When I got word that I would be heading to Big Bear Country Outfitters in Alberta for a spring bear hunt with Freddy, not a day passed without thoughts of finally going on a bear hunt where things would go right. Plus, after watching Bear’N Down 10 and seeing the experiences Freddy and Tim had up there last year…I couldn’t help but get a smile on my face as I counted down the months…and then days until we headed north.
Finally, May 14 2011, I was on the road at 4 am and had Freddy in the co-pilot seat by 5:00 am. We made good time getting to O’Hare and before we knew it we were getting our rental car at the Edmonton Airport. After a quick lunch, we started our 12 hour drive north to Zama City.
After a 23-hour travel day and a good night sleep, Freddy and I were in a truck with Jason Packer heading to our first sit of the trip. I was hunting the first night, so Jason took Freddy in on the quad before the hunt so he could start setting up the cameras. When Jason brought me in to the stand, I was surprised to see a nice bear circling the area….a bear bigger than anything I’ve taken in the past.
Once we were set up, we spent the next seven hours watching many bears as they visited our location. All but one bear we had an encounter with, was bigger than anything I’ve taken, but I was hunting at a place where Freddy and Tim shot HUGE bears the year before. It was tough passing on them, but it would eventually pay off. We did have a brief encounter with a very big bear at the end of this sit, but he just wouldn’t come in.
For my second sit of the trip we had decided to go back to the stand where I sat the first night. The action picked up right where it had left off the previous sit. We were again covered up with several bears…..all in the 6 foot range. I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be sitting in the bear woods starting to get bored watching a bunch of 6’+ bears…watching instead of shooting. In 4 previous bear hunts I had been on, I only saw a couple of six footers and never got a crack at them.
This was Big Bear Country and they got that name for a reason. I knew it was just a matter of time before a bear of my dreams would show up…and show up he did. About half way through our sit that evening, I looked back over my right shoulder and saw a “Volkswagen with hair” checking out the area from a distance. My heart rate tripled as I anticipated this bear coming in. He scanned the area for several minutes before retreating back into the thick woods.
I was a bit disappointed that I did not get a chance at him, but was excited about the encounter. I spent the next few hours on high alert as I anticipated his return and when I heard a twig snap behind us, I immediately got ready just in case it was “HIM”. It wasn’t, but this bear looked good. I was pretty sure he was a shooter but he needed to pass the “beaver test”. We were hanging the beaver extra high on the ridge pole at the bait sites and I had mentioned to Freddy that the first bear to reach the beaver was going home with me.
The bear cautiously circled for a bit before approaching the beaver. When he stood up and grabbed the beaver, my release immediately was on the loop. He pulled on the beaver a few times and with one good pull he snapped the pole. I don’t think the bear was too happy when the ridge pole “bonked” him on the head, but he quickly composed himself and settled in for his evening snack.
I got the green light from Freddy and the Spitfire Maxx zipped right through him. Twenty yards later, by best bear by far was on the ground and the monkey was FINALLY off my back. As I approached the bear during the recovery, I was finally putting my hands on a big bear. This 6’6” bruin with an absolutely beautiful hide and two big scars on his face was everything I had dreamed of….and more!
We still had a few hours of daylight left so we climbed back in the tree. It wasn’t long and we were covered up with bears again. We had several at the bait and we could also hear bears fighting behind us. It was then when Mr. Big showed up!!! He waltzed right in and cleared every bear from the area. As he stood broadside at 15 yards, I was finally getting a taste of what it felt like having to pass on a shot because of low camera light….and it didn’t bother me a bit (ok, just a little). We were smack in the middle of the best bear hunting on the planet and still had four more days to enjoy it all.
I need to give a huge thank you to Ralph and Vicki for the opportunity to hunt at this world-class location and to Jason and Steve for being awesome hosts at; http://www.bigbearoutfitters.com. Two 7 footers already spotted, four days to go and three tags left…….Freddy’s turn!!!