All posts by coldboremiracle

Field Optics Research Carbon Fiber Tripods

If you’ve followed me for very long, you’ve surely seen me shooting from a tripod. I am rarely without one, as I find them infinitely useful in building shooting positions, and supporting equipment. You may have read my previous article about tripods, but today I am writing specifically about the Field Optics Research tripods.

Field Optics Research fills the void between the 100-200 dollar tripods, and the carbon fiber 800 plus dollar tripods. That said, Field Optics makes both sub 200 dollar tripods, as well as carbon fiber models, but they are very affordable. They are not photography tripods adapted for shooting, this makes them an ideal candidate for those who wish to spend just a bit more on their field equipment and expect good returns on their investment.

The BT Precision FBT5436C Bowl Top Tripod seen here with the FBH-44DT ball head, which together give the user two pivot points.

The first and bigger of the two models I’ve fielded is the BT Precision FBT5436C Bowl Top Tripod, It can be used from a prone position, all the way up to a standing position. With carbon fiber telescoping legs, several locking positions, and a bowl top. The bowl top gives the user the ability to loosen the top of the tripod, and articulate the rifle (or scope, binos, etc.) to the angle needed.

Here you can see the Field Optics Gunpod FM-500B which clamps your rifle into a firm position atop the tripod.

Field Optics also sells a saddle-type gun vise that mounts on their tripods, so that any rifle (or anything for that matter) can be clamped into the top of the tripod. The clamp also features a pic rail clamp at the bottom of it, so that your rifle can be fixed firmly to the tripod with the quick turn of a screw. In addition to that, they make many different heads to go on the tripod for using Arca Swiss rails, cameras, spotting optics and more.

Another handy feature of the tripod is that the legs screw off, and can be used as a light-weight trekking pole, they even sell thread on handles to make it more convenient. With different ball heads and rifle interface options, there is no reason you can’t find an ideal setup for your needs.

Arca Rail mounting solutions are available in various configurations

The legs of the tripod are easily extended by turning the rubber gripped cap at the end of each segment. This is almost the best way of doing it, but certainly better than most. The large diameter of the legs make it easy to grab and wrap your hand around, and the whole unit is surprisingly lighter than you would expect after noting its size.
All three legs can articulate by unlocking them at the base of the head, there is a small sliding lock in the hinge itself that allows the legs to be lifted. They can come all the way up to make the tripod rest flat on the ground if needs be. The legs re-lock as you lower them back down at different angles.

Here you can see the ball head, and related controls. Tension clutches for every axis make it easy to hold your rifle in position.

I also got to try out one of their BT Precision Ground Tripod, a smaller tripod meant to work from the ground. It also features a bowl-top, and can use all of the same accessories and mounting solutions. The small and lightweight tripod makes it very stout, even heavy precision rifles will stay steady on this robust little unit.

I’ve used both models extensively in these rocky mountains, and have found them extremely handy. They were both well built and felt very sturdy when extended. My only complaint might be the size, despite being very light-weight they are still fairly large and more weight than one would want to carry if hunting back-country on foot. However, for competition shooting and all-around shooting, they leave almost nothing to be desired. Moving stage to stage they are easily folded up and carried, and they give the user all the stability of much more expensive units. With such a firm foundation to shoot from, the only excuse for a miss would be user error.


I certainly wouldn’t exclude them from hunting use though, if you hunt from ATV’s, horses or any other fashion that doesn’t require you to carry all your own gear, you would do very well to have one of these tripods under your hunting rifle.

The Field Optics Research series of tripods is a very affordable way to get into a professional-grade shooting tripod. Yes, there are nicer ones, and perhaps some with better features, but the price is also much higher. These tripods give an average everyday shooter a great option without having to take out a second mortgage. I can assure you there are many cheaper options out there as well, but as far as performance for the dollar, I’d put my rifle on top of a Field Optics Research any day.
CBM

What is Windage and Why/When to adjust for it

Anyone who has shot in the wide-open spaces of the plains states knows what wind is. It’s an old nemesis for marksmen and one that has likely ruined more than a few shots over the years. But could a better understanding of this gusty adversary put more hits on your scorecard?
Wind deflection is the physical effect of air currents that your bullet is forced to combat as it travels towards your targets. Wind can come from any direction, and the effect it has on your bullet can vary greatly depending on air density, humidity, temperature, and other atmospheric conditions. In this article we’ll address those effects, and what you can do to counter them.

