Arizona Guided Hunts: Outfitters and Guides
Black Bear Hunting Stories
The following is part of an article collection written by either our outfitter, guides, or past clients. Many of these articles have appeared in magazine periodicals.
The Bear Hunt of a Lifetime
By Travis Habrock
There I was, standing with my back against a tall boulder in the bottom of wash trying to protect my wife and the hired guide from one of the largest black bears ever seen by humans. We were surrounded by large rocks and two steep banks that could not be climbed fast enough to save our poor souls from the oncoming slaughter. “What was I going to do?” I thought as I steeled my nerves and gritted my teeth. The bear was coming at us fast. Its 6” claws were ripping through earth and rocks as it tore through thick cactus and brush like it was a freshly mowed lawn. I knew I had only seconds to act. The guide and my wife were clinging to shoulders and whimpering with fear. I flexed my deltoids and it forced their childlike hands off my shoulders. I took two steps forward, and to my surprise the bear stopped! Was that a hint of fear in those beady eyes that sat on top of its 11’6” mountain of hair, muscle and fangs? It stood up bearing its nasty teeth and roared while it raised its giant frying pan like paws in the air. Then within the blink of an eye, I said “it's time to dance little bear” and I pulled out my Bowie knife and charged. I jumped through the air like Michael Jordan with my knife plunging towards his heart…and then I awoke to the sound of my iPhone alarm and it was 4am and time to hunt.
Okay, all fun and games aside, here is the real story of our Arizona bear hunt with Hunting guide Pat Feldt. This hunting trip included all meals, pre-set up camp, early scouting 2 weeks before, a scouting trip the night before, the actual hunt, skinning the bear, taking us to the conservation department to check in, taking us to the taxidermist and butcher and provided good entertaining hunting stories in between.
We arrived at camp Thursday September 29th in a remote mountain area of eastern Arizona. Pat had already set up camp and it was very well done. He allowed us to use his canvas tents that were tall enough for a man to stand in and included some very nice padded cots to sleep on. We were fed a light lunch by Pat and then sat around camp and got to know the guides and other hunters. We met Eliot and Brian; the two other guides. Then we met Paul from North Carolina and Mark from California; the other two hunters. They were all very nice people to talk to.
About 3:30 that first afternoon we split with our guides and went glassing for bears. Pat went with my wife and I, Eliot went with Mark and Brian went with Paul. Pat, Wendy and I glassed the sides of the mountains while sitting on the top of a large boulder. The weather was perfect and very enjoyable but we saw NOTHING!! Eliot was the only one to glass anything and it was a sow with a cub. You can’t shoot a sow with a cub. I was a little nervous after this, but then got to thinking..... that’s hunting.
We went back to camp and ate a nice hot cooked meal served by the guides. Then we talked for a bit and the guides decided where we would go in the morning and told us to be up by 4am. We then went to bed at 8:30. I couldn’t sleep at all with the thought of hunting going through my mind and the winds that picked up and start howling that night. I think I finally fell asleep at 3am. The loud snoring and passing of gas in other tents didn’t help either, ha-ha.
We woke up at four and had a quick breakfast that included orange juice, milk, granola bars, doughnuts, oatmeal, and coffee. We dressed in our Sunday best camouflage, loaded our gear into the guide’s vehicles and headed out.
The Hunt was on!! We pulled onto a road that went up the mountain side and drove until the 4wds could not make it any further on the rocky terrain. We got out of the trucks put our packs on grabbed our rifles and ammo and started hiking. Pat, Wendy and I hiked up the road that went into the mountains. We hiked for a little over a mile on steep rocky terrain, but nothing like that which was yet to come. We arrived at our hunting location and Pat set him, Wendy and me at three different viewpoints in order to see a bear. We were located about 50ft from each other. He gave us orders to waive if we saw a bear. So we sat and watched as the sun came up. We were sitting on a boulder ridge that over looked a deep steep dense wash with a small creek in it. It was a watering hole for animals of course.
I got my Tikka T-3 light 300 win-mag out and put my Harris bipod on and loaded it with three 165gr Federal Premium triple shock rounds. I was ready, now all I needed was a bear!!
Then he appeared! Less than 10 yards in front of me I saw a black bear head pass between two big rocks. It picked up its pace and headed down the hill away from us and I lost track of it. So I waived at Pat and pointed to where I saw the bear. Pat came sprinting towards me and asked exactly what I saw and I told him. Then Pat told me exactly where he thought the bear would come out of the wash on the other side.
The race was on! The bear had smelled us! I followed Pat as we frantically searched for a good viewpoint to shoot from. We were racing around at full speed, jumping off boulders looking for a clear place to shoot from. Then we sprinted down the side of the hill and a perfect spot caught Pat’s eye. He quickly told me to lie down prone and face the open path across from us that contained a large outcrop of rocks at the top. I quickly got into position and just as I looked through my scope the bear was racing up the exact path that Pat said it would! The bear had raced through the bottom of the wash and to the other side with lightning speed. He had then appeared on the other side of the wash running up on a big rock. Pat sounded his predator call and the bear stopped for a split second on the side of the boulder. It turned his head to look back at the noise. I aimed behind his right shoulder and squeezed the trigger.
