In the wake of Hurricane Irene, you've likely seen tales of destruction and woe in news headlines. But you probably didn't hear much about hunting—that is, unless you were trying to punch a tag somewhere in the path of Irene's mayhem on the East Coast. I was one of those hunters, along with NAHC Life Member Sherry Brown, winner of the Spruce Mountain Black Bear Hunt Giveaway.
Irene finished her tyrannical onslaught merely 24 hours prior to when we planned to arrive in Portland, Maine, from our Midwestern homes in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Had we tried to meet Scott York, owner of Spruce Mountain Guide Service, 1 day earlier in Portland, it wouldn't have happened because the airport was shut down.
Maine didn't receive Irene's most violent blows, but the state endured record rainfalls. As you'd guess, when black bears are accustomed to mild weather and regularly filled bait stations, they're much easier to hunt. However, when the heavens suddenly open up and they get pounded with a torrent of rain, it throws them off a bit. The bears weathered the storm, but by the time we arrived they weren't ready to cooperate.
We spent our first full day at bear camp trying to figure out how we'd access the bait stations that Scott had been rigorously monitoring. The 8 inches of rain from the hurricane destroyed the usual routes into the baits, which had been getting hit by hungry black bears like clockwork in the weeks leading up to our arrival.
Eventually, with some help from Scott's local friend/fellow bear guide, we were able to find our way into the baits. We had to take ATVs 5 miles each way via some relatively dicey trails to access our stands, but we weren't in Maine to kick back and sip umbrella drinks—we were there for a black bear hunting adventure—so it was a welcomed surprise. Scott did everything in his power, and more, to make sure we were as comfortable as possible throughout the entire trip, despite the "hurricane" of circumstances that fell upon us.
After 3 days of hunting, we were all without a bear. I was the only one who had even seen bears. Needless to say, morale was dwindling. Without a doubt, the hurricane had affected the bruins. But, by the third day you could almost smell the restlessness of the hungry creatures, so we called the airport and extended our flight by 1 day.
It was worth it. On the final evening, in the final shooting hour, Sherry scored a beautiful young sow. Her "hurricane bear" brought the perfect end to our bittersweet adventure.
New friendships were formed, abundant laughter was shared and the hunt was jam-packed with adventure. But you'll have to wait until the April/May 2012 issue of North American Hunter to read the full story in the "Keeping Track" section of the magazine.