Windage corrections align your point of aim and your (altered by wind) point of impact.

What is windage:
Windage is the correction for the effect of the wind. Your rifle should be zeroed to the center of your point of aim (POA), and the wind is that obnoxious character that blows your bullets away from that point of aim. You adjust your windage according to how far away from your point of aim it pushes the bullet. If the wind blows your bullet three inches right of POA, then you can aim three inches left of where you want to hit.
Shooting in the wind can be intimidating, but as with most other disciplines, it is simply a matter of familiarity. Instead of fair weather shooting, you’d be better off forcing yourself to get out there in the breeze and learn from it.
The effects of wind and other air currents are exacerbated with more exposure time, the longer your bullet is flying in the wind, the more the wind will affect it. A simple way to look at that is the further distance your bullet travels, the longer time the wind will have to affect its trajectory. It’s important to note then that bullets traveling faster will be less affected than a slower one all else being equal.
Regardless of velocity, the further away from your target, the more you will have to account for the wind.
Bullets drift with the air they are flying through. If the wind is blowing from your nine o’clock your bullet will impact right from your point of aim and so on. Your job as a marksman is to know how much that deviation will be at whatever given distance or angle you may be shooting.

A wind meter such as this Kestrel can be a valuable tool when shooting in wind.

There are many ways to calculate or estimate those offsets, and you are probably looking at one of the easiest ones as you read this. Ballistic computing apps that you can download to your phone do a great job of predicting how far you need to correct for wind in most scenarios. You will need to have input data to get what you want from it, which could require additional hardware such as a wind-meter like a Kestrel.
There are also plenty of wind charts you can research that will give you good estimates for particular bullets in a given set of conditions. Keep in mind they are estimates, and your results may vary some.

There are a couple of ways to correct windage, the first and probably more common is to hold for it. If the wind is blowing from your right to your left, then you hold your aim right of the target, and the wind will carry it into the target. The other common way to correct is to dial a wind offset into your riflescope. If the wind blows you a foot left of the target, then you dial the equivalent of a foot to the right, and then you can aim dead on.

Much the same way you have to lead a shot on a bird when you shoot a shotgun, you must aim your shot into the wind if your target is in a cross-wind.

When to adjust your windage:
With an understanding then of what windage is, when do we need to apply it to our shooting?
In my opinion, windage should be taken into account in almost every shot you take. I say almost because a slight breeze will barely affect most center-fire rifles inside one hundred yards, so in that case, you are probably safe to disregard the breeze. But if you are shooting a 22LR, even a light breeze can blow your shot off the target sometimes. Distant shots are especially subject to the wind as I mentioned above, even a slight breeze can blow your magnum rifle off the point of aim at significant distances.

Before you shoot, you can take a good look at the conditions downrange. If you see signs of wind, such as blowing grass, or by reading the mirage on the ground, it is good practice to analyze it before shooting. This would be when you pull out your wind meter and ballistic app to determine how much windage you will have to correct. Or if you are an old hand at it, you might just lick your finger, or toss a pinch of dust into the breeze.

Know your Wind:

An important thing to keep in mind is not just the speed of the wind, but the direction. A wind coming at 90 degrees will have a greater wind deflection on your bullet than one that comes at a 45-degree angle. A wind coming from straight behind you will actually cause your shot to hit high, and one coming head-on will cause it to hit low. When you compound the effects by the wind coming from strange angles, it can get a little tricky, and to be honest the best way to get better at it is to just shoot and see. You will soon realize that some shots require both a windage and elevation (up & down) corrections.

