Montana Color-Phase Black Bear
On May 16th, 2014 I set out into the mountains of Montana with the hopes of finding a black bear. It was a beautiful day and many of the sensations were familiar—the pack pulling at my shoulders, my hunting clothing stretched against my skin, my eyes pressed to optics scanning the mountainous terrain. What wasn’t familiar was the rifle I was carrying. For the first time I was toting a PROOF Research rifle with a carbon fiber barrel. I’d grown up with rifles that were much heavier than the mountain hunter wants, but frankly, I didn’t know what I was missing. As I walked along I kept catching myself smiling each time I thought about the weight savings I had with this new rifle. I realized that this would ultimately help me hike farther and harder as well as shoot longer distances with more precision—something I owe the animals that I pursue.
Shadows were lengthening and temperatures were falling when a light rain began to fall. It was entering the best time of the day to spot a bruin and, despite the rain, I was ready.
I’d stopped for a snack and was beginning to think it was going to be an uneventful day when suddenly the bear of all bears showed itself in the bottom. My initial reaction was that it was a grizzly, but when he lifted his head I realized that it was a beautiful color-phased black bear.
It wasn’t easy getting within range as the bear was some distance away and light was fading fast. After dumping off the side of the mountain and running a good distance on an old logging road I was close to where I’d last spotted the bear, but he was no longer in the opening. I got the wind in my favor and inched ahead hoping to spot the bear in a grove of willows.
Suddenly there was movement and I saw the bear, so close that we were almost face-to-face. I quickly moved to my right to get into a better position and the bear stopped allowing me a broadside shot. It was a good thing that he didn’t want to take a stand at the top of the food chain that day!
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to testing out my new PROOF rifle at a bit longer distance. I knew what it was capable of from the prior week testing it at long distances. I ended up shooting that bear at 35 yards, but the rifle was crazy accurate at that distance, too. Not something you will hear someone with a precision long-range rifle say very often.
At the end of the day I was rewarded with a very large Montana color-phase black bear—one of the most beautifully-colored bears I’ve ever seen. The rifle was a pleasure to carry and is unlike any other rifle I’ve ever used. I look forward to many more outings putting it to the test.