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Mar/Apr 2012 Issue

Feature Sections

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


  • In Hot Pursuit with
    Travis Reggear

    Choosing a Superstar Pup
  • Scent Strategies with
    Dick Scorzafava

    Using the Wind
  • Crossbow Challenge with Daniel James Hendricks

    Biggest Buying Mistakes
  • Archery Talk with Steve Bartylla

    Defeating Equipment Odors
  • Guns & Optics with Ralph Lermayer

    10 Things to Keep your Rifle Ready
  • Handguns for Bear with Ed Hall

    The .454


Handgunning Alaskan Brown Bear

By Larry C. Rogers

I have got this thing about dangerous game. I love the excitement. I love the challenge. I guess I’m an adrenaline junky. My first taste was a brown bear in the 1980s. My guide blew a moose call and we got a full-blown charge by a 6 1/2-foot brownie. I stopped it at 30 yards. What made it even more exciting was the fact that my guide had forgotten to load his gun. Right after my shot was a – click!
     I went sort of crazy after that. I did a few black bears; up close, but not really dangerous. Then the Africa bug hit me. I took a baited leopard at 62 yards. Not much danger there, but really exciting. After that, a cape buffalo at 30 yards, a lion charge at 23 yards, a rhino at 30 yards and, finally, an elephant in full charge at 12 yards. That one was way cool.
     You say, so what? A lot of guys do that. Yeah, but I did each one with a handgun! The lion, buffalo and elephant were taken with a single shot Thompson Encore in .416 Taylor. The rhino was taken with a .475 Linebaugh revolver.
     The first brown bear was taken with a .375 JDJ Contender with a 285-grain Speer Grand Slam bullet. I shot him under the chin, destroyed the spine, and he dropped in his tracks. My empty-gunned guide had problems lighting his cigarette after he cleaned his pants. So much for underpowered handguns.



Trophies of an Unsuccessful Hunt

By Steve Sorensen

In a breathless whisper Andy said, “It’s not even close to level, but it’s the best we can do.” My brother and I had climbed a quarter-mile up an Alaskan avalanche, perched on a bare spot, and clung to snow-crusted alders to keep ourselves from sliding down the mountainside. We planned on spending the rest of the day, all night, and all the next day atop that avalanche, peering through a spotting scope at the opposite side of the valley. We were looking for black bears.
     No sleeping bags. No tent. No cook stove. We aimed to travel light without those burdens, and haul a head and hide out of the Alaskan rainforest. Our meat and potatoes were summer sausage and Pringles. Dessert was a package of Snickers bars. We snacked on nuts and raisins, sucked on hard candies and washed it all down with a sport drink.
    On the way in we passed the ruins of an old prospector’s cabin. Nothing left but rotted log walls, traces of a set of bed springs, and a rusted out stove. As the story goes, the old-timer fell into the creek one winter. He survived but froze his fingers off. With nothing left but stubs, he kept up his search for gold. Adventuring in Alaska, whether for yellow treasure or for a brawny bear, has a way of toughening up a man.



Create an “A” List for

Guided Hunts

By Steve Bartylla

My friend and cameraman, Trevor Wilson, was suffering. He had committed the worst sin possible when going on a late spring Canadian bear hunt. He didn’t bring his head net.
     Making matters worse, we were trying to arrow a bait-shy bear that had been wounded the week before on the same bait. The blind I’d set in the thick pines helped, but we still couldn’t afford a lot of extra movement, with the bear hovering about 100 yards out. The thick swarm of gnats and small-bird-sized mosquitoes were testing Trevor’s discipline to the limit.
     Finally, compassion got the best of me. Removing my head net, I handed it to Trevor. He didn’t even make an insincere attempt at turning it down. The swarming bugs had brought him to the edge.
     Luckily, my timing was about as good as it could get. Within five minutes, the bear finally decided the coast was clear. Limping in, he grabbed a chunk of bait and turned to leave. Sensing time wouldn’t be on my side, my Mathews was already at full draw and ready. The split second the bear began turning to leave, I sent the Rage-tipped Easton slicing through his vitals.
     The only thing that could match my relief at ending his suffering was the relief I felt when manically swatting at my ears, forehead, cheeks and neck. In less than a minute’s time since my last slow brush off of bugs, somewhere over 30 mosquitoes had sunk their stingers. Never had I been forced to be so mentally focused on a shot, and I never want to endure a test like that again!



