Big Sky Bruins

By: Paul Servey

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of AVID Hunting and Outdoors Magazine. Paul Servey, perhaps better known as @mountaingoatpauley on Instagram, is one of those guys you can look up to as a public land DIY hunter. We hope you enjoy his Montana black bear hunt as much as we did!

Our father has been our hero our whole lives.  He served his country for 23 years in the United States Army as a Green Beret and taught my two brothers and I many valuable life lessons.  We would not be the outdoorsmen or hunters we are today if it weren’t for his example.  As I have gotten older, watching family and friends become successful on their hunts has become more rewarding than harvesting an animal myself.  As my brother James and I prepared for our annual Montana spring bear hunt, we talked about how cool it would be to take our father and younger brother Daniel with us to experience their first bear hunt.  We made the phone call and they jumped at the opportunity!  This was going to be an awesome father and sons trip to one of the most beautiful states in the West.  

The day came to travel to Montana and we left super early in hopes of getting an evening hunt in.  It worked out perfect.  As we arrived the clouds parted and it stopped raining so we hurried and unloaded our gear, threw on our hunting clothes, grabbed our rifles and we were off.  Daniel and my dad were excited to see what bear hunting was all about, that first night we even saw two bears!  A beautiful blonde and a jet black bear but we were unable to capitalize on either opportunity. 

By day three things started heating up.  We decided to hit one of our honey holes where there is always green grass and water for the bears. After splitting up, James and my dad walked one logging road, while Daniel and I walked the other.  With the heavy snow pack this last year the spring grass was just starting to grow.  We were about 30 minutes into our hike when Daniel stopped and said “Paul, there’s a bear!”  I looked up and sure enough, there was a bear walking down the logging road straight towards us.  It looked like a nice black bear that had just left the water.  Daniel didn’t waste any time while he hurried to steady his rifle on his shooting sticks.  The bear just turned broadside as it was about to head back into the trees when Daniel let the 300 Remington Ultra Mag bark.  I heard the loud “thud” of the bullet hit it’s mark and exclaimed “You just hammered your first bear!”  The bear bolted off down into the trees and expired within 20 yards of the road.  What an amazing moment it was to watch my brother harvest his first bear.  The emotions and respect he showed towards that beautiful bear will leave a lasting impression upon both of us.  

Montana black bears are plentiful when you find the right habitat.
Daniel’s beautiful Montana black bear

With one bear down, our focus now shifted to getting our dad his first bear.  As we awoke the next morning we were still on cloud nine from the previous days’ events. The weather had changed from 80 degrees to rain and snow all day. Our plan for the day was to drive a few known areas, get in some glassing and hope the weather would break in our favor.  It was getting close to lunchtime and we were discussing where we wanted to eat and dad was in the back of the truck taking an afternoon siesta.  We came driving around a corner and all three brothers simultaneously yelled “BEAR!”  Dad quickly sprung up and said “Where?”  We all saw the shiny black bear feeding off the side of the road.  Dad slowly stepped out of the truck into the falling snow.  This was to be the highlight of our trip.  We all watched our father from inside the truck as the original goat stealthily transitioned into hunt mode.  We were all coaching him from inside, but it soon became apparent that he didn’t need any of our tips, and he couldn’t hear them anyways. He quickly snuck down the road within about 100 yards of the bear who was still feeding along the roadway.  He got into position and delivered a perfect shot from his 30-06.  The bear dropped in it’s tracks!  We all let out a victorious yell in the truck.  “Oh yeah!  Dad’s still got it!”  We jumped out of the truck, ran down the road and celebrated with hugs and congratulations.  This was an epic moment to watch our father harvest his first bear.  

With the two rookies tagged out, James and I could focus on our bears.  Our plan was to go back to where we had seen the two bears on the first night of our hunt.  James really wanted to find that beautiful blonde bear, as it turned out, it couldn’t have worked out any better.  We got to our glassing area and had just set up when my brother Daniel spotted something going through the trees, he said it was the color of an elk.  After about five minutes, James spotted something glistening in the sun feeding out from behind a pine tree.  At first we thought it was a grizzly bear because it was so blonde.  James got set up for the shot and we were able to take a closer look.  It didn’t have a humped back or the head of a griz, but it was clearly the blonde black bear we were looking for!  You couldn’t miss this bear walking across the hillside, it looked like a piece of gold glistening in the sun.  Daniel called out the range at 586 yards, and James was down prone into his 300 ultra mag and he dialed up for the shot.  The bear stepped up onto a log presenting him a perfect broadside shot.  James touched off and we could hear the distinct sound of the 230 grain Berger’s impact, then the bear whirled down the hill and expired.  As we walked up to the bear we were amazed by this bears beauty.  James had just harvested his dream bear! We were admiring the bear and how the head was a dark rust and the coat was a golden cinnamon blonde with such a unique pattern.  We also noticed it’s teeth were completely worn down to the gums.  When we checked this bear in with the Montana Fish and Game they thought the bear was between 20-30 years old!  What a monarch!

