Only three more days of hunting remained as I climbed into my stand. I had only seen one small bear so far, but remained hopeful as I knew my outfitter had a reputation for getting clients good bears. There were beaten down bear trails all around the bait site, and the bears had not been hunted all spring in this area. The cold weather front had finally cleared, and the outfitter and guides were working hard at enticing the bruins to the baits. Soon a decent size bear came in and worked at ripping the beaver carcass down for a meal. It was a good feeling to see a bear at the bait early in the evening and I hoped his great grandpa would come for a visit.
This hunt was with Cory Grant of All Terrain Bear Hunts, an outfitter I had heard a lot about over the years. My hunting buddy, Jon, and I took two other hunters, Jon’s friend, Fred, and my father-in-law, Al, to Thompson, Manitoba for what we hoped would be an unforgettable experience.
We chose to base our hunt out of Cory’s remote cabin on Partridge Crop Lake so we could enjoy being away from civilization, and get some fishing in instead of staying in town. The cabin had all the amenities and was much better than we could have anticipated. Everything was included; food (and a lot of it), electricity, running water, hot showers, full kitchen, boat and motor, comfortable beds with bedding and the list goes on.
Our hunt was the last week of June and we left 90-degree temperatures in Minnesota and arrived in Thompson to wind, rain and temps in the low 40s. It was the third day of our hunt before I was even hopeful to see a bear because of the bad weather from the time we had arrived. In fact, we chose not to hunt one day because of the rain and strong winds. The stands with the best activity were not accessible the first few days of the hunt because the heavy rains had made the roads impassable via truck or ATV. We did manage to get some fishing in and enjoyed fresh walleye for lunch a couple of days.
We were picked up each day by boat and taken to stands along the lake or taken back to the truck where we drove to other areas we could access with the ATV. They had a variety of stands to accommodate every type of hunter, and they even built a ground blind for Al at one bait.
They were pulling out all the tricks to entice bears to the baits as our hunt was almost half over and we had not even started yet. All Terrain Bear Hunts has plenty of baits spread over a huge area, many were very active and some had not been hunted yet.
Cory, Blake and Lorraine dragged beaver carcasses behind the ATVs and hung them up at some of our baits. Bacon was fried, honey burned, Bear Bomb cans set off and the nearby ground and bushes were sprayed with Bear Scents products. In addition, everything we touched was sprayed with a scent killer, and we all wore Scent-Lok clothing, something Cory highly recommends. They were serious about getting us our bears.
It was finally a good evening to hunt on the third day. Fred had a good bear come in, but it presented no shot as it looked to be more interested in finding a hot sow than the bait. Jon saw several bears, but the biggest bruin stayed hidden from his arrow by a barrel that was overturned by another bear earlier. I saw a small bear that was very nervous. He kept looking behind the bait, though nothing else showed.
Al was surprised how quietly a bear can appear. He had just scanned the area a moment earlier and nothing was there. Now a bear was nearing the bait. Not wanting to loose his opportunity, he raised his rifle and followed the bear in the scope until he felt he had a good shot. Al connected with the bear and it did not go far. It was a mature bruin, his first at age 71. After we arrived back at camp and heard the good news, we took some time to congratulate Al and take some pictures before the guides needed to get the bear out to be skinned, quartered and frozen.
We got up early the next morning and caught some more walleye for lunch. We loved our remote camp and enjoyed being away from civilization, the way a bear hunt should be. After a little relaxation, we took showers and got ready to go hunting. Al would be relaxing and fishing around the cabin. We had three more days and the weather was getting better, giving us more hope of seeing a trophy bear.
Cory is a smart outfitter with a lot of bear hunting experience. The bait I was going to had a stand that many bears were familiar with, so he put up a second stand for me to hunt out of that was well concealed, leaving the other one looking empty as it had all year.
When a decent size bear came in and kept me entertained, I decided to grab my new digital camera to take some photos. I suddenly realized I had forgot to put the battery back in; it was still charging back at the cabin. This proved to be a big let down as I had bears at the bait almost continually.