Another thing to watch for is multiple wind affects. The wind blowing from your shooting position might be different than one downrange. The wind up close could be blowing right to left, whereas four hundred yards away it may be blowing left to right, and both of them at different speeds. Again, sometimes the only way to know for sure is to take your best estimation and shoot. Then be ready for a quick followup that includes a better wind correction.

Wind holds VS. Dialing:
Some people like to hold wind corrections using the reticle in their scope, while others like to dial the wind correction into the turrets of their scope. I am more of a wind holder myself, and I’ll tell you why. The wind is fickle, and always changing, even between shots there can be significant switches in the wind. Using a good reticle with wind offset marks, allows you to hold a precise value into the wind. Should that wind slow down, or change, you can adjust your hold on the fly by simply holding a different point on your reticle. Whereas if you dial the wind into the scope turret, you will have to redial every time you see a shift. I find it a little simpler to just hold for what the wind currently is.

Whether you holdover, or dial, whether you dope the wind with dirt and grass, or use the tech gadgets, get out in the wind and let it teach you something. Keep your brain turned on and pay attention if you miss a shot and don’t know why, you are wasting time and ammo. Pay attention to the conditions and learn from every shot, hit or miss.

-CBM

Taurus USA TX22 Pistol

I have long wanted a 22LR pistol, if nothing else just to have some cheap shooting fun for myself and the kids. Its hard to beat the 22 for teaching kids the responsibility that firearms demand, and they are so fun to shoot that anything less than a brick of ammo just wont do.
The only thing that kept me from buying one over the years were concerns of performance. There always seemed to be issues with 22LR pistols, be it malfunctions like a jam, or being finicky when it came to ammunition. All I wanted was a gun that ran perfectly every time, and one that I didn’t have to worry about what to feed it.

The Taurus USA TX22 pistol caught my eye at SHOT Show 2019, I immediately fell in love with the feel of the pistol, the grip did not feel like many of the 22 auto pistols I had held before. It felt like a full size gun in my hand, the grip texture gave an almost sticky feeling in your palm. The well balanced and lightweight TX22 felt much like an M&P, or maybe a Sig Sauer P320.
Another great feature of the TX22 is it’s 16 round magazines, and it comes with two. Most 22 auto pistols are single stack 10 round magazines, it is refreshing to see that barrier being broken.
For the many patrons to the NFA, adding a suppressor to your favorite pistol is a must. Many of the 22 pistols available today come with threaded barrels for suppressors, but the TX22 even comes with the adaptor collar needed to mount the suppressor.

When I picked up my TX22 from my FFL, I already had a box of ammo and suppressor in hand. So it should come as no surprise to you that I didn’t even make it home before shooting this handsome little Taurus.

The TX22 shown with suppressor collar installed, without it, the barrel is flush to the nose of the slide.

A quick stop by my local shooting spot armed with 100 CCI Mini Mags was just enough to wet my whistle. It was the fastest five minutes of my life if I recall, those hundred rounds burned through the TX22 like grain through a goose. I was now addicted to this thing, I temporarily left my range to get two important things; More ammo, and my son. I knew he would love this thing as much as I did.

A few hours later, after Junior and I had stopped by Cabelas, we were ready to go for round two. I had purchased an assortment of ammunition, a pretty good spread in my estimation. I wanted to try everything, from the cheapest bulk ammunition to the ritzy high end stuff. I even bought a couple different boxes of subsonic ammunition, to see how the TX22 would handle it.

The next few hours of shooting turned out to be some of the funnest we’ve ever shared, magazine after magazine of plinking fun. We tried every kind of ammunition I brought, the cheap bulk stuff from Remington, the Winchester 333 pack, CCi subsonic, Remington Hornets, and even some Aguila Eley Prime. I was ecstatic with the performance, after shooting six or seven hundred rounds, we hadn’t experienced a single failure (but for the 730 fps subsonics, they will not cycle the gun, even suppressed). My favorite ammo for the TX22 would have been both the CCI subsonic 1050fps, and the Winchester 333 pack. Both of them shot very accurate from the TX22, at least more so than the rest.

