When my outfitter buddy Clay Royer asked if I was interested in black bear hunting a few days this spring, along with his boys and a good friend and son, I couldn’t resist. We did a similar camp last spring during the Covid lockdown and had a fantastic adventure. It is always exciting to harvest a nice bear, but seeing new hunters find success is even more rewarding.
Clay had some clients in for a week, and we planned to head to camp when the happy hunters had headed home. The reports were outstanding, and everyone had been successful in finding big bruins. The weather had been strange, and nobody knew exactly what to expect. However, the bears showed up just like they do every year at about the same time.
Clay returned to camp with his three boys Cody, Dylan, Cale, and an old friend Graeme Crawford and his son Grady. Cody hunted the last two springs and harvested some outstanding bears. The 2021 season would be Dylan and Grady’s first year up to bat for bears, and Cale is anxiously counting the days until he is old enough to hunt big game legally. It is a treat to see the young fellows with such exuberance and enthusiasm. There is little doubt that all of them will grow up and continue hunting, which is a testament to their parents. Creating opportunities, making time, going the extra mile, and ensuring all of the courses are completed ahead of time is challenging.
Clay had put in for the limited entry draws and took Cody and Dylan on a late-season antlerless elk hunt. The boys each harvested a cow elk with expert shooting skills. The boys helped process the meat at home and were part of every component of the experience from field to plate. A bear hunt in May could not come quick enough for the boys to get back into the field.
I consider myself a bear magnet, as any time I am in bear country, I seem to run into them. Cody has similar luck and last year shot two dandy bears. This year he was anxious to get back in the stand, and after having several talks with dad, he knew to hold out for something bigger than he harvested last year. Now, the second bear he took last year would be considered a whopper in anyone’s books and finding one bigger was going to be a challenge. However, the first night on the stand, a tank of a bear cautiously approached, and there was no doubt it was a shooter.
Cody was sitting with a family friend and long-time guide, Zach Bowen, as Clay had two boys in his treestand. It was a short sit, as the big bear showed up five minutes after the hunters sat down. Zach did not need to do much coaching, and the young hunter waited for his shot opportunity.
Meanwhile, Clay was sitting at another site with Dylan and Cale. Dylan was up to bat, and after seeing a few bears, a big boar showed up through the tangle of tree limbs. Dylan had been practicing his shooting skills, and it showed. The big boar didn’t know what hit him. Dylan was excited, and Cale was bouncing with enthusiasm. There is no doubt Cale will be a future hunter. He has the bug bad and is counting the days to follow in his brothers’ footsteps.
I missed all of the action on the first day but arrived in camp early on day two. Graeme and Grady were also getting to camp, and after organizing gear, we headed for bear country. Cody was going to sit with Graeme and Grady. Dylan was looking for a second bear with his dad and Cale. I would venture out on my own, but Zach was ready to show up if needed.
Clay started a text message string with everyone in the camp called Kidz Bear Camp. I wasn’t in my treestand 10 minutes when my phone started vibrating. Bears were on the move, and the boys were getting excited.
Graeme sent a video of a giant boar that Grady was watching. The bear was cautious, and the crew watched it for a long time before a shot opportunity arose. Grady had his rifle trained on the bruin, and when dad whispered to shoot, the wait was over. They waited for a half-hour before tracking the bear 40 yards in the mature spruce forest. It was another giant bear. The bear skulls Cody and Dylan shot the day before measured over 20 inches, and Grady’s bear was in the same class.
Clay was next to text photos. Dylan needed a special bear to come in to consider using his second tag, and the beautiful brownphase bear in the photo fit the bill. The boys watched the bear for a long time before it finally offered a shot. Dylan shot like a seasoned veteran, placing his bullet in the vitals. When the bear somersaulted and tried to run for cover, Dylan worked the bolt-action and shot the bear a second time while running through the trees. The marksmanship of the young hunter was impressive.
