I read somewhere that “The core of a man’s spirit comes from new experiences.” Most hunters dream of traveling the world in search of big game. Whether it be a cape buffalo in the great plains of Zimbabwe, or a dall sheep in the mountain tops of Alaska. I am no exception to this by any means…
I find it exhilarating traveling to unfamiliar territory in pursuit of an animal I have never laid eyes on. This addiction has lead me to hunt everything from mountain lion in the Rockies to kudu in the grasslands of Africa in my 34 years. Where I am from we have more than enough big game to keep most outdoorsman occupied. Whitetail, pronghorn, feral hogs, desert mulies… just about any exotic game you can imagine. One thing Texas doesn’t offer is BEAR. Since I can’t find one here I decided I would go where I could chase one… I spent last August gawking over pictures of black bears of all shapes and color phases. Reading about them and how unique they really are. I decided that I had to hunt this amazing animal. I spent the next 3 weeks searching for outfitters, calling references, comparing prices, and looking at flights. I finally settled with Marshland Outfitters out of Candle Lake, Saskatchewan and booked my hunt. Then the preparation started…So the first week of June 2013 I found myself in the bush of Saskatchewan, Canada.
First thing was booking my flight, and making sure all of travel documents and reservations were in order. (Always look at your passport expiration date… Haha) Its always a good idea to check the gun laws in the country you are traveling as well. Some charge outrageous fees to import a firearm and others won’t let you at all. (This isn’t an issue if you are a bow hunter obviously.) Luckily it was only a $25 import tax for a firearm.
After figuring out how I was getting there and back home it was time to start gearing up. After a little research on the climate and conditions I would be hunting, I made a checklist of things I would need. I figure it was going to be colder than a cast iron toilet seat…not the case at all! Beautiful weather to a Texan’s standards. Rain gear and a thermacell was right at the top of that list though. If you haven’t seen a mosquito in Canada; lets just say they are big enough that they will eat anything that doesn’t eat them first and they are thicker that fleas on a farm dog.
I researched what type of weapon was best too. A general rule I live by, is that the further you get from the equator the bigger the animal is. I was surprised in finding that any basic whitetail setup was plenty for a springtime bear. I talked to the outfitter to get a feel of my shot distances. Then I started practicing. Day in and day out it was practice, practice, practice! Did I mention practice? Every free second I had I dedicated to shooting until I was hitting tight enough groups at 40 yards I felt like I could do it blindfolded. I was taking my 270 WSM as well just for a backup plan. I usually live by the thought that if you have a Plan B, then Plan A wasn’t good enough. But in this case I would rather be safe than sorry.
Finally before I knew it my hunt was here. I was boarding a plane out of DFW to Saskatoon… Headed 2000 miles north for a hunt of a lifetime. Our days were long… The sun would rise at 4:15 am and wouldn’t set until 11pm or so. Each day consisted of spotting and stalking in the mornings and sitting over a bait barrel in the evenings. I saw moose, elk, deer, and even had a close encounter with a pair of wolves one afternoon. I watched numerous bears each day but was holding out for that special one. That one that I looked at through the binos and just said “WOW”. Well, that bear never presented itself. On day 4 of my hunt I decided it was time to lose the trophy hunter mentality and shoot something I would be proud of.
That afternoon it was raining off and on. It was even hailing pea sized hail at one point. However, I never wished I was any place else than right there. I watched bears come and go. Then, after 4 hours of waiting I had a beautiful black bear staring right at me. I watched him as he slowly moved through the trees. I found an opening he should come to if he continued on his path. Then I waited. 30 seconds seemed like an hour! As soon as he stepped into my shooting lane I didn’t hesitate. BANG! He ran a few steps and rolled up into a black heap on the leaf covered ground. I dunno if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, but I can tell you that I was making more noise than a pissed off mule in a tin barn.
One of my greatest achievements in my hunting career is this bear. Not because of the size, but because I was so far away from home, in another country, doing it alone. He isn’t the biggest bear but he is MY bear. He is my biggest and best to date and I am proud of him. One thing I do regret is not being able to share the experience with someone at that very moment in time. Someone once told me “Happiness is only real when shared.” There is truly something to that I think.
Some people sit around and talk about doing things, or what they would like to do. Then one day, they realize all their dreams have become regrets. My advice, get out and chase that monster bull elk or trophy mule deer. Stop living vicariously through Jim Shockey and Michael Waddell on TV and go fill your own tags! When you want something in life, you just have to reach out and grab it.