I just returned from a bear hunt in Idaho’s Seven Devils Mountains with my friends at Heaven’s Gate Outfitters (www.hgoid.com) Heaven’s Gate offers three options for bear hunters, and with a 90% chance of seeing color-phase bears (cinnamon, chocolate, and blonde) this is one of the best bear hunts in the country. But this is steep and rugged country, and our first days spent following packs of bear hounds were quite a challenge. For my final hunt I opted to try a spot and stalk, and within fifteen minutes of arriving at the rim of a drainage we had five bears in sight. But in this rough country simply having bears in sight isn’t enough, and I can assure you that seeing a bear and stalking into position are two totally different things! In addition, I am not a fan of heights, so walking along the steep cliffs is a challenge. To compound that, a rattlesnake decided to take up residence beside one of the narrow game trails that wrap around the face of one of the mountains we were crossing. The rattler buzzed out a warning as guide Nick Gaddis crossed, and it continued to rattle out in displeasure as I started forward. I was suddenly presented with an interesting problem; I could try to pass the snake and hope it wouldn’t strike or I could step down onto the steep mountain face below the game trail and work my way around. Neither option was good, but the snake was making it very clear that it wasn’t going to put up with being pressed much longer. With a sigh, I stepped off the trail and picked my way around the ledge below, then climbed back up and joined Nick.
The hunting was fabulous, and if you want to read more about it check out my upcoming article in Sports Afield magazine (www.sportsafield.com). Heaven’s Gate also offers elk, deer, and mountain lion hunts, and if you want to simply ride into the backcountry and take some incredible photographs or spend a few days fly fishing at the remote alpine lakes you can book a horseback trip into the mountains. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. Just keep an eye out for the snakes!