On he came, approaching with the lumbering gait and swagger that only a trophy boar can possess. Billy had his .30-06 shouldered and silently clicked off the rifle’s safety. However, we were faced with a dilemma—another bear accompanied the giant, partially blocking him at times. Then it happened—the big bear veered from the trail and suddenly appeared at a mere 15 years in front of us, offering my excited son an excellent opportunity to bag his first black bear.
“Dad, what should I do?”
From The Beginning This scenario came to fruition after nearly 2 years of planning. I wanted to take my 17-year-old son, Billy, on a combination hunting and fishing trip to Canada as a part of his high school graduation present. After conducting a thorough investigation, I concluded that the best place to go was Quebec—and the best place in Quebec was Marmette Bay on the Gouin Reservoir.
The province stretches more than 640,000 square miles over eastern Canada. It’s dotted with over 1 million lakes and is crisscrossed with countless rivers and streams. The main species of fish that Billy and I were after included northern pike and walleye. Our hunting efforts were focused on “the black ghost of the forest,” the black bear.
According to big game biologist Gilles Lamontagne, Quebec is home to more than 70,000 black bears, and I hoped Billy would have the opportunity to tie his tag to one. On June 6, 2007, we pointed the Jeep north and began our journey from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Fifteen hours and 649 miles later, we arrived in Le Camp Guidon, our cabin located on the shore of scenic Marmette Bay of the Gouin Reservoir.
Billy and I quickly settled in and were introduced to Vince, our bear hunting guide for the week. Our expectations were high, and Billy was chomping at the bit to get in a stand and see bears that evening.
We donned our hunting gear, tucking in our pants and putting on mosquito-proof gloves. Vince picked us up from camp promptly at 5 p.m., and after a short drive, we entered the thick Canadian bush. Our expectations soared as we observed bear tracks, scat and packed-down grass en route to our stand. We quickly and quietly climbed aloft and pulled on our head nets. Billy loaded his grandfather’s .30-06 Remington Model 760 pump, and the waiting began.
Waiting For The Ghost
Soon the only sound to be heard was the incessant “hummm” of mosquitoes, black flies and no-see-ums, as they made their best attempts at turning Billy and me into supper. I soon realized that it takes patience and endurance to weather the heat and the insects while attempting to remain motionless on stand, waiting for the “black ghost” to appear. We were comfortably seated about 10 feet off the ground in a large treestand, overlooking a bait pile 25 yards away, consisting of trimmings from a local meat processing plant.
Hours passed and shadows grew longer as father and son bonded alone in the Canadian wilderness. At 8:15 p.m., and for the umpteenth time, I strained my neck and scanned the immediate surroundings.
“Billy, I see a bear.”
“Behind you … to your left.”
Billy immediately locked onto the mass of black fur that seemed to appear out of nowhere. Steadily, the bear made its approach along a small bush-choked brook toward the bait.
“He’s a big one,” I whispered to my son. “As soon as he stops, take him if you can. The wind is taking our scent directly toward him.” Sure enough, the wind was swirling and Murphy’s Law did us in as the bear’s nostrils filled with human scent. As quickly as the bear appeared, it melted into the spruce, never offering a shot.
Vince, Billy and I all agreed that that it would be best to hunt the same stand on day No. 2, especially when considering the high amount a bear sign at that stand. Billy and I were most excited about fresh claw marks high on a nearby spruce tree.
We elected to drive ourselves to the stand, arriving much earlier than we had the day before. The sky quickly began to darken and claps of thunder could be heard in the distance.
“I think we’re in for a storm, Billy. But that’s OK … the bears might be on the move earlier tonight.”
A cool breeze and a misty drizzle began to fall just as I looked over my left shoulder. “Billy, I see a bear. No, there are two! And the second one is a monster!”
Fortunately for Billy and me, the bears approached from the opposite direction as the previous day’s close encounter, and the wind was on our side this time. Slowly and steadily, Billy got into shooting position. …
Life’s Special Moments
“Dad, what should I do?”
Patches of black appeared and the reappeared in the tangled maze of alder and spruce with the “smaller” of the two bears taking the lead. They appeared to be following a trail that hopefully would bring them within 25 yards of our stand.
“Dad, I’m on the big one.”
“OK, OK. Take the shot when you can. Remember, aim tight behind the shoulder.” Billy’s rifle cracked and the giant dropped in his tracks. We starred in slack-jawed amazement, trying to take in what had just happened. Thunder rolled across the heavens and bolts of lightning cracked around us, lighting up the sky as father and son shared one of life’s special moments.
A prayer was said as we gazed skyward, thanking all that made this golden moment possible. We had truly just experienced the hunt of a lifetime. I had fully intended to also hunt bear on this trip, but Billy’s good fortune caused me to change my mind. How could a father ask for more?
I’m a hobby taxidermist, and when I green-scored the skull from Billy’s bruiser, it measured 202/16 inches.
The ride home was somewhat shorter than the ride to our destination, as we shared our many golden memories from the field. It’s great to know that at a moment’s notice we can relive our adventure again and again just by turning the pages of our photo album and scrap book.