The Spotted Dragon 
  The Hunt  
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

I stayed 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 wedding.

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 great.

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 feeder.

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 money!

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. Poor Joe.

12 MAY 2003
Late morning 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 camp.

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.

We 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.

Joe 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.

15 MAY 2003
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.

Chez Dube
The Chez Dube
The Park
The Park
Camp Tents
Camp Tents
My Bunk in the Tent
My Bunk
Lloy, Camp Cook
Lloy, Our Cook
Lard Butt
Lard Butt
Ed's Bear
Ed and his Bear
One of Gary's Bears
Gary and a Bear
Both of Gary's Bears
Gary and his 2 Bears
Bait Site
A Bait Site
Dale's Bear
My First Bear!
Dale and Gary with Dale's Bear
Me and Gary with Bear
Joe's Bear
Joe and Kegger Bear
Dale and Joe and Bears
Me and Joe and Bears
Doug's Bear
Doug and his Bear
Brown Bear
My Brown Bear
Dale and Brown Bear
Me and Brown Bear