The Hunt Has Just Begun. [A Reflection of Bear Camp]

The Hunt Has Just Begun.

[A Reflection of Bear Camp]

By Ryan McKinney

EvoOutdoors, ProStaff

P00[C000-I110-E069@003]R256-G256-B256-(I:27-G0fdh-L0558)-c81-L512-P(09-0360-1080-0359-1079)LB00-RTC0-A0

Bear Lane Guide Service is located in Wesley, Maine and has been family owned and operated business for over twenty years. Frank Perkowsky, a registered Maine Master Guide is at the helm of this outfitter. Along with two other registered guides, Frank tirelessly devotes his time to bringing clients the best guide service that Maine has to offer. That being said, I’m quite bias. Bear Lane happens to be my family business, and I’am fortunate to be a part of it. I don’t write this article to promote Bear Lane, but to reflect on my time there.

I won’t speak of other outfitters, rather explain how our guide service operates. In Maine, bear season lasts four weeks, in the fall, opening the last Monday in August. Furthermore, Bear Lane legally hunts two ways, over bait and with hounds. When clients book with Bear Lane, they get a package that includes food, lodging for five days and guide service. So what exactly is guide service? If you are not familiar, becoming a guide is no easy feat in Maine. You can research the guidelines here. In short, the guides responsibility is the client. Period. Frank and his team are an established outfit, with countless bait sites and thousands of acres of hunting land. They work to maintain bait sites, maintain a continuous rotation of trail cameras, transporting clients, tracking and processing harvests and most importantly, ensure the safety and success of their clients. While the guides do everything they can to ensure you’re successful, you’re left with the responsibility to eat like a king, sleep and hunt. Moving forward, let me clear that Bear Lane and it’s staff have an impressive track record and are a very successful outfitter, this article is under no circumstances is a reflection of them.

bear 1I have been fortunate enough to be able to hunt bear in Maine for a couple of years. At this point, I have yet to harvest a bear, and that has been the best experience I could ask for. The woods in Maine are a relentless place, thicker than I’ve ever experienced. So imagine that you’re in your tree stand, and all you can see is the shooting alley that you have to the bait site. You’re lucky if you can see anything else, or any further. That being said, bear are very sensitive to movement, so that means, you need to sit painfully still. This is where I struggled the most.

When I hunt whitetail, I can basically do jumping jacks in my tree stand and still be successful. It’s very difficult to stay engaged when bear hunting; you end up staring at the same site, for hours, without moving, at all, for five days.

Process that for a second. Most people can’t sit still for 10 minutes, let alone several hours. If I were to be totally honest here, I would say I contemplated quitting several times and I didn’t want to bear hunt anymore. I found myself going through a whirlwind of emotion, starting excited, engaged, focused, and as the hours passed, you couldn’t get me out of the woods fast enough. I was frustrated. And it’s for this reason that I wrote this article. As the week passed, the desire to quit grew. I hunted hard for five days, I was mentally exhausted. Any avid hunter will tell you, sitting for several hours, and remaining hyper alert, is taxing. I was done.

Another year passed without a bear harvest. This year was especially difficult because I felt the pressure to perform from various avenues. Even on a less formal level, my friends and family eagerly awaited my call or a photo on social media boasting my success. I received an overwhelming amount of support, and for that, I am grateful. However, It didn’t happen. I couldn’t get over this overwhelming feeling of failure and disappointment. Oddly enough, this is where my greatest success seemed to be. I was better for it. The lessons I learned from NOT being successful is where I grew the most. If I were immediately successful, then I’m not sure I would have gotten much out of it, other than a mount on the wall and some classic harvest photos. I really feel strongly that this is where the hunting industry falls short. Up-and-coming hunters see nothing but Boone and Crockett bucks, Pope and Young black bears, and various giant animals harvested on TV. Of course no one wants to see a hunter sit in a tree stand for hours on TV and not see a thing, but I don’t think the industry is doing anyone any favors here – But that’s another article. I vividly remember watching Bill Dance catch giant bass after giant bass on TV when I was a kid. It was fun to watch, but it made my expectations unrealistic when I was fishing with my dad.Bear 4

 

As I sit in my comfy chair a week after my hunt, I am able to think a bit more clearly and really look back on this hunt. Im a better hunter and outdoorsman than I was two weeks ago. Hopefully, I’m a better example to my family, friends, and outdoor community from these experiences. I will hunt black bear again.

This article is my mount on the wall.

