav’s First Rodeo
About one hundred yards into the hike the team hit their first hiccup. The rifle scabbard strapped to Moksha started slapping his flank and, needless to say, he didn’t appreciate it. Moksha spooked and started to buck, attempting to get away from the scabbard that was slapping his side. Unfortunately, that only made things worse and in an instant the crew went from a peaceful, albeit strenuous walk to a sure enough rodeo right on the side of the mountain.
Before Brandon or Ian could react a horse carrying half their equipment started bucking his way down the mountain dragging Cav behind him by the lead rope. There were several minutes of sheer terror followed by tense negotiations, but eventually they got Moksha calmed down, the scabbard secured, and everyone back on the trail.
For the rest of the hike Brandon and Cav spent some time in silent reflection about their “mountain hunting” preparation program and vowed to do a few more hill sprints and bleacher runs before their next outing. They passed few other people on the trail and got to enjoy some time in the great big outdoors, taking in the many wonders of the wild places. After a quick six miles and a measly two thousand feet of elevation gain, the crew arrived at their camp site.
Base Camp and First Blood
The site of the base camp was a flat clearing in the trees next to a creek. It was used regularly by hunters and showed the signs of human improvements. The fire pit was constructed with rocks from the creek and there were meat drying racks made of wood, lashed together and ready for the harvest. The team worked steadily to unpack equipment, tend to the horses, set up the large teepee style tent, and prep their gear. Once the work was done Ian looked at Brandon and Cav and asked if they wanted to go hunt.
Our fearless hunters laughed until they realized he was serious. They decided that discretion was the better part of valor and opted to conserve some energy for the next day’s adventures. Ian laughed and headed up the mountain alone. No more than twenty minutes later the sound of a gunshot rolled across the mountain and echoed in the trees.
Brandon and Cav looked at each other and Brandon said “No way that guy already got a bear.” But sure enough, a short time later Ian came trudging down the mountain, covered in blood, a freshly harvested black bear slung over his shoulders. For those of you who don’t understand the significance of that statement I will try to explain. The sow that Ian harvested was well over 200 lbs. Ian picked it up, put it over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes, and walked down a mountain with it. Its an impressive feat.
When most hunters harvest an animal that large they will remove the insides and the hide, cut it down in to quarters, and then make multiple trips back to camp until the entire animal has been carried out. But not Ian, he threw that bear over his shoulder and walked down the mountain like a boss. When Ian came walking in to camp the guys congratulated him but he just shook his head and laughed. He explained that he had not intended to carry the bear in one piece down the mountain.
It was only after he made his shot and found the bear that Ian realized he had made a mistake. He did not have a skinning knife with him. So, rather than walk back to camp to get a blade and walk back to the bear, he just put it on his shoulders Cam Hanes style and waked down the mountain. Ian Fischer is truly a man among men.
Thankfully, Brandon had his brand new Stone Glacier Havalon knife and they were able to make quick work of field dressing the bear. The carcass was processed down into quarters, stored in game bags, and hung to dry on the meat racks built by previous hunters.
The Rifle, the Rifle Scope, and the Rifleman
That night, under the stars of Big Sky country, the crew ate well and shared stories around a fire like hunters have done for millennia. Before crawling into his sleeping bag Brandon wiped down his rifle and rifle scope one more time, put another dab of oil on the action for good measure, and ensured that the lenses of his ATRO-20 rifle scope were clean and clear. He was ready to see what the mountain had in store.
Stay tuned for the third and final installment of this bear hunting adventure. And also check out our flagship digital spotting scope.