This wasn't my first bear hunt, but I was excited never-the-less. My hunting buddy, Jay, had identified an outfitter in Alberta Canada that claimed to have opportunities at color phase bears. I was ready. An additional benefit was that it would be a spring hunt - I wouldn't have to wait another six months to hunt!
So, the week before Memorial Day, Jay and I were headed to Cold Lake, Alberta to meet with Clayton Charlton from Take-em Outfitters. The trip didn't start off well for me. My flight into Alberta was delayed due to a major power outage in Minneapolis and I spent the first night of my trip in a hotel with noisy neighbors. But Sunday afternoon found me in Edmonton, Alberta where I met up with Jay and one of Clayton's guides, Jeremy. We completed the three and a half hour drive and meet Clayton and his better half Chrystal late in the afternoon.
Jay, Clayton and I mapped out our plans for the next few days. Clay wouldn't be joining us on our hunt as the result of an accident he had on the quad a couple of weeks earlier while setting up the baits. He was one big bandage from foot to hip as a result of necessary surgery. But Clay assured us that Jeremy and Eric, his other guide, would take good care of us.
We talked about our chances of seeing color phase bear and Pope and Young sized bear. Clay assured us that we would see both and we would see a lot of bears. I have already taken a number of black bear with my Mathews bow, and wasn't interested in just another bear. I wanted a bear that would surely make it into Pope and Young or a nice sized color phased bear, or both. Alberta allowed us two tags. I was determined that I would wait until I was satisfied before I drew my bow. Clayton and his guides assured Jay and I that we would have ample opportunities to select the bear or bears of our choice.
Normally, Clay told us, that we would travel north from Cold Lake and setup a spike camp near where we would hunt, but because of his injury, we would be traveling back and forth between Cold Lake and the stands so he could continue to direct the hunt from his home base.
Monday found us on our way to the bear baits that Clay, Jeremy and Eric had managed all spring. Eric would be my guide, and Jeremy, also known as J-Dog, would be guiding for Jay. After the hour ride to get to the hunting area, we off loaded the quads, bear bait and our gear and headed out to the stands. It took Eric and I another hour on the quads to get to our stand.
The first evening was fun but no shot opportunities for me. I did get to watch and photograph a very nice sow with four cubs probably two years old. Although I tried, I could never get a picture with all four cubs in the same shot, so I made up for it by taking a lot of pictures. Eric and I did see one other bear, but he never came into the bait, he just kinda circled the area. He was likely interested in the sow, as this was the beginning of the mating season for bears.
We left the stand at almost ten o'clock. This far north the sun sets really late! After the hour ride back to the truck and another hour back to Cold lake, I was beat! We crashed into bed, but the sun was up at four o'clock and I can't sleep when the sun wakes up! Every day was like that one - up very early and hunting late.
The next day Eric and Clay decided to move my stand to another bait. It was a two hour quad ride! But I am not complaining. I was only half way up the stand before the first bear came in that evening, and we saw seven different bear. I also saw my first color phase bear, a very nice chocolate bear. The bear was certainly big enough, Eric and I estimated that it was over 300 pounds, but it was very shy and stayed on the fringe of the forest opening. I didn't want to shoot a sow if I could avoid it, and it isn't really very easy to tell a boar or a sow apart. When the chocolate finally came into the bait, Eric determined that it was a sow, and I decided to let her go. She spotted us and didn't stick around, but she was beautiful to behold.
I was convinced that we couldn't find any baits further from the truck, but Eric proved me wrong the next couple of nights as we travelled even further into the bush on the quad. The trail cams at this stand had spotted a light colored bear that would probably trip the scales at four hundred pounds or more. That was the bear we would be after for the next few days.
For the next two nights we hunted that same stand hoping to catch the big color phase bear. We did see another color phase bear, a light brown two or three year old that probably weighed maybe an hundred pounds. I nicknamed him "Little Brownie" He was a really nice looking bear, but far to small for me to want to take. I saw him every evening for three days, and I took lot's of pictures. He would come into the bait, feed a while and when a bigger bear came in, he would scamper up a tree and wait until the bigger bear would leave. I think he spent as much time in his tree as I did in my tree stand.
We saw lots of bear each night. I don't think we ever saw less than five, and some nights we saw up to thirteen bear. There was never a dull moment. We watched boars courting sows and sows that weren't interested. Each night one boar came into this stand, and he certainly topped the scales at three hundred and fifty or better. Eric was convinced that he would make Pope and Young, but I was not so sure. I decided, despite Eric's advice, to let him go. Every time he came in, and that was often as he was chasing a sow, I had to re-evaluate my decision.
On the fifth night of our hunt, Eric and I were back on our home away from home tree stand and still looking for the big color phase bear we had seen on the trail cam. We only had tonight and one more night, so I was getting anxious about striking out on this hunt, but I was determined that I wouldn't take a small bear. I decided that if the big boar we had seen the last couple of days came back in tonight I would take him.
We probably weren't on the stand more than an half an hour when the sow and big boar wandered into the bait sight. I had made up my mind, but the sow was blocking my shot. Unlike the first two nights, the sow didn't stay long at the bait, and within five minutes she turned and walked away. The boar followed - right into a couple of shooting lanes less than fifteen yards from my stand. I drew my bow, only to have him spot my movement and he stopped with tree limbs between he and I. After a minute or so, I let up my draw. We watched each other for another minute or so and he began to follow the sow again. I drew again only to find my shot blocked again by another set of limbs. This shot was not to be. But not to worry, I figured, he would be back again later this evening as he had the previous two evenings.
After watching Little Brownie again and a few other nice but smaller bears, Eric and I were startled by a bear chasing another bear out of the area at about nine o'clock. Eric was catching glimpses of him, but couldn't get a good look. He circled the bait area for probably 15 minutes before we could get a look at him. It was a color phase bear - not the light colored bear of the trail cam but another chocolate bear. As he came in Eric determined it was a boar, and I could tell it was a three hundred pound plus bear. This would fit my criteria for a color phase. He wasn't quite as big as the boar we had been watching for two days, but he might make Pope and Young. It didn't take me long to know that if given the opportunity, I would take the shot.
The chocolate bear approached the bait but turned so that all I had was a quartering toward shot. I wasn't about to try that shot. For ten minutes he shuffled around and fed at the bait, but never gave me an opportunity for a shot. After a couple more minutes he stood up, turned his back to us and started to walk into the surrounding forest. He turned left behind the tree that the bait was attached to and stepped between that tree and a couple of others. I knew if he walked through that little opening and into the forest, I wouldn't see him again. As I watched him turn, I drew my bow and waited for him to clear the tree, and as he cleared the tree I sent my G5 tipped arrow into his chest. He only went seventy yards before he laid down.
Eric and I hunted our last evening, but didn't get an opportunity to see a another big boar, so I ended my hunt with only half of my goals met, but very satisfied that I had enough discipline to turn down small bears and wait for what I wanted. The bigger black bear with the sow never did come back into that bait. Over the 6 day hunt, I saw bear every day, sometimes the same bear many times, sometimes only once. As near as I can tell, I saw twenty seven different bear over the course of the hunt. A number of them were better than average sized bear and would have been trophies to a number of bow hunters. Jay took a really big boar on the forth night of our hunt, but didn't get a crack at a color phase bear.
I want to thank Clayton and Chrystal Charlton and Take-em Outfitters for the good time we had, and for Eric putting up with my pickiness. Click here If you would like more information about Take-em Outfitters.