Back in 1996, my Uncle Ron Schira, noticed that I was very interested in hunting. I was 14 soon to be 15 years old. I had hunted with rifles and shotguns since I was 12 with my dad. But never with a bow. I found it amazing that most of the trophies hanging in my uncles houses were taken at under 25 yards with a bow. I convinced my mother to buy me a bow with some money my grandmother had given us for Christmas. It was alot of money compared to anything else I had ever asked for. But "me mudder" saw how much I loved and obsessed about hunting. And if her brothers had time to take me out and give me a hand to get started, she helped me out on realizing one of my dreams.
Ron told her and I, that he could take me out hunting bear that spring, as long as I practiced shooting the whole spring and had myself ready to go. I practiced for many hours that spring. I thought my bow might be worn out by the time I went hunting. I was shooting at Buckland Archery, run by the Dumont family of Prince Albert. They helped me to get my bow tuned up a bit and set up for hunting. I have fairly long arms, so we had some fun finding a bow that I could shoot fingers with at a 33 inch draw length. But they had one for me, and I still shoot that bow today. A Jennings Ultrastar with recurve limbs set at 70 lbs. Big logs for arrows, Easton XX75's 2514 size. It is not a fast bow, but its mine and it does the job.
When it was finally time to go out and hunt, we went out and baited the first day. Got my bow "noise proofed" and practiced shooting together. When I would release, Ron would release as soon as he heard my release. It was actually working very good. We planned that when a "shooter bear" came in. He would let me know and we would shoot together for some extra insurance. The first night was very exciting. Some wolves came in and entertained us for a while, and after they left a nice big black came in, but Ron did not think it was quite big enough. The wolves came back in and actually chased or intimidated that bear right out of the bait site. Amazing to watch 3 wolves staring down a bear who would not back down either for quite a while! Alot of growling and paw swatting but eventually the bear got nervous and left. Reviewing the footage later in the season, Ron figured that bear would have likely made 19 inches. And not to brag up my uncle, but I think that is a guy who has hunted enough bear to tell the difference of that extra 1/2 inch you need to make 20. (smile) Both Ron and Charles Schira have been members of Saskbowhunters and have watched, guided and taken alot of record bears over the years. They sure gave me a world of advise when it comes to bear hunting.
The second night we went to a second bait site and sat. We had alot of excitement again with a sow and three cubs. When a bigger bear started crashing back in the bush, the cubs ended up in the tree with us for a while. We convinced them to pick another tree after they were sniffing at my butt as they passed behind my treestand. The bear that was making all the noise back in the bush was the big guy we were waiting for. He finally made his way in, not concerned at all about us or the sow with cubs. I've never heard of a trembling spruce tree, but I think we were sitting in one that night. I drew my bow and Ron did the same. I put the sight on him and trying not to shake to badly, released. A loud roar and crashing through the bush. After about a minute or so a groan behind us that sounded to be about a hundred yards. Meanwhile we had to try get out of the tree with a very confused and worked up sow pacing 20 yards from our tree. We finally made it out without going into detail.
Ron had hoped I hadnt hit the bear in the shoulder, but was sure we both hit him. In the excitement and with a lack of experience, I did not pay attention to where the bears leg was when I released. Even though I had been warned about the large shoulder bone or shoulder blade that can stop an arrow from doing its job.
The next morning we went back with one of Ron's friend and hunting buddy Gary Drieshner. We started tracking. We found Ron's arrow that had made a complete pass through, at the base of our tree that we had been sitting in. Likely went through as the bear was spinning and came out back towards us!! We found half of my arrow broken off about 20 yards down the trail. At about 100 yds we found a large bed in the moss with more blood then I had ever seen and 5 yards further another bed with the remainder of my arrow and broadhead laying in it. The bear must have managed to pull it out of his shoulder. So we knew by the blood in the beds, that my arrow did hit the shoulder and that Rons made a complete pass through somewhere in the mid section. We continued tracking for about 5 miles according to the GPS and ended up close to where we started. The bear had made a circle around and had quit bleeding all together. Ron had went back a couple times to double check the area in the days following. Needless to say, I was sick for a few days and felt extremely bad for wounding such a beautiful big animal. We never did find our 20 plus bear.
I never did really hunt seriously for bear again until 2004 or 2005. I felt like I had learned enough from my experience when I was younger, and was almost scared to shoot at another bear with a bow. But I told myself that I could do it, and get it done right. I baited alone a couple years and never did see much or shoot anything. And then baited with a friend, Clem Delisle the last couple years. I baited and sat and learned, asked more questions. I think we had a total of 20 or 21 different bears in the past two seasons. Some bordering on the 18 inch mark but not quite there. Many different colored bears. Black, Cinnamon, Chocolate and Blonde. Even one that was kind of a brown with what looks like a white under coat. Just a 2 year old bear now. Very nice to watch. We video'd and took pictures but did not shoot anything.
One night I could not go out, Clem went and sat just with his camera. He called me that night and told me of a nice big black that came in. He had pictures of him and he was not a nervous bear at all. The next time out I put up a trail camera and we sat the next evening. He didnt come in. Two days later we went back with high hopes. Clem had passed up this bear hoping to let me have a chance at him, so we sure wanted him to come back! I was very grateful to Clem for passing up a nice bear for me, but we were starting to wonder if it was a good idea to pass up that oppurtunity.
We knew that the one sow at our bait was coming into heat, and that she should come back one day with a big boyfriend for dinner. A few bears came and left. Finally that sow came in, but all alone. A few minutes went by and we heard a few branches breaking behind us. I was scanning the bush for movement. Finally there he was, coming down the trail. He stood up and rubbed on a birch tree. When I saw him there was no doubt, he was a shooter. I passed the video camera to Clem. As he came down the trail, he looked right up at us in the tree. But kept on coming in. As soon as he got close to the barrel, I drew back and waited for him to be positioned right. As soon as that leg started to swing forward, I released and he was gone. It looked like a good hit. We waited a few minutes and started on the trail. We found him 50-60 yards from the bait. A good clean shot. I was extremely happy. We got him tagged and out of the bush.
The next day was snowing and sleeting so hard we had some fun taking pictures. Clem and his son Jared set up a tarp shelter for us to take pictures and do our skinning. Being my first bear I ended up looking for Taxidermest to take it to. Ended up going with Kent Ringheim from Melfort to do a head mount for me. I cleaned up the skull and had it measured at 19 11/16. (still unofficial) A very nice first bear indeed. Gives me something to be thankful for, as well as a benchmark to beat in the future!! I was telling Clem afterwards that the little prayer we said before going into the stand must have helped me out also. (smile)
I do not enjoy telling the story about wounding a bear, even though it is an experience that will always be with me. I tell it especially for people that think hunting bears is easy or there is no challenge to it. It took me 13 years give or take a few that I didn't hunt, to get a nice bear and make a nice shot. I'm not saying that it normally takes that long or that I couldn't have done it sooner. Just telling that story calls to mind the fact that we should never underestimate how tough or how smart these animals can be. Even if one time it all comes together so easily, it could fall apart just as much so. Also how much it helps to have a partner to go along or at least someone to ask advise and quiz with all the questions we have. Experience is the best, and alot of experience comes from making mistakes. But some can come from being with someone who has already been there and done that.
I will be out again next year and hopefully every year from here on in. Maybe one day be able to help out that younger hunter like my uncles or Clem did for me! And maybe they can learn from my mistakes and experiences in the field.
Note for Saskbowhunters: As far as I know, every single person in this story, is or was a member of Saskbowhunters Assn.. Kind of neat I think!