By Greg Rodriguez
I crawled out from behind the willows and focused on the edge of the field. The bear was feeding peacefully, oblivious to our presence. I opened the legs of my Harris bipod and settled in behind the rifle.
"How far?" I asked.
"181 yards," Dawn whispered.
I settled the crosshairs just behind the shoulder of the largest black bear I've ever seen, emptied my lungs and touched the trigger of Remington's new 700 SPS.
The New Model 700
Remington's Model 700 ADL synthetic has been a staple at gun shows and in the marts since its 1996 debut. With Model 700 performance in a reasonably priced package, the ADL was a great buy for hunters and a good seller for Remington.
But the ADL was never one of my favorites, mainly because it lacked a hinged floorplate. That may not seem like a big deal, but rifles so equipped are safer and easier to unload than guns with blind magazines like the 700 ADL. As an outfitter, I would prefer my clients unload their rifles with the push of a button rather than cycling each round through the action. That's why I was so happy to see Remington replace the ADL with the Model 700 SPS (Special Purpose Synthetic) at this year's SHOT Show.
The 700 SPS is based on the classic Model 700 action. The action rides in a newly designed synthetic stock that features Remington's recoil-absorbing R3 recoil pad. Unlike the ADL, its carbon-steel barrel is devoid of sights. The 700 SPS that I tested was the standard matte-finished version in .300 Win Mag, but is also available in 12 other calibers, as well as Youth, Stainless and Detachable Magazine versions.
The 700 SPS is not fancy, but it does not look or feel cheap. The matte finish is roughly textured, but this appears to be a design feature, not a shortcut. The fit and finish are on par with other Remington offerings, and I liked the feel of the new stock. Overall, I was quite pleased after my initial inspection of the test rifle. I was anxious to shoot it, so I topped it with a Leupold 3-9x Compact riflescope in a set of Leupold QRW rings and headed off to the range with the only .300 Win Mag ammo I had, an old box of 180-grain Remington Core-Lokts.
The 700 SPS made a great first impression. The stock was comfortable, and the R3 recoil pad did a great job of reducing recoil. Plus, the rifle was far more accurate than I expected, with the first three groups measuring an inch or less. I was so impressed by its accuracy that I decided to take the rifle with me in pursuit of one of British Columbia's big bruins.
Beautiful country, abundant bears and spot-and-stalk hunting combine to make British Columbia my favorite bear hunting destination. I've hunted this country before, with Dennis Smith's Bear Paw Guide and Outfitters, but this trip was special because I would be the first client of Dennis' 19-year-old granddaughter, Dawn. We saw several bears on the ride out, so I was optimistic when I pulled into Dennis' camp.
Rain kept the bears in hiding on day one, but as I told Dawn, it only takes one. "The one" showed up later that day in the corner of a large field. Dawn and I eased out of the truck and cut the distance to about 500 yards. When we stopped to rest behind a small willow, we saw that the bear had changed direction and was headed towards the woods. I took a deep breath, hunched over and ran towards the corner to cut him off. Unfortunately, he disappeared before we got there.
Dawn and I discussed that animal at great length. We both agreed that he was huge, and we didn't think we spooked him. Dawn felt he was probably checking the field for a willing sow and that there was a good chance he would return.
The next afternoon, Dawn and I set up 400 yards from where the bear had appeared. We saw a huge grizzly and several smaller bruins, but "my bear" didn't show up until last light. Unfortunately, he entered the field at the opposite corner and disappeared before I could close the distance.
I looked at Dawn and smiled. "Tomorrow," I whispered.
The next afternoon, we headed out earlier than usual. This proved to be a wise move. As we approached the field, we saw the unmistakable black mound in the field, feeding behind some small willows. Without saying a word, we took off after him, using the brush for a screen.
Eventually, we closed the distance. I settled the crosshairs just behind his near shoulder to account for the slight quartering angle and squeezed the trigger. When the shot broke, I saw the big boar collapse, and a second later, the sound of a solid hit echoed back to me. We raced to the fallen bruin to make sure he was down for the count, then exchanged high fives when we realized how big he really was.
My once-in-a-lifetime bear squared over 7 feet, 6 inches and was later aged at 20 years, ancient by black bear standards. The few teeth he had were badly worn, although his coat was in prime condition. Taking that old boar was a fitting end to the best black bear hunt I've ever experienced, but taking him after a good stalk and three hard days of hunting with a new rifle made it that much sweeter.
For more information on Bear Paw Guide and Outfitters, call (250) 966-2480.
Reprinted from the October 2005 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.