Thoughts on Bear Hunting

View More Articles

Article Category: Hunting

by Ann Sherman

Reprinted from “A Fish Out of Water”: Reeling in Stories from Wine Lake Camp

I always appreciated the outdoorsmen who treated fishing in the Patricia Region or hunting in Ontario as an art, and less of a science, who kept only what they would quickly consume and not ample amounts which would collect freezer burn months later, who made the attempt to fish and hunt in a kinder, gentler way instead of holding a pike by the eyes for a picture, beating a flopping fish till it submitted, or merely seeking a rug, or a mount, to feed their own ego. Living in the back woods is not a “sport” to me. It is a way of life, a way of being, and we sought out guests who could willingly accept that notion.

The “fish hogs” and “trophy hunters” gradually lessened (and eventually were dying off) over the twenty years we were caretakers of Wine Lake. They didn’t completely disappear, but neither did the mosquitoes. We tried to educate our guests about quick release, gentler catching techniques, and the sacredness of the hunt. Most of them saw the almost immediate benefits to themselves of releasing all trophy fish. The lake then replenished and sustained itself, and in turn fed the anglers.

But I still held back and couldn’t fully embrace the hunt. Over the years, I cooked and feasted on moose meat until my eyes rolled back in my head. But I was uncomfortable whenever a mighty bear was taken. I tried to understand the fascination. I watched and observed the hunters. And then one September night, I was allowed into the male fraternity, if only for a few hours. Otherwise, I always skirted around it and gazed through it from the sidelines. I always wondered how the hunter and his friends found the downed animal in the dark, how they all reacted to the expired life of a great beast, what men say and do when women are not around.

Rick had shot his first bear. We were sitting inside the Trout cabin, joking and snacking when he pulled up in his boat. He indicated to his buddies (Doug, Dave, Herb, Frank, and Darren) that the night had gone well. Then we sat down to eat a meal before retrieving the kill. After a plate of fried potatoes, mixed veggies, and walleye had been consumed by all, the guys started suiting up in Carhart coveralls and headlamps. In a gesture of politeness, someone asked me if I wanted to join them. Somewhat hesitantly, because I really believed this man’s world is too hard to comprehend, I decided to enter at my own risk.

Boots, tuke, borrowed headlamp in place, I squatted down in the large Plate boat with six men – all seasoned hunters. The boat sped off in the dark because flashlights shining on the water just cast a shadow in the driver’s eyes. It was easier to plow ahead at 11 p.m. at night, by the moon’s glow, and guess the distance to shore.

When we arrived near the trail leading into the woods, we all piled out. No one knew for sure if the bear was dead or just wounded. Head lamps blazing, we each stumbled into the thick woods looking for the blood trail as it exited the bait pile. “Looking for blood, looking for a possible wounded bear, looking in the pitch dark?” I thought to myself, “Was I crazy, or what?” The meager light from each person’s flashlight lit up the quiet forest like an evening game on a football field. Suddenly I didn’t feel quite so vulnerable. But I still felt crazy in pursuit.

Dave jumped on ahead, quickly finding cues and instinctively sensing the path the bear would have taken. Then, one by one, we each came upon the large, black animal in the bushes. There lie the once breathing, thinking, feeling being – a fuzzy giant, a predator in the woods.

If we hadn’t found the bear, we would have looked again in the morning, re-stepping our tracks to uncover any missed clues. Sometimes the blood trail just abruptly ends. The shot merely scrapes the surface of the skin and the wound quickly dries up. The bear escapes a near-miss, like a cat with nine lives. Other times, the animal miraculously disappears behind the wood’s curtain, never to be found. But nothing is ever wasted in nature, unlike in the human world. Other animals feast and are filled by the loss of life.

As I watched, sharp knife blades quickly disemboweled the bear. Congratulatory remarks were directed to Rick about the size of the animal and the cleanness of the direct hit. I bowed my head. I reached out to touch its mammoth ear, and I respectfully bid farewell to this ancient spirit.

The limp body was placed on a sturdy tarp. All six of us grabbed sections of the cloth and held the still warm paws up with our other hands. As a team, we pulled through thicket and brush, over fallen logs and muddy terrain. The king of the forest was being triumphantly carried out for all to see.

The next day would bring still sharper knives, scraping flesh from silvery lining. The men rolled the hide in salt and then cooled down the meat, finally butchering loins and steaks. A meal of garlic and onion –seasoned bear roast, cooked over an open campfire, would hail the end of the hunt. The greasy red wiiyaas (“meat” in Ojibway), digested by virile males, would strengthen them for another day. The spirit of the bear lived on, in subtle ways, in everyone who partook.

I remained still an outsider, unable to bring the animal’s warm flesh to my lips.

The hunters always seemed like such a tough, confident group of guys to me. Who else would go traipsing through the boreal forest in hopes of getting up close and personal with a bear or moose? But time and again, the animals intimidated the camo-clad soldiers. They let them know to back down or revere them – casting off any pretense of human superiority.

For instance, Donny was bear hunting near camp. There was a big bear working the bait, but it was intelligent enough to show up only when Donny wasn’t there. Herb helped Donny try several different tactics to outsmart the Harvard grad of the woods. They set up a second tree stand for the bear to investigate. Herb also tried walking into the bait with Donny, and then walking back out, leaving Donny in a tree stand. Finally, they created a dummy to sit in the second stand as a decoy. Nothing worked. The bear was smarter than all those human tricks.

This wise animal would show up and show off, but never give Donny the satisfaction of a clear shot. On the last night, Donny built a ground blind by a brush pile. He got behind it and was listening to the leaves rustle in the wind. He sat on his honches with his bow securely across his knees. He sat for nearly thirty minutes in this awkward position, motionless.

