I had the wonderful opportunity to go on a bear hunt recently in Canada. This was another first for me and only my second time hunting. Had I not been prodded by my younger brother from Pennsylvania, who suggested we look for a bear hunt, I may never have done this. In hind sight I am so glad I did!
My brother had suggested this in early January and while attending SHOT Show a few weeks later one of our HIVIZ Pro Staff members, Marty Fischer, also co-host of TNT Outdoor Explosion, mentioned they were hosting a bear hunt in May in Saskatchewan. Not knowing which outfitter to go with, or even where to go, this was perfect!
I told Marty we’d take the last two spots they had available for the camp. I was soon to learn all the ins and outs of traveling with a rifle into Canada. The outfitter hosting the hunt was helpful but I also researched and was able to get the firearms forms online. There are only a few ports in Canada where they actually allow you to pre-register your firearm. Saskatoon Airport was one of those. I filed the proper paperwork and faxed it to Canadian Customs about 6 weeks prior to the trip. Receipt of approval was returned via fax about 3 weeks later. I’m thinking this is a “cake walk” so far! There is, however, a US Customs form, which I found out upon my return to the US, that I should’ve filled out for getting my rifle back into the US. There is a registration form with the Homeland Security for firearms. This needs to be filled out and signed by a US Customs official prior to leaving the US….and apparently before arriving at the airport, in other words at the local Customs Office, which for me was in Denver. I was able to get it back in, but was a little rattled by the Customs Officer and at the same time trying to tow a cooler with the bear hide, gun case and large suitcase all by myself. So check and be aware of ALL the requirements prior to hunting in Canada. Makes for less stressful travels!
Eddie, Me, Gregg Miller, and a couple guys from camp: end of day 1
We stayed at Larson Lake Lodge in Spiritwood. The first day we took our rifles out one at a time to make sure they were still sighted in before the guides would take anyone out. At about 3:00 PM we broke into groups of two and three per guide to drive to the various stands. Larson Lake Outfitters hunt over 6600 acres in the area. With trucks parked we loaded up the quads and headed the rest of the way on small paths through the woods to our tree stands. Marty went up the tree stand before me and attached his portable stand above where I would be sitting so he could film. The stand was about 20 feet up. Marty now settled and camera secured, I headed up and affixed my rifle rest and settled in. As the guide was readying to leave on his quad, he whispered up for me to load my rifle now, before he left, as bears have been known to come in to the bait even a few minutes after they leave.
Well almost four silent hours and many squirrels later, suddenly there is crashing from behind us. My adrenaline starts and I think here we go…get ready. At the same time, I’m thinking that crashing is way too loud and fast for any bear! A huge moose came crashing through the stand area and ran up the other side of the hill. Beautiful!!!
Back to silence again, except for thousands of tree frogs and one duck that didn’t quit the entire time…for two more hours and no bear sightings. It is now about 9:15 PM, starting to get dark and I’m getting a little chilled. Marty breaks the silence from above and behind me and asks if I still have light in my scope. Checking, I could still see fine. No sooner had we stopped whispering, I heard foot steps on the leaves coming in behind us. I knew immediately we had a bear coming in finally! I couldn’t believe it! Two minutes ago I was ready to pack it in for the night! I got down on my scope and sighted on the bait area, continuing to hear him walking in from behind. I don’t think Marty heard the footsteps until the bear reached the base of our tree stand. He stopped just below the stand, sniffed and snorted around the ladder at our foot steps. I was afraid to move off my rifle to look down at him, thinking I might startle him with too much movement. It is getting darker out. I hear him starting to move towards the bait barrel and I finally peek over my rifle and see he is a cinnamon colored bear! I’m whispering to Marty to make sure he is a big enough bear and Marty is whispering back, “YES!” Now I have the bear in my scope and this uncontrollable adrenaline hits. Thank goodness for the rifle rest! The bear is at the barrel and standing up making his way around the entire barrel. Before hand, Marty had told me to not shoot right away because he wanted to get as much bear footage on the camera as possible. So I am waiting a bit…it’s getting darker, …with head down on the scope I’m whispering to Marty, do you have enough footage? He’s whispering back and both of us being shooters, neither one of us can hear what the other is whispering! Ok, time for my lone executive decision now as it is getting darker. I have the perfect shot and a good solid hold, despite the adrenaline rushing through my body still.
I pulled the trigger and will never forget the view through the scope, almost dark with red muzzle flash and the bear going down! I was elated! He went down, struggled to get up and ran a bit. He made a semi-circle back towards the tree stand…..I’m reloading now just in case, and he drops about 15 feet from where he started.
WOW! I can’t tell you what a satisfying feeling it was to know I did this on my own. I was apprehensive prior to the trip, traveling to Canada by myself with firearms and never having shot from a tree stand and at a bear nonetheless. I am definitely hooked on hunting now! The people at the lodge were fantastic and I hope to return later next year for an elk hunt with my daughter in tow this time.
Gregg Miller’s beautiful black bear!