Alberta Black Bear Adventure

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Dec 30, 2012
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Living in the Past
After returning home from a very recent successful muzzleloader elk hunt, where I managed to harvest a 5x4 raghorn bull at 26 yards with my Lyman GPH .50 cal and 370 grain Maxiball, I received a call from a close friend inquiring as to the status of my digestive system with bear meat. You see, I have a very rare form of cancer where the main mass resides in my pancreas, with metastases throughout my abdomen and multiple large receptors within my liver. Yup, stage 4. My body has not been able to digest fats of any sort for a couple years now, resulting in 75 pounds of muscle loss. I stand just shy of 6’3” with what appears to be a current stabilized weight of 150 pounds. If I was 35 years younger and in high school, I believe the term would be “string bean.” I have been sustaining nutrients from lean wild meats, eggs, turkey sausage, chicken, rice and potatoes mostly, but my body needs fat to really regain weight and mass. DO NOT take this as a “poor me” story, as I believe you play the hand you’re dealt, and you never fold! I am a walking anomaly as no expert can explain why I am still on this earth, and from my understanding am being studied closely. Really its simple, I am not done living yet! Anyhow, thats just a little back information so it is understood the purpose of my friends call.

During that earlier elk hunt, I had another very close friend, and long time hunting partner, take a nice fall black bear, roughly 200 pounds in size. A perfect bear for meat recovery. I had read, or possibly heard somewhere, that black bear meat and grease is very easy on the human digestive system, and a great source of fat. Basically its what kept our ancestors alive, at least those that lived exclusively off wild meat. So I went into elk camp also carrying a black bear tag in case an opportunity arose for a harvest. Little did I know that three others in camp also came so equipped in attempt to provide me with meat as well. After my friends success I collected the meat and rendered down the fat right there in camp. Then communicated to everyone that I did not require more meat until I could prove it works. I had no desire to take more animals than necessary. I did not attempt any of the meat nor fat in camp, as if it didn’t work I would be left basically bed ridden for roughly three days. Not an option in a remote elk camp. Once home however... well I have been using the grease in my cast iron pan for breakfast eggs and fried bear meat in the grease for lunch daily. Very happy to report no issues as of yet. For those that have not tried black bear meat, it is a very sweet tasting dark meat, coarse grained and heavily marbled. Now, I have a criteria of not targeting “garbage” bears, which includes anything known to be dining on dead carcasses. I only want berry, clover or grain fed fall black bears. Also, should you wish to try, black bear meat MUST be cooked through. Treat it the exact same as pork and serve it fully cooked.

My friend explained the he, and neighbouring landowners are having issues with black bears in their oats. They would like to know if I wish to harvest one myself and add to my meat/grease reserves. It didn’t take long to say “YUP” and a plan was made. This hunt will not be a remote camp however as I have the luxury of a warm bed, hot shower and secure roof in my friends home. This will also be a simple spot’n stalk hunt. So... what gun should I take.. let’s see... hmmm... not the GPH .50, been there and done that... not the .50 GPR flint for the same reason... the .54 plains rifle cap perhaps?? No bears for it yet. Or maybe the GPR .50 flint to cap conversion?? What about the new Isaac Haines .50 flint? No, have not spent enough time with it yet to be fair to the animal. Perhaps next year. I think I would like to take the .50 GPR conversion. This is a rifle I have always been fond of and shoot very well. Loaded with 90 grains of Goex 3fg, .490 roundball and mink oil lubed .018” pillow tick patch it is deadly accurate. Time to start packing.

I will be using a smaller hunting horn and shooting bag on this adventure, as well my neck knife, loading block and capper will hang in front, tucked into my shirt so as to not rattle around. Of course I will bring my Two Feathers forged Roach Belly skinning knife. I have done two bull elk and a black bear with it this year alone, and that edge is flawless. Best knife I’ve owned without a doubt! Period dress is out of the question due to my lack of appropriate inventory, so standard hunting clothes and footwear it is. My mule will be fuelled with only the best feed as the trip is a long one, a half days ride at least. Better get onto that packing now, leave tomorrow and daylight is burnin...