I had been watching a bear most of the evening that had a broken front leg. It was timid and could not move at a normal pace. I caught glimpses of it every once in a while through the trees, but it never came close enough for a shot with my TenPoint crossbow. I had my head turned to watch the limping bear behind the tree for several minutes, and when I slowly turned around to face forward, my eyes locked with a boar staring me down.
I had not heard a thing, and the bear showed up in silent mode. After a short staredown, the boar headed in a big circle around me and chased off the bear with the broken leg. The injured bear wasted no time putting some distance between it and the big boar. The boar circled back and was in and out of sight for 10 minutes before coming back.
I recognized the bear from sitting in the same stand three years earlier. The bear had a unique gold muzzle, and even the tufts of fur in its ears had hints of gold. The color was unique and identifiable.
Eventually, the bear offered a quartering shot at 22 yards. I steadied the crosshair on the bear’s vitals and slowly squeezed the trigger. The SEVR broadhead zipped through the bear, and it ran 15 yards before falling over. The action was quick and exciting. I looked down and saw my arrow lying on the ground and have no idea how it made a complete 180-degree turn and was intact and pointed at my tree.
Zach showed up with Graeme just before sunset, and we used a sleigh as a stretcher to carry the bear out to the side-by-side. The bear was even bigger than I thought, and we struggled to move it the short distance required. Once secured, we headed for the trucks and met the rest of the gang that had congregated at the backwoods location. Dylan met me with a huge smile and congratulated me. I asked him to show me his bear, and Cale jumped with excitement to lead the way to Clay’s truck. I yelled at Grady to come to show us his bear and could not believe the incredible size of the bears harvested over two days.
We were busy for hours, skinning bears, boning meat, and cleaning up afterward. Harvesting my bear was a bonus, as I would have happily come to camp to watch the young hunters. Kidz Bear Camp was a huge success and testament to dedicated families that have taken the time to prepare their kids and be successful. There needs to be more Kidz Waterfowl Camps, Deer Camps, Moose Camps, Grouse Camps, and whatever our future sportsmen and women want to get excited over. Today is the perfect day to enroll a potential new hunter in Hunter Education and start to familiarize them with firearms, bows, and crossbows. Today’s youth are the future of hunting, and all hunters can play a role in sharing and passing on the tradition.
SEVR Robusto 2.0 Broadhead
Crossbow hunters looking for improved terminal performance will like the Robust0 2.0, heavy broadhead. The beefy head is 150-grains, increasing head FOC and arrow energy, with massive entry and exit wounds. The slapcut design and stainless construction will take on the biggest game and quiet a bow simultaneously. Blades lock and pivot around bone to maintain arrow path. A set screw allows the blades to lock down for practice, then remove for hunting
Ultimate Bear Lure
Wildlife Research Center Ultimate Bear Lure is a great way to attract bears. When set up strategically, it can produce the perfect shot opportunity. It is made with a powerful, extremely intense, burning, sweet-smelling attractant with hints of fruit, anise, and other aromatics that force you to keep sniffing the bottle. Besides hunters, bears cannot resist it and often come straight in when deployed on a wick.
Made with a special synthetic felt, a Pro-Wick will not alter or change the smell of your lure but does suck it up and hold it like a sponge. Designed to hang in a tree, it will disperse scent and draw game from a wide area. The wicks come in a four-pack and resealable zip lock bag.
For more information, go to www.wildlife.com
Koola Buck Game Bags and Spray
There are products on the market to help hunters maintain superior quality meat, even in challenging circumstances. Early season backcountry hunts can make it challenging to store meat at the proper temperatures. Koola Buck Anti-Microbial Game Spray and Game Bags lower the growth of surface bacteria on your carcass and boneless meat and prevent the hair from slipping on your trophy cape.
Antimicrobial Game Bags protect meat by reducing bacteria eight times more than standard game bags. The game bags are packable, lightweight, and very durable. The cotton/poly blend, stretch-fitting quarter bags are permeated in a blend of flavorless acids and bacterial inhibitors to protect the harvest from spoilage without changing the meat’s natural flavor.
The Game Bags also protect the meat from insects and their eggs. www.koolabuck.com
By Brad Fenson