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July/August 2013 Issue

Feature Sections

  • Book Review
  • Q & A - Tips
  • Bruin in the Kitchen - Recipes
  • News & Notes
  • Spotlight On: Wisconsin
  • Bear Essentials - Gadgets & Gear
  • Bear Association News
  • Outfitters & Guides
  • Hunter Photo Gallery
  • Crazy Tales from Uncle Geddy  & The BMG



Up Close!

By Randy Augustinak

Planning a black bear hunt often involves researching outfitters, contacting references, arranging for lodging and transportation, and choosing the proper weapon. But for folks planning on hunting in Wisconsin, it can also mean applying year after year for a bear harvest tag, while waiting patiently for the day when your accumulated preference points are finally sufficient to draw a coveted kill permit. For Debbie Augustinak of Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, that day came after eight seemingly endless years.

Ten years elapsed since my wife, Debbie, had killed her first bear from a rickety, seven foot tall treestand in Northwest Ontario. Prior to that unforgettable day she had accompanied me on a number of hunts, and is quite well versed in baiting bears in both Wisconsin and Ontario. Debbie also worked as a Wisconsin DNR volunteer, placing and monitoring tetracycline-marked baits for a bear population study currently underway. This study requires successful bear hunters to submit a rib bone for laboratory analysis, in an effort to more accurately estimate the current bear population in our state. Results of the study will be compiled and released some time after the completion of the 2013 season.



Targeting Big Black Bears

By Bernie Barringer

When the shivering started, I seriously considered getting down and walking out to the truck. I had been suffering for four hours in the on-again, off-again rain, and the 70-degree temperatures I left home with had dropped to 50. I was unprepared for this rain and apparently, neither was the weatherman, because he hadn’t mentioned it. There were only 30 minutes left until dark and I decided I could tough it out. I had some scouting camera photos of a really big bear on this bait and I wanted him bad. He had never visited the bait in the daylight but I had a hunch that this rain might just get him out of his hideout early. I decided to keep my post for another half hour if I could avoid the symptoms of hypothermia.

It was in the final minute of legal shooting light when he appeared out of nowhere. Poof, there he was. In the dim light, a mountain of black fur stepped from the thick willows and took the two steps to the bait. I drew, anchored and sent an arrow on its way in one motion. My perseverance had paid off to the tune of a bear well over 400 pounds, a true giant here in Minnesota, a state that manages for opportunity more than for size in bear hunting.M

That took place about a decade ago and at the time I didn’t realize it, but I really got lucky. I had done several things right without knowing it. Having the benefit of hindsight, I realize that the cold weather and rain helped me in a lot of ways. It got the bear out of his swampy bed on an otherwise hot September day, the rain knocked down my scent and the heavy overcast created a darker than usual environment 30 minutes after sunset.



The X Factor

By Terry Kalush

Some things you cannot prepare for. There are some things you just can’t put on a list to be neatly checked off before the hunt. For some things, we depend heavily upon the person who makes it their business to address them, our outfitter. Faith is the X-factor. It’s one of those things that you can’t buy or master with practice, you either have it or you don’t. The faith I speak of isn’t related to confidence in your shot, good weather or the hope that your plane will arrive safely. No, I am speaking directly to the subject of absolute and unquestioned faith in your bear guide! This is the X-factor that reaches far beyond practicing your bowshot or checking references, this is the element of your hunt that gives you the ultimate edge; confidence!

When I look back on my early years as a bear hunter, I can correlate the small bears I saw and harvested directly to a lack of confidence in my guide. The absence of a personal relationship with my guide and poor success in the bush caused me to keep searching for “The One.” I mean that I specifically searched for a guide that I could get to know, learn to trust and who would eventually help me haul a record-book bear out of the bush. While my forays into Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta led me to some genuinely nice and honest outfitters, it wasn’t until I landed in Manitoba that I realized I had truly arrived at the place I needed to be.



Adventure in the Alaskan Wilderness

By Angelo Baio

The pilot gunned the throttle on the DeHaviland and I could see the wake from the pontoon out my window as we lifted from Lake Hood. I took a deep, cleansing breath and tried to settle into hunt mode.

The plane banked sharply and gave me a breathtaking view of the stark west coast of Cook’s inlet. The pilot pointed the nose north and I settled in for a 70-mile flight to Cliff Smith’s Triple C Alaska, Yentna River camp. It was months in the planning, but I was finally in Alaska hunting black bear.

When planning this trip I found that Game Management Unit 16 is so densely populated with black bears that they allow hunting over bait for non-residents. When talking to Cliff a few months earlier and hearing the stories about previous bear hunts, it surprised me that so few people knew this was possible in Alaska. This kind of luck rarely finds my doorstep and my high voltage anticipation of hunting Alaska was boiling over.