The pistol runs flawless whether suppressed or not. There is of course a bit more back-pressure when shooting suppressed, this causes the gun to foul a little more aggressively but that is no surprise. I loved shooting the gun without the suppressor too, it is balanced perfectly, and fit me so well that I found myself hardly using the sights.
The very mild recoil of the 22LR is soaked up nicely by the recoil spring, the gun hardly moves in the hand when fired. Follow-up shots are easily made, and can be done so very quickly.
The trigger of the TX22 features a trigger safety, but utilizes the whole shoe vs. a blade safety like many are accustomed to. The striker fired TX22 trigger is very clean, and resets are pretty short as well. I would love to shoot this gun in some kind of three gun competition or something similar, the inexistent recoil and fast shot to shot time would be a blast.

The sixteen round magazines were nice to have as well, one thing about 22’s is you spend a lot of time reloading. So having sixteen rounds to shoot prolonged the time one spent at the shooting line. The magazines have a small circular pin through the follower that you can pull down slowly as you add rounds to the feed lips until it is full.

The gun is easily disassembled following the directions in the owners manual. With as much ammo as you will go through, you will need to clean it often. Especially as dirty as most 22 ammo is. No tools are needed, except for removing or installing the suppressor collar. And I would suggest removing it after every range session, if only to clean it. I’d hate to see it get stuck on the barrel by all the 22 gunk.

The TX22 has a single magazine release, though it can be switched from side to side. It comes configured for a right handed shooter, but the simple directions in the manual allow lefties to switch it over to their liking. I initially found the magazine release to feel a bit small and perhaps difficult to purchase with my thumb. However I quickly withdrew that observation after shooting the gun, at no point during all my shooting did I find it to be a problem. Mag changes were done quickly and without any issues.

The TX22 with the Silencerco Spectre II suppressor

The easily adjustable sights were another welcome feature. There are two screws you can adjust with a micro flat blade screwdriver, one is for elevation adjustment, and the other for windage.
The TX22 also features an ambidextrous safety, with familiar positioning and function. Up for safe, and pulling down with the thumb puts the gun into the firing mode.
The front of the polymer frame features an accessory rail where you can add you favorite light, laser, or other device.

As it turns out, the Taurus TX22 is everything I hoped it would be when I first held it in a Las Vegas casino. It shoots as good as it handles, it’s function matches it’s handsome looks. It brings some great new features that were long overdue.
I love this little pistol, its been hard to put down. I even left my usual CCW at home, just so I had an excuse to have the TX22 with me so I could look at it, and show it to friends. Not that I would recommend a 22LR for a carry gun, but it sure was nice to have such a light and narrow pistol inside my belt for a change. We had fun shooting the pistol at the range, as well as a little squirrel hunting. The SilencerCo Spectre II made the gun so quiet, we could sneak into acorn distance.

You mess with the bull, you catch these horns.

The only negative things I have to bring up about the TX22 is regarding the magazine design. As I removed them from the box, the floor-plate of both magazines was easily pushed off. The first time resulted in my magazine guts getting shot out across the floor. They aren’t big pieces, so it took a bit to find them all. When I tested the second magazine for the issue, I found it to be the same, the floor-plate retainer didn’t seem to have enough of an anchor to keep them in place.
Oddly enough though, the problem never reoccured. After shooting the gun a few times, I again tried to get the floor-plates to slide off. But even with aggressive pressure they stayed in position. Perhaps the vibration of shooting helped seat them better? Either way, the problem has never been repeated.
Another concern is more of a user problem than a design one. When loading the magazines, it is easy to want to just pull the follower down well ahead of the cartridges you are feeding into the lips. This can cause cartridges to tilt inside the magazine, causing an obvious malfunction which usually requires emptying the magazine and starting anew. This problem is easily remedied by only pulling the follower down to allow the next cartridge to be fed into the magazine. One at a time until all sixteen rounds are loaded.

