by Bill Wiesner
It was 4:00a.m. as I anxiously awaited in my diesel for my wife, Sandy, to hop in so we could pick up her brother, Greg, and wife, Sue. Our destination was Quebec, Canada for a spring bear hunt. Although I have hunted bear all over Canada and the US, this was our first adventure to the providence of Quebec. Excitement was at an all time high as the five a.m. bell tolled and the four of us were on our journey northward. Stories quickly changed from how the family was doing to bear hunting lore.
Let’s turn the clock back two years to February 2008. I was hired to do bear hunting seminars in the state of Virginia, only an hour south of Washington D.C. When the show opened, I realized I was across the aisle from a bear outfitter from Maryland that had a guide service in Quebec. Jim Steward is a big hulk of a man who spoke the language I wanted to hear. He wasn’t a salesman, rather an outdoorsman that told you the way it was. In fact, he explained his camp, Club Lac Brule, to me and I booked 10 hunters off his word, something I never do. My theory is to always hunt a camp before bringing hunters and friends in on a hunt.
When you book a hunt through an outfitter, always get references from the unsuccessful hunters. I believe anyone who takes an animal in a camp will give you a thumbs up reference. Make sure you explain to the outfitter what your needs and wants are: bow or gun; shot distance; height of stand; transportation and vehicle type getting to the stand. Also find out what is all included in the hunt package. An inexpensive hunt that doesn’t include transportation to and from your bait, food, licenses or lodging, will turn the hunt into a more costly venture. In other words, pre-hunt preparation is your responsibility as a hunter to ensure self-satisfaction.
We had a beautiful drive northward, stopping often, to enjoy the many sights the beautiful north provides. As I grow older, my focus isn’t just on the hunt, but rather the total package if you will, that is provided us by driving through several states and providences. The border can always be interesting, but, again be prepared. Have all paper work easily accessible, guns, bows and any alcohol where you can get at it easily. Answer all questions directly to ensure a timely crossing. Make sure you allow enough travel time to stop and enjoy the sights. Canada offers some of the most beautiful country you can see anywhere. Don’t ignore the beauty.
Once we arrived in camp, our emotions were at an all time high. Our friends greeted us as we drove into sight of the lodge and our home for the next several days. Have you ever had that feeling when you arrive somewhere that everything was going to be great? Oh, yah, it happened as we seen our sight that we knew would be etched into our permanent memory forever.
We quickly unpacked and jumped in a boat to enjoy the pike, walleye and whitefish that the lake provided. Again, prior to the hunt make sure you find out if there is fishing and if so, is the boat included in the price or do you need to bring one or rent one. I think an added bonus to any bear hunt is the fact that if you are stand hunting, it is normally the evenings, that frees you up to fish in the mornings. As we hauled in a number of pike, it finally dawned on us we were officially on our spring 2010 bear hunt. Once we caught a number of fish, we headed in for supper and our guide cleaned the fish for the ceremonial Wednesday fish fry. Can’t wait!
Why is it that when you sleep in the great northwoods, you rest to a point you get lazy? Normally, bear camp allows me the best rest I experience the entire year. The noise of early morning awoke me as birds serenaded me and the first light of the day was peaking through my bedroom window. For the first time in months, I felt totally rested. The breakfast bell rang and I was headed north to the lodge. When booking a hunt, find out if meals are included. If they are, find out what the normal meals consist of and if you have special needs BEFORE the hunt. Make sure you express those needs to the outfitter. Controlling each and every situation prior to you hunt is the hunter’s responsibility. Make sure you take the initiative to ensure the best experience.
I like camps where meals are included. A long drive makes it difficult, at best, to haul food to prepare your own meals. The fact that evenings are long in the stand, returning to camp and having time to prepare a meal can be bothersome, not to mention, the extra preparation planning a menu for the hunt. If you do have to bring your own food, we found it best to pre-cook and freeze our meals. The better prepared you are for your hunt, the less time you spend working in camp. Fishing or just enjoying the northwoods scenery beats cooking or working in camp because of ill prepared preparation anytime!
