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Big Black Bear

By Earl Gossett

I woke up with excitement that August morning. After months of planning, I was going to Canada on a black bear hunting trip. We decided to hunt the White River area in Ontario with Superior Bear Outfitters which is seven hundred plus miles north of Richwood, Kentucky.  

I hurriedly loaded the truck with some last minute items. I then drove to the Waffle House in Richwood, Kentucky to meet with the other members of my hunting party at 6:00 AM. Included in my hunting party was Ed Alari, Joe Crowdus, Nathan King, Larry Burkhart, Greg Bickle, Cameraman Shawn Hencye and Tim Farmer the host of the outdoor show Kentucky Afield. (Kentucky Afield is the oldest outdoor show on TV with over fifty years of top notch outdoor adventure).  

Quickly, we ate breakfast then headed north on I-75.  In Gaylord, Michigan we decided to stop and eat dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, the Gobbler. It is a great place to relax and have an outstanding turkey dinner. From there, we headed north over the Mackinaw bridge to Sault Ste Marie to buy some groceries for camp. We entered Canada short of some of our groceries since we learned the hard way that you can’t bring potatoes into Canada.  

We purchased our bear tags then headed north on route 17 to our destination. We made great time as we arrived at White Lake Lodge around 10:30. This was to be our home and base camp for the next week. The cabins included cooking pots and pans, stove, refrigerator and TV to watch reruns of Kentucky Afield.  After unloading the trucks, we headed for bed. It had been a long drive from the Kentucky hills. I fell asleep thinking of the large bear I was going to harvest.  

The next
morning, everyone got up around 8:00am. It was my turn to make breakfast for all the guys. So, I made coffee then set the table and brought out the cereal.  We ate quickly then unpacked and tuned our bows while we waited for Mike Boudreau, our guide for the week. Mr. Mike we ended up calling him, and, if you ever met Mr. Mike, you would understand why. He arrived at the cabin around 10:00 am.  We finished filling out the paper work Mr. Mike had given us, as we quickly dressed in our hunting clothes.    

Mr. Mike took us each to our stands and baited the sets while we checked our stands before he left. Ed was the first to get into his stand, followed by Joe. Next Tim and Shawn were set up in one of the larger stands set up for filming. Since both Tim and I were creating a film for our respective shows on hunting Black Bear with Superior Bear Outfitters, it was my turn to sit this round out. Hopefully, Tim would shoot one the first night then it would be my turn to harvest a big old Black Bear on camera.  

After they were set up, the rest of us decided to help Mr. Mike bait the rest of the stands.  We went on to bait five more sets. Larry, Greg and Nathan were following us as we traveled down an old logging road. We drove through a river where the water was up to the bottom of the doors of our trucks. Four wheel drive is a great invention, I thought has we bounced through the river to the other side. A minivan just wouldn’t cut it out here in the Canadian bush.

We finished checking the stands and baited them for Larry, Greg and Nathan. I wished each of them good luck and told them to shoot straight. Mike took me back to camp. I then headed for the lake to shoot my Kodak bow, warm up my shooting eye for tomorrow’s hunt, and hopefully receive a call from one of my buddies that they had scored. I spent the rest of the afternoon writing in my field notes and listening to a pair of
loons in the lake as the sun was setting.  

Since the sun was starting to set, I decided to drive towards the stands.  Joe and Ed were the first to appear on the road. “Well what did you see guys?” I asked. “Nothing” they both replied. Twenty minutes later, Tim and Shawn appeared on the road. “Well, where is the bear?” I asked, leaning out the trucks window. Both Tim and Shawn proceeded to explain how they had just got up into the stand and right underneath a large bear weighing about two hundred fifty pounds came lumbering by. Shawn didn’t even have the camera out of the case yet. So, even if Tim’s bow was ready he wouldn’t have been able to take the shot.   Shawn had slowly tried to get the camera out of bag and ready so Tim could take the shot. However, the bear had different ideas and took off running just as Tim was drawing his bow back. A few minutes later, Tim and Shawn heard something behind them.  A larger bear walks right underneath the stand less than 15 yards away. This time, Shawn’s camera was up and rolling. Tim takes careful aim at the large burin and releases the arrow. There is a loud popping noise as the arrow sails high over bears back. The bear, not liking the sound of things, takes off through the woods bulldozing over large saplings as he rumbles along. Tim looked over at Shawn and shook his head in disbelief. With all the excitement happening all at once, Tim never got the chance to check shooting lanes. His upper bow cam had hit a limb. This can happen to any of us.     

