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March/April 2009 Issue

Feature Sections

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

Columns

  • Bear Calling with Judd Cooney


    High Tech Or Hot Air
  • In Hot Pursuit with James Keldsen


    Is Hound Hunting Dying?
  • Guns & Optics with George Dvorchak


    Want Better Accuracy? Get A Rest!
  • The Bear Whisperer with Dick Scorzafava


    Hunting Bears Over Bait – Is It Fair? Is It Ethical?
  • Bear Biology 101 with Wade Nolan


    The Mystery Of Hibernation
  • Muzzleloading with Chad Schearer


    3 Optics You Need For Bear Hunting With A Muzzleloader
  • Scent Free Tactics with Bob Robb


    Where To Never Stick A Stand
  • Archery Talk with Jeff Murray


    How To Buy A Bow – Part 2
  • Hunting Vehicles with William Clunie


    Off-Road Mindset

Articles


 

What Bear Hounds Really Do

By Stephen D. Carpenteri

In most people’s minds, bear hounds do not do much more than dig holes, lay around the yard and make loud, obnoxious noises at all hours of the day and night. Well, in the off-season, that is about all a hound can do, but when the tailgate drops, the well-trained hound is far from lazy, shiftless and obnoxious. In fact, they are your ticket to a bear hide, and they will work hard all day long to make sure you get your chance.
      Most “big” hounds (bear, raccoon, bobcat, deer, etc.) love to find a fresh scent and take off on it. However, they cannot tell you if the critter is big, small, young or old, so before you unhook the leashes you had better get down and take a good, long look at the tracks and sign the dogs are howling about. If you determine that the animal is a shooter, only then should you turn the dogs loose. Otherwise, you could spend all day running a bear the size of a beagle, and that does not set well with too many paying customers!

 

Interpreting Trail Camera Photos

By Bernie Barringer

It is no secret that motion-sensing trail cameras have revolutionized many aspects of hunting. That is especially true in hunting bears over bait. When I first started baiting bears, I really had little idea what was coming to the bait. What size of a bear was coming? When are they coming? Is it a sow with cubs? Are other animals eating the bait? With the use of Trail Timers that activated a clock when something pulled on the string, it helped fill in a little bit of info, but nothing tells the true story like a trail camera.
    My first trail cameras were the film models. I had to rush to Wal-Mart and pay for processing, often only to be disappointed that I had 36 pictures of squirrels and raccoons; and the film had been used up before the bear came in. When I switched to digital cameras, a whole new world opened up to me. One of my cameras has now taken more than 10,000 photos. I can hardly imagine what that could have cost me in film and processing.
   I now use a system of three digital cameras. I mostly run a few bear baits each year for family and friends. I am able to rotate those three cameras from bait to bait every few days, and I have an amazingly detailed documentary on what is going on at the baits. The cameras I use capture the pictures to an SD card, which I take home and check on my computer each day. 


Just Being There

By Judy Black

Spring took us to the woods of Saskatchewan on a five-day black bear hunt with Jim’s Outfitting Camp. Once our gear was loaded onto the boat we headed out on the Saskatchewan River. Little did I know that the 45 minute boat ride to camp was only the beginning of an adventure of a lifetime but, I was happy that my husband, Scott, was with me.
       Our hunt started on Monday, May 28th, and as my luck would have it, it rained. I saw four different bears that night though, the largest was about 250 pounds. Because it was the first night, I decided to pass on them in hopes of harvesting what I really wanted, a large, color phase bear.
       By hunting time on Tuesday the wind had picked up and it was cold. I wore every piece of clothing I brought and still shivered in the tree. I know that seeing a bear would have helped warm me up but, it was not to be.
       We set up in different spots again the next day and the weather was also different, it was hot. I did not see a bear that night either, but while sitting in the hot sun for several hours, I did get to see a moose. It came out of the river and stood on the bank and then walked within 50 yards of my tree. I could hear the beavers smacking their tails on the water in the river, it seemed like the whole world of wildlife around me had come alive, it was really neat.

 

Emergency Equipment for Hunting Camps

by John E. Phillips

I heard a crash and jumped out of bed. I looked out the window of my hunting camp and could not believe my eyes as I saw limbs breaking off everywhere under a heavy blanket of snow. On this, the first day of turkey-hunting season in March, my friends and I built a fire in the fireplace, using it for light, heat and cooking.

                        Why You Need A Generator
      Since that time, I have visited several hunting camps where the power has gone out. That is why I am such a strong advocate of every hunting camp having a portable generator, similar to the one I have at my home for problems with my power due to high winds, violent lightning and rain storms, hurricanes and tornadoes. Your bear hunting camp definitely will benefit from having emergency equipment on-hand. Almost all of the generators we have reviewed run on unleaded gasoline, but the Winco generator runs on tri-fuels, including LP gas or natural gas.
    You can also use your generator at the hunting camp for various jobs, even when the camp still has power. If you put the bear hunt camp’s portable generator in the back of your pickup truck, you can take it to any location to run power tools for building stands or use it for other types of equipment that you need power for and do not have long enough extension cords to run from the camp itself.