These are minimal complaints, and surely not something that would inhibit my purchase of another one. The Taurus USA TX22 is a fantastic pistol all around, it is simply done right. It wouldn’t surprise me if its a design they continue to build on for additional pistols, and I will be watching and waiting for it.

-CBM

Graham Brothers Rifleworks MARC Sport Chassis for the Remington 700

Precision Rifles are just my cup of tea, and watching the technology around them progress over the years has been exciting. While they are still relevant, and in many cases beautiful, traditional and wooden rifle stocks are being overtaken by modern chassis systems.

A chassis system essentially serves the same purpose as a rifle stock, but the difference between them is quite stark. Stocks are generally made of wood or a synthetic material like glass filled nylon. Rifle chassis are almost uniformly manufactured from non-organic materials, such as aluminum, plastics, and more and more often from cutting edge composites like carbon fiber.

Rifle chassis bring modularity, customizable options, and other modern conveniences to the user’s rifle. As well as providing one of the most important foundations for precise shooting, a rigid and firm structure from which successive shots can be launched with meticulous control. Naturally, modular rifles like the AR-15 have been gleaned over, and some of their best features have been merged into precision rifle chassis.

And that brings us to the current subject, the Yankee Hill Machine MARC Sport  Rifle Chassis is one of the latest to join my fold. Yankee Hill has long manufactured AR-15’s and their components, so it seemed a natural progression to build the similar parts of a precision rifle chassis.
YHM has a new division specifically geared towards the precision rifle market, suitably named Graham Brothers Rifleworks, I look forward to see what else they bring to the shooting bench.

The Remington Model 700 has long enjoyed a position as the one to use for custom rifle builds. As such, most rifle chassis are built to accept the 700’s footprint and its many clones, the MARC Sport is no different. Other footprints such as Savage Long and Short actions are also available as well. And I wouldn’t expect it to end there, surely others like Howa, Tikka, and other popular models will follow.

The MARC Sport comes as just the heart of the chassis, it uses an AR-15 style buffer tube in the back. The simple reasoning behind this is that you can easily attach any buttstock made for the AR-15 family of rifles. The modular design allows the end user to configure the chassis to their liking, an ownership feature that many gun enthusiasts are quick to take advantage of. The chassis also uses AR-15 patterned pistol grips, so you can pick and choose from the bountiful variety of grips to fit your hand and shooting needs.

The handguard of the MARC Sport is similar to an AR-15 freefloat handguard, obviously it attaches differently, but it shares familiar features. The handguard has MLOK slots on all eight facets, this allows the user to add accessories such as bipod mounts, cartridge quivers, support bags, or tripod interfaces, all great accesories for competition shooting.

The handguard attaches via four screws along the center of the chassis, steel thread inserts assure durable strength over time. It also features QD sling cups at the front and rear of the handguard tube. The chassis also has a series of threaded mounting holes along the bottom of the fore-grip area, to attach likely a tripod mount, or the available YHM Arca Swiss rail.

The chassis accepts AICS pattern magazines, I have tried several different manufacturers magazines and they all work perfectly. One suggestion I would give YHM would be perhaps a slightly longer mag release bar, or a wider one. Either option would give the user a better purchase when trying to strip a magazine from it. And if you twisted my arm for another complaint, it might be that the handguard is a little too intrusive in the objective area of the scope. This didn’t allow me to install the sunshade on my scope, not a huge deal, but one you may want to know about.
The MARC Sport chassis will accept both right or left handed actions, it comes with a small adapter plate that uses a screw to hold it in place. The plate is mounted over the unused bolt handle recess on either the right or left side.

The MARC Sport shown with optional Arca Swiss rail, mounted on the tripod.

In the very rear of the chassis is the buffer tube adapter, there are two different options when purchasing the MARC Sport. These are to accept the different types of buffer tubes and the buttstocks that go with them.

My little 16 inch 260 Remington was a perfect fit, the aftermarket trigger also had no issue fitting into the chassis

The chassis is built intuitively, a thumbshelf comfortably bedded in the right place. A comfortable contoured grip area under the center of gravity for carrying, and rounded edges in all the right places. And it comes with screws of the appropriate length to mount your Remington barreled action.

