May/June 2013 Issue
- Book Review
- Q & A - Tips
- Bruin in the Kitchen - Recipes
- Spotlight On: Maine
- News & Notes
- Bear Association News
- Bear Essentials - Gadgets & Gear
- Outfitters & Guides
- Hunter Photo Gallery
- Crazy Tales from Uncle Geddy & The BMG
Muzzleloading with Al Raychard
Scent Strategies with Dick Scorzafava
Why it is Important to Reduce Human Scent
In Hot Pursuit with Travis Reggear
Archery Talk with Steve Bartylla
Guns & Optics with Ralph Lermayer
Heading North with a Firearm
Handguns for Bear with Dr. George E. Dvorchak, Jr.
Hearing & Hunting
By Joel Johnson
August 17th could not come soon enough for me, I needed to be in bear camp. I spent all year making sure my game cameras, treestands, ATVs, boats, motors and camping gear were in top notch shape. I did not want to make the five to six week exodus from my home in Wisconsin to my bear camp in northeast Minnesota to find I needed to spend my time repairing equipment instead of setting baits and placing stands for the opener on September 1st.
I find the weeks roll by quickly once in camp, with all the camp chores and with planning and re-planning who will hunt where and how. I needed to set up each stand for the individual hunter based on physical ability, age, shooting skill and what weapon will be used and whether they were seasoned bear hunters or first time hunters. All the hunters in my camp are family and friends and we share the costs of my secret formulated baits and the gas for the truck we use to run the baits, and of course food. This is not to be overlooked as the grilling and the great cooking makes every day a success.
I would like to guide in Minnesota, as I do in other states, for bear but, unlike other states, you must be a resident to obtain the proper license. I enjoy hunting with the kids and elderly the most, in pursuit of bear, whitetail, mule deer, elk or antelope. It is very satisfying to see the excitement in the eyes and the voices of each hunter. The success does not need to be the result of the kill, but of the adventure and the trail we travel together.
An Old Bear and a Young Bull
By Gary Lewis
Andy Bull, a 10-year-old from Oregon, ties a tag on his first black bear.
“You walk out of the tent and look at the snow-covered mountains to the west, the sun on the eastern horizon; you gaze at a herd of elk grazing and hear the birds sing to the morning.” That sums up spring bear season for Tim Bull, who looks forward to those days in May each year.
For as far back as he can remember, Tim’s son, Andy, has seen his dad leave when the grass begins to grow and the dogwoods blossom.
Last spring, Andy was 10 years-old, growing up in a family steeped in the traditions of the hunt. What Andy wanted, more than anything else, was to go bear hunting. Oregon’s Mentored Youth Hunting Program made it possible for the young Bull to hunt his first bear.
It was the second week of May when the caravan pulled into their customary camp site east of Joseph. Dennis Swanson, a family friend, had offered to lend his tag and his time to help Andy try for his first bear. Over the last few weeks, Swanson let Andy shoot his rifle, a .300 Winchester Short Magnum with a muzzle brake.
Early in the afternoon, two 16x24 foot canvas tents were up, the stoves warmed dinner and the coffee pots were set for morning. Andy saw a bear that evening, one of four the hunters spotted on the slopes below camp.
Big Woods Wilderness Bears
By Dick Scorzafava
Manitoba is without question one of my favorite destinations in North America to hunt black bears because they have some real monsters. I learned a very long time ago if you want to tag a big bear, you must hunt where they are and in Manitoba they are there in numbers. You have a realistic opportunity to harvest one of them in many areas of the province.
I had hunted northern Manitoba earlier in the spring but never shot a bear. It wasn’t because I didn’t see any on the hunt. During the seven-days I passed up a total of 13 bears. I just never saw a bear I wanted to shoot. For my fall hunt, I would be hunting with Russ Popp, owner of Big Woods Wilderness Outfitters. Russ has over 700 square miles of exclusive bear hunting territory that borders the province of Ontario. His area has a great reputation of harvesting some really nice bears every year and I was looking forward to the adventure in the big woods.
Because wolf season is open during the fall season in Manitoba, I planned a combination wolf and bear hunt with Russ. He picked me up in Winnipeg and we discussed plans for the five-day hunt. We were going to hunt wolves in the morning, over bait, and bears in the evening. I know what you’re thinking; why aren’t we hunting wolves over our bear baits? I have seen several wolves at bear baits over the years and actually shot one in Manitoba years ago when they could be hunted in the spring, but there is a better way to bait them that is much more productive.
Dream Hunts – Polar Bear
By Tom Miranda
Polar bears represent the ultimate North American adventure. Pursuing them combines the wonders of the Arctic, the dangers of hunting giant bears, mushing a dog team, minus 40-degree temperatures and everything in between. Pursuing the polar bear is many a hunter’s dream, an amazing combination of unique experiences that will burn hunting memories into your soul.
Polar bear hunting is not for the timid or someone who expects creature comforts. Camping on the sea ice can be unnerving, with cracking and heaving ice keeping a tired hunter awake all night. Arctic storms can blow in, lasting for days, with deadly winds that plummet wind chills to minus 70.
Hunting polar bears is often a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Few hunters who trek into the world of Nanook return for a second bear. Maybe it’s the weather or the money. Maybe it’s out of respect of the huge bears. If you spend any time on the ice, you will understand what kind of harsh, unforgiving climate these bears live in and how majestic they really are.
Planning the Dream Hunt
The trip is thrilling from start to finish, as it involves at least four connections via commercial airline and often an overnight before arriving at a small Inuit village. The few remote arctic hamlets that stage polar bear hunts only have two or three commercial flights a week. Motel rooms are a premium in the Arctic, often $300 a night for a shared room.