Filming a hunt is hard.  Everything needs to be place in order to be successful with both the camera and the hunt itself.   

I drove back to the cabin with Tim, Shawn, Joe and Ed riding in my truck. The rest of the crew should be coming back to camp soon, all of us thought. Tim cooked some clam chowder for dinner. You could tell he was playing that scenario in his mind over and over about the bear he missed early in the day.  Finally, after waiting an hour for the rest of the guys we decided to eat. It was late and with Greg, Nathan and Larry not returning, we thought something might have gone wrong.  

It was almost midnight when we headed out of the cabin to look for them. Just as we were headed over to Mr. Mike’s house, we saw truck lights coming down the road towards us. It was the rest of our hunting party.
Greg had shot a real nice bear and with all the excitement he had driven right past the turn off from the logging road. They had been driving around for hours. We were all excited and happy that Greg had harvested his first Black Bear. Day one had been a success!  

The next day we woke up around 8:00am. Joe made some breakfast burritos for everyone. We ate quickly then headed outside to fine tune our skills on a Delta bear target that I had brought. Tim and Shawn filmed us shooting for the video. After the filming we headed to Mike’s house to retrieve the bear bait we needed for today’s hunt. Mike helped Greg take care of his bear and then they headed into White River to have the bear butchered and frozen for the return trip home.  

We checked our bait sets from the pervious day and found we had only two sets the bears had not hit. Superior Bear Outfitters does a fantastic job of getting you on to game. In fact, this is my fourth trip to hunt with Mr. Mike and his guides. They start baiting your sets three months before you arrive at camp. When you meet with Mr. Mike on your first day of your hunt, he will have a status sheet telling you the days your sets were hit and the size of the bear feeding on them. Plus, he only allows the sets to be hunted one time a year. He guarantees that no one has been hunting in your area.  

Everyone headed for their stands. Since Tim hadn’t arrowed a bear yet, I went back to the lake with my radio. I was sitting by the lake thinking what a beautiful day God had given us to hunt in when my radio came on. It was Ed. He had just missed a shot at a good sized bear. He wanted to know if it might come back. I explained to Ed that it was a possibility, since that wasn’t the only bear feeding on his set.  I told him he should stay there until dark.  

I left to pick up Ed as darkness settled in. He was still excited about his close encounter of the Bear kind. Just as I was picking up Ed, Tim and Shawn drove up. “Earl we didn’t see a bear all day long” Tim said. “Sorry, you’ll see one” I replied. Both Tim and Shawn were exhausted as they had been out all day trying to entice a bear to come within shooting range. It was Tim’s turn to cook so he and Shawn headed back to the cabin.  

Ed and I headed out to pick up Joe. He met us out on the logging road and explained that he hadn’t seen a bear either.  He had heard one
 popping his teeth . circling his stand just before darkness closed in. Bears do this when they feel threatened, just like a doe snorts under similar circumstances. I explained to Joe, Fred Bear once wrote, give a bear room to retreat and he will always take that route. However, if you corner him he will charge you every time.

We headed back to the cabin to eat some catfish and some homemade coleslaw. The dinner was great. We joked about the rest of party missing out on such great meal. Joe and I headed out to the lake and started a campfire. It was a beautiful star-filled night and the wolves were howling in the distance. I was starting to doze off when I glanced down at my watch. It was almost 1:00am and Nathan, Greg and Larry were still missing. We decided to head over to Mr. Mikes to see if maybe they had shot a bear.  We had just pulled into Mr. Mike’s cabin when they pulled in behind us. Larry had shot his very first black bear and was so happy. He could hardly tell the story of how it snuck in behind the stand before it had afforded him a shot. It wasn’t a P&Y record book bear but for a first bear it was great! Larry had hunted bears before but had never seen one. Another successful day of hunting!  

