Some may say that taking a new hunter on a black bear hunt for their first big game hunting experience is a little over the top, but I’ve never said that I’m normal. Some may say that taking their wife hunting for the first time is a recipe for a divorce, but that didn’t deter us either. My wife, Chrissy, and I have been married for 11 years this summer, and over the years she’s been slowly warming to the idea of getting her hunting license. As we were planning our shoot list for this season’s filming of Canada in the Rough TV Show, I felt pretty strongly that this was the perfect opportunity for her to jump in.
We made the short drive to Lost Lake Wilderness Lodge, which is conveniently located about six hours north of Toronto or 6.5 hours from our home. With four kids at home, I felt some peace knowing that they weren’t too far away should something happen. Add to that the incredibly comfortable and quiet accommodations and a meal plan fit for a king, I figured I couldn’t lose!
Bear hunting is typically the most productive in the afternoon and evening, so we headed out fishing on our first morning. I started off fishing with some artificial lures while Chrissy went to the tried-and-true minnow on a jig head. Sure enough, Chrissy had three fish at the boat before I had one, including her largest fish to date, a beautiful 34-inch Northern Pike! To say that she was excited is an understatement, and already I was feeling pretty good about bringing her along on this adventure.
We got settled into our bear stand around 3 pm, and it was one of the most picturesque bear stands I’ve ever been in. We were in some old growth forest, predominantly populated with tall pines, so the understory was quite minimal and the visibility was 80 yards in some directions. The forest floor was covered in a bright green moss and sloped nicely down to the bait site. Everything looked perfect; however, the wind was changing directions almost every 15 minutes, so I was pretty concerned that any approaching bear would get our scent long before we ever saw him.
It was like my head was on a swivel as I was constantly scanning every direction around me looking for any signs of movement. To have so much visibility on a bear stand is uncommon, so I really wanted to capture the lead-up footage of a bear walking in. Four and half hours into our sit, Chrissy tapped me on the leg. As I slowly turned my head to look her way, movement at the bait caught my eye. There stood a beautiful boar! He had come from the only direction that offered him thick cover right up to the bait site. His actions were very deliberate; a definite sign that he knew this spot well and had been frequenting it for awhile.
Approaching from straight in front of us, the bear offered only a straight-on shot which is a low-percentage angle. With great patience, Chrissy sat with her crossbow raised and thumb waiting to release the safety. For 10 minutes, this beautiful bear fed in front of us only 25 yards away. It was a magnificent sight, and at one point Chrissy commented on how incredible it was to watch a bear in its natural surroundings from such close range without it knowing we were there. I knew then that she was beginning to realize that hunting is so much more than just harvesting an animal. She was beginning to feel the draw that hunters feel pulling them to the woods each season to interact with nature and wildlife.
Chrissy also really enjoys bear meat, so as that bear stood up and turned broadside, her thumb instinctively flicked the safety off and I could see that she had her game face on. As the bear’s leg inched forward, exposing his vitals for the perfect shot, she released her arrow and I watched as the lighted nock hit its mark with almost surgical precision. The arrow travels so fast that I’m not sure that she saw where it hit, so I told her that the shot placement was perfect and that was when her emotions really took over. Her excitement was contagious as the realization of what she had done sunk in. We walked up on her bear a mere 12 yards from the bait site, and I could sense her relief at having made such a great shot that dispatched the bear in such a quick and ethical manner.
With her bear tag filled, it was now my turn. Our next night in the stand provided two encounters with the same young bear about four hours apart. This bear had the nicest coat I’ve seen of any black bear in all my travels. His head, neck, and front legs from the knee down were jet-black, but the rest of his body went from a deep brown to a light chocolate brown near his tail. He provided us with a lot of entertainment that night, but he just wasn’t old enough to be harvested yet.
On our third sit, the rain stopped just in time for us to head to the stand, but the skies still looked threatening, so we donned our rain gear just in case. The winds were high, the clouds dark, and the temperatures quite cool. At 5:30 pm, like a ghost emerging from the darkness, I caught a glimpse of something black walking straight towards the bait. Figuring it was the same young bear from the night before, my eyes almost popped out of my head when this huge boar became visible. As he approached the bait he began to swing out wide towards the down-wind side. My heart sank as I feared that this bear was going to circle all the way around to catch our wind. I began looking for holes in the trees to slide an arrow through, as I figured that I would have to shoot him before he caught our scent. I readied myself in the first hole and waited for him to walk through it, but to my good fortune, as soon as he got down-wind of the bait site, he turned and walked straight into it… he was only 10 to 15 yards away from catching our scent stream!
Walking straight into the bait, he turned and faced us before beginning to feed and then laid down. With the winds swirling constantly, this big boar fed lazily in front of us and I greatly feared that this incredible animal was going to catch our wind and tear off out of here. At one point, his head jerked up and he stared intently into the bush to our right when we noticed our little friend from yesterday approaching. It was quite funny to watch him come in and circle the bait and then turn and run when he caught the scent of the big boar. Finally, after 28 minutes the boar began to rise. Unsure what his next move was and not wanting to lose this opportunity, I had my crossbow sights on him and as he spun to walk away I squeezed the trigger on his vitals. I watched as my arrow found its mark and he tore off out of there. Emotions were high as I watched him go down. Having Chrissy there to share in this moment was incredible and made it all the more enjoyable.