2 DEC (Day 3): Clear, windy and am average temp of 34 deg. This was the big day! We had fair weather and the waters were down. I drove with another hunter to the top of Shenandoah Mountain. We ascended down the mountain from an elevation of 3800ft to US Hwy 250. Our dog ran off about half way through our 5 mile hike and was heard barking almost a mile ahead of us. The GPS collars helped locate and keep the dog safe while he crossed US Hwy 250 in hot pursuit of a bear. About an hour later the dog showed treed and a couple of other dogs were turned loose to accompany it. We arrived a little while later to a ~90lb yearling in the tree. After a few pictures we walked off and let it to meander off on it's own.
Shortly thereafter I was driven back up the mountain and took off on another hike with a different hunter. What I thought would be a repeat of the morning hike (mostly a downhill hike) turned into much more than I bargained for. We walked down a high ridge and walked around in the bottom of a hollow for almost two hours looking for signs of bear or good food sources still available. Two of the dogs had struck a scent trail and took off. They left us in the dust and were a good 2 miles ahead of us running another bear. From there we had to walk back up the ridge to get back to the mountain road. My legs felt like jello around 1500 and I was dragging my behind. We got to the truck and started heading down the mountain when a call came through the CB radio that the dogs had circled back towards us and were showing treed only about 1.5 miles behind us (further up the mountain road). We were driving down the mountain in search of a place to turn around when someone ahead called saying there was a bear cub next to the trail past where we were parked. We drove up and got out looking over this tiny cub. It probably didn't weigh anymore than 25lbs. We suspect it was either sick or it's mother had been killed and it was dying of hunger. Someone called a family member who works at a nearby animal rehab clinic and the cub was later picked up.
While this was happening, the dogs had treed and we got the trucks moved into a closer position. We hiked a mile down the side of the mountain and found the dogs actually had two bears treed in the same tree. The sow could have tipped over 200lbs but her yearling cub was maybe 75lbs. We left them both to wander off after we left. The exit from this location was another half mile down the ridge to an old logging trail. Once there, we walked another 1.5 miles back to the trucks and called it a day.
I estimate that I walked somewhere between 9 and 12 miles from elevations as low as 1800ft to as high as 3800ft. This all happening from 0730 until 1800. The rifle was slung sideways across my back nearly the entire time I was hiking. The only times it came off my back were when I had to fight my way through the thick laurels that were growing in the areas that had been previously clear cut.
Last year I hunted the same basic locations. The first day I carried a 7.5lb Rem Model 7 in 35 Rem. At the end of the day I felt as though that rifle weighed a ton and was glad to get it off my back. The second and third days I carried a 7lb Tradition G2 Outfitter and it felt noticeably lighter. Earlier this year I carried a Ruger 44 Carbine. I'm not sure how much it weighs but I can say it was no fun to carry around the mountains. The Pendleton Stock weighs only 1lb 1.6oz and I feel that made a huge difference in my ability to continue longer. I definitely felt less fatigued that night than I had other nights after walking less miles and less incline. At no time had the stock ever felt like it had flexed any. I watched the barrel gap at the end of the fore stock several times throughout the 3 days to see of the gap space changed. It hadn't.
I enjoyed the hunt even if we didn't kill any bears. Anytime I can get away from the hustle and bustle of Hampton Roads and enjoy the beauty of the mountains is a good time. I have no doubt the 6.5 Grendel would have done it's job had I been given a bear to shoot.
Tomorrow I'm heading to the range and will zero the rifle at 100yds. I'll post my range report results later this weekend.