In Canada, it is common to travel quite a distance to your bait in order to hunt. This hunt was no different. Ted Nugent’s Fred Bear song was playing on the CD player as we traveled the back roads to our stand.
Prior to the hunt, ALWAYS know how you will be travelling to and from your stand. Make sure you understand that if you need to provide your own transportation, it adds to the cost of your hunt. Do you need to bring extra fuel or can you purchase it at camp? Many of the camps I have hunted were hours from the nearest town and gas station. What is our motto here? BE PREPARED!
For the last 10 years or so, I can count on one hand how many times I have hunted out of tree stands for bear. Ground blinds are the way to go, eye to eye with a black bear is the ultimate high. Jim Stewart and his crew made Sandy and I an awesome ground blind for our hunt. I had contacted Jim months prior to our hunt and asked him if he could build us a ground blind out of brush from the area and place it at 15 yards from the bait.
On any bear hunt, make sure to tell your outfitter what your effective range is – don’t be shy. Why? I need that close shot confidence builder. If you hunt with a bow out of a stand, know the distance to the bait and the height of the stand. Is your outfitter knowledgeable about bow hunting? Too many times I have seen baits at 10 yards and stands 20 feet in the tree. This is nearly an impossible shot. A bear, even a smaller one, can have considerable girth. To ensure a double lung shot, one foot of stand height to every yard of shooting distance is the rule of thumb. Example: 12 yard shot; maximum stand height 12 feet.
We quietly approached our blind and got positioned for a long sit. A comfortable chair is a must. At ground level, movement is magnified. My wife, Sandy, and myself have bear hunted and filmed together for years. We take turns hunting and filming. This hunt it was Sandy’s turn to hunt. It was our first hunt of 2010 an our expectations were high. Jim laced the bait with our BEAR SCENTS Anise spray. It only added to the total bear hunt scenario. I was relaxed in my chair thinking of how fortunate I’ve been over the years to hunt this magnificent animal and all the incredible people I have been lucky enough to have shared a camp. My daydreaming was interrupted by the sound of something crossing the river below. SPLASH, SPLASH, SPLASH! I fired up the camera while my eyes scanned the area where I heard the noise. A quick glance at Sandy found her on full alert – GAME ON! As the sun glistened on the bear, he shook to get the water off his black coat. Four decades of bear hunting and a new sight never before filmed. The cautious nature of the bear made me think that maybe the big boy was in the area. It was a thought that has crossed my mind many times before.
Suddenly the bear disappeared. Where did he go? He reappeared behind our blind, traveling 50 yards or so without any noise whatsoever. Funny how these animals can move and not make a sound. Finally the 180 to 200 pound bear felt safe enough to approach the bait. Because I am trying to do another bear DVD, I figured our next kill scene was soon going to happen. I was thinking of what I was going to say while taping the recovery bear. Through the lens of the camera, I was watching this bear give Sandy every shot in the book. Finally I looked up from the camera and got the NO WAY signal. She didn’t even have her release on the string. You need to know, when it comes to shooting bear, Sandy has a much higher standard. Enough said.
The week ended with some dandy bear killed. The rut started and those who were in the area of a hot sow took exceptional spring bear. We went home without a bear, but, not empty handed.
This is where we talk about how we measure success. Did we learn anything from the hunt? Yes. Did the outfitter do everything to help us get a bear? Yes. Here is the big one – would we go back? Yes. Already booked for next year! I am not a rookie bear hunter. Over the years, I learned the questions to ask an outfitter. They did everything they promised. We had a totally great experience in every aspect of the hunt. Remember, we are after a wild animal. To end this, would a kill on every hunt mean total success? NO!
Be prepared prior to your bear hunt. Enjoy the total experience. Take it to the woods.