I used one of the many Magpul buttstocks available, mainly because I had them. It was very convenient to have the collapsable buttstock, it made the overall rifle more compact and easy to store. But with so many great options out there, you can surely find one to fit your needs.

The MARC Sport chassis system is a perfect addition for a good rifle. Most of us love to customize our guns and this chassis allows you to do it at a great price without giving up any quality. It does exactly what a rifle chassis should do, it gives the rifle a solid platform, that the user can adjust and customize to fit his skill level and needs. It has rekindled my love with my custom Remington’s, I have another one finishing up at the gunsmith now, and it too will soon be paired up to the MARC Sport chassis for a little match shooting.

-CBM

The Black and Blue of My First Bear Hunt

It has taken me some time to prepare this story, not only because of the exciting adventure and memories in it, but because there is only so much one can tell with written and spoken words.

There is a place in every adventurer’s heart, a place that seems almost magical like it spawned from your very own dreams. I’ll tell you about the particular place I speak of; it is wild, unpredictable, cold, desolate, and even a little bit scary. But despite its savage nature, it is some of the most beautiful country mine eyes have ever scoured. It is scattered with the most beautiful clear blue lakes you have ever seen, the sound of rivers roar through the towering forest mile after mile. It goes on and on, filled at times with herds of life, while at others completely void. This continental crown lies in the western mountains of Montana, the exact location is almost too sacred to speak lest it loose its magic.

For many years a dear friend of mine had spoken to me of Black Bear hunting in Montana, and I finally gave in to his invitation earlier this year. It certainly wasn’t a lack of desire that had kept me from going, but more of the right situation here at home.
Being my first bear hunt, and surely to be a hunt of a lifetime, I couldn’t go with out bringing my Father along. He too had never ventured after bear, but had enough interest in doing it that he decided to come along, rifle and all.

When the time came, we had everything loaded into Dad’s camper, and made the long and beautiful drive north along the spine of the Rocky Mountains. We truly were loaded for bear, we had enough food to last a fortnight, fuel, ammo, and enough anticipation to stay awake late into the night drive.
I am no stranger to western Montana, but as the sun came up that first morning I was once again smitten with its beauty. Clouds hung low as we made the last leg of our trip into coniferous forest’s covered with wolf moss. The mountains were all dissected by thousands of logging roads, most of which were closed off and gated. But the still many of them gave us untold space to cover, glass, and pursue.
We set camp next to a good sized river, rolling over rocks that hid big Brown and Bull Trout. I could hardly wait to get our gear out and explore, the river pulled at me, and even though I could almost think of nothing better than the beautiful fish beneath, we were here to hunt bears.

I pulled my hunting kit from the truck, it was all my best equipment carefully selected and tuned days before leaving. The basic stuff, survival gear, a days worth of snacks, knives, flashlights, and my choice of rifle. I had decided to bring along my Desert Tech MDR, perhaps a little unorthodox for bear hunting but I found it to be a perfect fit. The MDR is a multicaliber bullpup rifle, this makes it much shorter and compact than a conventional rifle. A piston operated semi-auto would allow for quick follow-up shots should they be necessary, and my MDR shot accurately enough to put first round hits on a paper plate at six-hundred yards. I have several different caliber barrels for the rifle, but for this hunt I chose to go with the good ol’ 308 Winchester. The 308 is a familiar and potent cartridge, and with plenty of energy for black bear sized game. I had recently re configured my rifle with a Minox Optics 1-6 scope, and I had become quite comfortable shooting minute of bear lung targets at distances inside half a mile. So with that formidable firepower under my arm, we set off into the mountains in search of a bear, or two.

After only an hour or so of scouting the huge area we had to hunt, mother nature decided to remind us of her temper. The gray clouds brought us rain, and a stiff breeze that would make sure that the rain gotcha everywhere. It was not what I had hoped for, but we dealt with it as best we could. And that first night we spent much time drying out our socks and other clothes, but we were still ripe with excitement for this adventure. Especially after seeing so much beautiful country in such a short time.

