Article courtesy of Guns n Game Magazine. Please click on the Guns n Game Magazine link to view the Shooting News website.
Author: Ione Silo
Having a husband who loves to travel and hunt in remote locations, I decided it was time for me to take a little adventure of my own. I have always loved the outdoors and hunting seemed a natural progression, no doubt fuelled by the stories and tales told as my husband returned from each trip away with new experiences and trophies obtained.
Canada’s beauty is unrivalled. For anybody with a love of the mountains and big deep forests, this country has it all. Canada was my chosen destination and its diverse wildlife and wonderful opportunities open up many possibilities for the hunter. I was keen to embrace a challenge for a species I had never pursued and with the help of (www.gunsmokeadventures.com.au), a trip was put together for black bear.
Black bear are an ideal species to kick off a Canadian hunting career. They are numerous in many provinces allowing for multiple encounters over the course of a typical hunt and they can be hunted using different methods to suit the conditions and the hunter’s fitness level. Also their fur comes in a wide range of colour phase and markings and bears look just as good on the floor as a full rug as they do a body mount. Lastly, most bear hunts are quite affordable for the typical working class Aussie and in many provinces a second bear tag can also be put in the back pocket.
Whilst preparing for the hunt, I updated a few items on my gear list. Lately I have noticed a growing trend for hunters to wear technical clothing from Lamellar, an Australian company, so after going through their extensive product list I settled on a few quality items that later proved ideal and entirely suitable for my overseas destination. Thumbs up to supporting an Australian owned company in these tough times and the service I received from Lamellar hunting apparel was first class, thanks guys.
I have to admit as the hunt dates approached, my level of excitement and anticipation rose accordingly. I know bears can be dangerous, do routinely kill people and have attacked many hunters, but reassuringly I knew I was in experienced hands with my chosen guide and outfitter, and this helped control the nerves, to a point!
Prior arrangements had been made to focus our hunting out of tree stands. I would sit above bait stations that had been selected and maintained by the guides and I had read about the long days often encountered in enduring conditions. But as most people know, not all hunts go to script and this turned out to be one of them.
After almost two days of travel, I eventually touched down in Edmonton, Alberta where I located my friendly guide and commenced the three hour drive to the wilderness area that was to be my hunting destination. Excitement and nerves formed an uneasy mix in my stomach when not long after arriving in hunting camp I was informed that we could head straight out for a hunt that very afternoon. It was Canadian summer time and with daylight remaining until almost 11pm, I had plenty of time to take a shower, change into my Lamellar camouflage and head out for a look.
I was briefed on the way to a stand by my guide and was comfortable knowing that I would be sitting over and above any bears in the area. That concept was soon about to change when we parked the vehicle and began the walk along the logging trail and into the first bait location. I had hardly got into full stride when I spotted my first bear 300m ahead. As we stalked a little closer I was more then pleased to see my guide take the lead. He was cautious, but confident and this reassured me as we closed the distance. But I still had a lot of awkward thoughts going through my mind as we were on the bear’s terms now and the only bears I had previously got close to were sitting in the fork of a tree eating Eucalypts leaves.
I glassed the bear as it moved off the track into the forest and he looked relaxed and settled, perhaps not quite large enough for so early in the hunt. We decided to keep going and as we approached the first bait area, another two bears came wandering out of the dark timber. It was beginning to look like we should have arrived at the bait a little sooner! One bear stopped on the track about 150m from us and I moved to a nearby stump to set up the rifle on a solid rest. This was a reasonable bear but I was unable to calm down enough to take the shot before the bear moved off. We cautiously moved forward again and my guide indicated that he could hear another bear somewhere in amongst the trees to our right. Well, actually I hardly heard what he was saying. I had already dropped to my knee and was lining up on another bear that had appeared 100m down the track.
We were surrounded, or so it seemed. This new bear in front of us was a smaller animal and I watched it through the scope until the animal caught sight of us and decided to back away.
Standing up I have to admit the last ten minutes had taken me way past my comfort zone, but I was growing in confidence with each bear encounter and loving every aspect of the hunt. My guide was patient and a good hunter and we finally made it to the bait site. A quick discussion followed and it centred on the numerous bears seen in just these first few minutes of our arrival. We decided that we had probably scared the bears in the immediate area for now and the best plan would be to re-bait this site and arrive at it earlier tomorrow. We would move up and check the other baited sites for the remainder of the evening. Our hunting vehicle was bought down to unload and replace the bait at this “hot” site.
That is when all hell seemed to break loose. A large and grumpy bear decided that the noise of the vehicle meant meal time and came ambling out of the forest and into the clearing at a good pace. In the few seconds that followed, he was sized up as a trophy bear and my guide suggested I should shoot him. He was approximately 30 meters and closing when the call was made. This grumpy old boar however had no intention of stopping and kept coming straight at us. At 20m the wording became “now would be a good time” but when he got to 10 meters the command was an urgent “SHOOT HIM NOW.”
That big old bear got to about seven meters from us before I finally got a clear shot with the .30/06 and sunk a Barnes X bullet deep into his shoulder. This had the desired effect and sent him reeling away from us. He turned at the first big tree, stood on his back legs and looked out at us through a big fork in the tree. With his chest exposed, front on through that gap, a quick follow up shot ensured he was finished off. All this had taken place in less than 20 minutes of arriving at my hunting area.
Still trembling a little, I took a moment to gather my thoughts. The realisation that I had just taken a nice big boar on my arrival day in Canada set in and suddenly the smiles and high fives came out. He had a great coat on him, no rub marks and with nice long hair, he proved to be a fine specimen of the species. The elation of taking my first bear was huge and the story seemed to grow bigger and bigger (along with the size of the bear) at the bar later that evening.
Having now taken my first bear at a distance of just seven metres, finding another one and taking it on a spot and stalk hunt rather than the tree stand no longer seemed a problem. Several days later and with a nice 150 metre shot, I went on to take the biggest bear of the trip with a solid boar measuring almost seven foot with a 20 inch skull.
That second hunt was just as exciting, but nothing will compare to those first day bear encounters on the way into the tree stand, it was truly unforgettable. For an Aussie girl with a sense of spirit and adventure, Canada lived up to all expectations and I don’t think it will be too long before I am back. I now have two gorgeous bears in the trophy room to serve as constant reminders of my journey.
Thanks must go out to Gunsmoke Adventures, who arranged a slick hunting trip in a destination loaded with bears and to Lamellar hunting apparel (www.lamellar.com.au), your gear was simply awesome! Sitting at home at the completion of my trip I realise I am now faced with a new challenge, working out what to hunt for and where to go next!