2017’s Last Hour Bear

R Bruce M

Shoot that bear right there!” The statement was not made in Ray’s usual laid back, soft voice. There were valid reasons—it was the last day, we had an hour of hunting light left, and I still did not have a bear. The bear at the edge of the clearcut had seen us and had already turned toward the impenetrable forest close at hand. The shot would have to be quick and true. Fortunately for all concerned, it was. The 180 grain Nosler Partition from my .300 Winchester Magnum (named ‘Trip Gun’ -when I take a long-distance hunting trip, it goes too) dropped the bear in place. I had my bear. Finally. It was a few inches over 6 feet, good for Horseshoe Creek Outfitters, but not great. For Ray Jackson, the term “great” was reserved for 7-foot bears. Our group already had three great bears in the salt.Sometimes hunts exceed all reasonable expectations. Sometimes the hunt goes as expected, no better, no worse. And sometimes, Lady Luck not only does not smile upon you, but seems to actively work against you. Any or all can occur in the same camp on the same hunt within a group of hunters. That is what happened on my bear hunt, except that time, dadgum it, I was the hunter whom Lady Luck decided to torment. It had been a while, and I didn’t take it that well.
When it is your turn for Lady Luck, that inconstant lady of the evening, to spurn your entreaties, I hope you have an outfitter and guide like Ray Jackson. I was glad I did. Every morning we sallied forth, hunting from ‘can’t see’ to ‘can’t see’, and doing it again the next day, until he got me the opportunity for my bear. At noon on the last day, he had looked over at me and told me he was still confident that I would get a bear. I guess he had seen the slump in my carriage and the doubt in my eyes. His words helped, and he was right. As we loaded my bear, he pointed out that we still had time to check one last clear-cut before shooting light expired. We didn’t see a second bear, but we were rewarded with a beautiful British Columbia sunset, and that was enough.
Ray and Sharon Jackson operated Horseshoe Creek Outfitters near the Peace River in Northeastern British Columbia. They offered opportunities to hunt multiple species in the fall, and black bear in the spring. In addition to black bear, we saw elk, moose, mule deer, and grizzly. I had been looking for a spring black bear hunt to complete my “Little List” and Ray came highly recommended by people I hold dear. They steered me right. Horseshoe Creek’s amenities weren’t fancy, but they were comfortable and felt like home. We had four hunters in camp. Ken McAlister and I were hunting together again, as every time we hunt together Lady Luck smiles upon him, and we met two other hunters there, each with multiple prior hunts with Ray. Three of us were highly motivated, and one, with multiple bears already taken with Ray, mostly wanted to putter and enjoy British Columbia in the spring. Bear sign was everywhere. We hunted logging roads, clear-cuts and pipeline right-of ways. Lady Luck spurned only the one of us. By the time I took my last hour bear, I had watched one hunter bring in TWO 7-foot bears, and Ken a 7-footer and a 6-footer. Even the putterer had seen multiple 6-foot bears and one possible 7-footer. I had seen two definite 7-footers that gave me the slip, and half a dozen 5- footers, including two that presented makeable bow shots. There were so many bears and Ray put in so much work, we were finally able to thwart Lady Luck’s attempts to send me home empty-handed.
Trip Rifle did her job once again. My “Little List” was completed in that spring of 2017. I would need to start another list, one that will let me hunt with Ray again.

In 2019 Frank Miles, avid hunter and long-time resident of the Peace River region, purchased Horseshoe Creek Outfitters. The main lodge is in a different location now but is still situated in the hunting territory and offers a large variety of hunting opportunities. Ray Jackson still plays an active role in Horseshoe Creek Outfitters as manager and a guide.

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