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A massive black bear that was worth the wait

Giant Utah black bear paw with hunting tag
After applying for black bear in Utah for eight years, I finally had luck on my side and drew a spring tag. Since I basically grew up on the Boulder Mountain in southern Utah and had hunted it a lot over the years, I knew that was where I wanted to hunt.

I was incredibly excited when I got the successful email from Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. I knew I was going to Africa this spring and would only have a little time before I left to go look for a bear. So my good friend, Garett Smith, and I headed down to try out our luck.

 Polaris Razer in the snow looking for black bears
On day one we found a nice boar track but we couldn’t get much done with it due to the weather conditions. It didn’t matter — we were excited knowing that a few bears were starting to come out of their dens. Another good friend, Hadley Spivey, came with us over the next couple of days, but we still didn’t find much. My brother, Gunner, also made the trip to help out for a day.

On Monday morning, Gunner took a few of the dogs and walked down a canyon to see if he could hit a track. He called me and said the dogs were trailing something but wasn’t sure if it was a lion or a bear.

He made his way down to where the dogs had started trailing and called me back to tell me that the dogs were on what appeared to be a good boar track. I drove back up the road and unloaded my RZR so I could head down to where he was. He tried calling me on the radio but it was all garbled squelch. When I finally got in radio range I could tell something big was happening.

Giant black bear near cliff edge

He told me that only one dog was with the bear and it kept charging her. I quickly parked my RZR, grabbed the old .30/30 lever action and took off running towards Gunner. He called me on the radio to tell me that all of the other dogs had finally caught up with Frank (the hound dog) and the bear.

I was relieved knowing that she had more help with her now and wouldn’t be with the bear by herself. I caught up with Gunner about a mile and half later and we talked for a moment before trying to catch up to the dogs and the bear. The old bear didn’t want to go up a tree. Instead, he was walking around near the dogs while trying to fight them. The dogs kept baying him up in the bottom of the canyon, which gave us time to catch up to them.

As we got closer, I dropped my pack and put a few bullets in the gun. We came out on a ledge on the side of a canyon right above the dogs and the bear. We could see him about 50 yards away in the trees. When he walked out into a small clearing I put a bullet in him but it didn’t seem to faze him.

Continued below.

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The dogs had him circled again and, when he came out from behind some trees, I put another shot in him again and again and again. Finally, he started to slow down; he looked like he was getting sick. The dogs pushed him out onto a ledge and he was stuck; he had nowhere to go.

I pulled the .30/30 up once more and settled the bead right behind his shoulder and let another bullet fly.

Utah black bear after the fall

It dropped him in his tracks and, all of a sudden, he disappeared off the 100’ cliff, making a loud thud when he hit the bottom.

Bowdy Steele with his giant Utah black bear front view
We walked up on the bear still not knowing exactly how big he was from all the excitement. When I pulled his head out and we rolled him over he was more than I imagined. He was definitely the bear of my dreams!

Bowdy Steele with his giant Utah black bear side view
This bear was not rubbed and had a perfect coat! We celebrated, high fived, hollered and took it all in. We took a bunch of pictures and then got him skinned and prepared for the long hike out of there.

Packing out the Utah black bear

It starting snowing on us walking back to the RZR and snowed about 4” in only a few hours. This was another memory to add to my once-in-a-lifetime bear hunt.

Bowdy Steele and his brother Gunner with a giant Utah black bear
I’d like to thank my brother, Gunner, two of my best friends, Garett, and Hadley, and all of my friends and family.

 Bowdy Steele with his giant Utah black bear and one of the hounds

Pumpkin head Utah black bear
Also a special thanks goes out to the best hound dogs there are for making this a hunt I will cherish forever!


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Scott L. - posted 3 years ago on 05-24-2016 12:10:47 pm
Mohave Co., Arizona

Nathan, Best of luck to you. I hope you get to go and that you have great success!

Nathan F. - posted 3 years ago on 05-24-2016 11:56:46 am
Midland, TX

Well, this discussion got out of hand quickly.

