This past bear season, was likely my last hunting season for a good long while. As many of you know, Erin and I are engaged and plan on taking a trip after our wedding. This means that I will be busy, then gone, during the fall deer season and may not be back in time for the following spring bear season, there’s even a chance that I will still be gone, or just be busy readjusting, when the next fall season shows up. That means it could be up to two years before I get another chance to go hunting. But I guess that’s the way life goes when you have wanderlust.
I came into this bear season organized and ambitious. Weeks before the season opened I began cleaning out the expired food in my cupboard, fridge, and freezer, I also got several friends to do the same. I then went out to my moms farm and set up my bait. It was a basic blue metal barrel wired to a tree with some holes cut in it just big enough for a bear paw to fit in. I filled it up with old popcorn, pasta, and some ground beef that had overstayed its welcome in the freezer. I was sure to take all the wrappers off of all the food. I then built a basic ground blind about 20 yards away by nailing some old grainery wood to some trees.
My goal was simple, I wanted to shoot a bear with my recurve bow. I was well practiced out to 25 yards and felt more than confident in my abilities at 20. That said, whenever I went out to the bait I would bring a rifle with me and lean it up beside me, in case things did exactly work out for me. Needless to say my mother and my fiancee had some concerns… I guess some people have no sense of adventure these days.
The first few weeks were very uneventful, for the most part winter was still strong so bears were still in hibernation. As the weather warmed up I began to take it more seriously. Almost every weekend I would drive out to my mothers house to sit at the bear bait, I would also practice with my bow everyday I was there. I wanted to be sure I could make full use of any opportunity luck and mother nature gave me. I also made a point of being more prepared to process and save the meat from any bear I was able to shoot. To my everlasting shame; I was ill prepared the first time I shot a bear and was only able to save and eat a very small portion of it. I do take comfort in knowing it taught me a valuable lesson in being prepared, but that wastefulness still bothers me, and likely always will.
Finally the winter broke and the snow melted. There were reports of bear sightings everywhere and there was still just over a month left in the season. That gave me six weekends to get my bear, the race was on. The first of the weekends I mostly saw mosquitoes, lots and lots of them, and a mule deer that ran right passed me and the bait station as though it was being chased.
The following week, a friend of mine from work asked if I wanted all the old expired food out of his freezer, I assumed he knew I wanted bear bait… I gladly accepted the offer and said I would be by in a few days, assuming he would leave a small bag of food in the freezer for a day or two. I was mistaken, he had left a big garbage bag on the floor of his attached garage. His, then 28 weeks pregnant, wife came home to a house that smelt like old thawing meat, he got an angry text and I went straight to his house after work and picked it up. We were all aware of how close he and I had come to facing the wrath of an angry pregnant woman, far more dangerous than any bear if you ask me. The meat then sat in my detached garage for two weeks making a rather impressive stench, I imagine every dog in the neighborhood was on hi-alert that week. The following weekend I wasn’t able to go out, being an adult is terrible, far too much responsibility.
Finally a weekend arrived and I was out at the farm. I tossed the, now slightly rotten, food from my friend into the bait barrel. Its strange how often it comes in handy that I have a strong stomach for smells. The barrel now filled and emitting scent, I had a seat in the blind and waited, the first day nothing came. The second day, a coyote ran up to the bait and then changed his mind at the last second, I think he maybe spotted me shifting in my seat as he was running up. This bait was beginning to look hopeless, did I set it up wrong? was I in the wrong area?
The following weekend Erin came out with me to visit my mom and sister and do some bike riding as both my mom and sister had recently bought new bikes. Erin, not being a hunter, made it very clear that she didn’t want to sit in a mosquito infested swamp and wait for me to shoot a bear (my words not her’s)….. women right? Given how slow the season had been going so far, I felt like a weekend doing something else might be just what I needed. We arrived at the farm Saturday morning and we went to top up the bait quick, I had a little bread bag filled with some old bread, leftovers from a restaurant we went to, and some other odds and ends. We arrived at the bait to find that something had tore the bottom off of the barrel and pretty well licked it clean, there was nothing left in or around it. I folded the bottom of the barrel closed and threw my pint of food in. I knew this was trouble, if a bait goes empty bears will stop coming to it.
I put the half a bread bag worth of food into the barrel knowing it wouldn’t last til the following weekend.
I was upset to find that the trail camera hadn’t taken a single photo throughout the entire incident. So I have no proof of what came there or when, for all I know it could have been Sasquatch. The rest of the weekend was spend mountain biking along the old cow trails through the woods. It was exciting and probably even more dangerous than bear hunting, Erin and I had a blast.
The second last weekend came, and I headed out of the city as fast as I could, on Friday, and stopped at a farm store on the way out. I picked up two bags of oats mixed with molasses, I figured that would be nearly irresistible to a bear… I was tempted to eat some myself on the drive. I filled the bait, it had been emptied again, but there was so little food in it that it could have been birds or coyotes scavenging. I sat for two days and didn’t see anything. The next weekend I went out again, it was the final weekend and I spend most of both Saturday and Sunday sitting in that blind waiting. Again, nothing showed up, and all too soon bear season was over and I had little to show for it.
