The whisp of a black shadow glided among the spruces without a sound. I turned my head calmly to Susan and whispered for her to turn the camera on. "One’s coming, and it’s HUGE!" I emphatically stated. I heard the whiz of the camera and worried the black bear would hear it as well. My worries were instantly put to rest as the bear continued its approach to the bait. It turned broadside at 25 yards and after the initial adrenaline surge of seeing my first bear in the wild, I realized it may not be as big as I initially perceived. (A common mistake for beginning bear hunters is to over-estimate the size of a bear.) I studied it a moment longer before consulting Susan.
While this was my first black bear bowhunt, Susan had hunted here at Ugly Bear Lodge in New Brunswick, Canada the previous two years, gaining bear hunting experience and shooting a bear each year; something I passionately wanted to do during my first 5-day bear hunt here in Canada.
Susan confirmed my assessment of its size. While it looked to us to be a decent sized 3 to 4 year old weighing about 150 pounds, she worried it may not be the bear I was hoping to take home, and I agreed, hoping I wouldn’t regret my decision to pass on my first bear. We watched it meander around the barrel, exit and enter the bait site, then turn and finally leave. Once it disappeared back under the spruce it materialized under, my entire body began to shake uncontrollably. With heart thumping, Mathews Outback bow wobbling and my Carbon Express arrow shaking even in its solid Whisker Biscuit rest; I cocked my head to the side to witness Susan stifling her laughter at me. I in turn slapped my hand over my mouth to contain my laughter at my visibly shaking self as well. Susan admittedly whispered that what she was witnessing was exactly what she had experienced just two years earlier. This was in fact my first black bear encounter in the wild and the adrenaline rush and excitement I was undergoing was totally unexpected! And yes, I was instantly addicted to bear hunting.
Susan Phenix-Miller and I had met just a year earlier at a deer hunt in her home state of Michigan. We’d hit it off and I’d listened to her tales of fantastic bear hunting, great lodging and services and the abundant and scrumptious food (prepared by George Georgoudis) dished out at the Ugly Bear Lodge/Canaan Outfitters in New Brunswick, Canada.
Ugly Bear Lodge/Canaan Outfitters, is located in Hunters Home, New Brunswick, Canada and owned by Costa Georgoudis. For more information, visit their website at: www.uglybearlodge.com )
I’d been eager to venture to the North Country for sometime in search of bear, and after listening to Susan, I knew I wanted my first bear experience to be at Ugly Bear Lodge. I eagerly booked my spot with Charlie Bourque from Ugly Bear Lodge early in 2005 and Susan and I agreed to drive to Canada together, arriving Sunday afternoon on June 5, 2005 for a five day hunt.
Upon our arrival, we discovered the hunting the week before had been excellent, with all six hunters of the Scent-Lok team harvesting a bear. I worried their success may thwart our chances. I couldn’t have been more wrong. There were bears, plenty of bears, but not an ugly one in sight! In fact, we each had shot opportunities during our 5-day hunt and we each observed 4-to-5 year old adult black bears with beautiful thick black coats. Not one was rubbed. The staff and owners at Ugly Bear Lodge informed us because of the cooler spring weather, they hadn’t been rubbing like usual. Nice. Nothing but beautiful bears for us here at Ugly Bear Lodge!
There were three women hunting in all; myself from Wisconsin, Susan Phenix-Miller from Michigan and Diane Fiedler, also from Michigan and also a first-time bear hunter like myself.
June 2005 Bear Hunters: Alyssa Haukom, Costa Georgoudis: Owner of Ugly Bear Lodge, Diane Fiedler and Susan Phenix-Miller)
Temperatures were warm and humid during the week-long hunt, making bug suits, quality bug suits, mandatory for enduring long hours hunting amid the thick mosquitoes and incessant black flies.
Each day at Ugly Bear began with a hearty, full breakfast at 9am followed by a delicious main meal, complete with dessert, at 1pm. We headed out to hunt, accompanied by our guides, (a requirement for non-residents hunting in Canada) around 2pm each day and we’d return some time around 10pm for a light dinner.
I was impressed by the spaciousness and homey feeling of the lodge which opened for business in 1997. The main lodge featured a full stone fireplace and living area decorated with mounts galore, a TV, dining area and kitchen. Downstairs featured a rec-room complete with "self-serve" snacks and beverages available at all times. The main lodge has 3 rooms for guests and a separate unit, with full facilities, for groups. We stayed in the unit attached to the main lodge which had full kitchen, living quarters, TV, bathroom and 3 bedrooms with 2 double beds in each room. The lodge overlooks a beautiful trout pond (just ask if you’d like to toss in a line…) surrounded by beautifully kept grounds with the Canaan River winding its way through the picturesque backyard. The owners and staff at Ugly Bear were beyond courteous; they became instant and genuine friends and are fondly remembered. I’ve not had the pleasure before of spending time in a hunting camp where I’d felt so at home.