The shot went off and both Pat and I saw the bullet explode a rock and ricochet left of bear! I was in shock! I had practiced for 6 months shooting with that Tikka. He had told us that only 4% of bear tags get filled in the entire State and there are only 2,000 bears in all of Arizona! All of this went through my mind as I watched the big black bear sprint into the wilderness.
Pat said, “Congratulations, you just spotted and shot at a big Arizona black bear at 170yds and missed! It's only the first day, but I don't think that bear will ever come around here again.” Just then we heard two shots to our south. It was Paul from South Carolina. The man that refused to shoot prone had just shot a bear at 345yds without a stick or bipod! He radioed Pat to tell him. I felt like a failure inside. Just then we saw another bear run up the hill opposite from us. I grabbed my rifle and went to aim and then looked at Pat and said “I can’t shoot until we verify that I missed the other bear, can I?” We watched as the other bear ran up the large bank and into the wilderness and Pat replied with a sad “No”.
Pat decided to go see what Wendy had seen from her vantage point. She said she saw the bear at the top of the rocks and tried to waive at us but could not find us. Then she heard my gun go off and saw the bear sprint for 20 yards and stop. It then let out a large moan after it had stopped and then it disappeared. She couldn’t see it anymore. She was confident the bear was hit.
We discussed the situation and circumstances. Pat then made the decision that we would pack up everything and go down through the brush and up the other side to see if we could find a blood trail. So we went and it was a very difficult hike. After a while we made it to the rock where the bear had stood when I had shot. Immediately Pat said, “See that blood! That’s a fatal shot! Now let’s track him down.” The picture is on the next page.
We tracked the blood for 20 yards and then saw the bear lying on the ground. Pat said, “Get your gun out, load it and slowly walk towards it to see if it’s alive or dead.” So I grabbed my .45 and he said, “No, no, no, get your rifle out. That .45 won’t do anything to a bear!” So I put a round in my T3 and slowly walked ahead and saw that it wasn’t breathing.
Pat inspected the bear and saw that I had shot exactly where I had aimed! I was elated! The Barnes bullet had passed through the bear, just like it was designed to do, then hit the rock. The rock exploded from the complete pass-through, which made us think that it was a miss. Wow! As you can tell by my cheesy smile, I was pretty happy. But then, the work started.
We needed to skin the bear and take the meat off of it and hike back to the truck! Pat skillfully skinned it then we took the legs and the back straps and put everything in our packs. Pat was very nice and took the most weight. I think he packed out at least 150lbs! My pack probably weighed 75-80. Wendy probably carried 30-40lbs of equipment.
Finally we were ready to pack it out. I think it only took a couple hours of work to get everything ready to pack out. Then there was the grueling hike out. I think it took us at least 30 minutes of hard hiking just to get back up to where I shot from which was only 2 football fields away. But we made it!
We went back to camp and Pat said he would take Paul and us to Tucson to check in the bear, go to the butcher and then to the taxidermist. It was 150 miles one way and he had to return to the camp that night in order to help Mark and the other guides hunt another bear. This went way beyond what I had expected. Pat Feldt is a very good guide and a very hard worker. I highly recommend any hunt with him because of his skills and his hard work ethic!
Overall, it was a trip of a lifetime for me and Wendy. We enjoyed it immensely and would not hesitate to book another trip with Pat. This is something that I have always dreamed of doing and it actually kind of feels like a dream that it happened. Many thanks go to Pat, Bryan and Eliot for your help.
From Birds to Bears
By Mark DeJesse
I am very new to hunting, but have always been an outdoors person. I received my hunting license about a year ago and have been on a few trips. Literally a few trips; one for chucker, then wanted something larger, so I went for pheasant. I felt confidant now, so I thought, “Why not black bear”? I went with a friend of mine to the SCI show in Reno and was overwhelmed with everything. The trips there were unreal, Dall sheep, Brown Bear, Moose. I wanted to book everything. After I gathered a lot of information and headed home I started looking through the literature. The prices were expensive, and I thought to myself, after discussions with my wife that I should start locally, then work up to that. I agreed and started looking on the internet for places in California, Nevada, and Arizona. I came across Pat Feldt in Arizona that guided for Black bear, Coues deer, desert bighorn, and may other animals I was interested in. I gave Pat a call and he explained he had room for a bear hunt in early October. It was now February, so I called some references and booked the hunt. Then called a friend of mine and said, “Hey Ross, we are heading to Arizona for bear.” He thought I was joking, since only 3 months earlier we were headed after the dangerous pheasant.
I have been an active backpacker for many years, but looking at the pictures and the terrain, I knew it was not going to be easy. Pat stated the better shape that you’re in, the higher your chance for success. So over the next 6 months I trained a little harder, put weights in a backpack and hiked hills by my house, and purchased a rifle. I settled on a 300 Win Mag, a far cry from a 20 gauge. But I practiced, just as Pat stated out to 400 yards, because when you look at this terrain, you can see for miles. Four-hundred yards was nothing.
