An Incredible Alberta Bear Hunt

I used to dream about hunting Africa. I studied photographs of its game and committed facts about the animals to memory, in case I ever got to hunt them.

I even had a savings account of sorts, in an empty oatmeal container turned bank. I wrote “Africa” on its side. Whenever I had extra cash, I stuffed it through the slit cut through the round top.

But then I hunted in Canada with Northern Wilderness Outfitters, and all that dreaming lost its luster. When I got back to my house, I dumped my bags in the living room and went straight to the bank, where I crossed out “Africa,” and wrote “Alberta.”

Archery hunters can go to Alberta and hunt moose, elk, bear, wolves, and of course, its whitetails, which are the stuff of legends. I went there to hunt spring bears, eager but not expecting what happened — the most amazing afternoon in my hunting years!

An Amazing Afternoon Begins

The first bear I saw was very tempting. It was big, with a large splotch of white on its chest, flashy against the dark black fur. White markings and color phases including brown, cinnamon, blonde, and even silver, are common in Alberta.

Then a chocolate bear with black roots showing, like a bad dye job, also arrived on the bait, and the two nipped and boxed at each other before settling in.

I decided to wait. It was only the first day of the hunt, early in an afternoon of sheeting rain and cold temperatures. If baits were this active early, and in poor weather conditions, I felt certain there would be plenty of other chances.

The next day, the guides moved me to a spot where an aggressive bear had challenged them as they carried in the buckets of bait. I had barely sat down in the stand when I saw a bear approaching; I could still hear the fading sound of the guides’ ATVs.

The bear came to the base of the ladderstand and gave me a good look. Luckily, both of the first day’s bears had done the same thing and I’d gotten over that jittery rush. But because it had come to the treestand first, its approach to the bait presented only a butt shot, so I waited.

Bear Makes A Run

Soon it turned broadside, and I drew. I held, both eyes open, because it had settled with a front leg back, leaving the shoulder protecting the vitals. That gave me time to think about the shot, and when the bear shifted and moved the leg forward, I shot. It spun, growling, and made a short thrashing run of about 40 yards, winding up against the trunk of a large, fallen tree, where it died in my view.

It took me some minutes to settle myself, and then I remembered the radio. But I still could faintly hear the sounds of the four-wheel-drive equipment the guides used to haul us and the bait around. I realized they wouldn’t hear me until they finished baiting.

A raven arrived and flew in circles around the area. I could hear the sound of its strong wings, but it didn’t call. I remember thinking, it sees something, and I took a careful look around. Another bear was approaching, still at a distance, but I could see the horizontal black moving between the trees and bushes.

The Twin Appears

I didn’t even have another arrow on the string. I fumbled to get one out of my quiver, keeping my eyes on the bear. It went first to the dead bear, and made a lot of noise huffing and scratching on the bark. Then it came to the bait and I got a better look at it.

The author shows off her two Alberta bears.
The author shows off her two Alberta bears.

It could have been a twin of the first one. I thought briefly after passing it up, but couldn’t make myself do it. It soon settled to feed and I sent a 75-grain Muzzy broadhead through its ribs. The bear made a nearly exact replica of the first bear’s reaction, but ran in the opposite direction. It too only went about 40 yards, and died in my view.

As I settled back down again, I heard the guides on the radio, “Anybody need us?” They checked in every hour. I blabbed an excited auctioneer’s version of my afternoon, and soon I heard them coming to get me. It was hard to tell who was happier.

As the week passed, each of the 10 hunters in camp got two opportunities to harvest bears, and 14 were taken. Tiffany LaKosky, hunting with her husband, Lee, and filming for Scent-Lok, shot two black bears, one making the Pope & Young recordbook.

Dr. Dave Samuel shows off his cinnamon Alberta black bear.
Dr. Dave Samuel shows off his cinnamon Alberta black bear.

Dr. Dave Scores

Dave Samuel, West Virginia, a columnist on this website, arrowed a black bear and a huge cinnamon bear on the same afternoon. Sure the black bear was dead, but not sure of the hit on the cinnamon, he and his guide Larry Joliffee decided to come back the next day.

In the morning, they found the wounded cinnamon bear guarding the dead black bear. It had eaten a good portion of the dead bear and covered the carcass with leaves. Joliffee finished it with a rifle shot; its skull green-scored scored 20-1/2 inches.

For more information, see www.huntingalberta.com, or call toll free 866-204-8299, extension 0644. Email is nwoalberta @ comcast.net.

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