The next morning brought sausage and eggs, and more wind and rain. To my discouragement, it continued like that for four days, it only ever stopped raining long enough to get your hopes up, then it would start again. We had many close encounters though, fresh bear scat was everywhere. We could almost trace their movements by observing the neatly trimmed grass, followed by more piles of bear breakfast. We would hike for hours through dripping forest, and cloudy ridges that were so wild that you whispered. Much like the deer and elk I frequently hunt, I gained a quick understanding that in this wild place I am just one of thousands of animals and we are all made of meat. That understanding and the majesty of the surrounding mountains just demanded a softer tone when you spoke. The huge expanse of country just kept opening up over and over, just when you’d thought you’d covered everything, another draw would open up. And every hill was covered with bear shaped stumps that had been blackened like soot by fires in the past.

After several days of hunting, we had only put eyes on one bear, from a good mile or two away. And unfortunately my friend and his Father had to go back home, leaving me and Dad alone in this untamed country that we had just barely become familiar with. It was a little daunting, we hadn’t seen the sun in days, so much of the time you didn’t even know what direction you were headed. But Dad and I felt up to the challenge, at least we were going to keep after it anyways, despite being complete rookie’s.

The next day we returned to the area we had seen the one bear, roughly sixteen miles away from our camp. We had a plan for Dad to sit and watch a meadow and a small lake that was frequented by bears, many of whom had left many wild berry deposits scattered about. Meanwhile I would make a slow and quiet stalk around a nearby area in hopes of spotting one.

After leaving Dad at the spot we had decided upon, I worked back around the valley anticipating a large circular stalk that would put me opposite him after a mile or so. My hike would take me through damp mossy swamp, and grassy thickets and all the while buried in deep timber. Nothing but the song of birds, and the occasional stream of runoff could be heard. During the entire trip we had only seen a dozen or so other vehicles, and at no time did we ever run into any people. Earlier I said the place was a little bit scary, what made this place scary was the isolation. I knew that there was nobody around, I knew that should something happen to us, it could be days before someone passed by close enough to hear. There was no phone service but for the highest peaks, and even that was sketchy.

I continued my quiet stalk through the woods, and came into a clearing that sort of looked like where I wanted to be. A pair of ducks jumped from a puddle, startling me in the near silence. I was beginning to feel a bit worried, because I didn’t appear to be where I thought I was. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure where I am. As I trod on, it became flat and muddy, so I figured I was getting close to the lake. But things just kept getting different, and after another half hour or so I was seriously worried, considering that I was indeed lost. Not just lost, but lost in unfamiliar bear country, and even worse, I didn’t know if my Dad had any idea where I was, or which way to get back to camp since I had done all the driving. All these worries intensified as the sun got closer and closer to going down, but sheer panic was about to set in on me.
Just as I had about gotten to where I was sure the road was, I found myself again in a grassy clearing. The panic set in when I realized that it was the exact same clearing I had been startled by the ducks in nearly an hour before, it was like a bad dream.

I am not one to get lost, I am usually pretty good at keeping track of my direction and location. But the low hanging clouds and huge towering trees made it very difficult to keep track of where you were.
So I found myself nearing hysteria, not sure where I was, only that I was alone, far far away from anything like civilization, and my Father who relied on me to get back to camp. No amount of yelling could be heard, even shots from my rifle couldn’t reach with any discernible direction.
The fear that gripped me took me right to my knees, where I sought calm, and direction. Lucky for me, there was someone looking out for both of us. And humble as I have ever been, I emerged on a road. It turned out to be the same road I went in on, I had somehow completely turned around, and but for the quiet guidance I felt kneeling in that grassy duck meadow, I might still be up there walking in circles, or worse yet, stacked up with a bunch of grass and berry seeds. I had never felt so grateful to feel my butt in the seat of that Can-Am.

