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Alberta 2022 Black Bear: Pt.1

After another great season is ended by an unfortunate playoff loss, I pack up my things from Henderson and begin my journey back to home. On my way home, I called up my good buddies Mark Thompson and Ryan Tomuschat - Mark and Ryan live in Northern Alberta and have their own hunting show coming out later this year called Doubled Down Outdoors. Without even having to say a word Mark knows why I called, a spring black bear hunt. And obviously, these guys are in. They are always looking for a reason to get out into the bush and do some hunting, so we set up a plan and they set up the baits so we could get started as soon as I arrived.

This was my first attempt at an archery harvest on a black bear and I was extremely excited. The nerves and eagerness helped carry me through my long travels from Las Vegas, NV to Great Falls, MT to Northern Alberta, CA in order to get back in time for the night hunt. I go home to exchange the things I brought home from Nevada just to refill my truck with all of my hunting gear and supplies. I get going to Mark's house, and when I pull up, I quickly unpack my things and get ready to head out into the bush. It was just going to be Ryan and I for the first two days, and the first move was to go out to the bait and trail camera that has been capturing the highest influx of bears. Without tree stands, we opt for a ground blind and hold a nice position looking at the bait. Making as little noise as possible, we get down the cut line and start to walk into the bush, and when we look at our marker, we can see movement around the bait. Our first encounter of the weekend, but the bear knew something was going on and was spooked away. We wasted no time setting up our burlap sheet across two trees with a makeshift bench and before long, a bear came from out of the trees behind us, totally catching us by surprise. For being such large animals they move so silently and quickly, but lucky for us the ground was covered in old leaves and we were alerted in time to see him coming. Not long after that bear was also spooked away, the same thing happened again and left due to it catching our scent. In a spur of the moment decision - during prime time and with only an hour of sunlight left, we move our blind to the opposite side of the bait. This would later pay dividends. Within 15 minutes of moving our blind we had two more bears on the baits just in time to end our night and my first day ever spring black bear hunting.

Friday morning we are back out there for a couple hours. The same 2 bears came back and we are able to identify them with the giant rub marks on their sides. These bears make my trigger finger itch but as I already have a black bear on my wall and these bears are only a couple years old, my goal is to hold out and wait for something special.

We take the day to recoup and spend time working, all the while Ryan is getting trail camera pictures throughout the day. As I study these carefully I know there has to be one out there ready to be taken down. I sit there hoping he comes out for us tonight. Ryan and I head back out and get to our bait at 6 pm - little did we know it would be one of the craziest nights of hunting I have personally had out of a ground blind. Ryan summed it up saying, “Even though I've been a bear hunter for numerous years, that was a whole new experience for me being on the ground opposed to a stand and seeing as many bears as we saw interacting and confronting each other showing just how crazy the order of dominance really is out here.” At 7:50 the action starts, and our first bear comes into view, slowly making its way into the bait. This one was not mature enough and we know this because it is not as tall as the barrel used at the bait. Shortly thereafter, we hear footsteps to our right at the tree line, then soft sounds of movement from behind - we are surrounded by three bears and our nerves and tensions are high! The bear that came from behind is now about 10 yards in front of us and staring in our direction assessing the possibility that he is not alone. As I kept focused on these three, Ryan spotted a fourth heading towards the bait and at about 65 yards away, we knew this one was big enough to be a shooter. The mature bear locked eyes with the bear already at the bait and we could tell there was going to be a fight or flight pretty quickly. I grab my bow getting ready for any chances that this bear might slip up and give a great shot opportunity. It stands over top of the two bears and walks within 25 yards facing us with bears on either side creating a lane. I don’t feel comfortable taking the frontal shot with the possibility that any sort of movement, the wrong bear may become an unintended target. We pray for the smaller bears to spook off and the shooter to come into the bait. Our prayers went unanswered. As the sun starts to set the bears begin to get feisty they decide to start huffing and fight with each other over the food. Hoping this action drags the shooter back to the bait we sit watching the 2 bears finish fighting, eat the rest of our food and walk off just as legal shooting light starts to end. We sneak out of the bush having one of the most exciting nights we have ever had hunting come to an end.

Day three of the black bear hunt and Mark is finally able to get away from work and join us. After catching him up on our previous night, our expectations are high as we walk out at 6:30 am for a morning sit. As we are walking down the cut line, a giant bear at about 250 yards out, is slowly approaching us. We quickly sneak into the woods and set up behind the burlap hoping it was on a mission for an easy meal. While we are watching and waiting for the bear to get closer, the usual suspects show up; the two rubbed out bears that fought the night before. We started to figure out whenever one of them came into sight, the other wasn’t too far behind. We watch as they do their thing and finally leave the bait 45 minutes later. As we are just about to leave for lunch we hear the leaves breaking through the forest so we stay to sit and watch what might appear. A new bear walks out. This one, that we later named Red Monkey, was a super small bear 1-2 years old cinnamon colour phase with a buck skin nose. He would always come in routinely around lunch time and give us a 30-60 minute show of him climbing trees climbing the barrel doing anything he can to get the food. When Red Monkey leaves the bait he decides to become our closest encounter of the trip walking within 6 yards of us, noticing us as he passes, then continuing on his way. The night sit isn’t as eventful; the same few bears we have seen come in throughout the night, and with 30 minutes left of legal light we see movement coming from where the shooter bear walked in the night before. Another shooter, this one with a darker nose, and we prepared for it to come in, but like the rest, it walks into our area and decides it’s not hungry continuing its path back into the woods.

All we could do is prepare and keep our spirits and our hope high heading into our final day.

The day was slow, and did not meet the expectations we had set from the previous nights, but we got to see the same few bears come in that we felt like we had bonded with over the past few nights.The weekend has come and gone with no tags folded unfortunately but as we look back and reminisce about the weekend it’s not always about the killing of an animal but it is about the hunt itself. It was our first time hunting a ground blind for bears and it was one of the most exciting hunts and surroundings that we have experienced. We will be back soon to continue this hunt.


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