Safety was priority, and we were always escorted to and from our stands by our guides. All hunters, man or woman, new or seasoned hunter, were instructed to never leave a stand. The forests are thick, and bait sites obviously intended to attract bears, so for safety all hunters are strictly forbidden to leave their stand for any reason. Instead, each hunter is supplied with a two-way radio that transmits several miles. Upon shooting a bear, or when ready to be picked up, you simply call your guide and they come to the stand within a few minutes to escort you safely out of the woods, or to locate a blood trail. Before the guide leaves you to park down the road (if you choose to remain in your stand alone) they will always place fresh bait in the barrels. Doughnuts, liquid sugar, raspberry jam, and other delicacies are dumped into the barrels to attract the bears.
My Guide Steven Bourque putting bait in the barrel at "The Lake" stand before climbing in his tree stand to film my hunt.)
On to the hunt….
Day two of our hunt found us all seeking cover from the severe thunderstorm that descended upon us in the early evening. No sightings for any of us that night.
Day three dawned clear and cooler, a perfect bear hunting day! While Susan failed to see anything, Diane and I both had the opportunity to observe some nice bears. Problem was for me, the first bear approached at 7pm (a nice, 4 year old mature male) and I was unprepared for the first and only shot when he first entered the bait site. After that, the bear fed facing me, offering no clear shot, although it did give me perfect viewing from just 15 yards away. I saw a total of 6 bears that night. Another small 3-year old and 3 cubs and their mama who gave quite a show while mama bear patrolled the feeding area, snapping and popping her jaws.
Thursday night I felt sure someone would connect and bring home a bear. Diane did just that at 9pm, shooting a nice 250-lb. sow at just 27 yards with her Thompson Center .270. The bear crumpled up just 20 yards away as Diane celebrated shooting her first black bear with George Georgegoudis as her guide.
Diane Fiedler and her guide (and camp cook) George Georgoudis with a fine black bear shot Thursday night with her .270 Thompson Center )
I saw 5 bears again, the same as the previous night, but not the "big one" I so desperately wanted to shoot; just my luck. Now I was down to the final night.
Meanwhile Susan had also arrowed a nice bear at 9pm, making a good shot; she had witnessed her arrow buried to its fletching, but curiously and disappointingly never heard a death moan after it ran off into the woods. The guides all agreed to let it wait until morning. They all searched the next day for several hours, yet failed to locate either the blood trail or the bear. Susan was understandably upset.
We headed out early on our final afternoon of hunting, eager to allow ourselves plenty of time to increase our chances for shooting a bear. Unfortunately for us, neither of us saw anything all night, except some snowshoe hares. We vowed to return.
We all booked again for the spring of 2006, and the owner of Ugly Bear Lodge, Costa Georgoudis, graciously offered Susan and I each a fall hunt in early October. He informed us the bears would gain from 100 to 150 pounds by fall, and although not as easily hunted as in the spring, felt that we each would benefit by returning and trying to fill our tags again in a few months. He didn’t have to ask twice. Susan and I eagerly accepted his invitation and cannot wait to find ourselves in the good company of the staff and guides at Ugly Bear Lodge again in October. Hopefully we’ll both have success stories to share soon.
Interior view of Ugly Bear Lodge – it’s loaded with interesting mounts and photographs!)
If you’re interested in hunting spring Black bear, have any questions about Ugly Bear Lodge or hunting in Canada, contact:
Visit their website for more information and photos: www.uglybearlodge.com
If you are driving to Canada, be sure to have proof of current car insurance and proof of car ownership (copy of the title) with you.
All speed limits and distances are posted in Kilometers while in Canada.
Bowhunter’s Safety or Hunters Safety cards/proof are required for non-resident hunters. Licenses may be purchased upon arrival at Ugly Bear Lodge. Bear hunts are held in Zone 18 or 22.
Non-resident bear licenses cost approx. $125.00 U.S. dollars
Full taxidermy services are available nearby the lodge through "Poirier’s Taxidermy" at ph#1-506-384-3880. Ugly Bear Lodge will gladly make taxidermy arrangements for you.
Special border crossing reminders:
- Driver’s License (photo I.D.), Birth certificate and Marriage License are required for entry into Canada and for re-entry into the U.S., HOWEVER, By the end of 2006, passports will be required for all U.S. traveler’s entering and leaving Canada.
- Transporting pepper spray or mace across the border is illegal
- Any firearm or weapon brought into Canada must be declared. If a firearm or weapon is not declared, customs will confiscate it and you could face criminal charges. Not all firearms and weapons are allowed into Canada. Check border regulations and requirements before you travel.
- A CITES permit is required for export of meat, skull or skin from Canada into the U.S. Ugly Bear Lodge handles all permits for its hunters.
- It is illegal to transport sheds, skulls or bones from a deceased animal across the border, unless you tagged/shot the animal. Only a hunter holding a valid hunting license and tag is allowed to transport meat, skull or skin of the animal harvested into the U.S.
- You are not allowed to transport another person’s bear meat for them.
© August 2005