IN CANADA - MAY 2003
Gary, my brother, had been wanting me to
go hunting with him for quite a while. But I could never really afford to go.
This year, though, for Christmas, Lora gave me the money to go hunting with
him. This hunt was originally going to be Elk or Caribou, but that was still
too expensive, and then the outfitter Gary hunts with offered him a really good
deal. It turns out they had far too many bear in their area due in part to a
large forest fire near them. So, they needed to cut down on the numbers to
avoid overpopulation and starvation. So I was able to go hunting after all. I
saved up the money for the plane ticket and other expenses and Lora paid the
outfitter fees for the hunt. Here is my journal from the hunt, along with some
pictures (see the links to the pictures at right).
9 MAY 2003
up late finishing some work on customer webpages. Still, I got to the airport
early - and it's a good thing because the line to get thru security wrapped
around the inside of the terminal! The flights were easy enough - I've traveled
quite a bit with work on other trips that I don't notice them much any more. On
the first flight to Minneapolis I met an older couple on their way to Canada to
look at some property. Second flight I met a Mennonite couple on their way to a
When I arrived at the airport in Fort McMurray, there were some
other hunters there, but I didn't realize they were part of my hunting group
(Gary was arriving much later than me), and I didn't go with them. Turns out I
should have. The person who picked up the hunters apparently didn't realize I
was with them, proably because I didn't have a gun or bow case. Oh well. I
called the outfitter and Debbie McKinnon came to pick me up. Got to the Bed and
Breakfast (Chez Dube) and
settled in to relax until Gary arrived. The B&B is very nice, with wood
floors and spacious rooms. Very comfortable. There's a small park out back with
a pond, walking trails, basketball and volleyball courts, and a skate park. I
walked around there for a little while and then headed back to explore the
B&B some more. The have a pool table downstairs!
Gary and his friend
Joe got in and we went to dinner. All of us had steak and king crab. Yum! After
dinner we went to a local casino and we spent the evening playing blackjack.
Joe and Gary each won $200 (Canadian), and I won $240. That was fun, I'll have
to do that again sometime.
10 MAY 2003
Got up and
had breakfast, a real nice one (this B&B is nice), shot some pool, and
waited for the outfitter to arrive. They came in about 1000 and we loaded up
the trucks and drove to the camp. It's pretty nice here, huge canvas tents with
wood platform floors and wood-burning stoves, Wood platform beds with
mattresses. Dale and Debbie McKinnon are really nice people, and we got to meet
their son and daughter - Daniel and Jenna. Lloy is the camp cook, and she's
Joe pulled out the rifle I will be using and I took it outside to
shoot. It's a 7mm stainless steel with a synthetic stock, muzzle brake, and a
nice scope. We set up a target about 40 yards away and I took three shots. The
first was good, a little high but pretty much on target. The second was way
high and I barely hit the target (oops). The third was dead on. It's a nice
rifle, and with the muzzle brake it doesn't kick much. We settled up the final
bills and waited for the guides to come in and take us out to the hunting
sites. We got introduced to Lard Butt, the camp mascot. Lloy takes leftover
food and puts it into a bird feeder hanging on a tree near the mess tent. Lard
Butt, a squirrel, shows up and eats that food - and they say that by the time
the 5-week hunting season is over, he can barley make it in and out of the
My guide's name is Dan and he's pretty nice. We drove a long
ways and then got on the quad for a butt-busting 7.5 mile ride into the brush
to the first hunting site. I'm a bit nervous, since for one thing I've never
hunted big game before (only squirrel and deer) and for another, we're on the
ground. No tree stand for this site yet. We laid there for a long time being
chewed on by mosquitos and didn't see any bears. We did see what we think are
two wolves, but they were a long ways off and all we really saw were flashes of
grey. Nothing to shoot at, unfortunately. We left and rode back to camp (my
butt is still sore) and compared notes with the others. Joe didn't see any
bears, and Gary saw one bear and then another with four cubs. They say it's
rare to see four cubs with one sow. Dinner was very good! I played gin with
Gary for a while (we ended up about even) then he taught me something about the
strategy for playing blackjack.
11 MAY 2003
Got up late
and had breakfast, and played blackjack with Gary and Joe for a while. We used
wooden matchsticks for money (one dollar each, with a max bid of two per hand).
