I was anxious to shake the lead out. I had spent two days driving, another six hours on stand bear hunting, and right now running 5K on a deserted country road in Manitoba was cosmic relief. Halfway up "cardiac hill", a 50 foot vertical incline over a ¼ mile span that left me gasping, a black bear unexpectedly sauntered out of the woods and looked up the hill away from me. I stopped, he turned and looked the forty yards back down the hill to my now still figure. I moved my head back and forth checking him out, and he did the same. I waved my hands around over my head to appear menacing. He perked up but did not move. Although feeling a bit disconcerted with no means of protection except running away on my own two legs, I decided to have some fun. I hunkered down like a sumo wrestler and did a lively staccato sideways crab walk across the road and back. The black beast in the distance decided I must be quite mad, turned tail and ran back from whence he came. I continued my run, unnerved, but amused at my dancing bear encounter.
I was back in Manitoba hunting a mere 40 miles from the area I had arrowed my first chocolate color phase bear two years before. The previous evening I had seen a small black bear, and had several around my stand after dark, one of whom started to climb my ladder stand until I made my presence known by standing up.
The drive to my stand on day two had a familiar enchanted feel to it. I have had that sense on a number of other hunts in the past and I have always then harvested animals. This stand was situated perfectly for my left handed shot. The concealment of the stand was ideal and we treed a bear driving in on the ATV as we did the "two man in, one out" strategy. Within five minutes of settling in, the bear returned, a large sow with most of her hair gone from the rigors of mating. I was surrounded by bears for the next three hours as they took turns coming to the bait barrel and skittering up and down trees. A large boar came in twice, grabbed some bait and quickly departed. I knew immediately upon seeing him that he was a shooter. He had a bellicose dominant nature and scuffled with the other bears. He had been systematically stealing food from the other bears as well.
In Manitoba, it does not get dark until 10:30 PM. At 9 PM the sun was still up and I was videoing a cinnamon cub descending from eating thirty feet up an aspen tree. Suddenly the yearling cub stopped ten feet off the ground and started huffing. I followed the direction of his fearful gaze with my camera and there was the large boar again. My heart started to race. I said to myself "I am going to kill that bear". I set my camera down, clipped my release on my bowstring and went to full draw. I had gone to full draw twice before on this animal but he had exited too quickly to place the shot. This time he was not running from the bait site and I was ready. The boar stepped cautiously past the tangled brush and circled slowly around and up to the bait barrel. The other bears kept their distance. He put his left paw on the brim and presented me with a textbook quartering shot. I ran my pin site up his leg and slightly right and center, held steady with my pin site behind the shoulder, and let the arrow fly. The fletching disappeared and the bear folded as if he had been sucker punched. He did a 180 degree turn and ran up the hill. I held my breath and listened, trying to still my now pounding heart. Soon there was some crashing of brush, then silence and three death moans. I was not sure if I actually heard the death moans and wondered if I had imagined them because I wanted the bear so badly. I was told by Ed the outfitter that if I shot a bear early, I should leave my stand and go to a high hill where he could see me when he drove by in his truck. I waited another ten minutes, descended from my stand and went to retrieve my arrow in the distance. It was embedded in the ground and covered with bright red blood. I was concerned that it was not the frothy blood usually indicative of a lung shot but I was certain my shot was true. I left the bait site and walked to what I thought was that high hill that Ed had earlier pointed out.
I stood there for a few minutes and as it began to rain, I saw two bears come out of the woods 60 yards in the distance. They were fully aware of me and looked my direction many times. They frolicked for ten minutes and appeared to almost dance on their hind legs a number of times before disappearing into the adjacent woods. I got down on my knees there in the rain as the sun set, and I prayed. I thanked God for the opportunity to shoot such a magnificent animal and I prayed my kill was clean and quick and that the animal would be retrieved quickly. Coyotes were staging and howling in the distance as the rain continued.
We later found my bear where it dropped 35 yards from the kill site. It weighed 245 pounds and might even score Pope and Young which would be a first for me. Others of our hunting group were looking for larger animals, but this bear was my personal best by a large margin and I was thrilled. When dressing the animal later, we found I had a good heart/lung shot. I was pleased.
Our hunting group had great success, even given the hideous cold and rainy weather. On day 1, Steve Bryant from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, arrowed a 325 pound chocolate color phase bear. On day 2, I arrowed my bear. Day 3 saw Jerry Helget of Forest Lake Minnesota take a beautiful color phase bear he had seen the night before. Its back was blond, sides were cinnamon and its muzzle and paws were dark almost like a Siamese cat. It too was potential Pope and Young. On Day 4, Larry Prossen from Florida arrowed a nice 280 pound black sow bear. Rob Evans from Wisconsin held out for a trophy and by choice did not take a bear on our hunt. He saw 400-500 pound bears that he did not have a shot at.
This was my first Spring bear hunt. I have always hunted bear in the Fall, running my own baits on my land near Isle in Kanebec County. I had never hunted bears in rut, or when they were coming right out of hibernation. Although baiting is common to both Spring and Fall, bear behavior is markedly different. Whatever the reason, the black bear remains for me the most exciting game animal to hunt!
© June 2005