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- Spotlight On: Alberta
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- Bear Essentials - Gadgets & Gear
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- Outfitters & Guides
- Hunter Photo Gallery
- Crazy Tales from Uncle Geddy & The BMG
Scent Strategies with Dick Scorzafava
Selecting Attractant Scents
In Hot Pursuit with Travis Reggear
A Split Race
Handguns for Bear with Ed Hall
Crossbow Challenge with Daniel James Hendricks
Wicked Ridge’s Raider CLS
Archery Talk with Steve Bartylla
Successful Treestand Placement
Guns & Optics with Ralph Lermayer
Ralph’s Rifle Round Up
The Philosopher, the MVP and the Caterer
By Steve Sorensen
What do an ancient Greek philosopher, a sports award and catered meals have to do with each other? Or, more importantly, with bear hunting? Give me a few minutes and I’ll explain.
Did you know that Aristotle (who lived from 384 BC to 322 BC) has helped you succeed as a hunter? He was the first to identify the five senses humans have and share with the game animals we pursue. For hunters, for bears and for most mammals, the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste correspond to an organ–eyes, ears, nose, skin and tongue.
Behavioral scientists have come a long way since Aristotle. Today they recognize some animals have more senses, including echolocation (in bats), magnetism (in birds) and others that we humans do not have. Yes, some animals do have a “sixth sense” or possibly more that we have little understanding about. So we focus on what we understand.
What Aristotle didn’t do was match up the five senses to the offensive and defensive roles they play in hunting. From a bear hunter’s perspective, hunting boils down mainly to three of Aristotle’s five: seeing, hearing and smelling.
For humans, sight reigns supreme. Among our five senses, it’s our top offensive weapon. You’ll find all the evidence you need in common clichés such as “seeing is believing” and “what you see is what you get.” Since we can’t shoot what we can’t see, hunters depend on sight more than any other sense. And to enhance our vision we turn to optics. Good glass makes us better at what we’re already good at, playing offense.
A Fresh Look at Blood Trailing
By John M. DeLisle, Sr.
There is not a black bear hunter alive that likes to hear about a healthy, thick-coated fall bruin receiving a mortal bullet, slug or arrow wound only to head into the thick cover, never to be seen again by the hunter who shot it. Sadly, each year it happens to both beginner and veteran bear hunters alike. In some instances, inclement weather conditions play havoc with the recovery of a hit bruin, however, in other instances a number of unlucky hunters fail to retrieve their trophy, simply because they lacked a sound blood trailing plan and critical blood trailing skills along with the patience and perseverance it takes to find a downed bruin.
As with all big game mammals, black bears have a beautiful, thick, heavy pelage both in the fall and for a time, in the early spring, until they eventually begin to rub it off, due to the extreme amount of heat it holds in. Though every hunter dreams of taking a fall bruin with a beautiful, thick coat complete with its winter down-like under fur, its unfortunate that the same beautiful, black fur tends to work against a hunter when trying to recover their hard earned trophy. Acting much like an absorbent sponge, that thick, furry coat soaks up blood quickly, allowing little, if any, to drip and spatter on the forest duff along the bruin’s escape route.
If you’re new to bear hunting, you’ll also be surprised to learn that it doesn’t end there. Because bears tend to gorge themselves throughout the fall on mast crops, wild berries, various wild fruits, agricultural crops and even small mammals, all of which build up fat reserves prior to entering hibernation, it’s possible for them to accumulate as much as five inches of fat under that coveted black fur. Even a well-placed shot with bullet, slug or arrow a tad too high in the vital region often results in a sparse to almost non-existent blood trail due to the plugging characteristics of such an accumulation of thick, greasy fat combined with all that thick fur. Hence, the reason for taking the best shot possible on a fall bruin, along with a blood-trailing team that is knowledgeable and well disciplined in methodically following up such sparse blood sign.
A Grand Adventure for Your Life’s List
By Hugh Bevan
It was so dark I could see stars above the treetops of the Southeast Alaska rainforest. We were hiking down a river choked with spawning salmon, returning from a fall evening of brown bear hunting. The footing was treacherous, the river bed littered with dead and dying fish, their carcasses as slick as cakes of soap.