Then Donny heard a stick barely break behind him. Over his left shoulder, he saw the bear. It was one foot away from his elbow, with his neck stretched out to smell him! Then the confident bear angled around the perimeter of the bait. When, in relief, Donny swallowed with a loud gulp, the bear turned, made all-knowing eye contact, and ran away.

Donny’s eyes were as big as saucers when Herb picked him up later that night. “Did you see him?” Herb asked. “I saw him alright,” Donny stammered. “I didn’t get a shot at him, but I got more than my money’s worth!”

Another time, Brad, who was hunting bear near Mud Lake, learned to be brave and mindful in the woods at dusk. A curious bear came into the bait where he sat in the stand. A bear always knows that a human is there; their presence doesn’t seem to scare them off. But this one came over to the tree to investigate his company. Surprisingly, it climbed up to the base of the hanging tree stand, about 16 feet off the ground.

Brad was really anxious. He nervously knocked an arrow and began to draw. In case the bear was going to lick him in the face, he would be ready. But the arrow bounced so much on his rest that he couldn’t have shot if he wanted to. The next night, as he visualized a return of the frisky bear, he looked at the scrawled writing above his riser. “Remember to breathe. Stay calm,” it said. This was Brad’s new mantra.

Similar Articles

16 Point Buck

It was the second last week of hunting in Ontario, October 2007, and I was a week away from getting out of the military and myself and a friend, Darren Trist were planning on going deer hunting on opening day (October 28/07). He had been scouting for deer at our friends parents, Ron Bartlett’s farm … Continue reading 16 Point Buck

Read More ...

Whitetail Head Hunt

Trophy whitetails have a way of raising hob with even the most persevering and disciplined hunter. I guess that’s why they command our respect. “The buck appeared as a lighter shadow, barely visible on the dense brush on the far side of the food plot. He stood like a statue for a full 10 minutes, cautiously surveying the alfalfa field where several doe and an 8-pointer were already munching on the lush vegetation…”

Read More ...

Whitetail Bow Hunting Tips

Experts describes the type of person it takes to truly be an outstanding bow hunter, as well as what skill sets aid in the most effective hunting practices. Why are some bow hunters more successful that others? It seems that every club and archery pro shop has a core of bow hunters who regularly tag trophy bucks. They may not always get the wall hanger each year, but they pass up enough good bucks to make the average bow hunter drool with envy.

Read More ...

Using Deer Decoys

Imagine this. You’re up in a tree stand waiting for the perfect buck to fall prey to your decoy. You woke up early, hauled your decoy through the bush, and got set up. Now you’re ready for some deer to start coming into the area. You let out a call, and wait a little bit longer. Finally, a big buck comes out of the bush towards your decoy. He grunts, and stares it down. You begin lining up your shot, waiting for the perfect moment. He hoofs at the ground, and you know this is your chance. You take the shot, and the buck is yours.

Read More ...

Thoughts on Bear Hunting

More stores told by Wine Lake Camp’s, Ann Sherman, about a group of hunters staying at their camp, who after a successful hunt, invite Ann to share in the cadres “fraternity”. Rick had shot his first bear. We were sitting inside the Trout cabin, joking and snacking when he pulled up in his boat. He indicated to his buddies (Doug, Dave, Herb, Frank, and Darren) that the night had gone well.

Read More ...

Ontario Black Wolf, Grey Wolf
The Black Wolf

Experienced Canadian wolf trapper tells his epic tale of battling wits with a wise black wolf around the area over the course of a few years.Will he succeed in catching his prey? Or will the wolf finally slip away for good? ” Still, the sighting of the black wolf made me focus on that area. Where I might have set 2 snares, I set three. I am always careful with my tracks and scent. Now, I was paranoid.”…

Read More ...

Scouting and Hunting October Whitetails

Tips for hunting those elusive, late-fall, trophy whitetails. This article also explains various behavioral pattens of mature bucks during the rut. While deer behavior might be somewhat predictable, October in Ontario is a time of seasonal transition. Summer food become dry and unpalatable while nuts, berries and agricultural crops ripen, making them more palatable. Temperatures begin to drop and the wind increases, which pushes the deer towards more sheltered bedding areas.

Read More ...

Ruffed Grouse
Ruffed Grouse (Partridge) Hunting

Hunting grouse in Northwestern Ontario can be a fun, rewarding experience! For those with a hunting license and an appetite for fresh bird, why not look into ruffed grouse hunting while on your vacation in Northwestern Ontario? Grouse are common across Northwestern Ontario, and make a tasty meal.

Read More ...

Ontario: THE Place to Hunt

Where is quite possibly the greatest place on earth to hunt and fish? Northwestern Ontario! come to “Canada’s Heartland”, the Patricia Region, and experience the hunt, camping or fishing trip of a life time! It’s a place where seemingly endless forests stretch from here to heaven…broken only by rivers and lakes teeming with giant walleyes, pikes, bass, trout, walleye fishing, bass fishing, trophy pike and more. It’s a sanctuary gigantic whitetail deer, moose and black bear- not to mention incredible water fowl and upland bird populations such as ducks, grouse and pheasants. It’s a land inhabited by some of the most friendly and honest folks you’ll ever meet.

Read More ...

Ontario Trophy Moose Hunting

Ontario trophy moose hunting is the adventure of a lifetime. If this exciting hunting experience sounds like something you would like to experience- read more to learn all about Ontario trophy moose hunting, why trophy moose, and how to pick an outfitter.

Read More ...