Great looking bear though!

I drew a Kuiu Island bear tag, just trying to decide if I am going this fall or next spring. The logistics of that hunt are quickly waning the excitement I had for drawing the tag. That and the prospect of camping and hunting alone on an island with 4, of the biggest average black bears in North America, per square mile.

Scott L. - posted 3 years ago on 05-23-2016 06:19:41 pm
Mohave Co., Arizona

Brilliant Elizabeth!

Elizabeth Bolin_833869796718922
Elizabeth B. - posted 3 years ago on 05-23-2016 06:15:02 pm

William D., I just saw your latest uneducated, ignorant post.

Your first ignorant assumption was that I'm white.

That's funny, what tribe are you?

Incidentally I happen to be Native, but thanks for your extreme disrespect to another Native person, I am not by any means a "great white hunter" but you definitely are a great white ass.

So are you sure your tribe didn't use dogs to hunt?
A few tribes didn't but many, including mine did, we were using dogs to catch animals for meat and fur long before the 'white man' came to this continent, so don't give me your ignorant noble savage generic 'American Indian' bullshit, save that for all your New Ager friends.

Your second ignorant assumption is that I guide hunts or somehow make money off of my dogs
I do neither. I don't breed dogs to sell and I don't guide.
I work a regular job (actually managing natural resources) so that I can afford to take care of my dogs and take them hunting, they make me no money but they sure like to help me spend it. My hunts are between myself, my dogs and the quarry we pursue, I would rather drive bamboo under my nails than guide a dude on a hunt.

Your third ignorant assumption is that I don't eat what I kill.
Well if you had actually read what I wrote you would have seen that I don't kill much, I don't care for killing but on occasion I do and when I do both the meat and the hide are used.

So there is your education about me.
I think you are the one that actually needs to educate yourself not only on the subject of hunting with dogs but also on tribes outside of your own, if you are indeed even a member of one.

I'd quote what Dennis B. said but you know, I'll try to keep it civil...Good Day!

Scott L. - posted 3 years ago on 05-22-2016 09:55:03 am
Mohave Co., Arizona

I have to echo Jeffrey's comment. The coat on that bear is incredible. However you choose to display this magnificent animal, it will be memories for a lifetime. Another, and I'm spitballing here, I'm guessing 600lbs, which is a massive Blackie.

And, I'm equally impressed the venerable 30-30 did it again. That rifle, and I think most would agree, is a little light for bear in most situations. But it is definitely America's gun, and has harvested more animals than any of us can imagine. I love the gun, and own one myself. If I had the choice, personally I would have chosen another of my calibers. But, I wouldn't hesitate for a second to use it if that's what I had and the right opportunity presented itself. Frankly, I don't think most of us, go into the field expecting to see a Blackie of this size. But once again, when you shoot what you're comfortable with, and are effective with it, caliber takes a back seat to shot placement and confidence with your gun.

GREAT JOB! You have every reason to be proud.

Ronald L. - posted 3 years ago on 05-22-2016 07:01:02 am
Durango, CO

Even though I have never hunted with dogs other than wing shooting, I imagined the dogs baying, the bear growling, chaos, being pumped with adrenalin sweating trying to get to the canyon and trying to get into position for the shot.

Great story, great pics and a great bear!

Thank you for sharing.

Jeffrey H. - posted 3 years ago on 05-22-2016 06:59:12 am

It's too bad William "DB" distracted the discussion... Bowdie that is an awesome bear! Congrats! That boar's head looks massive and that cinnamon coat is beautiful. Sounds like a great hunt, thanks for sharing.