I won $32 from them, then I went out for a long walk. It sure is nice up here,
and so far the weather has been wonderful! I came back and was surprised to
find money on my bunk. It turns out that we were actually playing blackjack for
We left about 1600 for the bait site. Not so far of a drive this
time (thank goodness!). This was a good site with a nice clear view of the
bait. They use beaver carcasses hung from crossbeams and also barrels of
cookies (yes, regular cookies like Nilla Wafers). Not too many mosquitos this
time, but the wind was blowing all the time until about 2130. Didn't see any
bears but I think I heard one moving around behind me. Saw several woodpeckers
(red-headed and one other kind), a few red squirrels, and a small brown bird.
Also heard some grouse thrumming. That's a really weird sound - it sounded like
someone running a chainsaw. Once of the squirrels ran up into the tree next to
me and checked me out. Dan came and got me about 2200 and took me back to camp.
He was disappointed that I hadn't seen anything.
Joe has a video of
three bears he saw but didn't shoot. One of the other hunters, Ed, shot his
first bear of the week. The other, Doug, didn't see anything. Gary, on the
other hand, shot his quota tonight - two bears! He had five bears at his stand,
and they put on quite a show. One sow had two cubs with her, and one of the
cubs came up his tree. Just as that happened, a big boar (male black bear) came
into the clearing and started looking for the cubs. The males will kill the
cubs to make the female go into heat. The females won't go into heat if they
have cubs. Anyway, the sow chased the boar off and while they were running
around in the woods, the cub in Gary's tree climbed down and went up another
tree. The boar came back and charged at Gary's tree, thinking there was a cub
still up there. The sow chased him away again. He came back a second time and
this time started climbing the tree. The sow charged and crashed into him,
knocking him off of the tree. And off they went thru the woods again. The third
time he came back, Gary decided he'd seen enough and shot him. After everyone
was back in camp and telling stories, we all had dinner, and then Gary, Joe,
and I stayed up until about 0200 playing blackjack. I won $11 and Gary won $22.
12 MAY 2003
again (this is becoming a habit). Lazed around camp and napped between
breakfast and lunch. Helped Gary measure his bears, took some pictures, and
watched the guides start to skin them. I got some good pictures of Ed with his
bear and Gary with his two. Maybe my luck will turn tonight. Gary's going to go
out with me and help me out. Another guide has agreed to let me and Gary sit at
one of his sites tonight. They'll put up a second tree stand for Gary. Since
Gary already has his limit of two bears, all he can do is hunt wolf, sit around
camp, or take pictures. We'll see what happens. It's really warm today - I'd
guess in the mid 70s. Wasn't all that cold last night either. Some breeze at
camp, hopefully there won't be much at the bait site. Apparently the bears
don't like a stiff wind
Gary sat right next to me in the same tree.
They didn't have two trees close enough together, so the guides put up another
stand. About a half hour after we arrived, Gary grabbed my leg and motioned for
me to get my gun ready. A few seconds later, a bear walked into the clearing!
It was a small bear, and although it came up to above the second ring on the
cookie barrel (their way of judging the size of bears), it was all leg and Gary
said it wasn't a good bear to shoot - too young. So we sat and watched it. Gary
got his video camera out and started shooting. He entertained us for about 45
minutes. He got up on the ridge pole and tried to pull the beaver up, but he
just wasn't strong enough. Almost fell off twice - it's amazing how dexterous
those bears are. He eventually gave up ont he beaver and decided to have some
cookies. He eventually wandered off. There were lots of squirrels out, and they
also entertained us - chasing each other around, and up and down trees. They
also ran up and took cookes from the barrels. We also had two huge owls fly
through the site. Impressive!
The same bear (nice white blaze on his
chest, too) came back two more times before it got dark and the guides arrived
to take us back to camp. A very entertaining evening, but we only saw the one
bear. I got to put the rifle scope on the bear several times, though, and I got
a feel for what it was like to have a bear nearby and what to look for.
Altogether a very good night. Nobody else shot a bear tonight, but Ed took a
shot at a wolf and missed. Joe saw two small bears. We played blackjack until
the wee hours again. I won $9 and Gary won a lot (I don't remember how much).
Poor Joe again.
13 MAY 2003
Got up kinda
early, I couldn't sleep for some reason. Went into the dining tent and played
some solitaire until Gary wandered in and we played some rummy for a while.
After breakfast we played blackjack again and this time I did terrible. Ended
up owing Gary $26. Oh well, win some lose some. Took a nap after sitting
outside in my shorts and t-shirt and reading a book (it's wark again today!).
Another wonderful day, but a little cloudy with a strong wind in
Dan took me out to my site later, and it was very hemmed in with
trees up close. Two beavers on the pole and one cookie drum. The other drum had
been turned over and the top ripped off. Spent the evening being bored (not
even many squirrels) and eaten alive by mosquitos. I couldn't even win on
Gary's electronic blackjack game! The mosquitos got so bad I put on a jacket I
had borrowed from Gary and pulled the hood up so all I had was a small space to
see out of. I was frustrated and ready to go.