I looked at everything that Pat stated to bring, bi-pod, good rest for barrel when in prone position, good ammunition, stuck with Barnes 180gr, and a good high magnification scope. I went with a Swarovski Z5 3.5 – 18.
We flew out on a Wednesday night and were picked up by Pat Thursday morning for the ride out to camp. We met the other hunters Travis and his wife from Missouri, and Paul from North Carolina. Camp was filled with great company and a joy to spend time with. Camp was all set up and nice. Pat had high wall tents, nice cots, plenty of drinks and good food. Pat can cook! I thought I was going to lose weight, but no such luck.
Later that night, Eliot (my guide) and Ross (my friend) went glassing for a few hours. We drove down the road and hiked up a hill over boulders, cactus, and other things that poke you. After about an hour, we saw what we were after, across the hill I see this big black bear move from one bush to another. It was exciting! I mentioned to Eliot, “He’s over there, behind that bush and it looks like a little black thing behind it.” Sure enough, this old bear had a cub, but what a thrill seeing a bear so soon.
After dinner that night we discussed the strategy, we leave camp at 4:30am, hit the trail and get to the top of this hill by daylight, as Eliot points to a topo map. Sounds good. I couldn’t sleep all night as the excitement was killing me. The next morning, the three hunters split up and we headed off into the darkness. After about an hour or so glassing, I can hear Pat on the radio with Eliot. Eliot brings the radio over to where Ross and I were sitting and said listen to this. We hear Bryan, who was with Paul telling us he just saw two bears, and Paul took a shot missed the first shot but nailed the bear the second time. Eliot says, we already have a bear down? Pat says, we just saw two bears as well. Then commotion and Pats like, "we just got one!" It was crazy hearing this. Pat said the bear came 10 yards from them, then smelled them and took off running. Travis hit it going up the other side of the hill. An hour or so into the first day and two good bears down. Eliot said, “This is unreal.” We continued to glass for another 30 minutes and then headed into the other guys directions since we knew there were at least two more bears there.
One thing that really struck me about Pat, Eliot, and Bryan is that they work so well together. After they had their bears, they were still in contact with Eliot, telling him where the other bears went and telling us where to go to look for them. We headed in that direction, but didn’t see any bears. So, we hiked over to Paul and I watched as Bryan and Eliot worked on Paul’s bear, skinning it, quartering it, tagging it. I was like wow, that’s not a little bear, that thing can take your face off, as I glanced at Ross, saying “What did we get ourselves into?” It was a big old sow, 6 feet long, huge head, and plenty of meat as they quartered the bear.
So after the first day of hunting we saw 5 bears, and shot two, which is unreal. I was expecting to see a few all week, not 5 in two days. Pat took the other hunters into town, to the butcher, taxidermist, and Dept of Fish and Game, which was 150 miles away. I was now ready for my bear. So Saturday morning came and all of us went out. That’s what I liked about Pat, even though his hunter and Bryan’s hunter got bears, they worked together to get more eyes in the field. Saturday morning, about 7am, Pat yelled over the radio to Eliot, “Pack your stuff, there’s a big bear in front of me”. As I gathered my gear and we ran over the hill towards Pat, all that I could think about was, this was it, the practice, the training is coming down to this. It’s very different sitting at a range shooting and taking your time versus, off some rock, or uneven surface. My heart was pounding. But, as we got there from the two minute sprint, Pat said, “Sorry, it’s a sow with a cub, but she sure is big.” We let them go and finished off the morning not seeing any more bears.
Saturday evening was the last night my friend Ross was going to be with us, since he was flying back on Sunday to get back to work. Pat’s plan was for us to head in the opposite direction. Since he is constantly scouting, he always seems to know where the bears are and how long they stay around. So Pat was up on a big hill glassing down this long canyon. The three of us were off to the right of Pat about 1 ½ miles ahead over another hill, and Bryan was behind us to the left and back a mile or so. The evening started off with no sightings. It was about 5:15pm when we heard Pat say, “Hey Eliot, I see a bear about a mile or so in front of you, up on a hill eating.” We couldn’t see it, but Pat could see all the way up the canyon, and we were blocked by another hill in front of us. We decided not to go after this bear, since they felt it was fairly late and we had to go over three hills just to get into the same canyon as the bear. But I liked how they explained where it was, and why we wouldn’t pursue that bear. It made me feel part of the decision making process. The plan was to eventually to try and call in that bear. It was now about 5:45pm and we had about 45 minutes or so until it would be too dark to hunt. Eliot decided to now do some calling, so we set up a call about 20 feet below me in the canyon. Eliot was about 25 feet higher up the hill from me glassing to the left, and Ross was to my left, glassing to the right. You could hear the call echo throughout the canyon as the wind was perfectly still. This is where it paid to be in shape, because we were deep in the hills and it was no easy hike. But the spot was perfect. I thought that if I was a bear, this is where I would be. So there I was, sitting up on this large boulder, looking down into the canyon that Ross and Eliot couldn’t see. We had the entire area covered; Pat and Bryan were still looking up the canyon. I was looking left, then right, then back left. Thinking, a round is chambered, safety is on, so push that off, and dial down the magnification, keep checking my scope to make sure it wasn’t too dark. All this was going through my head as we continued to look for bears. I knew it was getting late as you could see the sun going higher up the hills as it settled down over the mountain. At this point I figured we had about 15 minutes or so left. A few minutes later I heard Eliot get up and start walking to me, so I turned around. He said, “Can you still see through the scope?” I said, “Yeah, I’m checking my scope every minute.” Then he interrupts me and says, “Bear! Bear!” I turn around and to my left in the bottom of the canyon was a bear. Then it was gone as it walked behind a bunch of trees. I looked through the scope but couldn’t find it. Then Eliot says, “Safety off, yes, scope powered down, yes.” I’m thinking, what is he looking at? I don’t see anything. Then he says “He’s going to come right through the bushes to your left, get ready. Ok, ok, I’m ready, but just needed to see something. Sure enough the bear continues in our direction and popped out exactly were Eliot said and continued towards us. He wasn’t stopping as I stood up and put the cross hairs on his back, but there were still more bushes and trees in the way. I followed him up the hill waiting for a clear shot. When the trees were clear and my scope was full of a black head and front paws, I exhaled and pulled the trigger.
