Ok...just finished five days up in unit 12. YES, a reduced hunt unit with two bear tags. Here is my no holds assessment as a bear hunter with 14 bears under my belt and 30 years of predator calling bears by hand. Unless you are a local with secret honey hole knowledge or BAITING for bears, skip unit 12 for spot and stalk and predator calling. I e-scouted the entire unit and light green colors that look like meadows are really regrowth that's already 10 feet tall and unglassable. Buddy and I hiked in 3.5 miles up No-See-Um Butte with 60 pound packs and got lucky spotting a cinnamon bear across a canyon. He was in a rare glassable patch the mere size of a basketball court. However, it was 3000 vertical feet down a 60 to 70 percent slope and 3000 vertical feet up the other side to get a possible shot....seriously a 6 to 8 hour hike with little chance of the bear staying in that tiny pocket. Also saw a blackie over 2 miles away in a rock slide south of highway 12 near the top of a 6800 foot ridge in the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness Area. Tried calling a few stands, but even at that elevation, the roar of the Lochsa River was competing with the call and I doubt any bear would climb 3000 vertical feet to chase a distressed mammal when bait barrels were PLENTIFUL off Highway 12, which we attested to by conversing with baiters at nearly every pull out. (Lots of hunters we ran into were sitting bait as guided hunters.) Next day, we shed weight to 40 pound packs and hiked over 8 miles up Bear Mountain in the wilderness area. Scenery was beautiful, but again, we experienced 60 to 70 degree slopes with thousands of feet elevation gain and little to no glassing opportunity. From my experiences, the tiny glassable holes we did find did not merit the patience of glassing them for hours. Further north on the 12 the following day, closer to the Lolo Pass and the Montana border, we finally connected with a section of mountain WORTH glassing. We sat on it that afternoon-evening glassing and calling and again on the following morning, but turned up only a couple of deer and a couple of elk. Although the spot was glassable, I felt that the roaring river only a few hundred feet below us was hindering productive calling efforts. We then started south again all the way towards Kooskia and drove up a large mountain. Game and Fish had created some roads there years ago by grading along the contours to allow grasses to grow and closed those roads to vehicle traffic. Walking those roads was sweet and several piles of bear scat were found. I followed some bear trails through the grasses and into the timber where they lead to...yes, bait barrels. We backed out and called and glassed that area for the PM hours and the AM hours the next day. I truly believe that bait eating bears in the area refused to come into our calling because they were accustomed to the easy pickings of barrel cuisine. We went south out of our unit and found an area that seemed comparable to Hell's Canyon for glassing bear. It was dreamlike! Open hillsides covered in green grass with thickly timbered ridge tops and vertical cuts providing bears with cover and water. I was so excited to find a spot and hike up a butte to start glassing. Unfortunately, a loud bang sounded from under my hood. We pulled over and couldn't see any problems. I started my Jeep and the clutch fan wasn't turning. Cried a bit, then drove 17 miles to the nearest town...Riggins. They had no auto parts store and one mechanic in town. It was going to take 3 days to get the parts and then a week before they could fit me in. 60 miles north, a neighboring town could get me in after 10 days, and the town an hour south could see me in 3 weeks, but at least they had one clutch fan in house. I only share this part of my adventure to express my gratitude to the strangers of small town Idaho who sincerely reached out to help me, a stranger in need. Riggins Chevron closed 10 minutes after I arrived in my wounded Jeep. An employee, Jared, hung out with us for over an hour providing me with tools to remove my damaged clutch fan. Apparently while driving on a washboard section of the gravel road, a nut bounced off a threaded stem that was holding my battery in place and fell between the fan blades and the side of my inner Jeep frame with exact precision to jam the clearance space between the blades and frame which caused the blade to jam and warp between them, bending my blades and whacking them into my frame with the loud bang. Anyways, it was hard to remove the warped clutch fan and we ending up slicing into three fins on my radiator, which emptied out the coolant freely. Jared offered to pay for a new radiator, but I told him not to worry and that it was on me. No one had a radiator and it would take several days to ship one over. A guy named Bill pulls up out of nowhere and asks about our dilemma. It ends with him telling us that he has a Cherokee I can gets parts from if I need them. I then walk to the nearest motel as we are no longer mobile. They are sold out as some whitewater bash is being hosted in town and salmon fishing is going on from Friday through Sunday. I go to Riggins Motel and the new owner Jeff is also full, but calls the other motels to check for vacancies since I'm without a vehicle. All 4 motels in town are filled to capacity. Jeff offers to drive us out of town a few miles to a BLM campground on a river with vaulted toilets where we can sleep in our tent. Around 10pm, he shows up at our tent and informs us that he just had a cancellation and will put us up in that room free of charge. I graciously thank him, but refuse as our camp was already set and we were currently in bed. Next morning, I smile and wave hello to some character walking with a smile on his face. He was Brad from Twin Falls, who landed a 31 inch salmon just minutes earlier. He shares his salmon story and I share my dilemma. Brad is like, let's go, I'll drive you up to McCall to get your clutch fan. Just like that, no hesitation or doubt. Before leaving, we stop by the motel and tell Jeff our plan and let him know that we are ok. We pick up the part and new coolant and return to my Jeep. Bill comes over with his tools and walks me through the steps as I pull my radiator. He knows I can't get a radiator anywhere that size and offers to try and solder shut the three leaking fins as they are made out of copper. An hour after soldering and holding water without leaking, I reinstalled everything under Bill's guidance and cranked my Jeep over. Good as new...maybe...maybe not...but, good enough to get us back to Phoenix leak free after 20 hours of driving. So, if you have read this entire post, I conclude with three points. First of all, don't hunt unit 12 for spring bear unless you are baiting. It is too thick and steep to promote high success spot and stalk hunting or predator calling for bear. Secondly, the people of Idaho I interacted with were the kindest people on earth I have ever met. They went out of their way to help me, a complete stranger, at the drop of a hat and restored my faith in humanity. Third, and last off all, I'll be back in Idaho next spring to chase bears and wolves again....just not in unit 12!!
Y'all filled four bear tags and are just trying to keep people out aren't you?
Thanks for sharing this. I've been studying maps and aerials of 12 for a few weeks trying to prep for 2022, and this is another strike against that unit for me as a non-res without the option of baiting.
The area you refer to near Lolo Pass is saturated with bait hunters, predominantly from Montana, and Redbone outfitters has a camp several miles from the visitor center. You're wasting your time calling or spot, and stalk hunting. I tried calling for several days for wolves, and got no response. However, while scouting, I did sight some monstrous, and I mean absolutely monstrous sized wolf tracks, and I'm thoroughly familiar with wolf tracks. He or she might very well be a new world record for some lucky hunter. Spot, and stalk (or as I prefer to call it, the "more is better approach") is a waste anywhere, not just Unit 12. The bears I've seen in Unit 12 were small. There are other methods of hunting which are more productive, and practical. There are numerous other units in the state of Idaho which are IMHO, more productive spring bear units....