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January/February 2013 Issue

Feature Sections

  • Book Review
  • Q & A - Tips
  • Bruin in the Kitchen - Recipes
  • Spotlight On: Saskatchewan
  • News & Notes
  • Bear Essentials - Gadgets & Gear
  • Bear Association News
  • Outfitters & Guides
  • Hunter Photo Gallery
  • Crazy Tales from Uncle Geddy  & The BMG


  • In Hot Pursuit with Travis Reggear

    What Really Makes a Dog a Good Dog?
  • Guns & Optics with Ralph Lermayer

    Accuracy Solutions
  • Muzzleloading with Al Raychard

    Ensuring Ignition
  • Handguns for Bear with Dr. George E. Dvorchak, Jr.

    One Gun for Bear, Deer & Boars?
  • Scent Strategies with Dick Scorzafava

    Is Scent Control Smoke and Mirrors?
  • Archery Talk with Steve Bartylla

    Successful Treestand Placement – Part II




Boo Boo, Scar & A Camp Record

By Jerry Lambert

Spruce, poplar, pine and rock make up a good portion of the landscape that surrounded my two baited treestands in the northern wilderness of Ontario, Canada. The locals simply refer to the area as “the bush” but my map names the remote region as Thunder Bay. We are located a couple hundred miles north of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee, the greatest of the great lakes, Lake Superior.
    Northern Canada can be a harsh environment and yet I will sit all alone in this thick terrain which provides very, very limited visibility in my quest for black bear. Loneliness, boredom, hopeful anticipation and Smoke Jansen are virtually my only companions. Smoke is the main character of a western novel that I occasionally read to pass time.
    I am part of a group of nine hunters who ventured north from southern Michigan in search of a wary black bear. My brothers, Jeff and Joe, are also partaking in the hunt as are six others who are regular customers at Jeff’s pro-shop, Indian Creek Archery.
    Our outfitter is Ron Smith, owner of The Bear’s Den, and I am half convinced that Ron is half bear himself. His hair and beard are jet black and he is as moody and ornery as any of the bruins that we are pursuing. The agile outfitter glides through the trees when approaching baits or tracking wounded prey with his redbone hound, Scar.


Speed Hunting – Idaho Style

By Bernie Barringer

If being really good at what you do means you can get results fast, then what I experienced in Idaho must have been some kind of a world record of being good at what you do. It happened with Travis Reggear, known as one of the best dog men in the western United States, who consistently puts people on bears, cougars and bobcats with remarkable regularity.
    I have had quite a bit of experience bear hunting but I had never been on a hunt with bear hounds. I was told by Bear Hunting Magazine publisher, Jeff Folsom, when I accepted the job as Managing Editor that I needed to get experience in the areas of bear hunting that I had never done before. One of those was bear hunting with hounds. So I called up Travis, knowing that he had a reputation for getting it done.
    Travis has been operating Reggear Outfitters for 14 years. He has what are commonly thought to be one of the best packs of bear hounds anywhere. Every year he has many calls from people wanting to buy some of his hounds to improve their bloodlines but he will have none of it. The dogs are not for sale. He will tell you with all seriousness that you will never hunt behind a finer pack of dogs and he means it. Like they say, “It ain’t bragging if you can back it up.”
    Now I have quite a bit of experience with coon hounds so I wasn’t going in completely blind regarding hunting behind hounds; I can recognize good dogs when I see them. I can distinguish well-trained, disciplined dogs from ones that disappoint you on a regular basis. Travis is firm and very demanding of his hounds and they do not let him down.


Three Essentails to Success

By Steve Sorensen

“Honey, I just saw a bear!” Dick whispered to his wife over the cell phone. It was nearly quitting time for Audrey, who was bowhunting deer from a treestand.
    “I saw one too,” Audrey whispered back through a broad smile, “and I shot it!” Audrey was hunting in New York’s Chautauqua County, where archery bear season overlaps with archery deer season.
    Shooting a bear while archery hunting for deer can be serendipitous, but usually it is more than an incidental harvest. If you’re going to connect when a bear shows up at your deer stand, certain things must happen.

Bears Gotta Eat

Food is an important factor where the majority of bears are taken. When hunting over bait, two conditions are present. First, the bait is in a specific location. Second, multiple bears are habituated to it. When hunting deer, neither condition exists.
    Deer hunters place stands in apple orchards and hardwood groves of oak and beech. Often they hunt food plots and sometimes farm crops. They often set up along deer trails to and from these food sources. But none of these situations will put a bear in front of you in a relaxed state, focused on filling his belly, while the hunter contemplates the ideal shot opportunity.
    Remember, in the fall of the year bears are in a feeding mode, needing to pack away the calories to sustain themselves for their long winter naps. They’re searching for a variety of foods. If there is no food in the area, bears simply won’t show up. You will never shoot a bear that is not there.


