Cast Bullet Bears

Help Support Ruger Forum:

Jeff Hoover

Feb 25, 2009
Words cannot begin to describe the amount of fun experienced on this past bear hunt in Idaho with good friends Dick “sixshot” Thompson and Mike “Doc” Barranti, but I will do my best to try and relay some of what happened over a very short week. Traveling through the land that Elmer Keith once walked and hunted was humbling. For Easterners like Doc and me, the mountains and wide open spaces are a welcome sight instead of our usual closed in, over crowded, and flat places we call home. There was no shortage of good food, stories, laughs and new adventures.

Doc drove down from Pittsburgh Thursday night for our Friday departure to Pocatello, via Salt Lake City. Sitting in the lobby was sixshot, a welcomed sight after such a long trip. You just can’t help smiling and laughing when seeing Dick after a long separation, with his friendly grin and great sense of humor. Luggage was gathered, sort of, and off we went to Soda Springs, to Dicks house. Docs luggage went on a journey of its own! It went to Atlanta, back to Baltimore, Salt Lake city, and finally Pocatello, late Saturday night. This set us back a bit, and we drove all night to our destination Saturday night, after picking up Docs luggage at 10:00 pm. This delay did give us a chance to have dinner with callshot at Sizzler.

When we arrived at 7:00 am, after driving thru the night, a nap was called for, and then we had lunch, and off to the mountains for an afternoon hunt. All three of us were carrying Ruger .44 mags loaded with Miha 503 cast .44 Keith slugs of some variation. Dick chose a hollow point version, while Doc and I stuck with solids. Dick had his 10.5” Ferminator SBH, Doc a 3 screw 7.5” FT Skeeter gun, and I rounded out the guns with a 7.5” Redhawk. Hunting with a sixgun puts you at a very big disadvantage. Longer shots that are chip shots with a rifle, are a challenge for a pistol. As Dick says,"I'd rather shoot a grasshopper with a sixgun than a 6X6 bull with a rifle."

A half hour trip, followed by a 10 mile ATV ride thru the mountains, brought us to one of Dicks favorite vantage points to glass the bruins. The weather was around 55 degrees and calm when we left, but our perch in the mountains changed that with cooler temps and a gusty 25-30 mph wind. It got chilly real fast. But we were happy as pups to be there with sixshot! The first time out to new hunting ground is always important as you take in the lay of the land, get bearings, and familiarize yourself with landmarks. Seeing where Dick and his family have taken several bears over the years thru your own eyes ties in with his stories to make you really understand how they do it. No bears were seen the first evening, but it was a great introduction for the week to come.

The wind was howling all night long, back at the cabin, well into the morning. Dick said there was no use going out that day, and a side trip was made to Riggins, ID. Initially, we were to be there for the Jet boat races on the Salmon, on Sunday. But the luggage fiasco screwed that up, so some backtracking was called for. In Riggins, they have a big scow on display. This was pertinent to us because ol’ Elmer used to moonlight as a river hand for the famous Capt. Guleke, delivering supplies along the river. There is a picture of Elmer in “Hell, I was there” doing this very thing, along with a long explanation of what they did.

Here’s sixshot and Doc, standing by the scow.

Look at the bridge for scale to show the immensity of the mountains!

The Salmon River country is beautiful, as you can see. Driving along, you’ll see cows grazing on steep hillsides as these, and wonder how in the heck do they do that. Dick says every now and then, one will take a tumble, rolling out to the roadway.

So Monday was sightseeing day, Tuesday was calmer and the hunt was on! Lunches were packed for all day glassing venues. I gotta say, both Doc and I felt very fortunate and humbled to be sitting on a mountain side with sixshot, eating sandwiches, pringle chips, and sweet peppers, and callshot jerky, glassing for bears, laughing, joking, ragging on each other, just in general, enjoying life at one of Dicks honey holes. It is these kind of memories that stick with you, and put a smile on your face! I don’t think I will ever be able to eat a pringle chip, sweet pepper, or slice of boysenberry pie, without being transplanted back to that time and location with Dick and Doc! It’s what life is all about!

No bears seen Tuesday.

Wednesday was another marathon session. Around 2 O’clock we thought Doc was having an appendicitis attack, as he jumped up and screamed Bear!!!! A scant 1200 yards away was our first spotting. Pretty cool! He came out from our left, fed towards the middle, and then did a sprint across the mountain, to another wood line. He popped out about 300 yards closer to us. Something spooked him. A few minutes later, we saw why. Here came a chocolate bear, from the same place as the first blackie. By this time, it was too late to drive around the mountain to the opposite backside, drop down ½ to ¾ of a mile to put the kibash on him. It takes almost an hour with the ATV, and another 40 minutes or better to drop down ti their vicinity. We knew they were coming out now, and we were pumped!