By Hugh Bevan
The sun was setting over a huge meadow of spring grass in the Duncan Salt Chuck Wilderness of Southeast Alaska. I was hiding behind a log hoping for a shot at a wolf, having heard them howling all day as I fished the river for steelhead trout. It was mid-May so I was not surprised to spot a black bear at the edge of some heavy timber about a thousand feet away. Through my 10x binocular, the bear was just a black dot in a sea of green grass. I decided to move closer to make an educated field judgment about the bear’s size, sex and hide quality, just in case it was a shooter.
Trying to judge the size of a bear, black or brown, is not an easy task and it is made harder by field situations, such as large, open areas, fog or failing daylight. But with some practice, a hunter can narrow down the possibilities and avoid shooting a smaller bear by mistake.
As I got closer, I could see the bear had a long neck and a smallish looking head, both indicators of a larger bear. If a bear’s head looks big in comparison to its body, the animal may be small. This one also had the heavy front shoulders and thick front legs of a boar. A sow black bear may show a dainty, narrow wrist just above her front feet whereas a big boar will have thick, stovepipe front legs that extend down to his front paws. Big boars also have big chests, their brisket may reach midway down the front legs, making the bear’s legs appear short.
As bears increase in age their overall body growth slows, but their pelvis continues to enlarge. Big, older bears, have a huge hind end that gives them a wedge-shaped body. When such a bear turns away from you all you can see is its big rear end. The hips area may also be taller than the shoulders on a big bear, giving the animal a “sway back” appearance.
Five Must-Have Items for a Spot & Stalk Hunt
By Al Raychard
My first spot and stalk hunt took place along Alaska’s southeast coast nearly 30 years ago. After a morning’s hunt my guide and I were taking a break, sitting on a log near a tree line and glassing the shoreline hoping a bear would show. One eventually did, it was a good one and it was working straight towards us. The thing I remember about that moment is how my excitement increased with every step the bear took as it drew closer. The bear seemed to move in slow motion, sniffing the air on occasion and looking for something to eat as it worked the shoreline, but with every step my heart rate seemed to increase two-fold. It was really unlike anything I had previously experienced hunting over bait in a stand. This was bear hunting on a whole new level!
I learned several important things on that hunt, how vital it is to keep the wind in your face and to be observant and prepared for anything at all times. You must use available landscape on your approach to avoid detection, move quickly and quietly when out of sight of the target, but slow and deliberately when it is in view, be methodical, patent and most of all, make the shot count. I also discovered certain items will make the hunt more enjoyable, increase the odds of success and now, after several spot and stalk hunts, items considered necessary on every hunt.
Whether hunting the coastal flats of Alaska, the dense bramble and huckleberry thickets in the northern Rockies and the northwest or high desert and chaparral country of the southwest, it is impossible to make a successful stalk on a bear, to say nothing of killing it, unless you see it before it sees you. In these and other prime areas where spot and stalk techniques are commonly used, a pair of binoculars with high-quality lenses and of sufficient power or a spotting scope is essential to achieving the primary objective.
Better Bear Photos
By Bernie Barringer
As Managing Editor of Bear Hunting Magazine, I sort through dozens of photos submitted with stories each month. The variety and quality of the photos are amazingly polarized, from packages with several very nice, carefully crafted photos to a hastily taken fuzzy cell phone photo of the bear of a lifetime. I have had to reject great stories of great hunts and great bears because no one took a few moments to capture photos.
Many years ago, when I walked out of college with a degree in journalism/photography, my mind was full of information about F-stops, bracketing, light metering and the like. Today, I can’t remember much of it because I don’t need to. I carry a high-end SLR camera because I like to get great photos and take a lot of pictures, but for the average hunter, having a $150 digital point-and-shoot camera will allow them to take terrific photos and lots of them. Forget the F-stop business, today’s digital camera has all that built right in. It takes great photos right out of the box with a minimum of knowledge. There is simply no excuse for not taking great photos that will help you remember the details of the hunt and enjoy the moments that made it great.
Taking a pictures of the bear you shot is just one small part of the hunt. I call that photo the “hero shot” but there is more to documenting the hunt. The activities that led up to the taking of that bear will be lost to the fading of memory if you do not record them in photos.
A Thousand Words
A picture truly can be worth a thousand words. Taking photos throughout the hunt becomes a reference that you can go back to time after time, and you will see things years later when looking at a photo and say, “I had forgotten all about that!” Every photo tells a story. Look for opportunities to tell those stories with pictures.
Bear Hunters & Treestands
By Stephen D. Carpenteri
Most bear hunters new to the sport, or those heading for a guided hunt, often fail to consider that they may be hunting out of a treestand for many hours each day, usually a permanently-installed ladder stand or a climbing stand. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but each is extremely useful when hunting over bait, especially in areas where wind or visibility is a problem.
There is much to like about ladder stands. They are (or should be) permanently installed, solid, easy to get into and comfortable to sit in for long hours. If not, they can be easily adjusted for added stability using ratchet straps.
Perhaps nothing is more important when using ladder stands than the placement of the stand itself. Most are solidly built and easy to install, following the manufacturer’s instructions, but it’s only after you’ve been in the stand for several hours developing a sore back or a stiff neck that you realize that the stand was improperly installed. Many black bears owe their hides to the aches and pains of uncomfortable hunters, and it doesn’t take much to ruin what could have been a productive hunt.
The first step is to be sure the stand is placed so that the afternoon sun is behind you. There’s nothing more frustrating than staring into the sun at sunset, just about the time a bear is likely to show up at the bait. Find the right tree or change the bait site, but do not place your stand so the setting sun is in your face.