My brothers and I had long discussed doing a bear hunt with Dad. With my return to my home state it was time for acting upon those discussions. In March of 1999 my brothers and I attended a Cleveland Sport and Outdoor show at the convention center. The time with my brothers walking around the show is a memory in itself but that story will not be told here. We stopped at many of the bear hunting booths that day and gathered a great amount of information and specific details on bear hunts – several guided western US hunts and those offered in Canada. After the show we decided to sit down to some wings and beer while discussing which outfitter we were going to use. Money was obviously one of the major factors here along with what our money bought.
The final decision after weighing everything was to use an outfitter up at Kipawa Lake located in Quebec, Canada for a spring 2000 (May) bear hunt. The cost was $900 Canadian funds per person and included the cabin for 7 days, bear tag, pre-baited stand areas, two boats for 4 people with unlimited fuel, and all the fishing we wanted to do. The drawback was we had to drive 15 hours one-way to the outfitter and then do the same after a long week of hunting/fishing. Had I known more about western bear hunting then, it may have been a different outfitter being used. But 14 months couldn’t get here fast enough.
The neat thing about setting up a hunting trip with my brothers and Dad is then we were able to get together several times more to plan clothing, hunting needs, travel logistics, sight in our rifles, and reminisce on past hunts.
We left on a Friday evening and drove all night. We arrived at approximately 9am at the far western shore of Kipawa Lake and waited for the outfitter to pick us up along with our gear. At 10:00am the outfitter showed up on his boat, loaded us up, and navigated the 1 hour boat trip to the island the cabins were at. Once there and after unloading our gear into the cabin we then spent several hours with the outfitter taking a boat to all of the pre-baited hunting stand areas that dotted the land surrounding the lake so we could learn the areas.
We hunted that Saturday evening with each of the 4 of us taking what we felt was “our” stand. Nobody saw a bear. The plan for the rest of the week was to get up early each morning and complete a morning hunt, return by boat to the island for lunch and a couple hours of fishing, then return by boat to our stands for the evening hunt. We did this like soldiers every day.
My stand was northeast of the island about a 20 minute boat ride. The stand was pretty close to the water’s edge and was situated in a tree that overlooked the bait pile that was at the base of a thick pine forest about 40 yards away. My brother dropped me off on Sunday morning (every morning that week) and then proceeded on to his stand. Monday morning I observed a bear in the woods making its way toward the bait pile – there was no shot available but at the bait pile (hindsight not a great stand). Unfortunately as well, the wind was at my back blowing my scent directly towards that bait pile. Before leaving the heavy timber that bear got a good whiff of me and bolted back into the hillside. Monday was a bust.
Let me interject this – black flies. May in northern Canada is certainly not insect friendly. We had to wear full nets – tops and bottoms. We duct taped our gloves and boot areas to the nets to prevent bites. You wore a hat that had a rim around your entire head so the netting was not against you. If that netting was lying on your bare skin you were getting bit. The evening hunts came with a reprieve about 30 minutes before sunset.
Tuesday I saw nothing. Wednesday I decided to set up an alternate tree stand at the same site but gave me much better view outside of the bait pile. I still saw nothing Wednesday. Thursday about an hour after I got up into my stand I heard something in the forest behind me making its way towards me. The forest was thick in that direction (and most other directions) and all I could hear was it getting closer and closer. My heart was pounding! To my surprise a young bull moose stepped out of the woods and walked directly under my stand and stopped. He was no more than 10 feet below me. I could easily count the 10 points he had. I had no moose tag so it was just great seeing this animal so close. After about 5 minutes he slowly made his way back into the forest and was quickly out of sight.
Friday and Saturday came and went – I saw nothing. Friday my older brother Dave harvested his bear. It was about 175 pounds. He has the rug hanging in his family room. My Dad and younger brother Joel also did not harvest a bear that year. The following year my Dad got his bear and he proudly has the rug lying on his floor. We have not been back since but the time spent with Dad and brothers on a hunt is always a great memory. So the elusive bear is still a dream of mine… for now.