Doing it Right!

“You’re welcome to bring any Mossberg firearm,” said Linda Powell. “It’s going to be a baited hunt; the distance will be short. All their baits and blinds are no more than 20 yards apart.”  Before I could respond, “I’m planning on taking my .450 Bushmaster, Patriot Predator, 16.25-inch barrel. I’ve used it with great success on black bears in the past shooting Hornady’s 245-grain Interlock American Whitetail ammo.”

Before responding I thought for a second or two about buying the same chambering but in Mossberg’s wood stocked Patriot, with a 20-inch barrel. While I appreciate synthetic stocks, I prefer nicely grained wood. Previously I had bought two Mossberg Patriots, those in .270 Winchester and .30-06 Springfield. Both had attractive quality wood far beyond their economical price tag. Both shot extremely accurately using several of Hornady’s ammo lines. But then too, I had a new Patriot Predator chambered in 7mm PRC.  It shot nearly one-hole accuracy, 3-shot groups, at 100-yards using Hornady Precision Hunter 175-grain ELD-X. I knew it was accurate.  And, at a maximum distance of 20 yards, I really wanted to see how that bullet, leaving the muzzle at 3,000 feet-per=second would perform on a large Alberta, Canada black bear.

I have been a huge fan of Hornady’s ELD-X bullets loads since they were released.  I have shot them through a variety of calibers, at paper and steel targets but especially at game. Having over the past many years shot a fair variety of bullet designs and loads, Hornady’s Precision Hunter loads are not only the most accurate I have shot, but also the “killingest.” This includes animals from coyotes to elk, including numerous big-bodied wild hogs, the near perfect bullet test medium. Most of those animals have been taken at distances between 100 and 300 yards.  The latter, for the most part, is my personal self-imposed distance limit at which to shoot big game. Do not get me wrong, I love to shoot at steel, or even rocks at great distances. But when it comes to hunting, the challenge is in trying to get as close as possible before pulling the trigger, rather than simply shooting at long distances.

Prior to my black bear hunt with W&L Guide Service (www.wlguides.com), owned by Wally and Louisa Mack and their two sons, the closest shot I had taken with an ELD-X bullet came from a 270 Win, 145-grain. This, an ancient 8-point whitetail I had rattled in and shot at 30 yards as the buck was facing me. I found that bullet just under the skin to left of his tail.  It was perfectly mushroomed.  I could not have drawn a more perfectly spent hunting bullet.

“Think I’ll bring my new 7mm PRC Patriot Predator!  I’ve not yet shot anything with that particular rifle or round.”. Linda thought it a good choice, even if I was likely not shooting beyond 20 yards.

Later that same day I mounted a Trijicon 4-16×50 AccuPoint scope on my chosen rifle. I knew it might be a little high magnification on the low end, but also knew this was going to be the scope I would leave on the rifle for numerous other hunts I had and have planned later on the in the year. This particular AccuPoint’s large front objective would help gather light on overcast days during my late evening vigils. I dearly love the AccuPoint’s small green, always on, non-battery, illuminated dot, which really helps with proper shot placement against a black bear’s hide!

At my home range, after bore-sighting it took two shots to have the combination hitting dead-on at 25-yards. Then after making the appropriate turret adjustment, I shot a round at 100-yards.  The bullet was dead-on at 100 yards.  I cranked the turret back down to where I would be sighted-in at 25-yards and shot one more round.  All worked properly.  I was ready!  Later in W&L Guide Service’s comfortable camp my rifle was still hitting exactly where it should at 25-yards.

Weeks before heading to Canada, I went to the Austin, Texas international airport to have my Mossberg rifle, Trijicon scope, as well as my binos, and cameras registered at the US Customs office by filling out a Form 4457 which proves ownership.

In route to Canada, on the final leg of flight I met several with whom I would be sharing camp.  Those include David Draper, editor of Petersen’s HUNTING; Will Brantley, hunting editor for FIELD and STREAM, Monte DeBoer, Marketing Operations Manager with Hornady, and Frank Melloni a free-lance writer.  Once in Canada, at the airport we ran into Brad Fenson, a long-time friend, plus Linda Powell who orchestrated the hunt, and then later over supper where we met Jerry and Kay Miculek, who in the world of shooting competitions need no introduction. Jerry and I had often in the past signed autographs at the Hornady booth together during NRA and SHOT shows.