 

The Return for Grizz

By Michael C. Modrak

In the early morning hours, I woke to the call of nature and ventured outside the warmth of my sleeping bag and tent. It was 3 a.m. and 10 degrees when I looked up and saw the Northern Lights. I imagined the trappers and hunters of old, sitting around their campfires taking in this beautiful sight, like stepping inside a scene on a Christmas card.
     I was in Alaska’s Brooks Range, on a fall hunt with outfitter and master guide Mike McCann, a 30 year veteran of the Alaskan guide business.
     In the spring of 2006, I had ventured into Alaska’s Brooks Range on a hunt with Mike in search of an arctic grizzly, which I wrote about in Grizzly Crossing (Jan/Feb 2008 issue), and my horse rolled in a rapid, cold, deep river and both of us almost drowned. Now I was ready to return for another adventure in the Brooks Range, but not so death defying.


The Karelian Bear Dog

By Hugh Bevan

With one smooth motion I slid my Remington .375 H&H rifle off of my shoulder and into my hands. I was halfway across a swift river in Southeast Alaska when my Karelian bear dog, Dillon, stopped me. The dog had gone on alert and that meant a coastal grizzly bear was very close, maybe too close.
     The dog stood like a statue in the icy current with his keen senses focused on the far shoreline. I could feel the cold fingers of the river reaching through my waders when I saw the dark shape of a big bear rise up from its day bed in the brush at the river’s edge and lumber away into the rainforest. Dillon had done his job: find the bear and keep me out of harm’s way.
     Throughout the rest of the day I fished for silver salmon and trout while the dog watched my back. There were dozens of big bear tracks on every sand bar, yet I never felt threatened because of the unrelenting vigilance of my canine guide. There is no finer wilderness scout in the world than the Karelian bear dog.

 

Michigan’s Biggest Bears of 2008

By Richard P. Smith

A number of huge black bears topping 500 pounds were bagged in both the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan during the 2008 seasons. The heaviest bruin with a known weight was shot in the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) and it tipped the scales at 610 pounds in the round. But a bear that might have weighed more was bagged in the Lower Peninsula’s (L.P.) Roscommon County.
     Russ Blake from Wyoming, Michigan shot the Roscommon County bruin. Besides the size of the bear, Blake’s bruin is noteworthy for the lessons it teaches other hunters about handling a carcass. One of those lessons is that if the weather is warm, it is essential to field dress and skin a bruin as soon as possible. Lesson number two is that if you shoot a big bear in a remote area and want to know how much it weighed, the best ways to get that information is to either weigh it in pieces or take two measurements to estimate its weight.
     By measuring a big bear’s chest girth and length from nose to tail, it is possible to get a good idea of how much the animal weighed. There is a table in my book Black Bear Hunting that was prepared by Washington State resident Jim Hackiewicz that gives bear weights based on these measurements.

 

With Malice Aforethought

By Dennis Dunn

Because I had involved my older son in the process of baiting up my first black bear in 1983, it just so happened (though I did not realize it then) that he became quite fascinated by the whole challenge and started planning on trying the same thing once he turned 16 and could provide himself with transportation. Thus, when late June of 1986 arrived, Bryant started asking me for all kinds of advice on how to “do it,” and I had the pleasure of mentoring him through the process, just as Chuck Bartlett had done for me three years earlier.
       Doing all his own scouting in the Knob Hill area of east Redmond, Washington, just northeast of Lake Sammamish, Bryant discovered a heavily-used bear area in between housing developments, no more than 300 yards away from a paved road. The road itself was heavily used as well, but by humanoids and their space vehicles. Just as I had done, Bryant worked out a deal with the local pastry shop. By the first week of July, he had one or more bears hitting his bait regularly, and he started telling me about the one large set of tracks he had found in the mud near his bait-tree. For the remainder of the month, he continued to service the bait-site with day-old crullers, frosted doughnuts and the like. As the season-opener approached, his sense of excitement was building day-by-day, and because of the vagaries of his summer job as a box-boy at the neighborhood supermarket, he even talked me into hauling fresh bear-goodies into his stand location on a few late-July afternoon/evenings.

