When we get asked what our favorite wild game meat is, black bear is generally our answer. Not only is it a little more tender than most wild game, but we find the flavor is often a mix of beef and pork with a slightly sweet edge to it.
We’ve hunted with a number of different black bear hunting outfitters in Manitoba and they’ve always produced great results for us; the mix of big bush and lots of uninhabited areas makes for some great bear habitat. This past spring we visited Adrenaline Outfitters, run by Russ Mehling and guides Tom Paukovic and Dave Lower. The quantity of big bears and colour phase bears that Adrenaline Outfitters have been harvesting is outstanding, so we were very excited to head there during the second week of May. Our adventure started in Winnipeg, where we met our guest hunter and drove the two hours to camp, deep into Manitoba’s Eastern Region. The area is quite rocky and heavily forested, predominantly in soft woods like poplar and pine. There are many large rivers and lakes and everything about this area said ‘big bears’ to us. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Russ, Tom and Dave. After confirming that our crossbows were on, we reviewed game camera pictures from multiple bait sites, to get an idea of the bears Russ wanted us to target. We love it when outfitters use trail cameras as it helps us have a better idea on what bait sites and bears we should be trying to focus on. Not to mention, black bears are one of the toughest animals to judge while hunting so any help ahead of time is always beneficial.
Our first night in the bear woods resulted in a small bear and a medium sized bear that we decided to pass on since we were hoping to have an encounter with one of the mature bears Russ had been getting on camera. The amount of stands Adrenaline Outfitters runs is very impressive. With such a large area, Russ spreads his baits out very well, meaning bears will typically stick to the same baits rather than bait-hopping, which happens when they are positioned too close to each other. This allows you to have higher odds of seeing your bears each night. So to be at a camp where they take great pride in the extra legwork it takes to run the amount of stands they do, and to spread them out as much as they do, is something we really appreciated. Each sight is kept clean, with a double ladder stand or platform stand.
Our second afternoon resulted in some great up close bear encounters at a new bait site. We had two younger bears come in at the same time. One of them even decided to come and investigate us. Before we knew it we had a bear half way up our ladder stand. Luckily for us he decided he was better suited on the ground and retreated down the ladder. It’s moments like these that really get your heart pumping.
On our third day we were again sitting in a new location and we were set up in a beautiful open poplar and pine bush. In no time we had our first bear making his way to us. He was a good-looking bear but still not the big one that was showing up on camera. Before the bear even got to the bait, movement to the left caught our eye and out came a second bear with a rusty red tinge to his coat. This colour phase bear again was not the one we were after but we enjoyed the encounter with him.
Only minutes later we had a third bear come from behind us. We couldn’t get over the activity we were having and we had only been in our stands for a short time. This new bear was slightly larger but still not the one that we had targeted for this stand. As we were enjoying the show, one of the bears looked up sharply and stared deep into the woods behind us, as we turned to see what he was looking at, a very large boar lumbered out of a thicket. There was no mistaking that this was the bear we were waiting for. As he slowly walked he swayed side-to-side, each step deliberate and with authority. As he approached the other bears, two of them bolted off to the edge of the woods; still in sight. When he was ten yards from the bear that stayed, he bluff charged the younger bear and that sent the younger bear running. As the large boar made his way into the bait, we could hear his deep moans and groans, warning the other bears to stay away. As he crossed behind a tree Keith shouldered his crossbow and took the safety off. As he cleared the tree he stopped, perfectly broadside, and Keith pulled the trigger. The bolt went straight into the vitals and the boar tore off, kicking up dirt and debris as he ran. The big bear expired less than twenty yards from our stand.
As we walked up to the bear he kept getting bigger and bigger. He shocked us as he was even bigger then we initially thought. This was an old bear, and he had the large square muzzle, covered in battle scars to prove it. After a call to our guide Tom, we loaded the old boy into the trailer and headed back to camp. By the end of the week not only did we harvest Keith’s bear, but our guest also harvested her first black bear. It was a great week full of bear encounter after bear encounter, and for that reason alone we love going to Manitoba. We can’t wait to get back!
Written by: The Canada in the Rough Crew