Around a bend in the river I noticed a big tree stump on the stream bank, a stump I didn’t recall seeing on our way up the river. Suddenly the stump moved, changing into a huge, nearly black grizzly bear. We were looking at a trophy class, Shiras color phase brown bear. Unfortunately for us, the tricky breeze swirled and the bear faded into the dark forest like a ghost.
Hunting the coastal grizzly bear of Southeast Alaska is a grand adventure that requires good planning, patience, stamina and a dash of good old hunter’s luck. These bears have inhabited the Alaska panhandle islands for eons and are completely adapted to its dark forests. A 1998 study by the University of Alaska established a DNA link between the coastal brown bear and the white polar bear of the arctic, making these bears a truly unique trophy.
Brown bears inhabit three islands along the southern Alaska coast. Bear populations are generally evenly distributed between Admiralty, Baranof and Chichagof (ABC) Islands. Ninety percent of Southeast Alaska lies within the Tongass National Forest. The Tongass stretches for 500 miles along the coast and its area is larger than any other national forest or national park in the United States. Alaska’s designation for the ABC Islands is Game Management Unit 4. It has one of the highest concentrations of brown bears in Alaska with some areas approaching one bear per square mile. Some bears remain in the alpine areas of the ABC Islands year round and have never been hunted. There are some huge bears up on the ridges that survive upon vegetation, Sitka blacktail deer and Rocky Mountain goats.
Where Crossbows are Legal for Bears
By Al Raychard
I took my first black bear with a crossbow over a decade ago, about the time horizontal bows were starting to grow in popularity in the United States. At the time, crossbows were legal for deer hunting in a number of states by the physically impaired, in a handful of states during rifle deer season by the general hunting public and even fewer states during archery deer season. If memory serves me correctly, perhaps only one or two states allowed crossbows for hunting bear, and those were in the west. Because of that, and because it was closer to home and easier to reach by vehicle, my first crossbow bear hunt took place in Canada. In fact, I didn’t kill my first bear with a crossbow in the states until Maine legalized their use in 1996.
Since then, things have changed a lot. Most provinces and territories in Canada have allowed the use of crossbows for years. Nova Scotia legalized their use in 2010 and with New Brunswick coming on board in 2011 only the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Newfoundland/Labrador prohibit the use of crossbows. Word recently came to me from an outfitter friend of mine in Newfoundland that crossbows may soon be legal there as well.
Of the 33 states that allow bear hunting, 20 now allow the use of crossbows by all hunters for bears. In the 13 other states that allow bear hunting, such as Massachusetts, Vermont, Washington, New Jersey, Arizona and West Virginia, crossbows either remain illegal, may not be used for bears, may only be used by the physically impaired with a special permit or by hunters over a 65 years of age, such as in Wisconsin.
By Bernie Barringer
There are times when having too many choices can make your hunt more difficult. I’ve been on tough bear hunts before. The ones where you spend untold hours on stand waiting for a bear to show up at the bait. When a decent bear finally shows itself, you know it is a shooter because it is the only bear you have seen, and may be the only bear of the trip. It’s an easy decision. But having a lot of bears coming to the baits can make for a challenging hunt too. Especially when you have your heart set on a particular color.
But before I get too far ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning.
I have long wanted to shoot a black bear of each of the four major color groups; black, chocolate, cinnamon and blonde. There are variations to these colors of course, but mostly you can group the colors loosely into these four categories. I have shot several black ones, and a couple chocolates, but I have an interest in shooting a cinnamon and a blonde to round out my “Grand Slam” of black bear hunting.
In doing research for a spring bear hunt where the odds of seeing a bear of one of these two colors are high, I decided that the Duck Mountains of Manitoba was a good place to try my chances. They have a pretty good percentage of color phase bears. It only makes sense to patronize the advertisers of this magazine, so one of the first calls I made was to Tom Ainsworth of Grandview Outfitters, who has been a loyal advertiser with Bear Hunting Magazine. It didn’t take a very long conversation to learn that I was looking at a very good choice. In fact, Tom has 25 tags and usually only has 5-7 new openings each year. The rest are all repeat customers.
