Hunting with the .375 WCF, Part IV

By Dave Thornblom

In 1985 I wound up with the dubious duty of camp cook and wrangler in my guide friend, Rynn Hamblin's bear camp. This is located near Green's Peak in the Apache-Sitgreaves National forest, 30 miles from Springerville, Arizona. Rynn knew that I love to hunt black bear, so we had a standing deal; I would help him with tagging out his bear clients, when that work was done my bear was free. At that time, Rynn was getting $1200 for a bear hunt, so I figured that I was getting paid $300 per day.

This year all of our clients were from Houston, Texas. Flatlanders, ready for the mountain experience. They hadn't taken Rynn's advice and were only in mediocre shape.

The first morning of the hunt took place between 9000 and 10,000 feet elevation, and left the first two clients winded for the rest of the day. They got their two black bear all right, but were shot for the trout fishing that afternoon. Their bears weighed 185 pounds and 275 pounds, shot with .41 magnum and .44 magnum Smith and Wesson revolvers.

Rynn took advantage of the two very productive methods of hunting black bear that were then legal, baiting and hunting on horseback behind hounds. We had several bait stations in our hunt area, some with blinds and some without. When we got the hunters up in the morning for breakfast, one of the guides would go check the bait stations to determine which had been used by bear during the night. If a station had been hit, that is where we cast the hounds and followed on horseback. When the bear stopped to fight the hounds, the hunter got his shot.

Sometimes this happened rather quickly, and sometimes there was a great long chase. On the afternoon hunts we took the clients to a bait station with a blind and waited for a bear to show up, not using the hounds. This keeps your hounds from being scattered all over the mountains during the night, thus preserving the investment in hounds. At $1000 to $1500 per hound, you can't afford to loose too many or your hunt will be a bust. That afternoon, another hunter got a 300 pound bear hunting over bait using a .30-30 Winchester rifle.

The next morning, the last hunter was taken on a long chase that covered at least 8 miles before the bear treed. This last hunter took his bear with a neck shot using a .308 Winchester rifle. This was a monster 595 pound black bear.

With the Texas bear hunters tagged out, it was my turn. The following morning, just after daylight, I shot my bear at 40 yards with my old 94 Big Bore in .375 WCF, using a 220 grain Hornady bullet in front of 38 grains of RL-7.

At the shot, the bear went down, kicked around in a quick circle, regained his feet and went about 35 yards before expiring. The only exit holes were fragments. The bullet started to break-up as it went through the bear's shoulder, wrecked the heart/lung area, with only small fragments exiting the off side shoulder. This bear was about 325 pounds and was the color of an Irish setter dog. His hide made a beautiful rug.

Now, after taking several head of big game with the .375 WCF using the 220 grain Hornady InterLock bullet, I will have to say that this bullet performs well on deer size game. For bear or elk I would recommend the 250 grain factory load or a handload using the 255 grain Barnes Original FNSP loaded to a MV of 1900 to 2000 fps. The Hornady 220 grain bullet comes apart too quickly on heavy game for my taste, although it does kill well. I would prefer a bullet that exits large game instead of just leaving fragment holes.

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Copyright 2003, 2016 by Dave Thornblom. All rights reserved.