A Quebec Spring Bear Hunt
This is the day to day account of our Canadian Bear Hunt. The hunt takes place in northern Quebec, on the Gouin Reservoir. The Gouin is sixty miles long and forty miles wide. It is dotted with islands and sandy beaches, and surrounded by complete and total wilderness. My three partners on this hunt are John Carney, Ralph Shaw, and Big Mike Martinez. All are experienced whitetail hunters who share the common bond of love of nature.
We left my home in the Adirondack Mts. of northern New York on Sat. June 14 at 8am. We headed north pulling a trailer full of gear with dreams of big bears and good fishing. The first stop would be Plattsburgh N.Y., so Ralph could exchange some money from American to Canadian. I've learned from past trips it pays to have Canadian money when you head into the bush.
That done we proceeded north to the border crossing in Champlain N.Y. With a little paperwork and $50 each to bring our guns into Canada, we were on our way again in a short time. This was going to be a fun ride listening to the old war stories of past trips. My name is Art and I was the driver with John riding shotgun, Ralph and Mike in the back.
After four hours, and many stories, we pulled into the parking lot of the Comfort Inn in Mont Laurier. This was the last town before entering the bush for the last leg of our journey. It was now about 3:30 in the afternoon. We had dinner, looked the town over, and turned in early. After a good nights sleep, and breakfast, we continued north to the turnoff for Parent. We will now be riding on dirt roads for the next 200 miles. Four hours later, we pulled into the Shell Gas Station in Parent for gas and to call the outfitter. We still have 50 miles to reach the outfitter. All are in good spirits and ready to start the hunt.
We arrived on the banks of the Great Gouin at about 12:30 to find our guide waiting. His name was Red and he was a happy fellow who spoke no English at all. Very warm and friendly, made us feel welcome. The camp is called Pointe Aux Dores (Walleye Point) and is located on an island. This is a fishing camp where the Pike fishing is second to none. All gear had to be off loaded and reloaded onto a boat to cross over to the island.
We were welcomed by the outfitter, Roger Moran, who also helped us off load and settle in. The cabin was very clean, and comfortable, gave me a good feeling about things to come. It had a good-sized kitchen living room combination, two bedrooms, each with four bunks. The backside faced the lake with great views. Everyone helped put the kitchen together and food away for the week ahead. It was now time to head down to the main lodge to settle up, and buy our license.
Red (our guide) was anxious to show us our stands. Seems he had seen some nice bears on his trips to the bait piles. We decided to hunt that evening, went back to change into hunting gear. We headed out in three boats following Red down the lake to the first stand. The sandy beaches and lush green forests were something to see. The boats are heavy wooden, with new 10 hp motors. This seemed to be a good combination for this big lake. He had positioned the first stand in the far back corner of a small bay. The setting got everyone's attention as it was perfect. It was located about 100 yards from the water, in a stand of pines. John was first to say I will take this spot. The stand was built about 8 foot high with lots of room for a chair. The location was about 3 miles from the main camp. As John headed off towards his stand we pulled out and headed back down the lake to the second stand.
Another 3 or 4 miles and we pulled into a back bay, which looked better than the first. I thought out loud, what a spot. Another well built stand with lots of room. The bait pile was located about 70 yards from the stand. That met with my approval as it made for shooting without the smell of the bait pile. Because this is a fishing camp, heads, skins, and inners are used for bait. I stayed there as Red and Mike headed out to find the next stand. Mike and I wished each other luck as he headed out to find his stand. I remember the big smile on his face as he gave me the thumbs up sign.
The first evening was quiet for me with lots of bugs but no sign of the bears. Thank goodness for head nets and light rubber gloves. Sitting there in my stand it didn't take long to realize this was a true wilderness adventure. I was one with nature, total peace and quiet. After about 3 hours, I decided to take my boat and head back up lake to try and find John. There are so many bays and such an irregular shoreline that it could take a few minutes to locate him. I had picked out a few land marks on the trip down so going back was no problem.
