It's been a good long while since I've eaten a plate of crow: this one I cooked myself.


Let me explain. I went on a baited bear hunt. You see, my first bear hunt 20 years ago was over bait, and after that less than satisfactory experience, I said, "I'll never hunt over bait again––no, I'm a dedicated spot and stalker.” I've killed 14+ black bears in the last 20 years––all spot and stalk––since that first unsuccessful bear hunt. I wore that “spot and stalk” philosophy, kind of like an arrogant badge, and shared my perspective with pretty much anyone who wanted to listen. Sadly, my orientation was, “It wouldn’t hurt me if baited hunts were sacrificed. I’ll never go on one again.”


Then I read Clay Newcomb’s Guard the Gate| 7 Things You Can Do To Preserve Bear Hunting:


“It’s in the best interest of all hunters to support and defend all legal methods of bear hunting publicly, monetarily, and intellectually. Here’s why: the anti-hunting groups are dedicated to stopping all forms of hunting through incrementalism, meaning they want to chip off one piece at a time. Though it seems insignificant to a non-bear hunter, a win in bear hunting will result in a step up the ladder to the next rung. The most important battle for our future is the battle that we fight right now. Bear hunting is in the crosshairs, it’s an easy target, and it’s clearly a favored target. Bear hunting is easy to misunderstand and demonize with low-grade propaganda to that 90% of non-hunters in the United States.”


Read the full article here:


After reading this piece, I had a big stare in the mirror, determined I would go on a baited hunt and see what it was like, revisit the experience with an open mind, and write about it. This revelation is what is behind my bear hunting experience at Tate Island Lodge. I want to share it with you.


First, a little background, I'm a journeyman Cook, and a friend of mine owns Tate Island Lodge on Tate Island in the middle of Reindeer Lake, in Saskatchewan. It is a beautiful place. The fishing is spectacular, and every evening we sit by the massive fireplace and review the bears that came into the baits that day. There are some great-looking bears. I cook there from time to time for hunting and fishing guests.


This spring, the owner said, “Tim, I'd like you to return to the lodge, but I haven't got the volume of guests we normally have, so we can't pay you what we did last year.”

“Well, that's fine,” I said, “not everything is about money. What else can you offer me?” (Besides trophy Lake Trout, Pike, Walleye, and Grayling fishing.)


“How about a bear hunt? There were few bears taken last year, and there are some great bears about.”


“How about a bear hunt?”


That made the whole deal sweet, and we settled. I would cook split shifts, fish some, cook some, and if we could find a decent bear, I would hunt. I learned some things: the crew at Tate Island work hard at baiting. I have yet to put that kind of time into a spot and stalk hunt. Weeks before hunting commences, baiting is gearing up. They bait with kitchen scraps, bacon grease, vegetable peelings, expired leftovers, and bulk dog food. I brought a jug of Moutrie Bear Magnet bacon-scented liquid. We poured this over the bait and barrel the day before my hunt. The day I was in the stand, we lit two Tink’s Bear Smokin’ Stick in Honey Bacon Scent.


Hunting over bait is a bit of work for the crew: stands have to be selected, bait barrels assembled and chained to suitable trees, shooting lanes cleared, baits need to be established weeks in advance of hunters arrival and refreshed daily, trail cameras need to be set up, images retrieved with SD cards, SD cards swapped and checked daily, bear images and activity monitored––all of this data allows hunters an opportunity to target a specific bear.


Three days before the season ended, supper dishes were done and put away, breakfast was prepared, and bread baked. Late into the evening, we finally got around to reviewing the day's images captured.


“Oh, that's a good one,” I said, as senior Kozak, Randy flipped through the photos of a decent black bear reaching over the bait barrel.


“That is a shooter!” the younger Kozak, Trevor, “Look, he was there from 6:30 AM to 11:20 AM. Better start early. You’ll want to be in the stand at 4 AM.”


(At that time of year, sunrise was 3:56 AM, if I recall correctly.)


“I’ll take you at 3:30,” Randy said.


“I’ll have breakfast ready at three,” was my response.



At 3:25 A.M., we packed the Bighorn Armory lever action in 500 Smith & Wesson in the boat, my backpack filled with enough sandwiches and water for an all-day sit. At 3:49 A.M., I arranged my backpack and closed-cell mat to sit comfortably just as the sun rose. Tate Island Lodge uses double-wide stands that are comfortable for a long-term sit. Randy lit the Tink’s Smokin’ Sticks, wished me luck, and in a few minutes, the sound of the outboard drifted into the sound of the waves lapping 50 yards from my stand. The gentle breeze blew the smoke in a single line directly out to the lake.


I woke up to the smell of bacon cooking. I open my eyes to look for Bacon and saw wisps of smoke from the sticks; the wind shifted and shifted again. It was 6:15 AM; at that moment, the breeze carried the stream of smoke directly away for me parallel to the lakeshore and into the heaviest part of the woods. I immediately spotted a bear in the woods, but the binocular helped me see it was a raven. I continued to dissect the woods and spotted another raven. This time the blackbird raised his head into the stream of smoke from the smoldering Tink’s; the crosshairs of my Leupold 1 to 4 power scope found a crease between the front legs of the bear. I admired the shot and the speed at which the bear hit the ground, the authority of a 300 grain Hornady FTX in 500 Smith and Wesson. I imagined my buddies slapping me on the back, “heckuva shot there, Tim,” they would say, and at that very moment, the bear got up and walked away. I sent another round after it. Beginners mistake for a 20+-year hunter…now I wait and wait, fearing the worst.


While waiting, I use my Spot X 2-Way Satellite Messenger to text Randy, “6:25 A.M. shot bear. Wandered off. Will track at 6:55."


At 7:05, the text said, “Bear found 20 yards from bait.”


It wasn't long before I could hear the hum of that outboard motor again and, shortly after, footsteps and chatter. Success! We rolled the bear onto a tarp and drag-hauled it to the boat. I skin the bear on a different small island away from the bait site, and small enough, you know there are no bears on the island. We don't want some bear walking in to surprise me while I'm skinning it. We hang bear quarters in the cool in the breeze in the shade while finishing cutting chores. We retrieved the bear heart for marinated grilled heart skewers for guests before dinner.


Back at camp, we hung the bear quarters overnight in a shed with good air circulation. The next day I boned and cut up the four quarters, packaging, and vacuum packing most of the bear. I roasted bear bones to make brown stock destined for French onion soup. And I pressured-canned most of the bear shoulders using the cold pack process and just sea salt.


That night I cooked braised bear shanks and braised bear loin cutlets dredged in rye flour and cooked in carrots, onions, celery, and red wine. Four of the folks around the table had never had bear before, and between the grilled bear heart appetizers on a bamboo stick and the braised bear, they were converted to bear meat lovers.


I can tell you this experience of a baited bear hunt was completely different from my previous baited hunting experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the process and was able to tag an impressive bear. I will go on another baited hunt, and will share my opinion with anyone who wants to listen.


I finished my plate of crow and wrote this article.