Walking down the game trail, through the dense alders, the distinctive woof of an unhappy bear made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. What happened next was a bit of a blur. A bear darted to my right, disappearing in the dense forest in a split second. I dropped my bow, swung the rifle off my shoulder and lifted it just in time to see a second bear face me on the trail. His ears dropped back against its head, the hair on the back of his neck back bristled, and he snapped his jaws in displeasure. Without warning the bear was in a full gallop towards me and by the time I lifted my rifle and fired I swear I could smell its breath. Luckily for me, my bullet found its mark and killed the bear instantly causing his front feet to fall under his chest. His forward momentum cannonballed him towards me, and I jumped out of the way just in time to have him slide past my feet crashing into the base of an alder.
It took me a few seconds to get my wits about me, and I walked out to meet one of my hunting partners. Twenty minutes after the ordeal I started to shake violently, as the adrenaline was either kicking in or wearing off.
I’ll never forget that fateful day in the bear woods and always know I must keep myself safe no matter how complacent one can get. I still hunt bears every year and think that the danger element is part of the reason I still venture into the woods. It may sound a little strange, but an adrenaline-charged adventure always stands out in your mind above all other things.
I had just got a new crossbow and the first season I could put it to use was for the spring black bear. I practiced diligently shooting targets at different ranges and from angles that would simulate sitting in a tree stand.
I made plans to head to northern Alberta in late May to try to find a spring bruin. It was extremely wet with the snowpack we had and getting around was a bit of a challenge; however, I managed to slip into a site that we had never hunted before. There was good sign that a big bruin was living close by and I climbed up the ladder stand to settle in for my evening sit.
It is always peaceful getting back into the boreal forest in the spring. The songbirds provide a chorus that reminds us of just how important this region of Canada is to produce all types of wildlife. Ruffed grouse were drumming, and I could hear a beaver gnawing on some fresh aspen somewhere behind me. My senses were on high alert as I continually scanned the underbrush for as far as the I could see.
As the sun started to set low on the western horizon, I knew that it was prime time for bear movement. The temperature dropped drastically in a matter of minutes, and the mosquitoes seemed to appear out of nowhere. When the woods fall silent, and a hunter tries to remain perfectly still, it is hard to believe that everything around can’t hear your heartbeat. With twenty minutes to go in legal light, I was starting to feel like the bears had won. Then, out of nowhere, a black shadow turned into a cautiously approaching bear.
It was easy to tell that this was a mature boar with his blocky head and small ears. Winter had been a long one, and his belly was not dragging on the ground like it would have been the previous fall. The bear acted very timidly and circled my location before running off in a crashing flurry into the woods.
Minutes later the same boar came slinking in with his nose high in the air. With fading light, I trained my crossbow at the area where I anticipated an opening for a shot. The bear lurked closer, and the leading edge of its chest appeared in my scope. As my crosshair settled on his vitals, I slowly squeezed the trigger.
Everything from that point on was a blur. My arrow passed through the bear in a split second, and the illuminated nock stuck out above the ground, beyond where the bear was standing. The quick retreat reminded me of just how fast a black bear can run. It was a déjà vu moment back to the season when a big boar charged me. The bear did not go far before I heard branches crashing and knew that I wouldn’t’ have to track far to find my spring bear.
In the fading light, I descended my tree stand and walked up on my crossbow bruin. It would now be a race between getting the bear out and having the mosquitoes drain all the blood from my body.
Being able to use the crossbow on a big game hunt was exciting, and the following year I planned a bruin excursion into Trout Camp on Reindeer Lake in northern Saskatchewan. This time I had the new TenPoint Stealth NXT as my bow of choice. I was enjoying the best of both worlds fishing lake trout and pike during the day and bow hunting for black bears in the evening. I enjoyed a big shore lunch every day about noon, but after sitting the bear stand for five days, I had to see a single bear.
I crawled into the stand on the last evening of my hunt and settled in to enjoy the scenic view of the Canadian Shield. I had only been there an hour when a beautiful brown-phase bear sauntered in along a creek. It had a big cream coloured chevron on the front of its chest, and I could feel my heartbeat increase immediately.
I was being cautious and waiting for the perfect broadside shot when something to the left of me caught my eye. With my crossbow pointed towards the creek and the brown bear, I looked over my shoulder to see a bear that is hard to describe. A black face and front paws highlighted by a cinnamon mane and a blonde body made the tricolour bear my new target.
I dare not move and possibly spook the bear. It wandered off, and I wondered if I had missed my opportunity and looked back at the brown bear still over by the creek. I knew it is often a game of patience and decided that even though it was my last night, I would wait on that tricolour trophy. The bear came in on two different occasions to tease me and fearing that I might not see it again, picked an opening through the trees where I could get a shot. Anticipating the bear’s circling retreat, it stepped into the shooting lane, and I squeezed the trigger. My arrow zipped through the bear like a hot knife through butter, and I heard the bear crashing off up the ridge, followed by silence.
Tracking was much more difficult than I anticipated, and it took over an hour before I finally found the downed bruin. The boar had wound its way down some narrow game trails that were surely used by local hares.
I can hardly wait to get back in the woods this spring, as I have a new TenPoint Nitro XRT, shooting 470 fps, to put to the test and hope for another adrenaline-filled bear adventure.