Jeffrey H. - posted 3 years ago on 05-22-2016 06:57:02 am

William D. I've hunted black bear in Utah on public / private land and also in Alaska on tribal land. In Utah, we used dogs and covered the most rugged, God-forsaken country I've ever hunted (including sheep country in the Yukon). In Alaska, on tribal land, we didn't use dogs, but half of the locations were "required" by the permitting tribe to use tree stands over bait. Baiting a tree stand vs. 8 miles of jagged cliffs that rise and fall 3000 feet of elevation with dogs...which is more pure hunting? Both. Don't judge. If you need to belittle others to make yourself feel like a better hunter, you need to spend more time in the field on more challenging hunts yourself.

Scott L. - posted 3 years ago on 05-20-2016 10:24:47 am
Mohave Co., Arizona

William, William, I too am Native American. I don't use dogs for a hunt. But my grandfather, 100% pure blooded Native American did from time to time. Although I don't use dogs, I don't begrudge those who do. Dog hunting harkens back centuries.

Here's a good Native American saying, taught me by my Native American grandfather. "If you don't have something good to say, don't say it at all". Interpretation, if you don't like the use of dogs, don't use them. But let other's hunt as they wish.

Dennis B. - posted 3 years ago on 05-20-2016 09:13:22 am

Hey William...
Embrace diversity within the hunting community .
And fuck yourself.

William Daniel_10204923622085218
William D. - posted 3 years ago on 05-20-2016 05:53:28 am

Well Elizabeth, aka 'uneducated white hunter'. If you love dogs and the experience that raising them provides then maybe try just raising hounds instead of providing an easy opportunity for people to pay your dogs to do the hunting for them. Again you are not hunting your are financially driven dog owners. I will most certainly bet the meat from most of your hunting trip is discarded so that 'trophy' can be glamorized. I'm An American Indian and we have been hunting this land for food, not 'Trophies' long before raising dogs for money, so please educate yourself about hunting for money and fame before talking to me. Good day!

Bill Tatom_1036862796337121
Bill T. - posted 3 years ago on 05-18-2016 10:39:20 am
Williston, ND

Nothing better then hunting with those hounds!! Especially when they can keep a big boar bear at bay until the hunter can get in close for a kill. Nice bear!! Let us know how big his skull turns out to be.

Andy M. - posted 3 years ago on 05-18-2016 09:24:35 am

Nice bear. But hunting them with dogs is no more than a glorified coon hunt. Here in the Ozarks, we stalk them.

Elizabeth Bolin_833869796718922
Elizabeth B. - posted 3 years ago on 05-18-2016 08:59:42 am

William D, well that's great you have an opinion, living in this country we're certainly entitled to one.

However if you do have an opinion that you'd like to share you should at least have an educated one.

We hound people don't hunt with dogs to pull triggers, we don't hunt for a kill, if we wanted to hunt 'easy' we would just go out and drive and walk around for a few weeks out of a year, hoping to see one like most people do, then after that we'd be done.
Instead we enjoy dogs, we enjoy raising them and watching them develop from the tit to the grave, we get up every day, 365 days a year to feed, water, exercise, hunt, drive to the vet and whatever else they need done.
We enjoy, appreciate and respect the apex predators we pursue and we don't need to kill one to have a successful day out.
I would just as soon shoot with a camera than take a life, the dogs are pleased either way and so am I.
In fact I don't even hunt without dogs, it doesn't interest me, I don't enjoy killing and I find other forms of hunting (with the exception of falconry) to be extremely boring.
But, despite that fact, I support other forms of hunting and don't speak disparagingly even if I would never choose to personally participate in them.

William Daniel_10204923622085218
William D. - posted 3 years ago on 05-18-2016 06:19:49 am

That is an awesome bear. It's a shame you had to use dogs to do all the work for you. Your a trigger puller not a hunter, the dogs did all the hunting. Congrats

Scott L. - posted 3 years ago on 05-17-2016 06:12:13 pm
Mohave Co., Arizona

Outstanding! That's definitely a HUGE Black Bear, and a great memory.

Dennis B. - posted 3 years ago on 05-16-2016 02:51:50 pm

Beautiful Giant, wonder how old this bruin is...have saw many smaller Brown/Grizz shot up here in Alaska!