I want people to see the other side of hunting. You’re not always going to harvest an animal, but you can always be successful. I continue to grow, learn patience, perseverance, and gain experience. When I began this journey in the outdoor industry, it was immediately important to me to teach my boys, and anyone else who wanted to learn, the things that were taught to me by my mentors. This is a chapter in that book.

“A hunt based only on trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be.”~Fred Bear

Ryan McKinney

11750736_10153197026856032_3620679547415384242_n

 

MORE THAN JUST BEARS

MORE THAN JUST BEARS

By Erin Merrill, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

IMG_6419

Kryptek Camo from EvoOutdoors

Seven miles down a narrow dirt road, into the back woods of Maine, away from towns, pavement, electricity and cell service, five Maine outdoors women of varying ages and backgrounds are at camp for the same reasons:

We love the outdoors and we want to hunt black bears.

For some of us, we want to keep pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone and become better outdoors women.

Estimates put Maine’s bear population at around 30,000 and with successful hunters taking an average of 2800 bears over the 16-week season. The Maine Black Bear is thriving if not over-populating species in the dense woods. However, these animals are incredibly smart and keenly aware of their surroundings which makes successfully hunting one a great accomplishment.

Robin and I have each shot a bear before; her’s over bait and mine using hounds. Tammy is a professional photographer and has been bear hunting for a handful of years now. Taylor is an incredible biologist by trade and while she was at camp, the bear she wanted is at a different bait site closer to her house.  Sue is a trauma nurse and active leaders in the outdoor women’s movement in Maine.  Robin enjoyed silencing critics who questioned if, as women, we could handle bears by ourselves in the woods alone by pointing out,

“We are five women who have and know how to use high powered rifles.  No person or animal is going to mess with us.”

IMG_6491 (1)

Since it was early in the season, we were sitting over baited sites waiting for the bears to hit hyperphagia and begin to come into the sites before dark.  Each morning Robin would get the bait together and with a truck and 4-wheelers, we would check the sites to see if they had been hit and add more bait and smells to lure the bears in.  It is no easy task to get the bears to steadily come to the sites when there is so much natural food around.

‘I’m terrified of them,”

Sue said when I asked if she enjoyed her week in camp so far even though she had not yet seen a bear, “I came here to conquer my fear and if I haven’t done it, I’ve come close.” For Sue, conquering her fear meant sitting on a metal chair placed behind a piece of camo fabric tied between two trees and looking between the trees towards the bait site.  For a beginner with a healthy fear of bears, sitting on the ground and waiting for one to come in is about as bad ass as you can get. Bears are silent in the woods which is how they earned their nickname the black ghost. It tests your mental and physical limits as you sit, listen and watch – without moving and giving your location away.  As night sets in and new sounds emerge, you need to be on your game and ready for a bear to stroll in.  Every sound you hear may be a bear or it could be a moose, deer or coyote or fisher.  Hunters know how many other animals are roaming the woods with us.IMG_6501

Hunting and her relationship with Robin helped Tammy become more independent and grow her confidence in her outdoor skills.  She sat in a treestand as the winds from an incoming storm steadily increased and decided to build herself a ground blind when the swaying of the tree got to be too much. Using fallen branches, leaves and a piece of canvas, she created a small blind that she sat behind until dark.  Just a few years ago, she would not have had enough confidence to get down alone from her stand, let alone build one on the ground.

IMG_6516

Taylor and I

I am not nearly as courageous as Sue or Tammy when it comes to conquering the mental piece of hunting.  I sat in a treestand with Robin and tried to become familiar with the sounds of the Canada Jays, ducks in the bog and tree frogs.  I watched a Northern Flicker land on a branch 15 feet from us and preen for a few minutes, totally unaware that we were in the tree.  A Snowshoe Hare came in and out of the site a couple of times before disappearing into the thick underbrush.

During the entire week, we saw signs that bears had been around and were eating grubs from tree stumps and fallen logs but none of us saw a bear.  We spent time hiking, foraging for mushrooms, exploring the fields, talking about our favorite guns and scopes and drank lots of coffee and wine as we shared stories and our love of the Maine woods.

Bear camp is about more than just the bears.

