The time has finally come. At 6 a.m. tomorrow morning I'll board a plane at the Minneapolis/Saint Paul airport and fly to Portland, Maine, where I'll be greeted by Scott York from Spruce Mountain Guide Service. Shortly after, NAHC Life Member Sherry Brown, winner of the Spruce Mountain Black Bear Hunt Giveaway, will arrive from Wisconsin with her fiancé, Joe. We'll all pile into Scott's truck and head north for 2 hours to bear camp.
Neither Sherry nor I have had the pleasure to hunt black bears, but according to the most recent reports from Scott, things are looking solid. He's got 37 bait sites, 25 of which are being hit regularly by black bears that have an appetite for Dunkin' Donuts. (The photo below was sent to me last Wednesday from Scott in an e-mail, which read: "This picture is from the stand that I'm planning on putting you on." Sounds like a plan, Scott!)
Originally, this hunt was to be my inauguration into bowhunting. I've been practicing for 2 months with my BowTech Invasion CPX. It's shooting like a dream, but I'll have to officially break it in during Minnesota's bowhunting opener in mid-September at my family's farm. Why not in Maine? Last week I realized Maine is one of 14 states that requires first-time bowhunters to have bowhunter education certification or a prior archery tag from another state in order to hunt with a bow. (My home state of Minnesota doesn't have that requirement.) I was so focused on hitting consistent bull's eyes with my Carbon Express Maxima Hunter arrows, visualizing the vitals of a black bear, that I let the most important part of my pre-hunt planning—double-checking regulations—slip by me.
With no time to fit a bowhunter education class in, I'm falling back on my trusty old 12 gauge Marlin 512 Slugmaster. It's a gun I purchased from my uncle, and I'll never let it go. They are no longer in production. It's paired with a Leupold Rifleman 3-9X40mm riflescope. It's pushing out Federal Premium Ammunition's Barnes Expander Tipped Slugs. I recently sighted it in at 100 yards and my final group resulted in two bullets piercing the same hole, centered, 1 inch high. I'll take it.
Sherry will be hunting with her Winchester Model 70 7mm Rem. Mag.—a recent birthday gift. Her fiancé, Joe, will attempt to put a big bruin down with his Excalibur crossbow.
I'm humbly optimistic about my first black bear hunt, and proud to share camp with a life member of the NAHC.
Wish me luck! And feel free to post any last-minute advice in the comment box below. I'll post an update when I return next week.