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May/June 2013 Issue

Feature Sections

  • 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

    Muzzleloading Accuracy
  • Scent Strategies with Dick Scorzafava

    Why it is Important to Reduce Human Scent
  • In Hot Pursuit with Travis Reggear

    Pup Training
  • Archery Talk with Steve Bartylla

    Pre-Season Preparation
  • Guns & Optics with Ralph Lermayer

    Heading North with a Firearm
  • Handguns for Bear with Dr. George E. Dvorchak, Jr.

    Hearing & Hunting


Do-It-Yourself Success

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.




Blue Bear

By Jeff Vigstol

When I’m not bear hunting, I’m thinking of bear hunting. When I’m deer hunting, I’m thinking of bear hunting. When I’m ice fishing, I’m thinking of bear hunting. When I’m conscious, I’m thinking of bear hunting. I don’t bleed blood, I bleed bear hunting. But, I had promised my daughter, Halle, that the 2012 bear season was all about her and her alone, I would not be shooting until she got a bear. I had also promised we would up the difficulty by using a crossbow.
     Halle and I had practiced all summer with the crossbow, these weapons of mayhem are meant for bear, they are incredibly fun to shoot and I couldn’t wait for Halle to get in stand with it. After numerous practice sessions, including one in a stand to bait distance, she was dialed in and could hit a water bottle cap every time.
     Legal baiting in Minnesota started August 17. Legal shooting started on September 1st, so I had just over two weeks to get a bear in. I open my bait sites with grease and added attractants mixed into it. I use a lot of grease, I hang a biodegradable sack with hemp rope, due to regulations, and fill it with pastries and bread and soak it in a bucket of grease mixture before hanging. I hang my bag as high as I can over the bait crib so it drips down onto the logs. Each time I bait, I refresh the bag and spray grease all over the immediate area with a water cannon, reaching high into the canopy. Getting the scent airborne is the key.


Tricks Can Work

by Jean-Guy Daigle

It was spring of 2011, my first year hunting black bears with a bow and arrow. The season started early for me because I had move to Miramichi, New Brunswick and needed a new location to hunt. I started scouting for a good area using aerial maps and talking to some other hunters. Finally, I found a good spot and was granted permission by the land owner to start baiting in early spring. With the perfect location, I was ready for my first archery bear with my new PSE bow. For the first month I had no bears coming into my bait. I was starting to lose confidence in my location but a friend told me to be patient since it was a new bait and it would take time for the bears to come.
     April came and went with no bears. During the second week of May, right after work, I decided to go check my trail cam before going out for supper. When I arrived at the bait site there was something different, the bait barrel was tipped over and I was jumping with joy. I rushed home with the memory card and there he was, my first bear of the season. Small, but still an exciting sight to see. After this first bear, many others showed up and was in my treestand almost every evening.
    June came around with many bears visiting the bait site daily, but no trophies yet. Finally, after the first week of June the bigger bears started to show themselves. I had three different bears that were on the target list, but none came in during shooting hours.


Three Amigos

by Richard deFay

I was off to Jim Shockey’s Canadian Whitetail Adventures in Saskatchewan. As with most hunts it was organized a year in advance, with anticipation and planning as much a part of the adventure as the hunt.
    The gathering of the three of us is a story in itself. I had hunted with Jim Shockey’s outfit a few years back for Yukon moose and sent the picture to my friend Scott. He was impressed enough with the photo that he asked if I would take him along sometime and teach him the ropes. Me? Teach a recently retired Marine Scout/Sniper how to hunt! Yeah, right!
    Bill, my friend from the Chicago area, was originally a name provided to me as a reference for an Alaskan coastal brown bear hunt. We spent some time talking that first call and subsequently emailed, talked some more and became friends. When I mentioned I was going on the Saskatchewan bear hunt, Bill eagerly jumped on board.
    Bill, the wisest of the group, flew to Saskatoon while I drove from Rush, NY, met Scott in Cleveland and drove two and a half days. The drive was a great part of the adventure. They say if you live in Saskatchewan and your dog runs away from home, you can still see him three days later. This land is flat!


Field Judging

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.

Binoculars/Spotting Scope
      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.

Ladder Stands
     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.