About 2130 I saw a flash
of black to the right of the bait area. A bear! I pulled up the rifle after
making sure it was a bear, and put the scope on him. He was coming in slowly,
sniffing the air. He finally decided to walk into the site. My heart was racing
and my breathing was rapid - I could hardly keep the rifle steady! As he walked
into the site, all I could see through the scope was hair. I didn't even think
to lower the rifle to see how big he was (if I had, though, I might not have
gotten the shot - I would have been even more nervous). The bear was only about
30 yards away, so the scope isn't very helpful that close. I couldn't tell how
big he was, and I was so nervous I didn't want to let him get to the cookie
barrel. I put the crosshairs on his front leg and then moved them back towards
the body a little and squeezed the trigger. Bam!
I lowered the rifle
just in time to see him shake his whole body like a wet dog, then take off into
the woods. I could hear him crashing through the heavy brush. I didn't even
have time to chamber a new round! I knew I hit him, but I didn't know how good
the shot was. I hoped I didn't just wound him. About 15 seconds later, I heard
two deep moans from up on the hill, then silence. My heart is still racing! I
heard other crashing sounds off to my left after I shot, so I think there was
another bear there (later in the week, a guide went to this site to check the
bait and saw a sow with two blonde colored cubs).
Dan came in with his
friend Garrett about a half hour later. I told them I shot one and we went off
in search of him. It was getting really dark, and we were a little
apprehensive. Searching for a shot bear after dark isn't the smartest thing in
the world to do, but after I told Dan about the moaning sounds, he figured it
was dead. Garrett had his shotgun and I had my rifle. After a little search, we
saw the shimmer of black fur. When we finally got to the bear, Dan's first
words were "Wow! What a hog! That's a great bear!" The bear looked really big
laying there on the ground. No worries about just wounding him - a clean shot
all the way through the body. Garrett went to get his quad so we could haul him
back to camp. Dale McKinnon doesn't like for the guides to bring in large
bears, but Ed's bear from yesterday got chewed by a wolf, and I didn't want
that to happen to mine. So I asked Dan to get him out of the woods.
couldn't lift the bear onto the quad, so Garrett ran the winch cable to a tree
and tipped the quad back onto it's butt. We rolled the bear to the quad and
attached it with straps. Then Garrett activated the winch and got the quad back
onto all four wheels. We eventually got back to camp and I got to show off my
bear. Everyone was real impressed - it's bigger than anything else brought in
so far and bigger than many of them have even seen. When Gary saw it he said
"What a monster!" If doesn't even fit on the skinning table! I am very happy
now - all of the boredom and mosquitos are now worth every minute.
comes in a little bit later with a monster bear of his own. Two on one night!
It's thicker in the body than my bear, but not as long. We nicknamed it the
"Kegger Bear" because it is so fat in the body it looks like it swallowed a
keg. Dale will love it when he arrives in camp tomorrow morning. One more thing
- Gary was hunting wolf and got off a shot at one about 300 yards or so away
but missed. After lots of examinig the bears by flashlight, we had a great
dinner and played blackjack for a while. I quit $16 ahead. Time for bed at
about 0200. A bunch of the guys were still playing, but I'm bushed - and still
a bit keyed up all at the same time.
14 MAY 2003
Start of a
typical day. Up around 9 and in for breakfast. Played blackjack again and then
had lunch. During the morning we got some really goot pictures taked of the
bears from last night, then I helped the guides skin mine. It's a very
painstaking process. Dale was very happy for me and for Joe. A short nap after
lunch and it's off to hunt.
Once again I have a very good site, with
clear sight lines into the bait. But unfortunately no bears are out tonight.
Joe and his guide Leo come in and have a great story about the bear at Joe's
site. When they arrived, there was a bear just outside of the site! Just
sitting there looking at them. Leo got a beaver out and was going to try to
lure the bear into the site so Joe could get a shot, but the bear was watching
the guy with the weapon. Every time Joe moved, the bear would face him. Leo got
close, stood behind a tree, and held the beaver out for the bear. It ignored
him. So he tossed the beaver towards the bear. He said to Joe - "Be ready
because when the bear takes the beaver he'll turn broadside to you and you can
get a shot". But the bear had other plans - it walked up to the beaver, grabbed
it, and backed up straight away from Joe! When it reached a tree, it spun
around and took off through the woods. Knowing that the bear wouldn't come
back, Leo took off running after it! (Crazy guide!) He chased it through the
woods shouting and waving his arms. Eventually he stepped on a branch and it
broke with a loud crack. The bear dropped the beaver and went a little farther
before turning around and facing him. Leo got the beaver and headed back to the
site - with the bear following him. The bear settled into a shallow depression
with trees all around and proceeded to go to sleep. He stayed there the whole
night! Turning over every now and then, but never presenting Joe (who only had
a bow) with a good shot.