It is true when they say you don’t feel the recoil when you focus on an animal. I felt nothing, and saw the bear drop straight down. He was lying at 15 steps and not moving. I’m yelling, “Yeah, I got a bear.” Eliot gives me a big smile, “You got a bear, and he’s down!” It was unreal. It actually happened. I got a bear. Ross didn’t even see the bear, but he said “Glad you hit it or he would have come for me”. I said, “Not a problem Ross. I’m good out to at least 25 yards”. All three of us walked over to the bear. It was great. We took pictures and looked at the paws. He had a beautiful coat, all black, silky, and thick with no rub marks. I was really happy. The three of us carried it up the hill to a flat area and took more photos. Eliot later started skinning. He knows what he’s doing.
About 45 minutes later, here comes Pat and Bryan along to help. They brought waters and joined in with the skinning/quartering alongside Eliot. When it was all skinned, Pat put the hide in a cloth bag and was going to carry it out, when I said, “Pat, I have to carry my own bear hide out, so I felt like I helped”. He said no problem. So I strapped it to the outside of my pack as the rain started coming down. Each person had pieces of the bear in his pack and the five of us hiked off the hills back to the truck. It was just what I always wanted to experience: a fair-chase hunt with no dogs, no bait, just your determination and how far you want to go.
The next day we took down camp and I went to the hotel. Pat picked me up the next day and we went to The Dept. of Fish and Game, butcher and Weller’s Taxidermy to drop off my hide for them to do a rug. They do some great work as I walked around the shop and looked at the sheep, mountain lions and grizzlies.
Each of Pat’s guides have been with him for a long time and I can see why. He’s fair, honest, and hardworking and wants you to succeed. If you’re after a nice bear and want some guides who will work hard for you, give Pat a call. You will not be disappointed.
Thanks again, Pat, Eliot and Bryan.
This story was written by a past client and has also appeared as a magazine article.
Arizona Desert Bear Hunting
By Steve Chappell
Corpus Christi, Texas
When I stepped out of the truck and saw the rugged mountain we were going to climb to glass for bears, I couldn’t help but wonder what I had gotten my self into.
It all began when I started searching the Internet for a guided bear hunt. I had never been bear hunting and wanted something challenging and truly considered sport hunting. I didn’t want to hunt bait for bears. I was leaning towards a horseback hunt in Idaho or Montana but could not find anything that was for bears only.
Then I found the Arizona Guided Hunts website. They advertised in bold letters, “This is a very rugged hunt.” It sounded just like what I wanted. I called the owner of AGH, Pat Feldt, and he explained the 4 day hunt was spot and stalk and physically demanding. He said that if I was in good shape and could stand the 90 degree heat and shoot accurately at 300 yards, then I had a good chance. Being from Corpus Christi, Texas, I thought, 90 degrees with no humidity would be a cool day. Hunting in South Texas, I typically have to make shots on deer at 300+ yards, so long distance shooting was the least of my concerns.
I got references for two hunters, one that was successful and one that wasn’t so lucky. Both hunters were very satisfied with the service, the amount of game they saw and the amount of effort that Pat and his guides put forth to ensure a successful hunt. Both hunters emphasized if I wasn’t in shape, I would probably not be successful. One of them told me that most hunters go home in 2 days because they can’t take it. This wasn’t a hunt for someone 40 pounds over weight and out of shape. I called Pat and booked the hunt then immediately started an exercise and diet program. Over the next 6 months I managed to loose 40 pounds and to ride a bicycle 10 miles a day in the hot Corpus Christi sun. I wasn’t about to let this hunt be a failure because I couldn’t cut it.