The following day we got up around 8:30am and ate a quick breakfast. We checked our bows then headed out to our
stands. I was really starting to get antsy because Tim hadn’t shot his bear yet and we were sharing the same cameraman.  I took Ed and Joe out to their stands. After dropping them off, I headed back to the lake to try some fishing. Ed decided not to hunt that evening and came back early to try some fishing.  He did manage to catch his first Northern Pike. We added that to some Walleye’s that some fishermen gave us and we had feast that night. I stopped fishing and started practicing with my bow until dark.  

Shawn had been calling me on the radio; however, his call was out of range. Ed and I headed back to pick Joe. Suddenly we heard Joe and Shawn talking about Tim's bear. I finally radioed Shawn and he told me that Tim had shot a large bear.  and needed help with it. Shawn was at Joe's Stand.  I hurriedly told them to meet me at Tim's stand. Shawn and Tim played back the film and from that we could tell Tim's shot had been a little low. Rather than trail the bear at night we decided to wait until morning. Tim's stand was next to a swamp so rather than spook or push the bear further
 into the swamp we decided to
wait.  We headed back to camp to tell Mr. Mike about Tim’s bear. Mike told us that he would help track the bear in the morning.  

Back at camp, Joe
told us how a bear had climbed into one of the fifty gallon drums used for the Bear bait as he was coming out of his stand to catch up with Shawn. Joe yelled at it to chase it away before could come down from the stand and head to the logging road. The bear had actually ran a short ways off then stood on his hind legs and watched him head to the road.  

The next day, Tim, Shawn and Mike headed out early to find the bear. Tim told me that Mr. Mike had trailed that bear even after it had rained lightly that night by pressing his hand down on the moss which acted like a sponge.  Each time Mike would press down blood would come up onto the moss. They trailed that bear for hundred yards like this until they found him. Tim was one happy hunter with his successful bear hunt on film. He had harvested a great trophy.    

Mike started to skin the bear out as we got ready to for the days hunt. Finally, it was my turn.  Tim was going to be filming me and Shawn was going hunting.   We sat on my stand until dark and didn’t see a thing. Reaching the truck, I called Joe on the radio. “Joe did you have any luck?” I asked.  “You need to come over here I tagged a big one” Joe replied with excitement.  We arrived at Joe’s stand. He was so excited he was shaking and could barely get out of his tree stand. We helped him down but he was still shaking. Tim and I told him to wait next to the tree. Forty yards away we found his bear. Joe had made a perfect lung shot. Ed’s stand was about fourteen miles away and he would have to wait until we field dressed and dragged Joe’s bear to the truck. We loaded his bear in the truck.  Joe’s excitement had abated some and he was able to tell us how a big sow had come from the road and started
popping its teeth. The big sow pushed over a bait drum grabbed some bait then headed off to the woods with it.  He thought the same bear had returned when he saw a tree moving. However, this time a Boar appeared. He started feeding in the bait can then headed for another one.  This presented him with a great broad side shot. He saw the arrow hit the bear squarely. After the shot, the bear started tearing up the brush and rolling around. Joe tried a second shot but it end up hitting a log.  

We picked up Ed and then headed to back to camp. We arrived at camp with Greg Nathan and Larry pulling in behind us. Nathan had a shot at a very large bear but shot too high. He said it would have been a P&Y bear for sure. We cleaned up, ate some dinner then made a campfire by the lake before we headed for bed. Another great day in the Canadian woods for everyone.  

Two more days to go till our hunt ended.  This time Shawn and I went with me to film. Again, we hunted hard all day but didn’t see a bear. When we got back out to the truck we learned that Ed had shot at a bear. It had been close to dark when the Getting the bait readybear came out of the swamp and headed towards the bait cans. Ed was nervous when he shot, and felt he had hit the bear a little high. We decided to wait until the next morning to trail the bear. A wounded bear can be extra dangerous in the darkness of night. We headed back to cabin and ate some dinner. During dinner, Nathan told us he had seen a bear but it never came in close enough to shoot.  