That little black spec is the first bear.

Legendary Dick Thompson leading the way!

Doc spotting in the sage.

Me, feeling on top of the world.

My Barranti NW Hunter rig, Ruger 7.5” RH, homegrown .44 mag cast 503 Keith slugs, and Bill Snow blade.

Thursday was our final day of hunting. An early start was called for. Doc and I would follow Dick to the vantage point, and then circle the opposite ridge, where we could see him, awaiting instructions. We were a good mile across from Dick. It’s amazing, with him wearing his signature neon blue Boise State sweatshirt, sitting on an ATV, you could barely make him out from the surrounding sage brush. With binoculars, he would pop out like a firecracker. Just shows you the value of good binoculars.

Around 2 in the afternoon, Dick asks if we are ready to take a walk. He had just spotted a beautiful cinnamon with black legs. Doc and I were ready! Or so we thought. This country is BIG! When you are looking anywhere from ¾ to a mile away, what appears smooth, isn’t. There are many contours, benches, and ridges to contend with. What looks like a hundred yards from a mile away could be 3 or 400 yards. As we zeroed in, Dick signaled the bear was gone. Doc and I stayed put, waiting for another bear. By now, it was 70 degrees with a very bright sun. We felt like ants being fried by a kid with a magnifying glass. Add to the fact that we didn’t bring water with us, we were starting to feel like jerky.

3 hours later, Dick tells us there is a blackie, near the bottom of our ridge. I’m out of the game. Between coughing out dust, seeing a beer truck over on the next ridge(mirage), and polymer smoking from my titanium knees, I decided to watch Doc pull this one off. After the first ridge, and a tangle of brush, Doc was out of sight, so I headed up hill to the ATV and much needed water. I’ll let Doc finish off with his story.

We did manage to get some shooting in, tho. As we were driving back on the ATV, just shy of Dicks truck, I saw movement and stopped the ATV. “Look at that” I yell to Doc ! “Badger?” Doc replies. As the waddling thing goes profile, I say “porcupine!”

Next thing I know my Ruger RH is out, bullseye style, my arm across Docs face. “Cover yer ears, Doc!” The gun goes off, the porky hunches up, Docs eye brows are smoking, and the porky waddles over to a sage brush and hops in. A second shot, and needles explode from him, like the first. He decides he doesn’t like the sage anymore and heads to the creek. I’m empty, all hits, and I tell Doc to get in the game. He shoots 3 times, all hits, as I reload. One more finisher, and he finally stops moving. Not many quills left, his head is hanging on by a flap of hide, and Doc and I are thinking is this real?!

Anyway, it was a nice capper to a great week. Great friends, food, and fun. Too many side stories to mention here, but I will add, as time goes. Hopefully you got a good vision of what we were fortunate enough to experience! Seen 4 bears, ate great food, had a ton of laughs, and stored a million memories away in the file box.

jack black

Jul 16, 2012
East of Austin
NO FAIR !!! Man what I would give to be with you guys Great pics.I wish you all the very best.Thank you for posting the wonderful pictures .


Ruger Guru
Sep 18, 2002
Lake Lure NC USA
Tank, As I read this,,, I could FEEL the mountains,,, the views,, the thirst,, the heart pounding,, and all the things we love. I gotta say,, I will have to talk to you to get more of this.

I'll patiently await Doc's side of things.


May 2, 2012
Looks like you boys have some fine country to wander out there. Hopefully you'll get a shot at a bear next season :D


Aug 8, 2012
Whoa, a wonderful story ! Now I need a grasshopper recipe. Yea, its kinda tough to figure out where to hit a porky ! In just the right spot, a .22 is enough, otherwise a .44 ain't. stevemb

Joe S.

Feb 4, 2011
Central MS
the more pics i see from you Idahoans (<-- is that what yall call yourselves?), the more i think id like to live there!


May 27, 2002
Carolina Beach, NC
Jeff Hoover said:

My Barranti NW Hunter rig, Ruger 7.5” RH, homegrown .44 mag cast 503 Keith slugs, and Bill Snow blade.

These are incredible pics. Why Ruger doesn't use stuff like this in their catalogs is a mystery.



Jan 4, 2004
Me and the ex wife spent about 6 months in Idaho several years ago. Those pics make me want to go back sooooo bad. Beautiful, beautiful country.