Blazing Saddles, the Quest for a Huge Black Bear
I was guiding bear hunters in Idaho’s Sawtooth mountains and a group of hunters from Wisconsin had sent us some trail cameras. We had six well-established baits spread over our Idaho bear hunting area and they were already getting hit hard even though it was only late April. I was excited to get the cameras out and early the next morning I made the rounds to see if we had any pictures on the trail cameras. I was hoping for three or four. We had eighty!? Hmmm… Who woulda guessed? One of our bears looked like a monster. And the tracks….oh the tracks.
As the weeks went on, we confirmed it… he was a huge black bear. We called him “Toad” and he was the type of bear you dream about. Not only was he big, but he was a deep chocolate color to boot. Our Wisconsin hunters were ecstatic. Not only because of Toad, we had a nice blonde bear too, appropriately named “Blondie”.
I’d like to say that it ended with a hero shot of me and my bow and a huge black bear named Toad… but it didn’t. It did end with a BANG! though.
So, our hunters passed up bear after bear in their quest for Toad and Blondie. Neither of whom showed up for the party. On the last day of the season we didn’t have any hunters, so I hunted Toad’s favorite bait. He did come in, but it was after shooting hours. I sat in the stand watching him in the moonlight for a long time… drooling. The next two seasons were more of the same and he began to become a legend. Our hunters all left with nice bears, but not THE bear.
It was my turn!
In 2007 we purchased a new hunting area in the Frank Church Wilderness and I knew that my chance to get this great bear was coming to an end, so I set out with a vengeance and hunted hard. I only put out one bait, but it was in a better area with thicker cover and much harder to get to. This would give him fewer choices and I hoped that he would feel more comfortable in the thicker cover and come in during the shooting hours. I hunted hard and I passed on a bunch of nice bears. Big ones, blonde ones, chocolate ones, red ones and even one that I called “frosted chocolate”. The last night of the season I shot a small bear.
Now for the “Blazing Saddles” part of this story.
Our bear hunting truck was an old piece of crap Toyota and it was on it’s last leg. On my final trip in to hunt Toad I was 20-some miles from the lodge when I smelled something burning. I was on an old logging road with overhanging brush, so I didn’t want to stop and burn down the whole forest, so I pushed on hoping to get to a spring that crossed the “road” a few miles below.
Before long, the cab was full of smoke, my head was out the window and there were flames coming out of the passenger side floorboard. I was flying, desperate to make the spring. As I skidded around the last corner I tried to slow down, but the brakes lines had burned through I guess… uh oh. The only option I had was to run into a big willow growing out of the spring. That put a stop to things real quick.
I bailed out and tried fruitlessly to put the fire out, I should have had a fire extinguisher, but soon realized that it was just too big, so all I could do was salvage what I could, back off, take pictures and try to put out any forest fire that might start. The smoke was incredible, the flames were huge and the tires blowing (I think it was the tires) were surprisingly loud. It didn’t take long for that old pickup to burn to the ground.
Once the fire was out, I put on my backpack and started a long walk back to the lodge. I didn’t take the roads so it was only about 15 miles as the crow flies, but it still took most of the day. I flew out the next morning to start a new adventure in the Frank Church Wilderness. My quest for Toad the monster black bear was over.
UPDATE: Last spring a friend of mine who hunts the same area showed me a picture of a huge chocolate bear at one of his baits. The legend continues… and since I’m not outfitting anymore, I just might rekindle my obsession.
I’ve been on a lot of hunts over the past years, and can honestly say this was one of my best trips to date! With animals in every direction, the hardest decision was figuring out which Goat we were going after. That is a true rarity these days. I can’t wait to go back to hunt with this outfit!
Excellent caribou hunt from start to finish. Life long friends and memories will forever be remembered!
I wanted you all to know what an extraordinary trip I felt it was! Thank you all for everything! It was awesome and couldn’t have been better!
Overall it was an awesome experience and we are already planning our return trip! Oh, and did I mention the fishing was great?
Hunting with this outfitter was a wonderful experience. This hunt is great value for the money! My guide, Lyle was an extremely knowledgeable hunter and great all-around guy.
Sheep and tag numbers are on the increase which is good news all around. If you wish to sheep hunt, let us know now and we will in turn provide you with a reminder and information when the drawing time draws near. This is very special hunt and should be considered by anyone who calls himself a hunter, at least once before you retire the boots and rifle.
- I love to hunt elk. Guiding hunts, floats, and fishing are all very special ways for me to earn a living. The difference is that… “I have to Sheep Hunt!” For me, there is no other place that I have found and no other experience that compares. I am sure there are many rams taken each year beside the road, on the trail or next to the river… those have nothing to do with what I am speaking of. In the 80’s and 90’s I guided countless Bighorn and Dall Sheep hunts. We would drop a hunter off at the airstrip (successful or not) sometimes on the proverbial verge of death, only to gather up the next victim and head out again. It never grew tiring, in fact it was just the opposite. “Exhilarating” would be more appropriate. I love every aspect of the sheep hunt. The terrain, camaraderie, the camping, the rocks. I love the rocks. Bighorn Sheep tags became more difficult to acquire through the 90’s and on into the new millennium.
Having an industry which is littered with “mediocre” brokers, it is refreshing to have solidified a great working relationship with those at Outdoors International, with special thanks to Russ Meyer … he’s top notch in the business!!
I have dreamed of hunting cape buffalo with a bow in Africa since I was 12 years old, and now here I was 28 years later standing in the tall grass of the Limpopo on my dream hunt for a trophy cape buffalo with my bow in hand in complete and utter shock.
Just returned from my Alaska mountain goat hunt – great hunt and fantastic group of guides, packers! Got my goat on the second day and I want to thank you for putting me in touch with such top notch, friendly, extremely capable people. Everything was A+ all the way around. Thanks again and I’ll be touch for another hunt.