Arika’s Corner – 2016 Ontario Spring Archery Black Bear Hunt

My husband Curt and I both chose a career in law enforcement knowing that many sacrifices would come with this career.  One sacrifice that I did not count on was that the city and department we worked for would have a policy that would not allow officers to marry each other.  After an 11 year relationship that had blessed us with a beautiful daughter, there was a change in our police department’s administration.  With help from our department Chaplin, Curt and I petitioned the city for an exemption to this policy.  With the backing of our entire department, our petition was granted and on June 2nd 2016, Curt and I were married by our department Chaplin who was so instrumental in us receiving our exemption to the city policy.  During the course of our 11 year relationship, Curt often asked me if we could go on a Canadian black bear hunt for our honeymoon.  Understanding the city’s staunch resentment to allowing officers to marry each other, I humored him in agreeing to this.  Being a woman of my word, even though I didn’t suspect this day would ever come, we booked a  black bear hunt for our honeymoon in Ontario, Canada for the first non-resident spring black bear hunt in Ontario  in 18 years.

 

The morning after the wedding, we packed our bags; leaving our home in South Dakota for the first stop in our journey; Lake Winnibigoshish, in Northern Minnesota.  We enjoyed some fine walleye fishing and met with grandma and grandpa who would be watching over our 6 year old daughter Aspen for the week.  On the morning of June 5th 2016, with our passports in our pockets and our broadheads razor sharp we headed north for the border.  I knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore Toto when two hours into the drive Curt yelled “MOOSE!!”  Two calf moose had been in the ditch and were now up on the highway.  We slowed and tried to take pictures however these moose appeared to be camera shy.  Our border crossing went smoothly and now the only thing separating us from our bear camp was 150 miles of Canadian bush.  The drive was very scenic and filled with beautiful lakes, rock out croppings, and thick conifer forests.  Quite a change in scenery when most of the time the scenery consists of cornfields and the big question is “will the corn be knee high by the 4th of July?”

 

After crawling along at 90 kilometers which equals about 55 miles per hour; we finally reached bear camp.  We met with our outfitter and got settled in to our cabin.  We quickly unpacked and took a few practice shots at a block target which I did my best to imagine that it was covered in black hair and really big teeth.  We met with our guide who took us out to our respective stand locations.  My stand was a homemade platform stand built into a group of pine trees and was about 12 feet off the ground.  My stand had a comfortable seat as well as two built in arm rests.  My bait station was about 20 yards in front of me.  This included a wooden box that was kept on the ground and a 5 gallon bucket suspended about 5 feet off the ground.  The suspended bucket was placed to help the hunter gage the size and sex of the bear.  If a bear could stand on its hind legs and easily reach its head into the bucket it was considered a “shooter” bear.  Sows with cubs are illegal to shoot and a hunter could be fined $25,000.00 for this infraction thus the guide recommended trying to spot the bears “frank and beans” before committing to a shot.  That first night it started to rain and no bears showed up at my bait; however I did enjoy the thick canopy of pine boughs that acted as an impenetrable roof above my stand.

 

The guides recommended only hunting in the evenings which gave Curt and I plenty of time to explore the small town and the local businesses; way too much time when Curt wandered in to an outboard motor repair business/museum.  It was like time stood still while Curt and the owner of the shop compared lists of every outboard motor they have ever operated.  A couple other hunters in camp had brought in bears.  It was interesting to see them up close and to try to determine the vital areas for a perfect shot.  After a quick nap, we gathered our gear and headed out to the stands about 230 pm.

 

I got into my stand and by the time I got my Thermacell operating, my bow hung up, and my book out it was about 4:00 pm.  From 4:00 to 7:00 pm I was all alone except for the ensemble of the north woods Canadian rough grouse percussion band.  After visiting with the guides, I expected the bears to show themselves just before dark.  Sunset was still three hours away when I looked up from my book towards the bait.  20 yards away and moving left to right in front of me was the first live black bear that I had ever seen.  I cursed a few expletives under my breath as I reached for my bow and prepared for the shot.  The bear went for the suspended bucket and stood on his hind legs.  Not only could this bear easily reach the level of the bucket, it had to bend down to get his head inside the bucket to reach the bait.  I knew right away the size of the bear made it a shooter; however not wanting to be fined $25,000.00 I wanted to make sure this bear was not a sow that may have had unseen cubs near the bait.  After ten minutes of feeding and milling around the bait station, I was still unable to determine the sex of the bear.  Suddenly the bear was on alert.  To me, nothing had changed in the last ten minutes but this bear did not like something and left the area just as quickly and quietly as he had entered.  All I was left with was a case of the shakes and a side order of adrenaline dump.  The rest of the evening proved uneventful.

 

Curt and the guide were both excited to hear my bear tale.  I told the guide about my apprehension to shoot because I was worried about it being a sow with cubs.  He told me that the cubs will not be far behind the sow and the amount of time my bear was at the bait station without cubs; he surmised it to be a bore and suggested shooting it if the bear showed itself again.  With high hopes of catching this bear off guard, I was set up and ready in my stand by 3:00 pm.  Once again the bear arrived on scene hours before sunset.  Immediately I recognized him as the same bear from yesterday.  He had a tell tale white scar across his nose and was missing an ear.  Instead of going to the bucket, the bear made a cursory sweep around the bait site and at one time ending up a mere 7 yards from my stand.  The thick canopy of pine boughs concealed me and kept me undetected.  Another ten minutes had passed before the bear made his way back to the suspended bait bucket.  During this entire time, I was on the lookout for any possible cubs.  With no cubs spotted, I was confident this bear was not a sow with cubs.  The bear made his way to the suspended bait bucket and stood on his hind legs.  With the bear broadside and his attention focused on the bait; I drew my bow.  My green pin was quite a contrast to the bear’s jet black hide.  I followed my guide’s instructions as to shot placement on the bear.  With my pin steadied on the bear’s vitals, I loosed a broadhead tipped arrow.  My arrow disappeared into a black abyss, followed by a familiar thud indicating a hit.  The bear voiced his displeasure with a muted huff, followed by a hasty exit back into the undergrowth of the thick forest.   About ten minutes later, a sorrowful moan emitted from the forest.  I was unable to pinpoint the exact location or distance of the moan.  Before it got too dark, I walked to where the bear had been standing when I shot.  I found my arrow had made a complete pass through of the bear and had a good amount of blood on it.  My mama didn’t raise any fools so I walked back to the road to enlist help in tracking my bear.

 

Our guide and Curt thought the best course of action would be to wait until the morning to track the bear.  The following morning we arrived back at my stand with a whole crew of helpers from the camp.  We started tracking my bear and I was surprised to find out just how quickly you can lose your bearing in the Canadian bush.  I would stand at last blood while the guide ventured forward looking for the next indication we were on the bear’s track.  The guide was ahead of me unseen in the thick bush when I heard “well, it’s Pope and Young.”  I rushed up to the guide’s location and sprawled out on the ground was my 375 pound Pope and Young black bear.  The mosquitoes were man-eaters so the guide quickly field dressed the bear and we rolled it onto an army medical gurney.  Even with four people, it was a struggle to get the bear out of the woods.  When I would attempt to help carry the gurney, the guide would push me away and tell me I could carry the hats of the men carrying the bear because they were getting so sweaty.  With the bear back at camp, I posed for many pictures.  The guide has names for all of his stand locations.  He has since renamed my stand as “The Honeymoon Suite.”  I am a lucky girl; not only did I bag a trophy husband; I bagged a trophy bear as well.


Jan 10, 2016 | Category: Arika's Corner, Bear Hunting | Comments: none

 

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