Spot & Stalk

By Gary Lewis

It was a chance meeting in 1988, in a sporting goods store on the Oregon coast when Lee Van Tassell met John A. Johnson, author of the Oregon Hunting Guide. Van Tassell had settled in Oregon and had begun to hunt bears, although with little success.
    When he met Johnson, a little of the veteran hunter’s confidence rubbed off. “He told me, ‘You have to go out and spot them.’ In those days there was more logging and more visibility. I think he gave me the confidence to get back out there and get my first bear,” said Lee.
    Van Tassell had hunted baboons, jackals and hyenas on a family friend’s farm when he lived in South Africa, he had hunted coyotes in Arizona, but spot-and-stalk black bear hunts in the rainforest that is the Oregon coast was a new challenge.
    “Today, the logging practices have changed and a hunter has less visibility,” Van Tassell said. “You have to look for the pockets that hold them here and there.”
    “The mistake I made in the beginning was not staying in one place. Once I realized how quick the scenario can change, I began to stay put. They pop up. Where there was nothing, now there’s a bear.” Van Tassell began to invest more time in scouting and, with a new confidence, he began to see bears.


Cartridge and Bullet Selection

By Ed Hall

It was easier in the old days. We loaded our .30-30 with either 150 or 170-grain bullets, and it didn’t matter much which bullet weight we chose or what brand of ammunition. The .30-30’s bullet construction and its mild muzzle velocity were perfectly balanced and worked perfectly over our wide range of game, from large bear to small antelope, mushrooming readily, but never, ever so much energy to result in jacket/core separation and bullet failure, regardless of how tough a big bear’s shoulder bone.
    That still holds pretty well true for the majority of our deer cartridges should we want to use them for bear, and I have made some specific suggestions farther down. I know of bears killed with one shot from a .243, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Moderate velocities up to maybe 2,700 fps allow for a conventional deer bullet to pretty well hold together and penetrate a black bear’s shoulder, especially choosing the heavier of the optional bullets for any given deer cartridge. As an example, let’s look at the .270 Winchester. With 130-grain bullets, bear shoulders might be a bit iffy, but a 150 will be starting slower and have more penetrating momentum, so it is likely okay. The same goes for our 7mm-08, but bullets heavier than 140-grain are difficult to find. Many a bear has fallen to a 200-grain bullet in the .35 Remington.
    My first concern in considering a “deer rifle” for bear is having too much velocity for a tough bear’s shoulder. Sure, get a broadside shot to get behind the shoulder, and even the .243 is a sure kill.



Near Disaster

By Gene Galitz

After being unsuccessful in the Wyoming elk draw I asked my brother, Kirk, if he would like to try for a bear. Plans for the hunt began immediately. He and his fiance, Nancy, would arrive April 29th, a day before the firearms opener. Meanwhile, my wife, Judy, and I would get the baits going and if all went according to plan, Kirk would have a crack at a bear. His plan was to take one with his Smith and Wesson .500 Magnum. Consistently shooting three inch groups at 40 yards, he felt he could easily make the shot from either of our bait sites.
    By the time the end of April arrived we had several bears visiting our baits. One was a decent sized chocolate, one large blackie and some smaller bruins. We were set or so we thought. Little did we know just how unprepared we were for what was to come.


Face to Face

by Kevin Springman

I have been an avid bowhunter since I was a kid. I went on my first spring bear hunt with my father about 18 years ago and was quickly hooked. While I did not kill a bear on that hunt, I have a vivid memory of that first bear circling me and sneaking into the bait. I was amazed at how quiet an animal of that size could be.
    After that initial hunt, I went on numerous spring bear hunts and was fortunate to bag seven bears, two of which made Pope and Young. All were taken with my longbow. It had been about eight years since my last bear hunt and I had the itch again and really wanted a bear with a skull larger than 20 inches. I did my research on the internet and spoke to a number of dedicated bear hunters to determine where the best opportunity might be for that elusive 20-inch bear. I landed in Saskatchewan with Brian McDonald of Lone Wolf Camps.
    I had multiple conversations with Brian over the ensuing months about bears in general and the fact that I really wanted an opportunity at a 20-inch bear. The day finally arrived and I landed at the Saskatoon Airport. It was another 11-hour ride into camp, half of which was a rough gravel road. Camp was on the other side of an active Uranium mine in the Carswell Lake area.