The Thrill of the Chase

by Dick Scorzafava

I have been chasing big bears around North America for most of my life and I’ve had the good fortune to put a tag on a few big bruisers from time to time. My mission on this adventure was to help another hunter, Bill Dermody, harvest his first bear with the new Savage Arms model 16 Bear Hunter rifle. Over the last several years I have been able to help several friends put a tag on the bear of their dreams and that was really rewarding to me.
      I met Bill while working with Savage developing the model 16 Bear Hunter rifle, and the talk just naturally turned to bear hunting. Bill had never been on a bear hunt before and wanted to give it a try. However, he was a bit apprehensive about undertaking this new experience. I gave Bill the option of hunting over a bait or following a pack of hounds. He chose hounds immediately, probably because he is not a patient man, and said he couldn’t sit quietly in a tree and wait for something to happen. He preferred to be actively engaged in the hunting experience and the excitement a hound hunt can bring.
      Plans were made for a fall hunt featuring my good friend Scott York who operates Spruce Mountain Guide Service in Maine. Scott is a second-generation hound hunter who is also a logger, which means he spends most of his life in the woods. Between Scott, his brother and father they have developed some fantastic hounds that are fast, tough, extremely cold-nosed, have loud bawl/squall mouths and are just bear crazy. Hounds need to be very high-powered and be able to run in the roughest conditions day after day and not poop out or quit during a race.




The Maine Event

By Scott Cummings

At sundown we were quietly packing our gear to evacuate the deep timber of the Penobscot Indian Territory and unite with our guide down the logging road. My Burris Eliminator scope drew ample light for one last glance through the lens. A dark silhouette protruded from behind an uprooted tree base at 50 yards. I dropped my pack and instructed my ten  year-old daughter Danielle to duck. The shadow made its way across the narrow shooting lane, circling around the bait barrel before vanishing into the lush vegetation. If only I’d had two more seconds!
     Danielle was now visibly shaken. “Don’t shoot the bear Daddy. It’s too dark. Let’s go Daddy!” She began to tear up. “Are you afraid of the bear or is it the dark?” I inquired. She insisted we leave immediately. We hardly made it out to the logging road when she began to break down, her breathing now irregular, and heart beating out of her chest. I radioed for our guide, Shelton, to get to the meeting point immediately.
      As a parent the next 30 minutes were some of the scariest of my life. In the truck, three concerned men listened as I counseled Dani out of hyperventilating. We were 20 miles from Tomah Mountain Outfitters’ camp and twice as far from any type of medical center. My prayer was short but sincere, “Please Lord, help us.” With much encouragement she fell asleep from exhaustion, tucked in my bosom.


Aggressive Chocolate

by Marilyn Sigler

Every year my husband, Bruce, and I can hardly wait to go bear hunting. The lure of the Canadian bush and the excitement of the hunt are unequalled. For the past ten years we have gone to the Swan Valley area in Manitoba with Darrell’s Outfitting. We have come to know Darrell Dushanek, his guides and all of their families well and look forward to seeing them as well as hunting bears.
     I have previously harvested three black bears, including two color-phase bears; a blonde and a red cinnamon. I was hoping to see a chocolate so I could have one of each of the color phases. Last year I harvested my bear with a bow and I was bowhunting again this year.
     On May 22, 2011, we bought our bear licenses and headed for the Porcupine Mountains which were about 45 miles from camp. We checked bait sites, and since Darrell saw a good-sized bear print on top of his boot print from the day before, I decided to stay at that bait. The site was off the road about a quarter-mile across marshy terrain with lots of tall brush. The bait barrel was 11 yards from the ten-foot ladder stand facing the bait. There were a couple of small pines behind the bait barrel, otherwise the brush and trees were thick about 10-15 yards all around the bait. During the evening I watched several kinds of birds and a couple of jack squirrels fighting over the bait. The wind swirled through the trees and blew into my face off and on.


The Bear We Call Butterfinger

by Ryan & Tina Murdock

It was a cold morning in mid September; I begged my wife to join our kids and me on one of the last bear hunts of the year. My kids had fallen in love with bear hunting and always wanted to come. My wife, on the other hand, did not like getting up at 4:00 a.m., but to make our children and me happy she came along.
     When we drove up to our bait it was still very dark and cold. While walking in, the dogs started baying out of control. As we got to the bottom of the mountain I turned my two lead dogs loose. Within seconds they had the track lined out and then I released the rest of the pack.
     As I looked through the trail camera pictures at the bait I got the surprise of a lifetime. There had been only one bear on the bait, and it was a huge black boar. The dogs were just four hours behind it. All of the sudden I could hear my dogs barking very intensely. They were definitely not treed up, but they had already caught up to it and the action was taking place on the ground. The bear was not about to tree, so it took off on a dead run up the mountain. My dogs were right behind it and getting farther and farther away.


The Great Bait Debate – Part 1

By Bernie Barringer

A five gallon bucket of bait in each hand, I was walking down a narrow trail through the forest doing my daily bait routine. My mind was on other things as I trudged along as I had hundreds of times before. Suddenly, I was jerked to attention when a crashing noise came from the bait only 50 yards away through the bush. My first thought was that I had jumped a deer. I didn’t think much about it until I got home and plugged the SD card from the trail camera into the computer.
     I was shocked to discover that there was a picture of a bear on the bait only 60 seconds before there was a picture of me approaching the bait. I hadn’t jumped a deer after all, I had jumped a mature bear off my bait… at 9:30 in the morning!
      That bear never came back. For the remaining three weeks of the season, the bear never returned to that bait. In fact, every bear that I have ever bumped from a bait here in northcentral Minnesota has either never returned to the bait or only returned during darkness after having been pushed off a bait. That’s why I bait in the morning, when bears are the least likely to be on the baits in the first place.
     Contrast that to some of the wilderness bush areas of Canada, where bumping bears off a bait is often an everyday occurrence. In fact, you can often bump a bear off a bait and get in the tree stand, only to have that bear come back within the hour.   