I was ready, but when we got to the top of the mountain the magnitude of the situation hit me. We were glassing an area about 10 miles in diameter. I immediately discovered that there is no flat ground in the desert mountains of Arizona and if we spotted a bear it would not be close. The hunt was going to be a lot harder than I had imagined.
After about an hour Pat spotted a bear with his 15 power binoculars. I glassed the immediate area but couldn’t find the bear. I asked him where it was. He said “Over there, about 3 miles away.” When I finally found the bear, it was just a small black dot on the side of a mountain.
We went back to the tent camp and Pat pulled out the topographical maps. We found where the bear was located and plotted our strategy to go after it in the morning. Fortunately for us there was an old mining road that could get us within a mile or so. We setup on a mountain and spotted the bear shortly after daylight a mile away. Pat took a look at me and said “Are you ready?” I said “You bet” thinking we would walk on over to where the bear was. Then Pat took off scrambling down the mountain with me hot on his heels. We hurried down that mountain, up and down the next mountain. At the bottom of the second mountain Pat said to wait until he radioed back to another guide we left behind to keep track of the bear’s movements. I really think Pat stopped because he was afraid I was going to die on the spot. No matter how fast I tried to breathe, it wasn’t enough. I just couldn’t get enough air. When Pat saw I wasn’t going to die, he said “Let’s go the bear is 2 mountains away.”
Thankfully the third mountain was so steep we couldn’t hurry up it. When we reached the top, the bear was on the mountain across from us eating prickly pear fruit. I unfolded the bi-pod and took a prone position on the crest of the mountain. I looked back at Pat and asked him how far away the bear was according to his rangefinder. He told me 280 yards and not to shoot yet. I couldn’t help but wonder why he was mounting his rangefinder on a tripod. I found the bear in my 6.5 X 20 power Nikon scope and was very grateful that the bear was behind a bush and stayed there for about 30 seconds. It gave me time to catch my breath and lower my heart rate. I had been practicing shooting at 400 yards using 7mm mag 150 grain Nossler Partition bullets in my Ruger #1 and figured 280 yards to be an easy shot.
When the bear stepped out from behind the bush I put the crosshairs on his neck and squeezed the trigger. The bear dropped in his tracks. Hammer dead! I think Pat was as excited as I was. He had been filming the event and had the whole thing on tape. It turned out that what he was putting on the tripod was a camcorder not a rangefinder.
The excitement of getting my first bear didn’t hit me until we climbed up to the bear and I looked back and realized what it took to get to this spot. It was a fair chase. Hunting in its purest form. It was everything I wanted in a hunt and more than I expected.
I was very impressed with the skinning skills that Pat and his assistant had. They took every precaution to ensure the bear hide would make the best looking rug possible. We took the hide to a taxidermist that afternoon. The taxidermist, Weller's Wildlife Studio, makes the most beautiful rugs I have ever seen. I can hardly wait until it arrives. The meat was also well taken care of and also taken to a butcher that afternoon.
Arizona Guided Hunts makes it easy. They pick you up at the airport then take you straight to camp. The food is cooked outdoors and is great! I am definitely going back next year with the intention of only hunting for a trophy bear. Watching the video that Pat made gives me the incentive to stay in shape. It’s great to watch one of the most exciting hunts I’ve ever had.
If you are looking for a rugged hunt, something that requires shooting skills and is physically challenging, then I recommend contacting Pat Feldt of Arizona Guided Hunts. You won’t be disappointed.
You can contact Steve as a reference on our bear hunts at email@example.com
Bruins in the Desert by Pat Feldt
This article has appeared in a couple magazines including the Arizona Hunting Tales, Winter 2000 issue.
A hot September morning in 1999 found me climbing a mountain slope covered with catclaw brush and prickly pear cactus in total darkness. It was the first day of the second bear season in Arizona. Being a guide, it was my only chance, and not to mention a rare moment, to hunt for myself. My destination was a knob 1.83 miles (as the crow flies) from the truck and I had only 45 minutes to get there before glassing light. I had only hiked a quarter of my destination and my shirt was soon soaked. It was a good 75 + degrees and the sun had not even come up yet. This was just another typical Arizona bear hunting morning.
I have found that being successful with spot and stalk black bear hunting in Arizona depends mainly on locating a bear before the sun comes up. They turn nocturnal in the hot summer months and once the sun hits them, they are on the move and off to bed. Since I hadn't scouted the area ahead of time, my goal was to scan the 4 square mile area to just locate a bear. I would then have an idea of what to do for the evening hunt. Bears will usually come back to the same canyon or visit the same feeding grounds in the evening if food is plentiful or if they are not pressured.
I had reached my destination and began glassing the steep slopes with my tripod-mounted 15X60 binoculars. Not two minutes into glassing, I spotted the biggest bear of my career. He was a huge black bear with a golden back. With his coloration and size, it seemed to be the monster bruin that was missed 2 years earlier by another hunter.
