Predators Bear Thirty
Pursuit of Saskatchan Bruins
BY LES JOHNSON
I thoroughly enjoy calling coyotes and calling other predators and have been blessed with countless opportunities to hunt predators all over the U.S. and Canada. Within the last 7-8 years, I’ve had opportunities to hunt black bear in the U.S., but never in Canada. The main thing always holding me back from traveling to Canada was just the travel to and from. Typically, I would make a calling trip to Canada in late winter and would call and kill anywhere from 45-56 coyotes in 7 days and put on thousands of miles doing it. Then I would fly back to Canada to make appearances at trade shows. After all that, I was burned out and needed a break at home. I haven’t hunted coyotes for several years in Canada, so I was ready for another Canadian experience in the outdoors.
In 2015, I had a unique opportunity to go on a bear hunt in northern Saskatchewan, with Truly Canadian Outdoors (TCO). TCO’s owner, Elliott Maduck had made arrangements with another friend of mine from Canada to have me participate as a companion on a hunt being auctioned during the Parkland Outdoor Show in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Their plan was to have me hunt during the late spring/early summer of 2015, with the winner, Tom Cook. So, Tom picked me up from the airport in Saskatoon and drove us to our destination.
We had a mixed bag of hunters in bear camp. Tom was shooting a muzzleloader, I was using a bow, and the other hunter in camp was using a rifle for his first-ever bear hunt. I have been on several other bear hunts, but they were stateside. I had always wanted to experience a bear hunt in Canada, so I was pretty excited for this hunt.
The first evening we just checked on a few of the baits and re-baited them. We all spotted bears while doing that. The terrain and cover in that part of Saskatchewan was so unique and you could see great distances. It actually made the bear hunt more fun since we could see the bears walking around the woods in some places from up to 400 yards. Obviously, in some places you could only see 50-75 yards because of the trees. Either way, there was not a lot around the forest floor for the bears to eat; so if the bears found a bait site, they just would hang out around it.
Another unique thing about this hunt was that the bears were not scared of our presence. They simply did not know what we were and were very curious to find that out, as well as why we were by their bait. Numerous times, bears were within 10 yards of me and the other hunters at their baits. Oh, and the thing that I forgot to mention was that we hunted on the ground with them, usually sitting in lawn chairs of some type. This allowed us to be at eye level with the bears and lower than the tree limbs. By doing this, we could see a long way and could spot most of the bears coming in. Elliot also had tree stands for hunters that wished to sit in one, but once you were up in the air, you could not see the bear until it was very close. Because of my love for watching an animal’s body language when coming into my predator calling, I chose to hunt from the ground. The best way to describe my guide, Dave, is to just imagine a “lumber jack.” Dave is a very beefy guy that looks like he could wrestle a bear and win the match.
Dave, aka Lumber Jack, went with me on the afternoon sit. I thought it was funny when we were getting out of the pickup and getting ready to walk in…and Dave finally realized I was using a bow. He didn’t have a gun for backup, but rather a machete. I just knew that if things got ugly in there, I really needed to use my high school, high hurdling skills to get back out of there.
As Dave and I walked in to our spot, Dave spotted a bear about 40 yards from the bait lying there on the ground. I will never forget that bear lifting up his head and turning to look at us. I’m sure he was like, “What is that, and why are they walking toward my food?”
When the bear stood up, I was like, “Ya, that’s a pretty good bear, and I think I had better nock an arrow.” Ten minutes into my Saskatchewan Bear hunt, and I had an opportunity for a very respectable bear. The bruin stood up and circled around us, trying to figure out what we were. He was walking stiff- legged and doing a little posturing, showing his dislike for our presence.
After he slumbered off, we set up our lawn chairs and got settled in for the rest of the afternoon. It was so peaceful sitting there in a comfortable chair and enjoying the weather and woods. We whispered back and forth, swatted a minimal amount of mosquitoes and waited. As the predator caller’s luck would have it, I brought along a closed reed Predator Quest Deer Bleat and decided to pull it out and blow a few bleats on it…remember we had not been sitting there for an hour yet, and already we had a fun encounter with a bear that I would shoot an arrow through! I pulled out my call and then told Dave that I was going to call for a little bit. I made a few bleats, which amounted to about six different bawls. After sitting there for a couple minutes, my sixth sense kicked in and I decided to sit up in my lawn chair and look behind us. My eyeballs about bugged clear out of my head—I was staring at two bears, no more than 50 yards and 80 yards, respectively, from Dave and me. A big black bear was the closest, with a smaller cinnamon phase following him.
The black bear did a stiff-leg walk around us to my side, only 20 yards from us and went to the bait. Please know that when I say, “bait,” I am using it loosely because we were only using a little cooking oil and popcorn. The black went to the tire to lick up a little oil while the second bear in charge decided he wanted to test our patience. I think that I could see every hair out of place on the cinnamon bear as he walked past us at 5-7 yards. His head was down and he was curling his nose to the side in a form of posturing. I’m sure it meant that he wanted to let us know that he got 2nd dibbs on the oil after Blacky decided he had enough. The cinnamon had beautiful, golden eyes and the sun made them sparkle as he was walking by us. I remember seeing them so vividly. In hindsight, I realize how easy it could’ve been for that bear to bound twice and roll both of us. I wasn’t even concerned or worried…..but I probably should have been!
After watching the black bear for a while, I decided I was going to arrow him if he gave me an opportunity. By this time, we now had two different cinnamon bears wandering around us. One of them was just a little bit bigger than the other, but they both had beautiful coats on them—no rubs in their fur and very long, thick, and even.
As ol’ Blacky was licking up oil and munching popcorn, he kept glancing over at Dave and me. I knew that he wanted to get a closer look at us, so I had an arrow nocked and ready for an opportunity. Shortly, Blacky got up and headed straight for us. There was a smaller tree that had fallen but was still about 2.5 feet off of the ground, so he had to go out around it; that is when he gave me a quartering toward my shot. He was only 10 yards at this point, so if I wasn’t going to shoot, Dave was probably going to have to stand up and start swinging his machete. The situation could go from casual to serious in a few seconds.
As soon as my pin was centered right behind his shoulder, I pulled my release and saw the
arrow disappear through him instantly. Blacky took off running and
we lost sight of him as he ran over a little rise in the terrain. As soon as he was out of sight, the cinnamon came in to the tire to have his turn. I took a few selfies with the cinnamon as he was about 10 yards away and may have been much closer than that!
My bear ran about 70 yards and was every bit as big as I thought he was! I was very happy with him for my first Canadian black bear! The first eve of my first day and I was tagged out!
Needless to say, the rifle hunter in camp punched his tag as well. All three of us shot beautiful black bears.
In recapping my Canadian bear hunt, the absolute best thing about this hunt was the laid back nature of it all. There was never a rush to do this or that! No rushing! I guess I take that back; when I found out what the walleye were biting on and where they were biting the best, I was always wanting to go fishing. Typically, we did not bear hunt until the afternoon, and we sat until dark (which was around 10 pm), so there was always time to go explore rivers and fish during the early part of the day. Ending my hunting season with an archery bear hunt in Canada with Elliott and Dave of Truly Canadian Outdoors was the icing on my hunting year.
Technically…I called those bears into my calling! That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!
Let’s Get To CALLIN!!!