Pulling into the bay, I saw John coming down from his stand. He entered the boat and related how happy he was to be there. Such a spot had to yield a big bear. It was about a 15-minute ride back to camp, to put the boat up for the night. Ralph was tired from the trip, and stayed behind at camp. We arrived back in the cabin to tell Ralph what good spots we had. We had a sandwich and talked of what we would do the next day when Big Mike walked through the door with that big smile still on his face. He said are you guys going to help take the bear out of my boat or what? So it had started, the hunt in Canada had begum with a score. Mike had shot a male he thought to be about 220 lbs.
We all walked with excitement down to see Mike's bear and take some pictures. Arriving at the boat, it was easy to see he had underestimated its size. Much closer to three hundred than two. He had a beautiful bear, thick coat,and big head. How he ever managed to haul it out alone was beyond me. We all took pictures, the guide and outfitter were happy as well. What a fine start we were off to. All would have trouble sleeping tonight.
First light comes early in northern Quebec, around 4am. By 4:30, I had the coffee on, and one by one out they came out of their bags for that first cup. After a light breakfast, we were making plans on how we would hunt that morning. Ralph, John, and I would hunt, Mike would fish the rest of the week, and help us out with transportation. We had some wind and I knew the lake would be cutting up some.
By 6am we were headed down lake to our stands. I dropped John off first and then had to cross a patch of big open water where the lake was rough. Took an extra 10 minutes on this morning. Arriving at my bay, I watched a Moose feeding in the water. Climbing into the stand, I could see the bait was hit overnight. I did not have the wind, but sat for about three hours anyway. I could hear branches breaking on the hill behind the bait but nothing came out. Back up the lake for John, and back to camp for lunch. John had no luck either, but loved the country. We had lunch and by three were headed back for more. Red had rebaited in late morning, untouched when we arrived. Eight o'clock came and back for John. Again John saw nothing, bait untouched.
Back at camp Ralph came in and had fired three shots. He hunts with a heavy brush gun, seems the bear was out too far walking the shoreline. Nothing down, but excitement over Ralph's sighting. Ralph was hunting the same stand where Mike had taken his bear. Someone had given it the name Fantasy Island, as it was indeed an island. Mike came in with some fish, one a five pound walleye, having the time of his life. We had a nice dinner, cleaned up and turned in.
Wind again for the second straight day. Went to the stands a little later this morning, arriving at John's stand about 9am. Exiting the boat in a hurry John managed to step in some deep mud and ended up sitting in some mighty cold water. However being the trooper he is, refused to return and change, eager to reach his stand and hunt. For the rest of the trip he would have to take much heat over that move.
About 10 A.M. I had a nice bear walk out to the bait, a little small, maybe 150 lbs. He took some food and was on his way. An hour later another bear, this one smaller yet. Very exciting but not the big one I came for. After three hours, it was back for John, who had seen nothing. We decided to have the main meal of the day in the afternoon, as we wanted to hunt until dark. I had prepared and frozen most of the meals at home, made it easy at meal time.
We were back in our stand by 5pm with plans to hunt thru 8:30. It was a beautiful evening, but no bears. The pink sunsets of northern Quebec are something to see. I went back for John who also had no luck. On the way back to camp, we decided to make an adjustment and hunt from another stand, as the outfitter had several more.
Back at camp and changing our clothes when Ralph and Mike came in with another bear in their boat. Ralph got lucky and shot a nice male. Down to the boat for more pictures and story telling. Two nice bears in three days, already a good hunt. Seems Ralph had seen several and picked the one he wanted.
The outfitter, with two bears to keep cold was now running the generator all night. Red wanted us to try what he called the road stand, as it was not on the lake, but the road on the way in. We decided John would take the road stand and I would try my luck on Fantasy Island. Red knew there must be a big sow there, as only boars had been taken. This was turning out to be a very exciting hunt. I had turned in about 10:30 when Red came over to talk with us. John was still up and let him in.