At one point there were no bears, then I heard footsteps on the trail behind my stand. I waited, but nothing appeared. I slowly looked, but could not see the trail while seated. I waited some more, then stood slowly to get a look around the tree only to see a big bear walking away. My heart sank. I should have waited longer as he probably caught my movement. One of the other bears returned, then he was pushed off the bait by a bigger one. I really wanted to get a better look at the big bruin that I hoped would return. After a while the bigger bear made a quick exit and I looked back on the trail again; nothing. I had remained standing as it was the only way to see the trail behind my stand and be prepared if the big bruin came back on the same trail.
I saw the big bear through the trees, he looked to be circling down wind and he looked huge. His belly looked like it was nearly touching the ground, and he was long, too. Too long to be an old fat sow. I knew I wanted this bear, and that is when the adrenaline kicked in. I did not think the bruin had gotten my scent or he would not have come back. I was wearing two layers of Scent-Lok, rubber boots and also sprayed scent killer over my clothes, backpack and bow. I kept watching and hoping this big blackie would work his way back towards the bait. It had been several minutes, and I did not know where he was when one of the other bears reappeared at the bait. My heart was still pounding and I was nervous about getting a shot at this wary bear if he came in. He was the biggest bodied bear I had ever seen while hunting.
While watching the bear at the bait I started to relax until I heard footsteps behind me again. I looked down and the big bear was walking right under my stand towards the bait. The other bear took off and I expected to get a shot as I slowly raised my bow. He just passed through the bait opening and kept going, never giving me a chance to shoot. I was really getting depressed because the more I saw this bear, the more I knew I would settle for nothing less and he was being extra cautious of the bait. I guess he did not get this big by being careless.
He circled downwind again and I could hear other bears running back into the woods, giving me an idea where he was. He eventually worked his way back in and I was determined to take the first shot opportunity I had. As he walked into the bait area from my left, another bear was circling and woofing at him for chasing him off. He paid no attention and headed towards the barrel. I did not think he was going to stick around again and as he paused in a strong quartering away position, I sent my arrow his way. The arrow struck him and he took off, circling around to my right. My heart sank again as I saw the fletching sticking out a bit high and near his shoulder. I was so nervous I had forgot to concentrate on where I wanted the arrow to exit, the far shoulder. I did not hear the death moan and I was not confident about the shot placement. It does not matter if you are a first-time bear hunter or if you have been doing it for many years, adrenaline can mess up concentration.
I waited a few minutes to calm down then started the four-mile walk to the truck, as I could not reach Cory on the radio. I was not too happy during the long, foot-blistering walk (rubber boots are not made for long walks) being swarmed by mosquitoes and black flies, all the while reflecting on my shot and the big bruin.
Lorraine was at the truck and she quickly wrote a note and we jumped on an ATV and headed back to track the bear as light was now fading fast. After a few minutes of checking the area where I had heard the last sound of the departing bear and finding nothing (you could be two yards away from a dead bear and not see it in parts of this area) we went back to the bait and started on the faint blood trail. It did not take long and the blood trail became very visible, blood was flowing from the bruin and I was relieved.
Cory and Blake showed up and we all continued on the trail. I have never had a bear go this far and Cory had never seen this much blood from a bear. It had been a few hours since I had shot the bear and the blood was looking too fresh. We talked it over. We felt the bear may still be alive and we were pushing it, though we were not sure how a bear that had lost so much blood could still be alive. We decided to hold off until morning as it was now dark and Jon and Fred still needed to get picked up and hopefully a bear or two with them.
With the great blood trail, I was confident we could find the bear in the morning. Jon and Fred did not see much and I retold my story to them and then again back at camp to Al.