Like I always imagined it, the plane banked for landing and I craned my neck backwards as we roared past our greeting party standing on a sandbar in the river. Losing them to the rear of the plane I turned forward and looked over the pilot’s shoulder through the windshield. My view turned to snow capped mountains and the beautiful aqua clear river below. We spun around and glided to a stop on the sandbar. I jumped out and as I stood on the sand my senses went into overload by the sights and smells of my surroundings. We debarked with hurried handshakes, not to disrupt the flight schedule, and quickly loaded our gear into the boats.



Hound Hunting Rush

By Rich Winkler

A few years back, after seeing some bear hunts on outdoor TV and reading this magazine, I got the urge to try bear hunting for myself. After my first hunt, that urge became more like an addiction. Being up close to these fantastic animals was a rush unlike anything in my previous hunting experience, and I was hooked.

In the years that have passed since that first trip to Maine, I have hunted bears out of treestands and ground blinds over bait, spot and stalked them on foot, hunted the logging roads and clear cuts of Alberta from a side by side UTV, and even gone after the big coastal bears of Pacific British Columbia from small boats on a hunt based off a lodge boat. I’ve had some slow weeks, some fantastic adventures and I have been fortunate enough to take half a dozen nice bears, but the one type of bear hunting I had never tried was hunting them with hounds.

Somewhere along the line (possibly their ad in this magazine), I  discovered Camp Wapiti in Patten, Maine. Wapiti is a great old school bear camp, with nicely renovated cabins dating from the early part of the last century, a really nice main lodge building, a beautiful lake, super food and great guides. We enjoyed the place and the relaxed traditional Maine bear hunting atmosphere so much on that first trip that it became a regular stop for my brother, Rob, and myself every September.


Bobby Got a Bear

by Bob Tigro

I have been hunting bears on and off for nearly 20 years. The last three years, I have ventured to outfitters in Maine, a state that allows baiting and where I have an outfitter to scout for me. On my last two trips, I partnered with Oxbow Lodge. The owner, Chad, took the time to get to know me, my strengths and what I expected out of a hunt. My wife and I arrived on Sunday and we were warmly welcomed by Chad and his wife, Jody.

I was placed in a group with three other hunters and our guide was Darren. We all became friends quickly. As night fell on the first night, I had not heard a shot nor saw a bear. I walked out to the pickup, still high on the possibilities for the rest of the week. The other three hunters reported a bear was down. We were now three out of four for success and I was the lone holdout. I was happy for my newfound friends’ success. We all participated in the retrieval of the bears and arrived back at the lodge after midnight. The bears were hung and then we grabbed a quick bite to eat before bed.

I was skunked for the next four days. I saw raccoons, sows with cubs and more birds than you can shake a stick at. There were two chipmunks on a log, less than a foot in front of my face, and one jump on my shoulder. By Saturday, the last day of my hunt, I was doing my best to stay positive and Darren was still trying to decide where to place me. I was honestly at peace, as I knew this was a great place to hunt and things can happen any day.


The Bloody Nosed Bear

by Terry Richey

It was a beautiful day when my brother, Travis, and I set out to meet Pat Rayta of Ammonoosuc River Outfitters for a couple days of fall bear hunting over baits in a little town called Bethlehem, NH. We met Pat at Applehill Campgrounds, got our gear stowed and headed right out to help fill baits and check sites before the evening hunt.

After settling on two active bait sites, located on paper company land, we ran back to camp, changed into camo, grabbed our weapons of choice and headed out. I was using my Parker bow (the big green dinosaur) and my brother had his Marlin .30/30. Because of logistics, Pat decided to drop me off first then head to the other site and sit in the blind with Travis. They would then swing back over and pick me up at the end of the evening. Great plan; or so I thought.

I walked the short distance into my own ground blind, set up my Stag blind seat and settled in for the evening’s hunt. All was quiet for the first couple of hours, seeing nothing more than a few squirrels, a chipmunk and a wide range of birds, but that was all about to change.


Skull Cleaning Laid Bare

By Gary Lewis

The teeth. That’s what we notice first, the incisors designed for tearing flesh, those canines that can crush bone and the flat molars for grinding grass and other vegetation. We are fascinated by the power, the potential in a creature uniquely suited to its environment.

We may hang the rug on the wall or create a tableau of life with taxidermy, but the skull is left over when that process is finished. To do justice to the memory of the animal, we may want to display the skull. How do we take it from the carcass to the trophy case?

Start by skinning the hide from the skull and trimming as much meat away as possible. That includes the eyes and the brain matter. The more work that is done here, the less work is required later.

A bear skull is surprisingly fragile; a little forethought can go a long way in the preservation of the prize. There are three ways to arrive at a clean white skull. One of the most common is the process that is most prone to damage the trophy.

