Besides the reaffirmation of the importance of taking along several good books when you head to a stand to wait for the right bear to show up, I picked up a few new tips and ideas that I’ll be able to apply to future hunts for bear, and other game as well.
Domaine Shannon, where I hunted bear in Quebec this spring, is unique in that every one of their more than 50 bait sites includes a bonafide, one-man, Texas-style shooting house. They much resemble the architecture of one-holer outhouses, and are designed such that the door always points toward the bait where the bear is likely to offer the best shot. A hinged, screened window offers a good view and is at just the right height to act as a steady rifle rest for the hunter in a seated position inside the house. A setup like this offers numerous practical advantages over a traditional treestand, including nearly total relief from swarming mosquitoes and black flies once you deal with the few that sneak in when you enter.
These shooting houses included another extremely common-sense, “Why didn’t I think of that?” advantage. Right below the window, written in marker is the range to the bait. I think it’s a great idea for any kind of blind or stand that will be used by more than one person, even if it’s just on a family hunting property. There’s no guessing, no need to kick yourself for leaving the rangefinder behind. Even in a non-bait setup, the inscription could simply list measured ranges to prominent landmarks at the stand site.
Another revelation of the trip involved another aspect of ranging. I had the chance to share camp with Jon Allen, who is the general manager of Nikon Sport Optics. He introduced me to the Active Brightness Control (ABC) viewfinder, available on a number of the Nikon rangefinder models. The unit actually reads the ambient light. In bright situations, the read-outs appear in the usual dark grey color. But in low light, like looking down a dark tunnel in the woods at a black-coated bear, the read-out shows up in brightly lit red. I’m not sure how, but even with Nikon as a terrific sponsor of "North American Hunter-TV," I missed the introduction of this technology. (Maybe I’m spending too much time in the woods?) But I made Jon promise to get me a rangefinder incorporating ABC technology for this fall. It’s going to make things a lot easier on aging eyes … or any eyes for that matter!
Finally, "NAH-TV’s" spring hunt in Quebec once again included airline travel. Normally we travel through Montreal or Quebec City, but the location of Domaine Shannon made it most efficient to fly into Ottawa, Ontario. And getting to Ottawa from Minneapolis meant flying through Toronto—the last place on earth I’d ever recommend for a hunter to enter Canada. We’ve had more firearm, hunting and equipment-related hassles clearing customs and immigration in Toronto than in any other place we’ve been in the world.
I’m pleased to report the transit went pretty smoothly, especially for Toronto. However, flying home out of Ottawa was proof once again just how fickle it can be. We flew Air Canada round trip. On the flight out of Minneapolis, we admittedly lucked out as their credit card machine wasn’t working, so they didn’t charge us for our extra bags over the allowable one per person. But on the way home, not only did the gate agent charge us for the expected bags, she slapped on an extra $50 handling fee for my gun case. In all the years we’ve flown Air Cananda to every part of that country, not once have I been charged a “handling fee” for firearms. Yet, when I pressed this agent she called up the Air Canada administrative website, and there in tiny type is the policy and the fee! No matter what I said, she wasn’t letting go of it. So, it cost an unplanned $50 extra to get my rifle home. Next time I’ll plan better and try to avoid Ottawa ... and Air Canada, too.