Tom and Judy Usunier of Big Grass Outfitters call them "agricultural bears". The Black Bear in the Russell, Manitoba area dwell in the creek bottoms and wood lots that crisscross the west central Manitoba farmland. "Black Bear", while the correct common name for the local bruins, is somewhat of a misnomer. A high percentage of the local bear are anything but black. This past May, a group of NAHC Life Members journeyed to Canada for their shot at a phase-colored "Black Bear".
Day 1 of the hunt threatened rain and delivered cold windy conditions. Wimpy hunters would have stayed in camp. Wise bears would have gone back into hibernation. Joe Carafelli (Canton, OH drew the hot bait site. Joe passed on a number of bears before an impressive chocolate bear rushed into his bait, snatched a chunk of Beaver meat, and made a dash towards the underbrush. A snap shot by Joe toppled the bear in its tracks.
Pimchney, MI) was gathering his gear when a bear materialized from behind the bait barrel. Believing the bear had "busted" him, Jim snapped a head-on shot with his 45-70 Guide Gun. The bear took the shot slightly off center and made it about 80 yards before expiring. Jim had bagged the bear of the week – a 300 pound blonde!
Day 3 was a continuation of cool weather that wasn't moving bears. Richard Reed (Norwalk, IA) watched and listened as a heavy bear paced the area just out of bow range. Dale Berry (Burlington, KS) watched another bear move through his bait ½ hour after sunset. A legal shot but the low light conditions made it extremely difficult with a bow. Dale wisely passed the shot, hoping for another opportunity in the next couple of days.
Day 4 saw a little break in the weather. The group was optimistic that the warmth would stir the bears into the feeding mode. Early in the evening, Ken Kenia (Milwaukee WI) watched a true black bear licking the icing off of a bait barrel. Ken held off taking a shot because he was hoping for a phase colored bear. As the bear turned, Ken saw chocolate fur on the back half of the bear. Ken dispatched the bruin to find that it was a black bear with a den rub that exposed the brown undercoat. Later that evening, Jerry Friend (Albright, WV) made the decision to take a small bear the ambled into his bait. His decision was a good one, the bear he shot sported a unique light golden coat. It was truly a bear of a lifetime.
Day 5 looked rough in the morning but transitioned into the kind of day anyone that would enjoy sitting in a stand – warm and sunny. The "bearless" hunters returned to their stands for another 7-hour shift. The summery weather was too little, too late. The bears weren't into their heavy spring feeding and stayed away from the bait. Dave Zachow (Clintinville, WI) got his adrenaline pumping when a wolf (legal to shoot with an open bear tag) slunk in to check out the bait. The wary canine never gave Dave a shot he could take with is bow.
The hunt began with 8 strangers and ended with 8 friends and a lot of hunting stories. That's what NAHC Life Member hunts are all about – new friends and great stories.
For information on Big Grass Outfitters bear, waterfowl, and Whitetail hunts, visit www.biggrassoutfitters.com or call 204-386-2145.