Arrived at my friends farm just before supper time. A quick change into hunting clothing, snapping of a couple caps followed by loading, and the hunt starts. We have roughly two hours until legal light ends. My friend takes us on a tour just explaining what options are available. It appears every neighbour is having issues of some sort. Bears in the standing oats, in the swathed oats, in the garden behind the house, in the berries along the driveway, harassing the cattle in the pasture, it just doesn’t stop! Even the school bus driver has called to request something be done about a bear hanging around the kids at one of her stops. As we tour around I listen, reading the land. It all makes sense, there is a good sized river, two creeks and several drainages, all deep and heavily timbered. There must be miles of prime habitat for them, and a flash of thought passes through my mind, who exactly is the intruder? We see plenty of mule deer, a few whitetail, Canada geese, mallard ducks, sharp-tail grouse and cranes, even a small group of cow elk. Eventually the tour stops at the top of a river bank, with swathed oats beside. “Up for a walk?” I am asked, “absolutely” I reply, grab my gear and we’re off. We slowly walk the bank edge of the swathed oat field, hugging the tree line, with a very gentle breeze in our faces. It is extremely quiet and our steps sound way too loud. Roughly 300 yards along my friend stops and points to a black mass close to the tree line 140 yards ahead, but through a finger of trees jutting into the field like a point. This edge line follows the natural contours of the river bank, thus is not straight. I look through my binoculars, an estimated 200 pound bear is looking straight back at me. His coat is thick and shiny, with a white blaze right on his throat/chest area. He knows we are here, and how could he not with it so dry and calm? Nevertheless I attempt to stalk closer as the sun starts to dip below the horizon. 100 yards and the bear repositions himself near a spruce tree, where I can see a heavy trail that drops over the steep river bank, right into the thick stuff. Iron sites will be very hard under these conditions. Black bear against a black spruce shadow coupled with a setting sun. I do not have the luxury of time on this evening, so I creep forward working to close the gap another 50 yards. At 75 yards I pause and glass him again. Still watching me, patiently and curiously waiting to see my intent. I start to ease closer when the bear grows tired, turns and with two quick steps is gone. I head back to my friend where we talk of what I saw and things from his view. There is no rush as we work back to the vehicle, as we’ve no desire to step on the minefield of oat filled bear scat along the way. Tomorrow we are sure there will be others out.

The morning brings my tea and breakfast, and the medications with chemo, then gearing up for a hunt on the farm site itself. My friend must work today (Friday) then will be off the weekend. We will be going out this evening, most likely back to the oat field but this morning I will focus on the “bus stop bear”. There are two small creeks close together nearby, both on my friends land and I suspect the bear calls them home. I will slowly hunt these creeks, sitting, watching and waiting. The sun rises and the air warms, with it the wind starts, ever increasing until its blowing pretty good. Feels like a change in the weather is coming. Still I sit and watch, looking over an open hillside and river bottom flat roughly 100’ below. If this bear is going to show, I strongly suspect it will have to pass through here. The morning slowly passes as I sit, watching ravens play and talk back’n forth. There are squirrels chattering at each other in the spruce thicket below and left of my position, and geese pass overhead, returning to the sanctuary of water following their morning feed. Time for me to also head for a feeding, so I rise and poke my way back to the house.

Late afternoon my friend returns from his work day. We grab a quick early supper, change and head out. The wind is quite strong, blowing, the sky overcast with not so high rain clouds. There is a coolness in the air, and you can feel rain is coming. We head back into the swathed oat field from the previous evening, split up and decide to sit. I have chosen the same location last nights bear was and nestle into a natural ground blind. There is about an hour of legal time left, with less than that for my iron sights due to the dark sky. We wait. Darkness finally settles in and we walk out of the field. Tomorrow we will try a different area and rest this one.

Morning, hearty breakfast of sausage, eggs and toast, with tea of course. Out the door and off to scout a couple other locations. I am not so sure bears are very active this early, but my friend is also carrying an elk tag, and they are! We see mule deer and quite a few moose, but no elk or bears. A decision is made to walk into an observation area high on a river bank. We are accessing the spot on the edge of a large wheat field that is yet still uncut. The adjacent quarter is finished canola and has a large bear on the back edge eating fresh shoots of something. This is a nice bear! A quick phone call yields no access, for bear that is. “Go ahead and hunt anything else you see, but no bears.” “Ok, no problem, thank you.” We watch the bear for a short period, then move off. That is one very nice, big bear! The morning continues with more sightings of mule deer and bull moose, but no bears.

Later in the day we discuss the evenings options. There is a local honey bee keeper having a bear visiting his shop nightly. Ideas are thrown around and in the end we agree that the oats have far too much sign to ignore. So we are back to the oats, where we again split up and watch till dark. No bears sighted. Well at least we are succeeding in making the landowner happy!

Sunday morning, last morning of the hunt as I must head home this afternoon. We decide to head back to the oats for a quick glass and see if there is anything out. Nope, just a mule deer. Off to a new area completely. A landowner has a large standing canola field, bordered on three sides by major creeks. We plan to work the edge glassing down as we go. This area is very nice. Lots of visibility and great looking habitat. Our quest yields only one black animal, a young bull moose staring at us from under a spruce tree. Nice to see but not out objective. The morning passes again with more mule deer, geese and a few swans sighted. As we head back to my friends place he remarks his sympathy, “So sorry buddy, they were crawling all over everywhere prior to your arrival! Don’t know what happened?” I simply reply that he need not worry, “I had a great time on the hunt, and it was wonderful to see you and your family again.” I am the furthest you can get from disappointed. It was a great hunt, good visit and very nice to see everyone once again. Even the very old dog rose painfully and walked stiff legged to the door to say his goodbye!

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