Optics for Bear Hunting
By Stephen D. Carpenteri
Bear hunters spend most of their time doing one of two things; waiting for bears and looking for bears. Old-timers know that nearly every bear looks big, at first, but nothing suffers from ground shrinkage more, or faster, than a “big” bear that turns out to be a yearling. A combination of excitement, angst, enthusiasm and inexperience affects the majority of bear hunters when it’s time to align the sights, and all that anticipatory waiting can come to a crashing end when the huge bear we saw ends up being the little bear we got.
To avoid mistakes and disappointment, it’s important that bear hunters learn to judge bruins at a distance, and this means getting some experience using binoculars and spotting scopes.
The process is simple enough: See a bear, judge its size, estimate the range and take the shot. Of all these, judging the size of a given bear is the most difficult. The old saying, “You’ll know a big one when you see it,” is true enough, but what if all you see are average or small bears? At some point you’ll have to gauge the size of the animal and from that information decide if you want to take the shot. Even a quick scan with binoculars will answer the basic question; is it big enough?
Any hunter over the age of five can pick up a binocular and look at something in the distance. Two seconds of training reveals that by spinning the focus knob you can sharpen the focus on any object that is from 15 feet to the horizon. Nothing to it, right?
One Hot Bear
By Chris Murphy
I have been hunting bear since 1989 and got my first with bow in May of 1990 in a remote area called Berens River in Manitoba. I have been hooked ever since. Currently I am a police officer and have experienced pepper spray several times in my career as a trainer but that was nothing compared to what happened when bear hunting in May of 2011. I had been hunting bear off and on through the years and in September of 2000 after being transferred to Thompson, Manitoba I was able to really focus on hunting them. I have hunted moose and deer but nothing compares to hunting bears.
I located a great place north of Thompson and began hunting and harvesting great black bears from the site. I took all of them to the taxidermist and enjoyed the meat immensely with family and friends. In 2004, I had the privilege to meet Mike Snihor of Trapper Mike’s Outfitting and his amazing wife, Ann, and their son, Blaine, who now runs the bear hunting outfit out of Thompson. I didn’t get to know Mike too well as he passed away shortly after I met him but I was able to learn a lot from him in that short tim.
Blaine and I got along well and I guide for their family as a hobby, which is a great break from policing. Plus the food Ann cooks is amazing. Over the years, I learned a lot from Blaine and also had an opportunity to guide for another outfitter farther north. I took a bear each year while in there and then transferred to Winnipeg in 2009. I still travel north each year to either guide or bear hunt myself.
In May of 2011, I decided to head to Thompson again for a bear hunt. I called Blaine and he said he would bait my site and put out a trail camera. I drove the eight hours from Winnipeg and had looked at the bears Blaine had on camera. There were a lot and all were nice but no big monsters. I did see a sow and two cubs in the photos which was neat.
Ending an Unbearable Wait
By Grant Benson
Getting a black bear with my bow was not supposed to be this difficult. Admittedly, I was fairly new to the sport of bowhunting at the time, but there was no way it was supposed to take five trips to arrow that first bruin. Or so I thought.
This journey began five years earlier with an unsuccessful fall hunt in western Ontario. Hunting out of Vermillion Bay the opening week in steamy August was not what I expected. With the maiden voyage of my bear hunting career under my belt I had not seen a bear. Undeterred, I returned to the same outfitter the following year and made some small degree of progress. In a cool drizzle on the fifth day, I did see my first bear in the wild, but I spooked it off when nervously drawing my bow. Dejected with the outcome, I vowed to continue the quest yet again the next season. That third journey, to a different outfitter in eastern Ontario, again netted no bear sightings. Two of the three other archers in camp did have success though, and since it was a very well run operation I planned to revisit the following year.
That strategy changed over the winter when I got one of those “if it’s too good to be true it probably is” offers and decided to hunt with a proven outfitter in Flin Flon, Manitoba who was looking to add some bowhunters to his client base. While I understood he was new to archery and his rates were discounted accordingly, his serious lack of experience with the unique demands of archers was evident from the moment we hit camp. None of the four bowhunters hosted that week killed a bear. Disappointingly the trip was a total waste, other than the world class northern pike fishing that we enjoyed daily. Regardless, the fishing offered insufficient solace to justify the 3,650 mile round trip drive from my home in Ohio.