With two bears already in the Wilderness Escape Outfitters’ freezer, the hunters’ adrenaline in camp was at a very high level.
At dinner each evening, those of us who had seen bears while on watch at our sites shared our tales, and as would be expected in any hunting camp, there was a bit of exaggeration from all. When we went to bed Tuesday evening, we all had high hopes for placing our sights on a big black bear the next afternoon.
DAY 3: LADY’S DAY
Randy put me in a new stand that evening, and it looked very promising, especially when I saw the barrel had been emptied and there was fresh bear scat on the ground.
The shot would be just 25 yards through a generously groomed shooting lane. Even the weather was cooperating with temperatures in low 70s and dropping, and very light wind gusts.
It was about 6:30 p.m. when the bear appeared in the heavy brush, less that 10 yards from my stand. He was cautious, but moving toward the bait when I shouldered my rifle and looked at him through the scope. Unsure of his size, I waited until he reached the downed barrel. When he did, I could see he was several inches higher and longer than the barrel, and I placed the red dot just behind his shoulder, but did not click off the safety.
For the next 15 minutes I argued with myself, shoot or don’t shoot, and finally lowered the rifle. He was a nice bear, probably 125-150 pounds, but I decided to wait for something bigger. Walking out that evening, I remembered something that Randy had said during orientation: “Don’t let a bear go today that you would shoot on the last day of the hunt.”
Back at the lodge, things were buzzing again, but this time, it was for Lisa Liptok of Tennessee, who had shot her first bear that evening, and she was still very excited when I spoke with her.
“I could actually feel my heart pounding when the bear walked in,” she said. “I put the crosshairs where Randy had told me to the day before and pulled the trigger. And this all happened in less than two minutes.”
She shot the boar (male) at about 45 yards with a Savage 308, and the bear expired less than 100 yards from where he was shot.
Lisa’s bear, which she will have fully mounted, tipped the scales at 230 pounds. Dinner was fun, with all congratulating Lisa. She was really surprised when Randy presented her with a framed Wilderness Escape Outfitters official Bear Hunter Success certificate.
DAY 4: WET AND WINDY
After breakfast, John Mackey and I took one of the lodge motor boats and headed out on Upper Hot Brook Lake to check out the smallmouth, pickerel and trout population, but we hadn’t gone very far when we heard the thunder and knew what was headed our way. John caught and released a pickerel and when the high winds started, we headed for shore, which turned out to be a very good decision.
All morning it poured, and when I climbed into my stand at 1:45 that afternoon, it was still pouring and the winds were blowing 20-25 mph. For five-plus hours, I huddled in my stand, dry but miserable, as I stared at the barrel. Not a good day for bear movement. At dark, I was actually glad to get down and was looking forward to the dinner Sharon would have waiting for us. And yes, it was still pouring.
The only one who saw a bear was Mississippi hunter Murray Woody. His story was really typical of bear hunters, because most are shot the last few minutes before dark. Murray told me he was within minutes of picking up his gear and heading out of the woods when the bear appeared at the bait.
“I never heard him come in; he was just there,” he said.
Waiting patiently, he let the bear walk into the bait site to size him up and get a good shot. One shot from his Model 70 Winchester 7mm mag at 35 yards was all it took, and Murray had his first black bear, which tipped the scales at about 150 pounds. Now the camp had four hunters who killed their first black bear.
DAY 5: TREED HUNTER
I have to admit that with just two more days to hunt, I was beginning to question my decision to pass on bears and decided that maybe I would shoot a 125- to 150-pound bear if it came in. When I climbed into my stand at 1:30 p.m., the air temperatures were down in the 60s, but the winds were gusting to 20-plus mph. High winds tend to keep the bears from moving around too much during the daytime, but as Randy said at breakfast: “You never know what a bear will do.”
It was about 5:30 p.m. when I heard something moving off to my left, but I never really got look at what is was. Perhaps it was a bear because most often, a bear — especially a big mature bear — will make wide circles around the bait, testing the wind. Each circle usually gets a little smaller until they are sure it is safe to go in. About 15 minutes before dark, I saw movement behind the bait and when I used the scope to look, all I saw was one black leg, and a few minutes later, it disappeared. I stayed in the stand a little longer until I couldn’t see the bait site and then climbed down and headed out.
Randy arrived a bit earlier than I expected, and in the truck with him was his friend, Fred Robie of Vermont. “Jump in” he said, “Teddy needs some assistance.” Teddy Siwy, a hunter from Orchard Park, had called Randy for assistance, but not with a dead bear, rather with the live ones that had surrounded him. When we arrived, Randy told me to stay in the truck while they went in to get Teddy. I watched them disappear into the heavy cover, and both had drawn and ready handguns. Fortunately, the bears dispersed when they heard Randy and Fred coming, and Teddy was able to get out of the stand.
At dinner that evening, I got the full story. Just when Teddy was about to climb down from his stand, a big sow and her cub came into the site to feed. And a few minutes later, a boar also appeared. The mother reacted almost immediately, attacking the intruder, and Teddy said she really hurt him. When Teddy shined his light on the bait site, the mother was a little closer, growling and popping her teeth at him. But that wasn’t the end of his problems because when he heard noise by the bait barrel and shined his light on it, all he saw was the reflection of two eyes of a bear that was considerably bigger than all others. It was then that he called in the troops.
DAY 6: POPPING TEETH
For the last day, Randy put me in a new location which had a natural-looking ground blind made from logs and pine and spruce boughs. It was very comfortable and about 45 yards from the bait sight. My hunt was down to the last five hours, and weather conditions, including the wind, were perfect. As always on the last day, the time flies and at
6 p.m., that last hour came and went much too fast. But I had no regrets; I had chances and chose not to shoot, and most importantly, I had made a number of really great new friends in those seven days.
But the excitement of my hunt was not quite over yet. As I was walking out in the dark off in the brush to my left I heard a growl and popping teeth. Not knowing exactly what to do, I picked up my pace and purposely made noise which included a few very loud, “Hey bears,” to let him know I was there. Now that I think about it, I’m sure he knew I was there.
Upon reaching the secondary trail that led to the dirt road where I was going to meet my ride, I thought I had lost my friend, but a popping and low growl told me he/she was still around. Every once in a while, it would let me know it was there, and when I was almost at the road intersection, I turned around quickly and shined the light, and there, about 25 yards from me, standing in the path, was the bear. It was then that I actually talked to my first bear. It was a short and loud speech of what a 180-grain Federal 30.06 bullet will do to a black bear. He did leave, but I don’t think it was my talk that made him.
As for the Wilderness Escape Outfitters, I plan to return, and if you are interested in a first-class bear hunt, check out their website, www.wildernessescape.com. Let me know if you’re going. I may join you.
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