The sun was up now and I knew at any minute he would move off out of sight and head for his bed. The bear was 1000 yards or further away, but was still munching on prickly pear cactus fruit, so I thought I might be able to get a shot if I was in position within the next few minutes. Instead of watching this bear, patterning him, and trying to get into position in the evening when he came out to feed, I decided to take my chances and get as close as possible. After packing-up my glassing gear (tripod, binoculars, etc.), I raced to a cliff drop-off directly across from the big bruin. I set up my glassing gear again and found the monster still there. As the beast picked through the fruit patch, I estimated his range. He was now only 425 yards away, which is an easy cross-canyon shot on such a huge animal.
I lay behind my sniper setup. After adjusting the Harris bipod and turning the Leupold Vari-X III scope to 20X, I set the target turret to 4 minutes of angle. This was going to be a one shot kill I thought, since I practice routinely at the 1000-yard bench rest. The crosshairs settled on the feeding black bear’s chest and I squeezed-off a round out of the .300 Win. Mag. The whack of the bullet hitting the bear echoed throughout the canyon. I looked through the scope and saw the bear’s feet up in the air. It was all over. I had just finished off a monster bruin...............so I thought!
I began to pack all my gear into the backpack when I glanced over to the opposite canyon wall and saw “Mr. Grizz” heading slowly down towards the bottom. Franticly, I set-up the gun again and found the big black bear just as he was about to disappear into the riparian creek bottom. I touched off another round. Boom! Whop! The bear was hit again, rolled over, but refused to stay down. I eventually lost sight of him amongst the riparian vegetation at the bottom of the canyon. Knowing he was hurt bad, I waited 30 minutes to let him expire.
Because of the rough terrain and thick brush, it took a good hour before I reached the bottom of the canyon. Being hit twice with two bullets coming out of the barrel at 3300 feet per second, the bloodtrail wasn’t hard to find. But, following it through the thick riparian growth of the creek bottom was a feat in itself. I sometimes found myself crawling on my hands and knees to avoid getting snagged.
With my chin tucked into my chest, I busted through some thick oakbrush when suddenly I heard a grunt and crashing that seemed way too close for comfort. I froze like a statue and slowly lifted my head to investigate. I found myself face to face with a Kodiak-sized bear (not an exaggeration!). He was on all fours facing me with his teeth popping and hair standing on end. I couldn't help but notice the massive amounts of pooled-up blood around him. The old fellow seemed angry and hurt bad. I was taking no chances with this angry beast. I pulled up the gun and pounded another round into the front of his chest. He flipped over backwards and gave one last groan before expiring.
After cleaning my shorts, I took awe at his size. He was so wide that the two 165 gr. Nosler bullets fired from the .300 Win. Mag. did not even exit his body. Up until this point, I had faith in this bullet for bears. I have seen many bears get "knocked in the dirt" by this load, but when you encounter one this big, you want something that will pass through.
The next 3 hours were spent taking photos on a tripod, skinning and de-boning the bear. With the Arizona September daytime temperatures sometimes reaching 90 degrees, the meat and hide have about 5 hours to get to a cooler before spoiling. So, with 225 lbs. of meat, hide and gear on the freighter packframe, I took off up the mountain. I found myself going only 50 to 100 yards at a time before stopping to catch my breath. It was the roughest pack-out I had ever done alone. When all was said and done, he measured almost 9 feet long and 7 feet around the chest. The raw hide and head weighed in at 120 pounds. His true live weight was estimated using measurements and charts at 550 pounds. He officially scores 21 11/16 SCI, ranking it #8 in the SCI World Record Book. A once-in-a-lifetime trophy bear that I will never forget!
"The Bear Hunt of a Lifetime"
By Joe Eades of Maryland
The hunt of a lifetime was in the making after a morning of snow goose hunting in Delaware with my friend Greg Jackson and Stanley Rouse. We gathered at Greg's residence to discuss what big game hunt would be on the agenda for the upcoming year. Greg has hunted with an outfitter by the name of Pat Feldt (owner of Arizona Guided Hunts) several times before and has had a lot of fun and success. However, I would have never been convinced until I watched the video of his previous Arizona black bear hunt. After viewing the video, Stanley and I were hooked!
One phone call to Arizona and "The Hunt" was on. We discussed a few things over the phone such as, which caliber to use, what distance to expect the shots, and the physical aspects of the hunt? My buddy Greg had purchased a new Remington .300 Ultra Mag for the previous bear hunt with Arizona Guided Hunts. After seeing the video of Greg's bear drop like a rock, I thought "should I take my 30-06 Rem. model 700? I don't think so!" Both Stanley and I purchased a new Remington 700 in .300 Ultra Mag and were impressed with the performance. We topped them both with Leupold scopes and fitted them with Harris ultra light bipods for added stability. I figured that if I encountered shots across a canyon at 350 to 500 plus yards, I would be totally comfortable. We also discussed how demanding a hunt could be in Arizona. Physical conditioning was very important and the terrain in Arizona or anywhere out West, is fairly rough. Not to mention the altitude difference and rattlesnakes!