Bear Camp

What is Right for You?

By Stephen D. Carpenteri

Just as there are many kinds of bears, there are also many kinds of bear hunters. Some, of course, are the rabid get-one-at-any-cost types who care only about the moment when the bear shows up and the trigger is pulled. They don’t care what it costs or what it takes to get to that point as long as they have a bear to take home at the end of the hunt.
     There are also hunters out there who almost don’t care whether they get a bear or not. Their primary interest is in hanging around camp with other hunters, telling stories, making jokes and otherwise relaxing. Some of these hunters may go out and spend a few hours watching a bait on good days, but for the most part they are in camp for the ambience, the experience and the camaraderie. If they never see or shoot a bear they will go home happy and satisfied if they had a pleasant experience with the outfitter and guides.
     And then there are the majority of hunters who want to hunt from a comfortable camp where the food is good and the accommodations are at least warm and dry. They can’t spend top dollar for a plush outfitting experience but they are satisfied if they eat and sleep well, see a bear or two during their hunt and can go home feeling that their money was well spent. Tagging a bear is a plus but if other hunters in the group are successful they all head out satisfied and anxious to return next year.
     For each of these varieties of bear hunting philosophies and expectations, there is a guide service that is a perfect fit. The key to an enjoyable bear hunt (whether over bait, using hounds or spot-and-stalk) is to be honest and up front with your outfitter during the planning stages of the trip.


Choosing the Proper Knives

By Tom Claycomb

When I was a kid there was not but about five different knife brands to choose from. Now days, go to your local outdoor store and see how many styles and brands they offer. It’s unbelievable. It’s also unbelievable some of the weird stuff that sells!
     Certain tools fit certain jobs better than others. You can dig a hole with a spoon but a shovel works better. The same applies with knives. Ideally, to take care of a bear you need three different types of knives. Each has a job: Skinning, boning, slicing, etc. Do I always carry all three? No, especially not if I’m in the backcountry.
     When buying a knife I look for two things. First, I have a handful of manufacturers that I like. I look in their selections. Next, I look for certain designs. Just because it’s made by a good knife maker, doesn’t mean that it’s a good design.

    Let’s talk about hardness for a minute. A soft knife is easier to sharpen but doesn’t last as long. A hard one is harder to sharpen but doesn’t get dull as fast. It’s not a right or wrong, just more of a matter of preference. If you’re baiting, more than likely you’ll be packing in your bait with a 4-wheeler so you can have multiple knives or pack along a stone, but if you’re hunting with dogs or spot and stalk, you’re likely to kill one in the backcountry and have to skin them where they lay. You can’t pack along a lot of knives or stones so you don’t want a knife that will go dull halfway through the job.

Alberta Double Play

By Richard P. Smith

The introduction to black bear hunting for Michigan bowhunter John Benedict was far better than most hunters experience, regardless of what weapon they are hunting with. On Benedict’s very first black bear hunt, he bagged two bruins, one of which was brown in color. Both bruins were also bigger than average and had skulls large enough to easily qualify for records kept by the Pope and Young Club.
      How he got both bears was also out of the ordinary. One was ambushed along a river where it was after spawning fish and the second was arrowed along a trail near camp that it traveled on a daily basis. Collecting those bruins with a rifle would be noteworthy. Doing so with bow and arrow makes the accomplishment exceptional.
      John was hunting in Alberta when he met with such terrific success. The fact that Benedict is a skilled bowhunter, having taken many whitetails of record book proportions prior to going on this hunt, contributed to the outstanding results on his first effort after bear.


Addicted to Chocolate

By Bernie Barringer

Every bear hunt is a little different. The conditions are different, the surroundings are different, the guys hunting together a different, even the bears are different. I have come to appreciate these differences. So when I headed off to hunt bears in Saskatchewan last fall with Norberg Hunting Adventures, I was all about enjoying the unique aspects of this hunt.
      One of the unique aspects that I was looking forward to on this hunt was the fact that the area offers a high probability of seeing a chocolate color phase bear. In fact, some years the outfitter’s harvest runs about 50% chocolates. A couple of aspects of the hunt that I did not expect was how much we interacted with the outfitter’s family on this hunt, and the interesting personalities that were hunting along side of me. Frank and Doug, from Tennessee, were the typical huntin’ rednecks and proud of it. I immensely enjoyed their company and I got a lot of pleasure out of hearing their hunting stories, both the ones from back in the hills of Tennessee and the ones from their frequent hunting trips out west.
      I had also invited my friend, Virgil, along on this hunt, and I was looking forward to getting to know him better, both on the bear hunt and on the long drive to and from Saskatchewan.