No bear this season, to me, doesn’t mean a failed season. I learned a few things and came up with a few good ideas to try again next time. In hind sight, when I saw that the bait was empty I should have ran to the farm store that day and gotten something to put in. I also should have set the trail camera up better: fresh batteries and lower to the ground for better detection. I learned that rancid meat makes way better bait than fresh meat, of course that one was kind of obvious.. Like any addicted hunter, I’ll keep trying until I succeed… then I’ll try and do it again.
Posted in Huntingwith no comments yet.
Erin and I recently spent the weekend at her grandfathers house visiting and telling stories. Somewhere in the back and forth, he told me an old fishing story that spurred my memory. Here’s an old tale from when I was fresh out of high-school.
One spring, near the beginning of my university career, I decided to go on a fishing trip with a friend from work named Trevor. It would actually be one of the first dedicated fishing trips of my adult life. The plan was to take my dad’s suburban, my brothers inflatable boat, a 9.5 hp motor, and a bunch of miscellaneous camping gear, most of which was borrowed. We loaded a borrowed cooler with food that was mostly prepped by Trevor’s mom.
Friday evening, we went north to my dad’s house outside of Athabasca, grabbed the boat, and decided on a lake. We debated a lake called Calling Lake, which is well known for its walleye, but in the end we decided on Rock Island Lake. It was closer and smaller, if I recall. On Saturday morning, we pulled up to the lake, made camp, assembled the boat, and quickly went out fishing. We were camped on the west side of the lake and decided to fish the south shore.
As soon as we got a line in the water, it started to rain. My goodness, did it rain. We were standing and fishing in a 10 foot rubber pontoon boat in the pouring rain with about 6 inches of water sloshing in the bottom. We tried casting and trolling without so much as a bite. At one point, one of us looked at the other and expressed “Fuck it! Fishin’!” We both shrugged our shoulders and threw another cast. We kept fishing, and CRACK! A flash of lightning, again we looked and each other and chuckled out our new catch phrase. Finally, the rain died down a bit and our fishing desperation came to a halt when the hunger took hold.
We pulled in to the camp site where it didn’t seem to be raining as hard anymore and changed into some dry clothes. We made some lunch and while cooking I looked out at the lake and noticed that the south side, where we had been fishing, was black skies and pouring rain, while the north side was clear sky and sunshine.
We decided to try the north side, with the train of thought that it couldn’t possibly be worse than the south, at the very least it would be less soggy. We headed along the shore line and found a nice patch of weeds and started casting. Within our first 10 casts we had caught our legal limit of pike and walleye. It was an absolute fishing frenzy. By the end of the afternoon we had both filled our quota for fish, and caught a few more that were even bigger than the ones we had previously decided to keep. Unfortunately we didn’t have a live well so we were stuck with the first fish we decided to keep. Oh well, there are worse things in life than too many fish.
We headed into camp and Trevor expertly filleted the fish. Filleting fish is one of those skills that I truly wish I had, but just don’t seem to be able to remember, or pull off effectively. I guess I’ll keep practicing. We fried up the fish in a nice crispy batter, the best way to cook a fish if you ask me. We also fried up some cubed potatoes and cooked a can of beans. Aside from a some fish, the can of beans was my only contribution to the meal. It may have been the fresh fish, the fresh air, or the lingering effects of the morning’s hypothermia, but that meal is, to this day, one of the best I’ve ever eaten.
We had a bit of a fire and then turned in for the night. That evening it got windy, rainy and cold. Very cold it seemed, and neither one of us had a sleeping bag worth a plug nickel. When we heard a break in the rain, we made a run for the suburban. We ran the engine and made good use of the heater for an hour or two while playing cards, then shut off the engine and listened to the radio for a bit. We slept the rest of the night in the suburban and went out fishing in the morning. We caught fish, but not like the previous afternoon, and to my memory, we didn’t bother keeping any.
Finally we decided we best be getting home. We packed up our camp and tore apart the boat. We loaded everything into the SUV. I jumped in and turned the key, only to hear that ever so disappointing click. That click that tells you that your battery is dead. That click that tells you “you aren’t going anywhere”. I grabbed my nearly dead cell phone and checked my signal – none. I looked around the campground and noticed that almost everyone else was gone. It was looking like we were walking to the highway to calling for help. We were two steps out of the campsite when an older gent with a fifth-wheel camper stopped and asked if we were in trouble. The looks on our faces may have tipped him off. I explained the situation and politely asked if he could give us a boost with is truck. He chuckled and said “no” then got out of his truck, dug through his tool box and grabbed one of those booster boxes… I was glad he was willing to help us, I just wish he didn’t have a sense of humour about it. We hooked it to the battery, fired up the truck, and headed back to civilization to begin unloading our gear.
Trevor and I don’t work together anymore and we don’t see each other much, but every time we do, one of us, without fail, chuckles and says “Fuck it! Fishin’!” I guess some jokes just stand the test of time.
Posted in Fishingwith no comments yet.