The next 30 minutes I will never forget. Red, trying to speak English, invented a new language. John, trying to speak French was just as bad. I cannot remember when I laughed any harder. Even with the language barrier, a friendship had formed. After Red left, John said I did not understand one thing he said. Don't worry John, he didn't understand you either. It is a good thing that Roger (the outfitter) speaks fairly good English.
We had to hunt our old stands one last time as we had both left chairs there. Back down the lake on a beautiful morning. We've had great weather on this hunt. No luck on this morning, but the lake had calmed down with the lack of wind. Back at camp to prepare our main meal and talk over the change of stands for the evening hunt. The road stand John would hunt was five miles away. Rogers brother Jil would take John out and return at 8:30 for him. I was to take my first watch on Fantacy Island.
It was 6:30 when I heard the echo of John's Browning BAR 338 Win Mag. He's very fond of that Belgium Browning. It was a long way off, but I knew it must be John. After three hours I was returning empty handed, but full of hope for John. It was only the forth day of a seven day hunt, all was going well. Heading back out of my bay I ran into Mike who was fishing near by and also heard John's shot.
The lake was rough again as the wind had picked up. I followed in Mike's wake, made for better ride. We arrived back at camp the same time John and Jil were pulling in. John had seen four, and taken another nice boar. The outfitter and guide were happy knowing they had done their job, and happy we were doing ours. Sitting in camp after the bear had been taken care of, reflecting on what a great hunt its been. Four days down and three bears to show for it. The only thing bigger then the bears were the fish stories Mike had to tell. They all had a good time busting on me that evening. I told them I've saved the best for last, and good things come to those who wait. I hoped.
I slept in on day five and rolled out of my bag about 5:30, that's late for me. It was a nice morning and I decided to skip the morning hunt and relax with the guys. I took my camera and cup of coffee and walked the beaches taking pictures. This place has some of the best sandy beaches anywhere. Listening to the Loons and taking pictures was a great way to spend a few hours. We all hung out at camp talking about the hunt, the area, how enjoyable it was. After a late afternoon dinner it was time to get dressed and head back to Fantasy Island for another go.
As I pulled the boat up on shore I heard the sound of the plastic pails going over at the bait pile. I took the Dakota out of the case, loaded quickly, and looked around the corner to see what looked like a good sized bear heading into the pines. I took another route to my stand, so as not to disturb the bait pile. Climbing into my stand I looked at my watch, it was 6pm. The first hour passed quickly with no bears. I heard the chatter of a red squirrel behind the bait and knew it wasn't I he was upset with. A few minutes later out walked a beautiful bear, 300 pound class. He turned right to walk to the bait and the shot was off. Within a few seconds it was over and I had my bear, yet another boar. What a hunt this had been. Only Thursday and we all had filled out. I attemped to pull him out, no way. It all happined so quickly I still had my life vest on, never had a chance to take it off. After offloading and casing my gun, headed the boat out of the bay and back toward camp for help. Looking back at land I thought this truly was Fantasy Island.
Red was on the lakeshore when I arrived at the lodge. He had heard the shot and was waiting for me. I don't know what he said but could understand the words "big on"e. I said yes, big one, and he was in his boat and headed for my bear. Walking through the door of camp an hour early got everyones attention. They didn't have time to ask, I said big one, and Mike replied lets go, we have lots of day light left. With Red already on his way Mike and I would be all that's needed to bring the bear back. By the time we arrived Red had the bear tied off and ready to pull out. We put him in the boat, took a few pictures and were on our way. Four bear in five days and two days left for fishing. This place is a sportsmans paradise that is very well run by this outfitter and his fine staff. We are already talking about a return visit for Moose hunting and fishing combo. Us whitetail hunters will long remember our vacation in the Canadian wilds.