Jul 07 2017
By Clay Newcomb
Editor/Publisher, Bear Hunting Magazine
The scent of jack pine smoke is still lingering on my gear as I write from my office in West Fork, Arkansas. It seems odd that there’s an overland route to the boreal forest of Northern Saskatchewan from the Ozarks, but it’s there because Brent Reaves and I found it. I’m expecting a call from National Geographic asking for our hand-drawn maps and stories of how the locals lived that we met along the way. The 30-plus hour road trip was epic, but I enjoyed the pace more than flying. Aside from being a general pain-in-the-rear, Brent is great company, rarely saying anything that isn’t funny. There isn’t a southern saying that he doesn’t know and use in the perfect context almost every other sentence. Sometimes I felt like I was riding with Yoda’s cousin from the swamps of Southern Arkansas.
Brent used his wit and mettle multiple times on the trip for my benefit proving himself a worthy sidekick. He single handedly got me out of a speeding ticket in North Dakota by impressing a young deputy sheriff. Secondly, and most importantly, he held the camera steady when a large color phase boar stuck his head in our blind. The only thing between the bear and us was my wooden TimberGhost Smoke bow. The fearless bear was close enough I could have poked him in the eyes. Things escalated quickly from that point forward. Such is hunting in the far North.
Here is the highly abbreviated blog version of the story: while hunting with Kolby Morrison and Bear Pro Safaris I missed a very large black bear, but two hours later killed a large color phase bear - on the first day (more on the miss later). The bear was only four yards away, but had been much closer. Too close. The grizzly-like black bear literally bumped into the end of my broadhead. Kolby had no pictures of the bear prior to this hunt. We speculated it was the boar’s first human contact. The site was 22 miles by boat from an already secluded location, hundreds of miles from any human habitation numbering in the triple digits. In the span of two hours, I missed a (potential) Boone-and-Crockett-class black bear, saw a boar breeding a sow, had multiple smaller bears within 10 feet of us, had a large color phase bear stick his head in our blind, and killed the colored bear at four yards with a traditional bow - an exciting afternoon of hunting, no doubt.
In no other type of big game hunting do you get to interact with the animals so closely and intimately as a baited hunt. It's quite a bizarre experience to hunt these wilderness bears. This is an adventure hunt. Between the boats, wilderness location and bears there isn't a better descriptor.
Our week in Saskatchewan was exceptional. It was odd how everything seemed to go our way. Everyone in the camp noted the general upward trend of our activities. Safe travels, good weather, quality camaraderie, phenomenal bear hunting and easy recoveries highlighted the week - everything went right. All five hunters tagged out by the third day. There are some things that a man cannot control that are left in the hands of God. Other things are at the mercy of human planning and work. For the second part I have to thank Kolby. He works extremely hard and takes no shortcuts.
You won’t have to take my word on the events of my hunt. You’ll be able to watch the whole thing on Season Four of Bear Horizon starting in late August 2017 on Carbon TV. You’ll also see Mark Cuddeback and Ryan Greb’s hunt for BIG bears off the ground. As I say this, don’t mistake me for a “TV hunter.” I typically don’t like those guys much and I don’t plan on becoming one. I’m just a hunter, however we do some filming in attempt to capture the excitement, adventure, thrill and majesty of bears and bear hunting. I don’t like promoting the video above the actual hunting experience, but I had to let you know that you’ll be able to watch the hunt. We're confident it's some of the best black bear hunting footage ever captured.
You'll be able to watch this hunt in late August and read the full story of the hunt in an issue of Bear Hunting Magazine (Subscribe here).
On day one at Bear Pro Safaris things got intense. After chasing off a pair of breeding bears the color phase bear came right in to check us out. The bear got right in our face and actually bumped into my Badger Broadhead. You'll be able to watch the footage of this hunt on Bear Horizon in late August on Carbon TV.
The Bear Pro Safaris camp in 2017. Last year we boated 55 miles to camp, this year we drove. However, this location gave us access to some tremendous bear hunting.
The crew at camp. Left to right: myself, Dustin Walker (guide), Mark Cuddeback of Cuddeback Trail Cameras (back), Brent Reaves (Southern Yoda) and Kolby Morrison (outfitter).
A view in my cabin. I wore the new First Lite Obsidian Merrino wool pants on this trip. I think I like the fit even better than the Kanabs. I brought my caliphers to be able to green score bear skulls. I also carried two TimberGhost Traditional bows - the Smoke and three piece takedown.
Shooting in camp. In traditional archery every shot starts from scratch. Quality practice is the key to success. However, I still missed a huge bear on the first day of this hunt - it was a complete brain meltdown. This is the challenge of trad archery and is why I do it.
I don't consider myself to be a great shot and rarely practice beyond 20 yards. For my style of hunting this is all I need. However, I do consider myself good picking the right shot within my comfortable range. The key to traditional archery is waiting for the right shot.
Yoda's southern cousin - Brent Reaves (because of continual use of clever Southern sayings often meant to teach). Brent was my cameraman on this trip, but more importantly we shared a thrilling hunt where a big bear got way too close. Brent held his own and never let the bear out of the frame. It was likely the beard that helped him stand his ground.
Ryan Greb in front of the boat on a long ride to the bait. My site was 22 miles one way. On this day the water was extremely calm, but most days it wasn't. The Northern waters were spectacular.
Looks at those eyes! This is Blue, outfitter Kobly Morrison's retired sled dog who was our constant companion.
We used Bigwoods Anise scent on the bait. Almost every bear went directly to the scent.
The single image of the bear captured by my Cuddeback trail camera just before he came over for a way-to-close visit.
I ended up taking the big color phase boar at four yards. The bear got too close and in retrospect I see that I lost control of the situation. I actually reached for my bear spray, but couldn't get to it quick enough. Fortunate for us the bear didn't get aggressive. However, it made for an unforgetable hunt.
The Badger broadhead performed flawlessly on this hunt. (www.badgerbroadheads.com)