Option 1: Boil Dem Bones

To start, put a pot of water on the stove, insert the bear skull and bring it to a rolling boil. It’s best to do this outside. The boiling is going to take awhile. A bear skull might be fragile, but it can last longer than a marriage subjected to the specter of a sharp-toothed critter in a frothy soup on the kitchen stove. After the meat has cooked on the skull, it will begin to loosen its grip on the bone. A repeated process of boiling and cutting away at the skull will show the bone beneath.


Trail Cameras on Grizzlies

By Hugh Bevan

“Something's wrong here, Al,” I said to my friend Al Bigley. “Only part of my trail camera is still attached to the tree.” We both scratched our heads, looking at half of a Bushnell Trophy Cam trail camera strapped to a hemlock tree. Suddenly, as I noticed a mound of sticks and moss at the base of the tree, I realized a coastal grizzly had ripped down my camera and buried it, like a bear would with any kill. Was it possible the bear was lying nearby guarding the area like it would with a dead deer?

Al watched the brush with his .338 Winchester Magnum in his hands while I dug into to the pile of debris, retrieving my mangled trail camera. I stuffed the remains into my backpack and we quickly got out of there. Setting trail cameras for Alaskan grizzly bears is exciting business.

With minor exceptions, Alaska game laws prohibit baiting brown bears so capturing them on a trail camera is a unique challenge. Over the years, I have learned three types of camera setups that might capture a picture of a big bear. In the spring, bears travel widely looking for mates and for patches of new vegetation. In some areas they use well worn trails and a trail camera positioned properly on one of these bear highways can get some good shots. The bears step in the same tracks going both directions on these trails, and over many decades they wear holes in the ground. Walking on a grizzly trail is always a thrill.

Brown bears also use rubbing or marker trees. They stop at these special trees and leave their mark by rubbing, clawing and sometimes biting the tree. Male bears may also urinate as they stand on their hind legs and rub their backs on the bear tree. A trail camera positioned to view a rubbing tree will produce some very interesting still pictures or video as these animals investigate the scents left by other bears.


Hunting the Wild West

By Joe Byers

“These are really wild bears,” said Rough Country Outfitter, Jim Schell, as we prepared to head out the first afternoon. “They rarely hear or see humans and we’ll have to be particularly careful with scent and approach noise.” Schell takes only four to six hunters per season and I felt privileged to tag along, carrying a camera near the baits and enjoying the myriad of other activities the Medicine Bow region offers.

John Parker of Kentucky had taken a good bear the previous week and our host recounted the details, as if we could handle any more excitement. “He was a dedicated archer and had hunted all over the world, even taking dangerous African game with a bow,” Schell began. “He was on an active bait, yet our trail cameras showed the bear would only appear after dark, probably due to the swirling nature of winds through the stand.”

“After the third day, I recommended that he use a rifle so that we could back away far enough from the stand to not be scent detected. As we walked in that fourth afternoon I could almost guarantee that the bait would have been hit and the stand would be chewed. I was right on both counts.”

Ernie Calandrelli of Quaker Boy had hunted with Schell previously and witnessed a bear’s curiosity firsthand. “My buddy and I walked in to check a bait at noon and heard a distinct clanking sound. As we got closer to the bait, we saw a large boar eating with its back to us. As we cautiously moved closer, we noticed a big blonde bear trying to leverage the stand from the tree. Suddenly, the black bruin saw us and took off, while the blonde beast leaped from the stand like some giant flying squirrel. We never thought to bring our bows and I’m not sure who was more surprised,” laughed Calandrelli.



Scouting Cameras Get Results

By Dick Scorzafava

Bear hunters have found scouting cameras particularly useful at bait stations. Not only will the scouting camera tell the hunter when the bears are hitting the baits, it will show the size of bears that are coming in. In addition, scouting cameras tell us which baits have the best potential for drawing not only quantities of bears, but identifying those with the best trophy potential as well.

The problem I have seen over the last few years is many outfitters and hunters are not using the scouting cameras to their full potential. I have been using scouting cameras for big game all over the world since they were introduced and have learned from trial and error what works best. I have taken thousands of images using scouting cameras and have developed a system that produces results.

They should not be used for just taking images of bears at a bait and downloading them on the computer. They are very powerful tools if used properly. Let’s look at what I believe will help everyone using scouting cameras for bear hunting, so that their full potential can be used more effectively.

There are many companies manufacturing scouting cameras today because they have become so popular with hunters, and there are several really good units available. Some of the most popular brands are Bushnell, Cuddeback, Moultrie, Reconyx, Stealth Cam and Wildgame Innovations. The keys to a good scouting camera, especially for bear hunters, are battery life, trigger speed, image quality and ease of use. Bear hunters do not need a unit with all the bells and whistles; they need units relatively inexpensive and that will get the job done, period. I have had great results using Cuddebacks for years and have never had a problem, not to say other brands do not offer a camera that operates just as well.