The final day of our hunt Tim and Shawn departed early. Tim had a seminar to do at a deer hunting expo back home in Kentucky. With Tim and Shawn gone Joe was designated my cameraman.  

We said our goodbyes and then headed out with Mr. Mike to Ed’s stand to look for his bear. Everyone searched hard.  We trailed
the bear for two hundred yards with very little blood found. We located his bed but there wasn’t any blood to be found. Mr. Mike decided that the arrow must have skimmed across the bears back and that the bear wouldn’t be hurting at all.  

I got ready for my last night of bear hunting. Somehow, I am always the last to get a shot, which has been my luck. Joe and I picked up the camera and bait for the set and headed back to my stand. We dropped off Ed and set up his bait.  

When we were headed back to my stand we heard one of the bait cans tip over.  So, Joe got the camera ready while I notched an arrow. Then we stalked up quietly until we reached the area around my stand. We could tell that a bear had been there from the way the bait can was tipped over. He must have heard us coming and took off.  We baited the area around my stand again and then Joe got the camera ready. That bear never came back.  Suddenly just before dark , I saw a large bear head poke out of the evergreens, look at the bait can, then lumber back into the woods out of range. It was getting dark as we backed up and headed for the truck. I thought to myself it had been a great adventure with my hunting buddies.  

Ed and I both struck out but we both agreed we would be back next year. We both agreed that few people would have the opportunity to get within ten yards of such a great creature.  Everyone had a hunt they would never forget.  

Happy trails & Good Bowhunting in the Deep Countree!  

Earl Gossett is the host of Traditional Bowhunters Journal an online TV show which is watched throughout the US and Canada as well
as around the world. He has over 30 year’s experience bow hunting.  

I’m not claiming to be an expert on black bear hunting; to me there was only one expert and that was legendary Fred Bear. But I have hunted black bear four times and have taken three very nice black bears with my bow.  

If you’re planning a Bear hunt you might find this list handy on what to bring:   BLACK BEAR HUNTING LIST!  
1-Last years hunting license or a copy of this year’s front & back  

2-Hunting Clothing. Bring light and medium weight clothing & rain suit. And you need an orange safety vest and hat to wear in and out from your hunting area; you need rubber boots so you don’t leave too much scent on the ground and a pair of heavy rubber gloves for baiting your hunting site.  

3- Personal hygiene items Soap & shampoo (unscented). Scent control is very important. A-Toothbrush & toothpaste & Razor for shaving with unscented soap. B- Toilet paper. C-Towel washed in unscented soap.  

4-Sleeping bag & pillow wash in unscented soap.  

5-Things you may want to bring:             

    A- two-way radio with a ten-mile range. 

    B- first-aid kit with your personal medication, a list of the meds to be used when crossing the border, and a prescription for any emergency medication you might need. 

    C- a range finder & binoculars if you need them.  You will be hunting in a very heavy evergreen forest. 

    D- a sharp hunting knife & sharpening stone. 

    E- scent-away spray make sure it is unscented i.e. no fresh earth scent. 

    F- cover up scent. Use pine scent only if you are hunting in an evergreen forest. 

    G- a tree-seat to sit on and your safety belt. H- Fishing gear if you want to go fishing after you get your bear. 

    I- camera & film and batteries. 

    J- flashlight
with batteries & bulbs.  

6-Bear spray it’s a good safety factor to have on a bear hunt always make sure its fresh check the date on the bottom of your can after three years it’s not reliable.  

7-Also, bring $400.00 in Canadian money for cabin rental, gas, eating at local dinners, cutting & packaging of your bear, and tipping your guide.  

Reminder: always check your tree stand before your guide leaves and wear your safety harness. Wear your hunter orange; it’s the law in Ontario.

Plus, check the game laws for the area you will be hunting in. Remember a bear’s nose is at least three times better than a deer’s nose.

Here’s a tip: When I bait my area, I always rub my rubber glove on trees and bushes to leave the bait scent on everything going to and from my truck.