It had been a little more than 1 year since I watched the huge Manitoba black bear walk out of my life. Although our encounter was brief and ended without a shot, I saw enough of the giant boar from my treestand to estimate he would weigh an astronomical 500-600 pounds. What a bear!
And I was still thinking about that bear as I traveled back to outfitter Ed Balan’s Manitoba hunting property this past spring with my hunting buddies Jerry Helget and Joe Nastepniak. Our goal, or at least my goal, was to re-enact last year’s encounter. While that might have been next to impossible, I had a good feeling about this year.
During the first day of our hunt, Ed took me to my stand, which just happened to be the same stand where I had the encounter with that giant boar. During my sit, I spotted a few small bears, but for the most part, it was a rather lack-luster evening that held far more anticipation than bear activity. Back at camp that night, I settled in for a good night’s sleep in preparation for the next day’s hunt.
The Shot of a Lifetime
The second morning of the hunt came with the same heightened anticipation for all of us, and at lunch Ed laid out the evening’s hunt plans just as he always does. It seems the wind had changed earlier in the day and as such, so did our stand assignments.
Ed’s plan was for my friend Jerry to sit over an active bait site to the west, while Joe would go back to the same stand where a hunter had shot a 350-pound cinnamon-colored bear the year before. I was to sit in … well, in the same stand that well-known white-tailed deer hunter Myles Keller had killed a 530-pound boar from 2 years before.
Around 7:30 p.m. on the second night, I had two small boars visit my stand site, and I estimated each one to weigh approximately 150 pounds. They messed around the bait pile a little before walking back into the woods. I watched their demeanor closely while they were near the bait because if they had seemed nervous, that could have indicated that a bigger bear was nearby. However, these bears gave no indication that a bigger bear was in the area, so I spent the next 90 minutes watching a turkey buzzard and various red squirrels play around the bait pile.
Then at 9:10 p.m., a small sow got my attention when she appeared to my right. She slipped by me and went to the bait scraps the buzzard had left. She messed around at the bait for a few seconds, and I thought she might be a good live decoy for a passing boar if she was in heat. And it turned out she was!
The fact that she was in heat was suddenly made very clear because 45 yards in front of me and coming down the two-track was the biggest boar I’d ever seen! I prayed for a shot as the boar plodded his way toward the sow. When he got within 30 yards of her, she hissed and bolted into the brush to my left, disappearing into the thick cover and taking the boar with her!
Just as I was in the middle of feeling sorry for myself, the sow re-emerged from the brush 5 yards from the bait barrel, but as far as I could tell, the boar wasn’t with her. I scanned the brush to my right, hoping the little sow had brought him back. Just then, the huffing and puffing noises started again and the underbrush soon parted like the Red Sea as I heard the boar moving toward the sow. I came to full draw silently and slowly in my treestand as the big boar stopped in the brush and froze.
“Did he hear me draw?” I thought to myself. “He couldn’t have!”
After a few painful moments, the boar finally started moving again and stepped out of the brush just 5 feet from the sow. As the Easton Axis 500 arrow left my Whisker Biscuit rest, the boar looked at the sow as she swatted at him with her paw while making a terrible hissing sound. But it was too late. The arrow had already pierced the boar’s hide and slipped through his body. With a spine-tingling roar and a quick spin, the boar displaced the wet terra firma like a Humvee going through 2 feet of water at 60 mph! The sow quickly turned and ran down the two-track as I watched the boar disappear into the brush less than 40 yards away, slowing down more and more as he ran. There was complete silence for a couple of minutes, but I then heard branches and trees snapping followed by a loud moan. I heard another loud moan and then another. And then everything was silent.
I still had approximately 20 minutes or so before Ed would arrive to bring me back to camp, so I waited in my treestand rather than walk out of the woods on my own. I did get down to look for my arrow and when I found it on the ground, I was happy to see it covered in pink and red blood!
It was difficult getting the big boar out of the brush and back to camp, and when we finally got him on a scale, he was so heavy that he bottomed out Ed’s 500-pound scale! So in an attempt to get an accurate weight, we had to cape the boar and then weigh his cape and body separately. When we finished all the measurements and separate weighings, the bear weighed 610 pounds and had a skull that would green-score 226/16 inches. If that score stands up to official Boone and Crockett Club panel scoring, my bear will be one of the top five black bears to ever be taken with a bow.
In the final analysis of my hunt, I’ve come to the conclusion that my success in Manitoba this past spring wasn’t about astute hunting acumen, or being an expert at anything, because I can assure you I’m not. No, my success wasn’t because of my hunting skill. It was the sow’s beauty that killed that beast!