 

Mongo is Dead, Long Live Mongo

By Ted Nugent

The breathtaking, drifting wall of fluffy, dirty cotton-clouds engulfed the jagged skyline of eternal spruce forests before above us. Its beauty doubled by the reflection in the placid ocean cove. Alaska baby, Prince of Wales, the Last Frontier, at home in the lap of God. Say “Yowza” and celebrate the gushing American freedom unlimited.
       I sipped on my scalding joe on the deck of the mighty Valiant Maid fishing trawler, and exhaled smoothly with an audible “ahhhh,”  truly in awe of the soothing spirit of this soul cleansing wilderness that owned me. Glancing behind me, old Ed Bilderback was grappling with ropes and cables preparing the skiff, while our good friend Fred Bear sat on an overturned white bucket, calmly filing a Razorhead to his signature keen edge. The muffled purr of the generator harmonized with the subtle, grinding strokes of Fred’s file, so I just rocked slowly back and forth on my heels and grinned, stoned on the intoxicating glow of this perfect day in my bowhunting American Dream. Me, Ed and Fred, the Valiant Maid, bows and arrows, whales, otters, sea lions, eagles, ravens, blacktail deer, weasels, martins, beaver and, of course The Beast; Alaska’s giant bears. Was I alone or in a hunter’s dream? Dear Lord this is wonderful.
      Well, I admit, it was not really Ed Bilderback, or Fred or the Valiant Maid on this particular morning. Though Ed and the Valiant Maid are in semi-retirement somewhere nearby in Cordova, Alaska, and of course BloodBrother Number One, Fred Bear is still on his well deserved Big Hunt. I was indeed in their Alaskan wilderness, but this time with their BloodBrothers Mike, Gary and Steve Sims, Steve’s son Jacob, his buddy Collin, my brother John and fellow bowhunter Greg Winters on our version of the Valiant Maid, the equally mighty Eldorado. Everything else was the same; same spirit, and our same wonderful shared addiction to SpiritWild bowhunting Alaska adventure. My cup runneth over.

 


Big Country, Big Bears, Big Gun!

By Tony Pannkuk

I was hunting with Silver Spur Outfitters in the Idaho backcountry where the mountains meet the sky. This wilderness of wildlife habitat offers elk, deer, moose, big horn sheep and mountain goat, plus an overabundance of black bears with a good number of them being color phase.
      In the 210 square miles of the pristine hunting area they cover, you will find yourself in the Gospel Hump Wilderness, Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and the Nez Perce National Forest. As with areas I have hunted in the past, this is God’s country. Surrounded by mountains in every direction, they reach to the heavens above and seem so close that you could reach out and touch them.
     This beautiful intriguing wilderness offers a wealth of breathtaking valleys and gorges with forests of pine and rivers that flow from the mountain snows. Historic gold mines can be found throughout the region. Before the turn of the century, these mountains were swarming with prospectors hoping to become rich. Some made their money and some died on the mountains. The town of Dixie was started in 1862 when gold was discovered along the Crooked Creek. The town had several thousand residents during the gold rush peak. Today, there are about a dozen year-round residents.

 

The Iron Bear

by Keith Sutton

I fired. When the smoke from my muzzleloader cleared, I could see the bear. It was down, motionless.
     It is over, I thought. The hunt now ends. Tension flowed from my body. The experience left me feeling strangely warm and relaxed. I reloaded my rifle, then lit a cigarette and took a long draw. A welcome rush of nicotine jolted my nervous system.
      I had waited four days to see this bear, four days suppressing the urge to smoke, four days battling my desire to move about, four days struggling to remain alert. But my efforts paid off. When the bear finally came into the small clearing I hunted, I was watching.
     At first, I saw only a paw, a black paw inched forward past the thick underbrush and placed gingerly on the ground. Nothing more did it reveal for 15 full minutes. Though my eyes could not verify my thoughts, I knew the bear must be testing the air with its nose, listening for any unusual sound, looking intently around the clearing for any sign of danger. I moved not the tiniest bit, but my heart raced. I feared surely it would hear the hammering in my chest. The woods were deathly quiet.

 

Lost Luggage & Found Bears

by James Keldsen

Deep within the human soul there exists an unexplainable connection to our ancient past. This connection is normally not apparent, and we go about our daily lives blissfully unaware of it, until unexpected circumstances arouse these primitive instincts. While these incidents can be unnerving at times, they can also be exhilarating as they cause our minds and bodies to react in ways that bring us fully aware of the moment and the environment in which we live.
     The wolves provided me with such a moment. I was sitting alone, more than three miles from the nearest road with only my muzzleloader for comfort. The previous hours spent on stand nearly had me dozing off when their howls began. The chorus was strangely beautiful and provided just enough of a reminder that we can be prey and not just predator, that it quickened my pulse and brought me to full alert. While I fully realized that wolves seldom bother man and I was in no imminent danger, their sounds coupled with my remote location, certainly provided an eerie evening on stand for this hunter. If you have not spent time in the wilderness in the same woods inhabited by bears and wolves, then now is the time. It is well worth it.