Our trip to camp, an 8+ hour chartered bus ride started at 4 a.m. was uneventful other than extreme smoke conditions. Wildfires were burning throughout much of central and northern Alberta. Settled in camp, licenses acquired, a quick delicious meal prepared by Louisa, change into hunting clothes, gather gear and loaded into guide Shane Wilson’s pickup, we headed to the bear woods.  At 3 p.m., I was sitting in a comfortable platform tree stand to start my afternoon vigil.  It did not take long for me to fire up my Thermacell. Mosquitoes and spring bear hunting go hand in hand.

My afternoon hunt which ended at near 11 p.m., proved to be an evening of watching squirrels. Late that night back at camp I learned Frank Melloni had taken an absolute monster black bear, which squared over 8-feet. Four other bears were taken, including one each by David Draper, Monte DeBoer and Will Brantley. All measured well beyond 7-feet tip of nose to tip of tail. Huge black bear, anywhere in North America.  I had in the past taken grizzlies in central Alaska which were not nearly as big!

As usual, it did not take long to spend the night in bear camp! We spent the early morning photographing bears and listening to bear stories. After lunch we headed back to the bear stands.  That afternoon Shane dropped me off at a newly established bait station and stand. That was almost too comfortable!

The afternoon started slow, but then quickly turned exciting when I spotted a big black bear lurking just nearly out of sight. He was circling the blind and bait, stopping occasionally to smell the surroundings. Mostly I could only see small pieces of bear. I did my best to try to film the bear with my video camera for an upcoming episode of our new “The Journey” which airs new shows twice monthly on CarbonTV.com.  But it was to no avail.  He would not expose himself where I could get even reasonable footage. The bear I could tell was tall of shoulder, long of body with a wide space between his ears. Finally, he got closer, then again disappeared behind a screening of underbrush. No doubt he as a wary one, which made me think he too was an old boar. The bear started walking toward the bait, then stopped again behind some brush, then moved again. I tried following him with the camera, but to no avail. When the bear finally stopped he was no more than 15 steps distant. But it was in another spot where I could not maneuver the camera to film. He was getting nervous. Truth be known, so I was I! I felt assured he would square well over 7-feet, a truly big bear no matter where one hunts!

When a shot presented itself, I pulled the trigger, the crosshairs, and green tridium dot centered on the body a hand’s width behind his shoulder.  At the shot the bear started to go down and turned as if to run away. I immediately bolted in a fresh round and shot him again when he turned.  There were at least a couple of reasons for my doing so…I did not want to bear to go far and wanted to put him down as humanely and quickly as possible, I hoped I too could recover a spent bullet; I like to shoot; and I am a firm believer in putting bullets into an animal as long as there is any movement, but then be ready to shoot again, if necessary.  I would rather lose a couple ounces of meat from follow-up shots rather than lose an entire animal.

Before crawling out of my “blind,” I loaded two fresh rounds, then walked ready to shoot again toward where my bear lay. At his side I said a prayer of thanks, then marveled at his size and luxuriant coal-black coat. Beautiful.

Then I crawled back into my stand, knowing another bear, and even bigger one might appear before evening’s end.  That did not happen.

When Shane arrived on his “quad” it was all the two of us could do to load my bear for the ride back to the vehicle and camp. Back at camp I learned a couple of other huge bears had been taken.

Next morning, we photographed my bear and the other successful hunters. Wally and Shane did a great job of skinning my bear, something I normally do myself.  In so doing they recovered the second bullet, just under the skin after it had traveled about 50 or so inches of tough bear.  It was perfectly mushroomed!

I loved the ELD-X’s terminal performance. My initial shot had been a pass-through, literally destroying heart and lungs before exiting. No doubt based on what I saw of the recovered bullet it likely did the same in terms of mushrooming. I was impressed.  Both bullets had left the muzzle at essentially 3,000 feet-per-second, and even a close range had performed perfectly.  Question answered!

In the near future I will tell tales of how the rest of my hunt went, including bears nearly crawling onto my stand’s platform, and my quest for one of the largest black bears I have ever seen, one which made his appearance a few minutes after legal shooting time.

You will be able to see parts of my bear hunt on an upcoming TV episode of “The Journey” on CarbonTV.com, and listen to Monty DeBoer, Will Brantley, David Draper, Linda Powell, as well as Kay and Jerry Miculet talk about their hunts, and a variety of other topics on my weekly “DSC’s Campfires with Larry Weishuhn” which can be heard on CarbonTV.com, Waypointtv.com, Spotify, Apple podcasts, iHeart Podcasts and a whole lot of other places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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