Bears I’ve Known

Most of you hardheaded hunters are probably like me in that shrinking snowfields, greening grass, and that certain scent of spring stirs something primal in your soul.

It’s time for bear hunting!

I’ve been fortunate to do some very memorable bear hunts, and springtime always draws my mind’s eye to the freshening forests of Canada and Alaska… .

My first bear was incredible — in the challenge to get him, and the exhilaration of success. I wanted him bad, that first one, not least because of an idea I had, how a certain blonde might look on a jet-black bear rug by my fireplace. There was the exciting notion of being able to hunt big game in spring. And just plain having taken a bear.

Stays All Night In Stand
My first trip to bear country was a bust though I hunted with all my heart. Twice, I even stayed all night in the stand so I could be there in secret next daybreak! I returned to the same Quebec camp the next June, only to be stymied again four days in a row. Each day the same: sit most of the day, hearing footsteps near dusk, but seeing no bears, only to have the bait stolen each night. Then an idea slowly dawned in my dim brain. The stand was too obvious; the bears simply hung back, peering through the bushes and waiting till they saw my stand empty out!

The next afternoon, I arranged a ground blind in the vicinity of the nightly footfalls and got comfortable. Near dusk, I heard a twig snap and a bear head appeared, gazing into my empty treestand. Then he strode confidently out of the cover … but my rifle was ready and he got not much farther than that. The thrill of success — finally –was incredible!

In the next few springs, I took bears in Montana, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan. Among my most memorable bear hunts was my trip to Alaska. It was my first time there and it lived up to the dreams. Vast, vast wilderness, awesomely beautiful wild scenery, and air that smelled of adventure.

We hunted the burly Susitna River by jet boat, our ticket to some action-packed salmon fishing. On the second evening, I drew the longbow and arrowed a fine blackie on an island in the Su. But the excitement was just getting started. As I was towing out the bear, in the pall of an Alaskan summer’s not-quite-night, more bears arrived.

They scampered around me in the alders. I could catch only glimpses … were they shy black bears, or treacherous grizz? Sure, I was packing major backup heat, but the big pistol suddenly felt like a toy. It was a long time till midnight when I finally heard the boat.

Stalking An Ontario Giant
My favorite bear hunt was my second Ontario bear, when it all came together: challenge, excitement and success. It was when I stalked my biggest bear ever, and took him with a recurve.

Sneaking up to a 400-pound Ontario boar and taking him with a recurve was the highlight of the author’s bear hunting career — so far.

I’m not sure I’m a good enough writer to adequately describe the suspense of sneaking into spitting distance of a massive, snarling, 400-pound boar with just some sticks in your hand, knowing if he glanced up and didn’t like what he saw, he could cover the distance in three seconds!

The gripping moment when you see your chance — no turning back now! — you draw and release, knowing he’s really not going to like this. The slickened arrow sailing off, simultaneous with the blood-chilling roar, but it’s done. The relief, the excitement, the joy, because it was finally, absolutely, perfect!

But with seven or eight under my belt, I’m letting the bears be for a bit. I don’t need any more $800 rugs right now, and I’m not going to kill something I can’t use. And I have already gathered all the best things the black bear forest can offer, the memories that make me smile and some spring soon will draw me back.

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