Not in the Water!

by Hugh Bevan

 I hate mud.
    Some people are afraid of snakes, for others it’s spiders; but I am definitely a mudophobic. I think it came from a scare I had in Alaska years ago when I got stuck while walking in mud on an ocean tidal flat and I had to slice open my hip boots with a knife, leaving them to escape the incoming tide. So now I was cringing as I looked at my friend’s giant grizzly lying dead on a mud-covered beach. We had some serious, muddy work to do if we couldn’t move him.
    Adam Chinalski and I had been hunting coastal grizzlies for the past month near our home of Sitka. The town is located on Baranof Island, one of the brown bear islands of Southeast Alaska. The official estimate of the grizzly population on Baranof is 1,150 bears, which is a lot of bears for a 2,700 square-mile island.
    On our first few hunts we had not seen a single bear. The 2011-2012 winter in Alaska was very heavy and deep snow covered bear dens well into May. But by the third week of the month the bears were coming down to the beaches in search of the first food of the year.




Hound Hunting East & West

By Stephen D. Carpenteri

There is a difference – just not what the average hunter might expect!

Hound hunting is one of America’s oldest, yet most misunderstood techniques for taking trophy-sized bears. Even in Colonial times, hounds were routinely used to pursue bears, foxes, bobcats, wolves, deer and other fast-moving, wide-ranging animals. Today, hounds are still used for bears, predators and even deer, but most modern hunters have little knowledge of the sport, not even in the East, where hound hunting has been legal and enthusiastically practiced since the 1600s.
    In its simplest form, hound hunting consists of finding a bear track, putting the hounds on the track and waiting for the dogs to bring the bear to “tree,” which generally means a complete stop regardless of cover types, but usually means the bear climbs onto a large pile of rocks or into a tall tree. When a bear decides to tree, it’s not because it is afraid of the hounds, the bear is merely tired of running (perhaps on a stomach full of corn, apples or grain) and needs a rest. Except for the smallest of cubs, no dog or pack of dogs can take down a full-grown bear, and those that try end up paying a terrible price. Hounds are what the name implies, they hound and harass the bear until it trees. They are not attack dogs or killer dogs, and even if there were such a thing, the bear is likely to win. Never having been to an illicit “bear and dog” fight (which I know has occurred and still goes on in this country) I can’t say for sure how an equally matched, one-on-one confrontation would end, but from what I have seen in the legal hunting world, my money would be on the bear.



Broadheads for Bear

By Ray Barr

I could not help but overhear the conversation. Two guys standing in the local archery shop, each with a package of broadheads in their hands, insisting that their opinion of the best broadhead was right and the other was wrong.
    I’ll bet you can guess which broadhead was in the hands of one guy…yes, an expandable that opens up to a 1 1/2-inch cut. We’ll call him “Bob” and the other fellow we will call “Bill.” Bill was making some very valid points about what he saw as the negative side of mechanical/expandable broadheads.
    Bill was adamant that the most important factor in recovering a bear shot with an arrow was an exit wound. Bears have a lot of fat and thick fur, which can make for a very difficult blood trail if you do not have an exit wound low on the bear’s body to allow plenty of blood to escape the body cavity. Bill was rightly contending that you should maximize your blood trail in order to increase the odds of finding your bear.
    “Mechanical broadheads,” Bill stated, “lose so much of their kinetic energy in opening the blades that a pass-through is less likely. A pass through is the most important factor in finding your bear.” Right again Bill.
    But here is where Bob played his trump card. “My bow is shooting 300 feet per second,” he said. “I have plenty of kinetic energy to open those wide blades, cut a wide furrow, and still drive that arrow all the way through the bear.”
    So, who is ultimately right in this issue? The debate rages on. Some bear hunting outfitters won’t allow expandable broadheads in their camp. They have had many bad experiences with them. Mechanical broadheads are not legal in some states. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle. Let me explain why.



The 107 Hour Wait

By Richard P. Smith

I bagged my largest Michigan black bear in October. This was thanks to a lot of help from some good friends and more than 100 hours of sitting in treestands and ground blinds during 21 days of hunting over bait. I only put in about 12 hours at the stand where I eventually shot the big bear. The adult male I tagged had a live weight of 360 pounds and a dressed weight of 315 pounds.
    My hunt started on September 15th with guide Seth Loyd from Laurium. Since I had never taken a black bear with a crossbow, my objective when the hunt began, was to collect an adult male with an arrow from my crossbow. When that didn’t happen, I switched to my .50 caliber muzzleloader to increase my chances of success, and that’s what I ended up shooting the bear with.
    I hunted two different baits during the first five days. Seth had been maintaining them and he had trail camera photos of adult bruins that had been visiting both of them. Unfortunately, those bears didn’t show up while I was there. I did see two different adult females that I passed up and a sow with two cubs. Besides bears, I saw a wolf, coyotes and some huge raccoons.
    Then I got an invitation from Troy Westcott, who operates Lac La Belle Lodge with his wife, Cathy, to hunt one of their baits. For the past 10 years, the Westcotts had offered guided bear hunts out of the lodge, but after the fall of 2010, they decided to get out of the guiding business. The bear baits Troy put out were now for family and friends only.