Our outfitter Pat Feldt picked us up at the airport in Tucson very promptly. We arrived and set up camp a short time afterward. After getting settled in, we decided to go a field to get a taste of the days to come. We grabbed our optics and each hunter and guide headed in different directions to glass mountain ridges. Mike, my guide, was an older gentleman with a lot of hunting experience. As we made our way through some mesquite and cat claw brush at the bottom of one of Pat's favorite canyons, Mike shared some vital information with me. He said, "Joe, what's important is that you stay hydrated, move at your own pace, watch your step and rest when necessary" (to cool your body down). As we moved along, he pointed out to what he called a "bump" (big hill - small mountain) and said that's where we will glass from. By the time we were half way to his "bump", I was gasping for air and my lower quadriceps were burning like hell. My guide told me that is normal especially for a flatlander (ie. someone from back east) like me. We finally made it to the "bump"; a hike which only took a half hour and felt like forever. Just before dark we watched a nice sized black bear come down the west slope of Pat's secret canyon. This bear was at least 375 to 400 pounds.
The next morning we hiked higher into the canyon to try and intercept the big bruin, but unfortunately, he had traveled to the opposite side of the big canyon over night. Mike glassed up the big bear lying on a rock ledge about a mile away. We did our best trying to get into position and intercept him, but ran out of time before we lost sight of the monster.
Back at camp everyone discussed how to approach the bear for my evening hunt. Pat and Mike went over the topographic map to find the best possible route to take up the mountain towards the bear's homestead. It was a fairly long hike up the mountain with no avail. The bear did not appear this time. It was yet another long hike down the mountain in the dark. We arrived back at camp so late that all the rest of the hunting party were sure that we had taken a bear.
My guide and I kept at it and on Saturday, September 21, 2002 (the second day of the hunt) my luck changed. The hunt began by taking a totally different route up the mountain. My guide Mike thought it would be best to go west of the ridge where we saw the big bruin the first time and come down on top of him. Once we reached the top of the ridge, it was late in the morning and primetime had run out. After glassing every little crease in the canyon only to find a few Coues deer, I found myself some shade and took a nap for a few hours. About four o'clock we glassed up and down the canyon and saw nothing. Time was running out for Saturday's hunting session and the sun was about to set. My stomach growled, my legs were exhausted, and I had blisters on my feet. To be fifty-seven years old and hike up mountains is one thing, but to do so like it's a walk in the park is another! They say you should never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes. Well, let me be the first to say there is nobody I know that can walk even one hundred yards in Mike's shoes.
As we headed down a rough and rocky part of the canyon, I was trailing about 15 yards behind. I decided to take the round out of my chamber to be safe while traversing through the rough terrain. We preceded to stop and glass every ten minutes or so with about one hour of daylight left to hunt. Just as we were about to head down the next ridge, we heard some noise in the clump of bushes and rocks to our left. We stopped to listen as the sound was going in the opposite direction that we were hiking. The noise we heard stopped as we stopped. Mike motioned for me to go around the other side of the rocks. I stood still for a few seconds then moved forward a few feet to see down the canyon. Suddenly a blur of brown mass bolted out of the cover approximately 20 feet away! It became apparent that it was a brown bear bolting straight for me! There was no time for thought. I had to do something and I had to do it fast, faster than ever done anything else before. With no round in the chamber and the bear charging full speed now at 15 feet, I opened the bolt and chambered a round. As one can imagine, I nearly broke my thumb pushing the safety to the firing position! With no time to shoulder my rifle and use the scope, I pointed the muzzle at the bear's chest. I held my rifle tight for dear life and fired while the bear approached at only 10 feet! The bear flipped over backwards only eight feet away and rolled on his left side. The rifle nearly came out of my hands and the scope covers popped up from the recoil since I was shooting at waste level. The bear tried to get to his feet, so I quickly chambered another round and threw up my rifle! While the bear put his right paw up showing his claws, popping his teath and looking at me with fierceness in his eyes, I fired another shot. I wasted no time yelling, "I got me a bear" as loud as I could. Mike came over quickly and saw me backing up the hill still pointing my ultra mag at the twitching bear. Mike seemed amused at the whole situation and giggled as he said, "He's done. You can relax now, Joe." I started to shake so bad I had to put my rifle down and collect whatever nerves I had left! The miniature grizzly was down for good! As he lye there motionless, I was speechless! He wasn't the original monster bruin we spotted a couple times, but he is six feet long, cinnamon or light brown and 225 lbs., a trophy in any bear hunters eyes. Any bear that is light brown, charging you at 10 feet with less than 3 seconds to react while no round chambered -- to me, qualifies as a grizzly!
If you like hunting and want guides that will work their ass off, contact Pat Feldt of Arizona Guided Hunts. Bring your hiking boots and a spare set of nerves!
Arizona Desert Bear Hunting
“The Big One”
By Steve Chappell
Corpus Christi, Texas
It was late Summer in 2001. This was my second black bear hunting experience with Pat Feldt and Arizona Guided Hunts (AGH). My first trip was so exciting that I just had to come back for more! Arizona Guided Hunts offers the true sportsman everything they could want. Rugged hunting, a test of your shooting abilities, a guide service that does everything possible to ensure your hunting experience is successful and, not to mention, the great food!