WOMO

IMG_9607

Erin is actively involved with local organizations that promote women in the outdoors and has taught classes on writing, campfire cooking and white-tail deer basics. You can find Erin’s writing about the challenges facing women hunters, life in the Maine woods and her hunting and outdoor adventures on her blog www.andastrongcupofcoffee.com as well as in her monthly magazine column “Women in the Wood” featured in the Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Not All Trophies Are Made Of Gold | Bear Hunting in Canada

David Frisbie - EvoOutdoors ProStaff

 

I read somewhere that “The core of a man’s spirit comes from new experiences.” Most hunters dream of traveling the world in search of big game. Whether it be a cape buffalo in the great plains of Zimbabwe, or a dall sheep in the mountain tops of Alaska. I am no exception to this by any means…

I find it exhilarating traveling to unfamiliar territory in pursuit of an animal I have never laid eyes on. This addiction has lead me to hunt everything from mountain lion to kudu in my 30 years. Where I am from we have more than enough big game to keep most outdoorsman occupied. Whitetail, pronghorn, feral hogs, desert mulies… just about any exotic game you can imagine. One thing Texas doesn’t offer is BEAR. Since I can’t find one here I decided I would go where I could chase one… I spent last August gawking over pictures of black bears of all shapes and color phases. Reading about them and how unique they really are. I decided that I had to hunt this amazing animal. I spent the next 3 weeks searching for outfitters, calling references, comparing prices, and looking at flights. I finally settled with Marshland Outfitters out of Candle Lake, Saskatchewan and booked my hunt. Then the preparation started…So the first week of June 2013 I found myself in the bush of Saskatchewan, Canada.

First thing was booking my flight, and making sure all of travel documents and reservations were in order. (Always look at your passport expiration date… Haha) Its always a good idea to check the gun laws in the country you are traveling as well. Some charge outrageous fees to import a firearm and others won’t let you at all. (This isn’t an issue if you are a bow hunter obviously.) Luckily it was only a $25 import tax for a  firearm.

After figuring out how I was getting there and back home it was time to start gearing up. After a little research on the climate and conditions I would be hunting, I made a checklist of things I would need. I figure it was going to be colder than a cast iron toilet…not the case at all! Beautiful weather to a Texan’s standards. Rain gear and a thermacell was right at the top of that list though. If you haven’t seen a mosquito in Canada; lets just say they are big enough that they will eat anything that doesn’t eat them first and they are thicker that fleas on a farm dog.

I researched what type of weapon was best too. A general rule I live by, is that the further you get from the equator the bigger the animal is. I was surprised in finding that any basic whitetail setup was plenty for a springtime bear. I talked to the outfitter to get a feel of my shot distances. Then I started practicing. Day in and day out it was practice, practice, practice! Did I mention practice? Every free second I had I dedicated to shooting until I was hitting tight enough groups at 40 yards I felt like I could do it blindfolded. I was taking my 270 WSM as well just for a backup plan. I usually live by the thought that if you have a Plan B, then Plan A wasn’t good enough. But in this case I would rather be safe than sorry.

Finally before I knew it my hunt was here. I was boarding a plane out of DFW to Saskatoon…  Headed 2000 miles north for a hunt of a lifetime. Our days were long… The sun would rise at 4:15 am and wouldn’t set until 11pm or so. Each day consisted of spotting and stalking in the mornings and sitting over a bait barrel in the evenings. I saw moose, elk, deer, and even had a close encounter with a pair of wolves one afternoon.  I watched numerous bears each day but was holding out for that special one. That one that I looked at through the binos and just said “WOW”. Well, that bear never presented itself. On day 4 of my hunt I decided it was time to lose the trophy hunter mentality and shoot something I would be proud of.

That afternoon it was raining off and on. It was even hailing pea sized hail at one point. However, I never wished I was any place else than right there. I watched bears come and go. Then, after 4 hours of waiting I had a beautiful black bear staring right at me. I watched him as he slowly moved through the trees. I found an opening he should come to if he continued on his path. Then I waited. 30 seconds seemed like an hour! As soon as he stepped into my shooting lane I didn’t hesitate. BANG! He ran a few steps and rolled up into a black heap on the leaf covered ground. I dunno if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, but I can tell you that I was making more noise than a pissed off mule in a tin barn.

   2013 Canadian Bear Hunt

One of my greatest achievements in my hunting career is that bear. Not because of the size, but because I was so far away from home, in another country, doing it alone. He isn’t the biggest bear but he is MY bear. He is my biggest and best to date and I am proud of him. One thing I do regret is not being able to share the experience with someone at that very moment in time. Someone once told me “Happiness is only real when shared.”  There is something to that I think.

Some people sit around and talk about doing things, or what they would like to do. Then one day, they realize all their dreams have become regrets. My advice, get out and chase that monster bull elk or trophy mule deer. Stop living vicariously through Jim Shockey and Tiffany Lakosky on TV and go fill your own tags! When you want something in life, you just have to reach out and grab it.

“Keep your blades sharp and your powder dry”

 

David Frisbie