Goldilocks and The Hunt for Three Big Black Bears From Arizona


Published: August - 2012

My 80-plus-year-old father I have hunted Ontario (near his Michigan home) for fall black bear for years, with moderate success. We could usually expect 200-pound solid blacks. It's always hard to judge size on bears, but our guides always said, "When the really big one comes in, you'll know it. It'll be like the VW bus just arrived." I wanted a big bear and, as a result, I'd hunted the past several years without success. I was waiting on the bus to show up. The saying goes: You can't shoot a big one if you're shooting little ones. Then, a friend at work showed me a copy of the August 2010 issue of The Hunting Report, with a cover story (Article ID 2489) on B&C bears in Arizona, including big color-phase bears, on the White Mountain Apache Reservation. The article gave the names and contact information for all the outfitters guiding for bears there and some useful background on the hunt, including that the reservation has no-draw bear tags. I contacted outfitter Mike Mell of Ram Riders Guide and Outfitters, who was featured in the story. Mell is a licensed guide with exclusive access to 300,000 acres of the multi-million-acre reservation. Would he hunt with a female bow hunter and her 83-year-old father? Yes! My Dad needed to hunt from a ground blind on relatively flat ground  essentially no climbing  because of his age and heart condition. Mell assured me that would be no problem. We worked out dates for a spring bear hunt for the two of us. Bonus: My Dad has a winter home in Tucson, only a couple of hours north by car  no airports or travel hassle for a world-class hunt. Late May, 2011, Dad and I pulled into the remote tent camp. Mell had our necessary licenses and permits waiting for us. The weather was perfect, and Mell suggested a drive to see the area and check baits. We saw mule deer, elk, wild horses and plenty of bears, including a dark red sow with twin black cubs, and a black boar stalking a herd of wild horses.........(continued)
 
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