This time I was really ready. I exercised the entire year and practiced shooting at 400 yards for a month prior to going on the hunt. If you don’t prepare for this hunt, you’ll diminish your chances dramatically. A few hunters have gone home early because they couldn’t cut it. I also told myself that I was going to remain cool and not get as excited as the last time. The adrenaline rush you get when your crosshairs are on a bear is like that of no other.
I told Pat that I only wanted to hunt for a bear that weighed at least 300 pounds and to pass up anything smaller. Pat was very honest and said that my chances might decrease a bit if I was to be selective. I told Pat that was fine. If you don’t swing for a home run, you never get one.
The night before we went out, I thought about how tough it had been last year and wondered what the morning would bring. Last year, I shot my bear in the first hour of the first morning. Like last year, morning came early. We left camp at 4:00am and drove into the mountains for 45 minutes. After parking the Jeep, we took off down a dry creek bed that ran into a running stream. It was fairly wide and there was no way across without getting wet. Pat asked if I wanted to take off my boots and walk across the knee-deep creek barefooted. My only thought was that I’d probably fall and break a leg or worse, my scope, so I decided to leave my boots on and contend with wet feet. Being from South Texas, I didn’t know water got that damn cold.
Well, anyway we made it across the water then had to climb a 30-foot cliff before we could start to climb the mountain. We got to the top and daylight came. I saw we were on a huge plateau and on both sides of us were deep canyons. We set up tripods and binoculars and waited for glassing time. Soon after daylight, Pat, his helper, and I began to glass. Within a couple minutes we spotted a very large bear 3 canyons away (about 1 mile). It was heading towards a mountain at the end of the plateau, so we rushed about 3/4 of a mile to where we thought we‘d be able to get a shot.
While waiting for this big bear to reach us, Pat spotted a bear on the mountain across from us. We realized it was a smaller bear and not the one we had come for. We were deeply engrossed in watching it when all of a sudden Pat’s helper, Keith, saw our bear about 1/4 mile behind us. It was heading down into a very deep canyon, but at a pace which would give us plenty of time for a shot. Now the chase was on which added to the excitement. We had to hurry back towards where we started in order to get within range of the big beast. Once in range, I laid down and got the bear in my scope. Pat said it was about 300 yards away.
Last year I set my scope on 20 power for a 300 yard shot and the bear’s distance and size fooled me. It looked bigger than it really was. A common mistake I‘ve learned to overcome when deer hunting. This time I had the scope set on 10 power and the bear looked the same size. In all the excitement, I remembered I only wanted to shoot a big one (it’s amazing how much you forget when you see a bear) so I asked Pat, “How big is it?” He said, “It’s a shooter.” I said, “How BIG is it?” He said, “Don’t worry, it’s a shooter.” I said, “HOW BIG is it?” Finally exasperated, Pat said, “Don’t worry, just shoot the bear. It’s a BIG ONE!” I squeezed the trigger and hit the bear with a solid thump. We were amazed in that it only stumbled him. The bear took off down into the canyon out of sight. We looked over the edge of the canyon and couldn’t see it. After discussing the situation, Pat thought it would be best if we wait awhile before we make our next move.
Pat was videoing the action the whole time and caught the shot on film. So, in order to verify how good the bear was hit, we viewed the video right there in the field. You could tell the bear was big. It looked liked I hit the bear too high behind the shoulder. My heart sank. I could tell by the look on Pat’s face he didn’t have a good feeling either. Feeling totally dejected we walked around the edge of the canyon to the other side to look for a possible blood trail. I wasn’t looking forward to going to the bottom of a steep, deep, narrow canyon to look for a big and angry wounded bear. Please note: in Arizona, guides aren’t allowed to carry rifles or go after wounded animals. It’s the hunter’s responsibility to get his own game.
When we got to the other side we found where it stood when I shot and where it went down into the canyon. When I looked over the edge, I could see the bear about 300 feet below us dead as a hammer. I was elated! I could tell Pat was thrilled also. All he kept saying was “Look how big it is!”
The bear turned out to be a Monster! He was 7-foot long, weighed around 400 pounds and scored 20 9/16 inches. The shot was a good one. Through the left lung, exiting in front of the right shoulder. I’ve never been so excited! We took many photos then skinned and de-boned the beast. Because of it’s size, it took several hours for 3 people to pack the animal out. I now have this huge beautiful bear skin rug on my wall and marvel at it every time I walk into my game room.
The video Pat made is great. I can’t help but laugh every time I listen to us bantering back and forth about the size of the bear. Pat thinks I’m a really lucky hunter. I know it’s because Pat is such a great guide. This year when I called AGH to make arrangements to go back for a third bear hunt, Pat said, “Come on. You’re easy. Hunt one hour and shoot a bear.” I promised Pat that if he said the bear was a shooter, this time I would take his word for it. I figure all I gotta do when I see another big bear is stay cool, calm and collected. Yeah, right.
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