The very next day we were back at it, I was a bit more humble, and quite a bit more aware of my directions. So we continued scouting around the canyons and hills, looking for a black stump that would move. As it turns out, it wasn’t black at all. Dad spotted the first real chance at a bear, standing off in the trees. It was a big cinnamon colored bear, and it was eating away at the lush grass. Dad and I both hunkered over and made our way to a clear spot where we could get a shot. I saw the bear for just a second, and as I raised my rifle to engage him, he must have seen or smelled us. Before I could get a shot off, he bolted through the thick trees. Bear:1 Us:0.

The next day, in another area several miles away, we continued our search. This time we were a bit more successful.
The late afternoon had brought some slightly better weather, the rain had mostly stopped, and the breeze had slowed to where the mosquitoes could dig into you and carry you off. We were coming down a trail for the first time that day, and as always my eyes were in scan mode. Looking right through the trees, at all the shapes behind them.
It happened so fast I didn’t have time to think. My eyes were scanning the millionth patch of trees when I locked eyes with a small black bear, she stood there on all fours and simply watched as we passed her bye. I know better than to slam on the brakes in front of an animal I intend on taking, so I rolled right on, around the bend. As I lost sight of her, she slowly turned and walked off into the forest.
Wasting no time at all, I quickly halted the Can-Am, and grabbed my MDR off the back seat. I charged the rifle, and hoofed into the trees as fast and as quiet as I could. I was so hyped up on adrenaline, I’m not sure I was actually breathing, so much as maybe my heart pounding was enough to draw air in and out. I snuck through the trees, avoiding anything but the soft green grass, with my eyes going a hundred miles an hour as I searched the trees ahead of me. Despite all my effort to keep quiet, she must have either heard me, or smelled me. Because when I did catch up to her, she was looking right at me.
We locked eyes, time slowed as I recalled everything I had told myself beforehand. No cubs, nothing behind her, no hesitation. I drew my rifle up, knowing that any movement either to the ground or otherwise would likely spook her into running, so the only movement I made was to direct fire. As the reticle came to rest on the dark black fur of the bear, I was glad I had the forethought to turn on the reticle in my little scope. I centered it on the middle of the bear, and pulled the trigger.
The first shot hit her, and she immediately rolled over backwards, but almost in fluid motion she rolled back to her feet as she crossed behind a tree. As soon as she came out the other side of the tree, I was very glad to have brought my MDR, because those quick followup shots were exactly what I needed. Three shots (two of them critical) and she went silently to the ground.
I stood there in the silence, all I could hear was the steps of my Dad who came hurriedly towards the sound of the shots. I shouted out to him that she was down, and the excitement caught up to me. I began to shake, and my heart continued to pound as I walked up to the downed bear. My first shot was not a good one, it hit her in the shoulder which from the front is not a good angle of attack. The second and third hits went through the shoulder (broadside) and neck, which obviously put her straight down.

Dad caught up to me, and the two of us marveled at the first bear either of us had ever laid hands on. Soft black fur, that was much longer than I had expected. And she was such a beautiful animal, with brown patches on the side of her nose. Her feet and claws were fascinating to me, her soft ears, and stubby tail.

We took a bunch of pictures, and then cleaned her up. We happily made our way back to camp, where we hung her up and I skinned my first bear, which I thought I did a pretty good job of. The feelings had gone from a desperate panic, to complete triumph in the course of one day, I had never felt so grateful.
We built a huge victory fire that night, and the sky cleared for a spectacular show of stars.

Dad didn’t get a shot, and we never got another chance after that. But we were still satisfied with our first bear hunt. Not only did we get to see some of the most beautiful country there is, but we got beat down and humbled by it, only to make a great comeback and finish our very first bear hunt with bloody hands, and cut tag.

It will be hard to out-do this hunt, as I said in the beginning, it was hard to decide what parts of this story to tell. Almost like a birthday wish as you blow out the candle, I didn’t want to spill it all, for fear of it loosing it’s magic. I believe I will go back someday, with new dreams, and remembering my humility, to that special place where beauty abounds and calamity could be right around the next duck meadow, and bears of all colors wander through the most hallowed and cloudy timber that is.

-CBM