We headed out early in the morning and found the bruin not too far from where we stopped the night before. The big bear had gone quite a ways from the bait, much further than any other bear I have ever shot. I think the arrow hit the shoulder bone and changed course as it cut through the bear and came out its neck. The 125-grain Montec held up well as I knew it would after testing it at 3/4-inch plywood and cinder blocks. I was thrilled when we found him, though he appeared a little smaller all piled up and deflated from sitting overnight than I remembered him under my stand 12-hours earlier. He squared over seven feet and had a skull just shy of 20-inches. Cory told me I did not get the big bear he knew was in the area. I do not think I would have passed on this one even if he were sitting next to me telling me that when this one came in. Maybe Jon or Fred will get him; they still had two more evenings to hunt.
Jon continued to hunt the same stand he saw the big bear at hoping to get a shot and Fred went to a new location with a stand set up for a rifle hunter, keeping scent and movement further from the bait. I wanted to sit with Jon and be a part of his hunt like we had done in the past. But we all decided that the least amount of scent and movement would be the best to give him the best chance at a mature animal as time was winding down. I met up with Cory and Blake later on and waited for a call from Jon or Fred letting us know a bear was down. I could at least be there to congratulate them and take some photos.
We got a call from Jon as dusk was approaching and Cory and I went to get his bear out and snap some photos. It was a perfect double-lung shot, and the bear went less than 30-yards. Both Jon and I had camera issues and were not able to get many photos; we hoped Cory’s would turn out better. I thought I had taken plenty of time to learn the settings on my new camera, but sometimes you forget. Next time I will keep it on automatic. Jon had a big bear, though not as big as the one he saw earlier in the week and not as big as mine. That was a first as he always shot bigger bears than I did on our hunts.
Fred had a good bear come in, but may have been more interested in finding a hot sow than the bait. Fred did not think the bear was going to stick around as it walked past the barrel, and he sent a chunk of lead its way. After all of us spent a long time looking for the bear or some sign of a hit, we found proof of a miss with a fresh bullet hole in a tree root to the left of the barrel. That left only one more day for Fred to redeem himself.
We wished Fred the best as he headed out for his final night on stand. He went to another new location where there were signs of a big bear. Fred passed on a couple of blackies even though it was his last day of hunting. He came for something bigger than he already had, or at least a mature color phase bruin. As the evening progressed he played over and over the bear and the miss from the previous night. He was content knowing he had opportunities even though the week’s hunt was cut short due to bad weather. Shortly before quitting time he caught movement in the forest. It was a large color phase bruin and it worked its way towards him. Fred raised his gun and concentrated before he squeezed the trigger. The blast sent the bear on a sprint into the forest where it was found a few hours later. What a fantastic animal; it squared nearly seven feet and had a skull shy of 20-inches. This was his biggest bear ever and we were all very excited for him.
Hunting trips like this are why I keep going back to Manitoba and bringing others with me. I have been to Manitoba several times, taken several great bears and have never had a bad experience. If you are looking for a quality bear hunt with true trophy potential, give Manitoba a try. If you also want a remote cabin experience with some good fishing, give All Terrain Bear Hunts a call. Cory has a good reputation for working with hunters to accommodate their hunting preferences, has plenty of well-established baits and truly wants to help every hunter go home with a trophy. Give him a call at 204-677-1109 or check out www.atbh.ca.
I get many phone calls and emails from subscribers asking where a good place to go on a spring bear hunt is. If, after asking several questions in return about the type of hunt they are looking for and their answers are; 1. A hunt over bait, 2. Opportunity to see several bears, 3. Chance of a color phase bear and 4. Trophy potential; I usually say, “Try Manitoba.”
Do not get me wrong, there are many great places to hunt black bear in the spring, such as Alaska, Idaho, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland, but based on these four criteria, I narrow it down to Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I have hunted Manitoba many times and recommend it more often because I have personal knowledge of several great outfitters.
Manitoba limits their outfitters on the number of bear hunters they can take each year, so there is generally little overall pressure on the bears. I have always seen multiple bears on my Manitoba hunts and the outfitters have always been friendly, knowledgeable, accommodating and work hard at getting clients bears.