By Tom Nelson

Host of Cabelas American Archer

          What next, I thought to myself as I pulled the hood of my raincoat over my head. The light mist had now turned to a more steady rain, that coupled with the low temperature was threatening to turn to sleet.  Glancing down at my wife Beth who was sitting in a ladder stand directly below me, I could not help but be proud of her persistence. It was day three of our six-day bow hunt for black bear with guide and outfitter Rob Nye in Saskatchewan.  To date we had been rained on, snowed on and now were about to get wintry mix upon us. All week the mercury had hovered in the 40’s and low 50’s for a high. It was the second week of May and normally conditions are not this harsh, but the hard winter had been reluctant to release its hold on the area. Snow was still visible in the woods where it remained in a patchwork of white. Rob had told us that only a week before we arrived there was still some two feet of snow in the bush. Thankfully a short burst of warm weather had melted a great deal of it.

Tom Nelso Picture Perfect

Stacie's drawing made for Tom after the hunt got rough. 

            The rain did turn to sleet before too long but fortunately it did not last all afternoon and evening. Just a little before prime time the wind settled and all the precipitation ceased.  Even with the weather change, the bears still did not cooperate. When the last shooting light faded, so did our hopes for a big bear. Up until this point we had seen a few average size bruins, just not the caliber of bear that Rob Nye’s operation is noted for. I personally have hunted with Rob for well over a decade, when Bowhunter Magazine’s M.R. James first invited me to join him on a remote fly in bear hunting trip with Rob. M.R. had previously bow hunted with Rob filling his tag with some jumbo size bruins. One of the first bears I arrowed while bow hunting with Rob was a 20 15/16” P&Y bear and he was not the biggest bear taken in camp. Since that initial hunt some years ago, I have returned to bow hunt both bear and deer with Rob on an almost yearly basis.

            This year was different however. My wife Beth, an avid bow hunter in her own right, had decided it was her turn to bow hunt bears.  I called Rob and booked an early May hunt for Beth. We decided it would be good time to locate a big bear on bait and let Beth have a go at him. This spring however was not a normal spring and it looked more like April than May in appearance.

            That third evening after another great meal prepared by Rob’s wife Rose, we were entertained Rob and Rose’s young daughter Stacie as she drew animal pictures for us. She drew bear and deer and colored them in nicely. Beth and I complimented her on her artistic ability. I then asked her if she could draw a nice picture of Beth posing with a big bear she had shot. Staci said she would and went off to her room.

            The following mid afternoon Beth and I were getting ready to head out to a new bait sight Rob had gotten a good trail cam photo from. The bear looked like a potential candidate and he was coming in to the bait in good daylight. Beth was throwing her pack into the back of Rob’s truck when Staci came running up to us. In her hand she had a picture she had colored of a nice black phase bear and Beth posing next to it. We all had a good chuckle and thanked Staci for gift. I then told Staci that this was a “good luck” picture and this afternoon would be our time to tag a bear.

Tom Nelson bear hunting magazine

Tom passes on a beautiful color phase SK bear. Tom is a veteran bear hunter and host of Cabelas American Archer television show.       

     Later that afternoon while I sat with Beth and videoed, the sun broke through the cloud cover and for the first time that week it appeared we were going to have a good afternoon hunt as far as weather. In short order a smallish black bear appeared under our stand and made a rapid approach to the bait barrel. The youngster nervously fed, constantly running off and then returning. After an hour or so, the small bear turned and stared into the thick bush surrounding the bait site. In a flash he was off, crashing through the tangle of trees and deadfalls. Looking hard in the direction the bear had been staring, I caught some movement. I nudged Beth and whispered that another bear was approaching. She lifted her bow off the bow hook and stood up. Within a minute or two a much larger bear walked up to the bait as if he owned the joint. He was broadside and pawing through the smorgasbord of goodies Rob had laid before him. Beth needed no coaching. She had arrowed many whitetail, mule deer and pronghorn with her bow in the past. As she came to full draw the bear looked right up at us. Thunk! The arrow hit the bear perfectly and we heard him crash just a short ways into the bush.