This old Montana black bear has lived through a number of Montana bear seasons.
James and his ancient Montana black bear

Three bears down, only two days left, and I was up!  This hunt would come down to the final seconds of light on the last day.  We hunted hard the following two days and were unable to turn any bears up.  As the hunt was winding down my brother James said “You have only got about 20 minutes bro.”  I said “Yep, but it’s been a great hunt.  Three for four isn’t bad, and we’ve had a great time.”  As hunters we all know how quickly things can change.  I pulled up my binoculars to glass an area we had been watching and I said out loud “Holy crap! There’s a bear! And it’s a big one!”  I have seen quite a few bears before, and I knew the bear I was looking at was bigger than most.  He was feeding in a clearing on some freshly sprouted grass.  With light fading fast, I knew I needed to position myself for a quick shot.  As I was getting set up for my shot my brother James reassured me by saying “Stay calm, we have time, he’s just feeding.”  As I was getting into the rifle he told me “I can’t get an accurate range, it keeps coming up between 500-600 yards.  It looks like the rangefinder is hitting those downed quakies in front of the bear.”  We looked at each other and the calm left his face.  He said “You had better start running.”  I grabbed my rifle and took off running up the logging road towards the bear.  I was able to conceal myself in the pines along the side of the road.  The wind was perfect and blowing in my face as I was running my guts out while maneuvering through the trees.  I was trying to keep the bear in sight while praying it would stay light enough to get a clean shot.  I had closed the distance to within 150 yards of where I had last seen the bear.  My heart was pounding and my eyes were looking for any black movement in the fading light.  All of the sudden I caught something moving in the shadows of the pines.  It was him and he was scratching his head on a downed pine tree.  I hurried and got into prone with my rifle for a shot hoping he would not walk further into the pines and out of sight.  My wish came true.  He stopped scratching himself and walked out directly in front of me at 110 yards.  He was slightly quartering away and I placed my crosshairs just behind his shoulder and touched one off just as light was fading.  The big ol’ bruin bolted into the trees, although I knew I hadn’t missed that bear.  I said a quick prayer asking for a quick death and successful recovery.  I decided to wait for my dad and brothers to get to me before searching for him.  It was pitch black when they reached me.  My brother Daniel said “You got him, the shot sounded solid!”  I was excited to hear that and we all celebrated and hugged in a surreal moment of gratitude.  We were all so amazed that it came together in the final seconds of light on our last day.  It was time to go into the forest and find the bear.  It’s a little heavy on the nerves tracking a big bear in the dark utilizing only your headlamps.  We spread out about 20 yards apart and within seconds of entering the thick trees Daniel yelled “Paul, I got him!”  I replied “Are you serious?”  He had only ran 20 yards before expiring.  I was overwhelmed with happiness and felt so blessed to share the amazing experience with my family.  It was going to be a late night, it was almost 11:00 pm, but these are the moments and memories we as hunters live for.  

The author Paul Servey and his big Montana black bear.
The author with his big Montana black bear

This was simply the hunt of a lifetime!  I was able to spend a week with my father and brothers making memories, talking about our childhood, cracking jokes and teasing each other every day was so much fun.  The icing on the cake was our success in harvesting four bears in seven days.  A feat that I am sure will be tough to duplicate.     

Authors Note:

Paul Servey is known as Mountain Goat Pauly.  He’s a blue collar worker who loves to hunt public land over the counter tags in the Rocky Mountains.  He started hunting with his family as a child and has continued to pass on his knowledge and passion to his daughter and wife who also enjoy the sport.  Paul believes in the spirit of the wild and gives every animal the respect they deserve taught to him by his native father.  Paul enjoys the sport of long range rifle hunting, archery hunting and muzzleloader hunting.  Paul believes in giving back to those who have served and promotes a patriotic lifestyle.  He is also well known for being a do-it-yourself hunter who shares his own content and pictures of all his outdoor adventures.  Paul spends over 200+ days in the field while still working a full time job.  His heart is truly in the outdoors and that is why he spends so much time sharing his passion for the sport.      

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