Leo arrived to take Joe back, and as they left
the bear came out of hiding and was heading for the beaver. Gary didn't see any
wolves tonight. Doug came in very late tonight - he got his bear! It's a pretty
nice one. We'll take some pictures tomorrow.
Couldn't sleep again this morning so I got up "early".
Waited around in the mess tent for the others, then we had a great breakfast of
pancakes. Lloy sure can cook! After breakfast we went up and took pictures of
Doug's bear. Came back down and played blackjack until lunch. I didn't do real
well, only ended up $4 ahead. Oh well.
Left early for hunting after
taking a bunch of pictures of the camp. We arrived at the bait site after
another long quad ride and while I got set up to go up the tree, Dan stood up
the cookie barrel. The beaver was almost gone, and I found out later the cookie
barrel was empty. Dan said it had been half full last night. I got set up and
Dan left. Mosquitos weren't too bad and there was a bit of small game -
squirrels and Camp Robber birds. Got a few good pictures (I hope) of a
red-headed woodpecker. About 1920 or so I was getting ready to adjust my seat
again when I looked around to my right and saw a bear!
I turned back
around and tried to control my heartbeat and breathing. I didn't do so well. I
heard a slight rustle of leaves and then a few quick steps and a grunt. I
didn't turn because I didn't want to spook the bear. A few more quick steps and
another grunt and I saw movement beside my tree. I glanced quickly down and saw
brown - oh yes! A brown bear! Nobody else had yet seen a colored bear. He
stopped under my tree and looked up at me, then put his front paws on the tree.
he knew I was there. After a few seconds, he dropped back down. I was relieved
because I couldn't get my rifle around without a lot of movement, and I didn't
want to have to try to talk him down if he decided to climb up the tree. He
walked over to another tree not too far away, and repeated the process. He was
trying to figure things out. I was able to get a good look at him and he looked
really good. Nice coat, good size. Not real big, but big enough - and besides
that he's a brown!
He comes back to my tree and this time on the left
side. Since he's been watching me the whole time, I don't have the rifle up
yet. He puts his paws up on the tree and looks at me again. After a few seconds
he drops down and walks around to the front of the tree and puts his paws up on
the tree again, looking at me through the bottom of the stand. He still hasn't
tried to climb the tree, but I figured he wasn't going to go to the bait until
he figured out what I was. So, as soon as he turned away from me, I got the
rifle up to my shoulder, put the scope on his back between the shoulder blades,
and as soon as I had a clean shot I took it. He dropped straight down to the
ground and laid there twitching.
Dan had told me the first day that if I
shot a bear and it still moved, I needed to keep shooting until he stopped. So,
I shot him again. This time he stopped moving. Dan arrived about 2200 to pick
me up, and as soon as he got in he saw the bear laying there. After filling the
empty cookie barrel from the one he brought with him, we loaded the bear on the
quad, took a few pictures, and headed back to camp. It's a long ride out, but
both of us are happy now so it wasn't too bad.
Garrett called on Dan's
cell phone as soon as we got the quad on the truck, so I got to tell Garrett
about by brown bear. He was very happy to hear that I got my second bear. We
got back to camp and took my bear to the skinning tent, then I went to the mess
tent gave everyone the thumbs up. They followed me to the skinning tent and
took a good look at the bear. We took some pictures and the guides started
skinning it right away. We were leaving in the morning, so they had to get it
skinned and salted as soon as possible.
Joe had another good story - he
got to his bait site and that bear from last night was still there asleep. He
still didn't have a shot with the bow, so he got his rifle and shot it with
that. Joe's day ended early! Everything's done now, and it's about 0200. I'm
all packed up and ready to go, and we'll be leaving about 0400 for the airport.
Maybe I'll stay up, I don't know.
16 MAY 2003
I do get a
little sleep and we leave for the airport. We all get on our flights and make
it home safe and sound. My bag doesn't, though, so the airline brings it to me
the next morning. But the bear skins and skulls arrive with me. I get them
shipped out to Gary the next morning so he can send them off to be taken care
of. The skulls will be cleaned by beetles and then polished. The skins go to
the tanners. The brown bear will be a rug, and I'm hoping to get the black bear
mounted in a full walking mount.