            Later that evening as we unloaded Beth’s bruin for photos back at Rob’s camp, Staci was the first to come out and check out the bear Beth had arrowed. “Staci,” Beth said, “it was your good luck picture that you drew that enabled me to tag this bear.” Stacie’s matter of fact reply was, “yeah, I knew you would get one tonight.”

            Fast forward to the following end of October. I was in Rob’s Saskatchewan deer camp along with several other bow hunters. Some of the others were filling their tags and still others were passing up bucks and seeing a lot of activity. Me, I was struggling.  So it was on day three that I asked Staci if she would be willing to draw me a “good luck picture.” “Of course,” she replied. Later that evening she handed over another nicely drawn and colored picture of a dandy buck with a hunter, me, standing beside it. After thanking her, I tucked the picture into my pack.

            That following day was typical of Saskatchewan in late October, cold and snowing. Perched some 16 or so feet up in a nice spruce tree, I had watched quite a parade of deer go by that morning.  Now it was one o’clock in the afternoon and I was sure the action was over until later that afternoon.  I was contemplating digging into my lunch when movement straight off in front of me caught my attention. It was a nice mature buck and he was heading right towards me on a runway that would put him at 20 yards. I did not bother to count points as I knew he was a shooter buck. As he neared, I tightened my grip on my bow. As his head disappeared behind a large poplar tree, I drew. As if on cue the buck stopped with his head behind the tree trunk and his vitals exposed. I took immediate advantage of this situation and placed a carbon shaft through the bucks rib cage. The 11-point buck ran less than 50 yards before expiring.  Stacie was now 2 for 2 with her “good luck drawings.”

            The good luck however did not end on that chilly October day. The following June found me once again at Rob’s bear camp. This time however, I was bow hunting and hoping to bag a bruiser black bear. The first 4 days of my six-day bear hunt had been eventful to say the least. I had seen a steady stream of bears at each bait site I had hunted. There were red ones, brown ones and of course black color phase bears sighted during each hunt. I was even hunting the mornings and passing on bears. I just had not seen “the bear.” I was being a bit picky as I had hunted with Rob enough to know that if I were patient, I would have a crack at a record book type bear. I had to date, passed on a couple that were possible candidates for the Pope and Young record book, but I did not want a “maybe” bear.

            Fortunately for me, Rob’s wife and daughter Staci were in camp, so for a third time, I politely asked for a “good luck” bear picture. In short order Staci drew up a nice colored drawing of me with a big bear. Once again I thanked her and told her this is exactly what I needed, then tucked the drawing in my coat.

            That same afternoon found me in a giant conifer overlooking a bait station of Rob’s. The sun was setting in the western sky and mosquitoes were organizing for another attack.  I had already watched 4 different bears come and feed at the bait. Three of the four were brown or red color phase bears. There was scarcely a minute that there were no bears within eyesight, so the afternoon went by quickly. With less than an hour of daylight left I heard a large branch break off to my right. Scanning the area, I spied nothing. It was such a large crack that I passed it off as a moose walking past. Then as bears so often do, a big black bear materialized right underneath me. I held my breath as the bear surveyed the surrounding area. I could hear him breathing mere feet away. Satisfied all was fine, he waddled in cautiously, as big bears do. When he was broadside at the bait, I drew my Regulator bow and picked a spot behind the bears shoulder. At the shot he spun in a circle, then sprinted towards my tree stand, only to crash to the forest floor some 10 yards away. The bear was a good one that Rob later green scored at just under 19 8/16 inches.

            Incredibly, Staci had once again performed her magic with her drawing. Was it just a coincidence? Was it just pure luck? I truly am not sure, but I do know that Staci’s drawings were “picture perfect.”

Tom Nelson bear hunting magazine

Tom with his "picture perfect" bear that scored over 19 inches.