OutdoorsWeekly.com

Back to Features

Bear Hunting

Diary of a Bear Hunter - Part 2

Diary of a Bear Hunter - Part 1

Looking for Love Gets a Big Bear Into Trouble

1,000th Bear Milestone for Himes Bear Camp

 

Diary of a Bear Hunter - Part 2

Matt
It’s been a tough and confusing year on our property for bear hunters. Opener was a wash, literally.

By Matthew J. Breuer
As I write this the bear season is still going on. There are roughly three weeks remaining. I’m tired, frustrated, and probably still smell of molasses. I’m also writing this without bear meat in my freezer. It’s been a tough and confusing year on our property for bear hunters. Out of six of us hunting on two pieces of land we’ve only taken down one bear, despite having no less than 10 on camera.
When I wrote Part 1 of this adventure, we had 15 straight days of wiped out bait stations and we were going through 60 gallons of bait every to every other day. A few days before the start of the season, the hits fizzled down and then came to a complete halt. The day before opener, four guys in our group arrived anticipating a great opener. Three nights in the stands produced nothing more than skunks, ravens, raccoons, and nearly three inches of rain. Opener was a wash, literally.
Roughly eight days after the hits ended, the bears all came back. It never fails that the bears leave our land for a few days when the acorns drop. With such a heavy crop of acorns this season, and with such high winds in late August and early September, it’s no surprise that they were gone a few days longer than usual. They tend to travel for miles on end to hunt down acorns and hazelnut stands to gorge themselves on the tasty morsels that they only get to enjoy once per season. Once they were full of their yearly treats, back to our sweet treats they came.
After the bears came back it didn’t take long for them to get back into a routine. They were once again whopping the baits and consuming 60 gallons every day to every other day. Hunting would’ve been easy, but nobody was sitting on the stands. After 10 days of consistent eating, the bears again vanished… this time it was to the corn fields they went. That is our assumption anyway, based on crops in our area, and some random scat with corn showing up near the bait stations.
As I write this, the bears are once again active, eating off and on. Being two hours from our property doesn’t allow me to get up and on the stand every day, so it’s been a tough season. For now, I’ll have to enjoy my time watching them in pictures and video provided by my trail cameras. If I am able to get lucky and have one walk in when I’m back in the stand, I’m sure my .44 Magnum will bark and you’ll have to pry my smirk away with a crowbar. If not, there’s always next season…
Contact Matt with Northcountry Guide Service at 218-444-6479, mjbreuer@midco.net, www.northcountryguides.com

Back to top

 

 

Diary of a Bear Hunter - Part 1

Matt
By Matthew J. Breuer

Armed with literally thousands of loaves of bread and hundreds of gallons of grease and molasses, I hit the woods on the opening day of Minnesota’s bear baiting season each August. I spend the first few trips to the bait stations making pits, cutting logs, hanging stands and trail cameras, cutting shooting lanes and hauling and dumping bait. It’s mid-August… it’s hot, it’s humid, the bugs are miserable, I stink, and the stuff I’m carrying stinks as bad, if not worse, than I do. Oddly enough I feel at home. The start of bear baiting symbolizes the last days of summer, and the approach of fall. Chasing deer, grouse, pheasants, ducks, and geese are all right around the corner. Even if I stink like rotten food and old fryer grease, I know it’s mere weeks before I can sit in a stand enjoying the solitude and serenity that hunting brings.
Bread stores, candy factories, grocery stores, local eateries… all of these places usually get a visit from me at some point during mid-summer. Things such as bread, rolls, dough, candy, sugar, honey, leftover food, fruits, vegetables, grains, grease, and molasses are staples in most bear hunter’s garages this time of year. I start collecting bait as early as June, and keep right on collecting through the season. Any leftovers after the season is over is either sold or given to other hunters, or frozen for the next year.
When I start a baiting routine it usually doesn’t take long for the bears to start coming in to the bait, and once they know it’s going to be there day after day, it doesn’t take long to burn through a ton of bait. Keeping a steady routine is essential in successfully harvesting a bear. The bears need to know that food will be available at a certain time daily, and that there will be enough to keep them fed when they stop for a meal. I monitor what time they come in daily to feed with the use of trail timers and/or trail cameras.
All told, our “crew” of hunters has a total of seven bait stations going this year. Most of them are getting visited and cleaned out. We’re on a routine now, baiting every day or every other day. Each station gets five to 10 gallons of food which is covered in three to five gallons of grease or molasses. I even cover the logs in grease or molasses to get extra scent out there. It also gets on the bears’ feet, trailing the scent into the woods even deeper.
Deciding on a weapon for the season is usually done well in advance. This year, I purchased a new Ruger® Super Blackhawk® .44 Magnum that I plan to shoot. I’ve spent the last few days burning some Fusion® 240 grain ammunition through the barrel, getting all sighted in and acclimated to the gun. This new Fusion ammo has impressed me a lot. The kick isn’t as horrible as some other factory loads out there, and the accuracy look fantastic so far. The final test and review will come once a bear finds its way into a bait station after the season opens!
I know which bears are coming in, my gun is sighted in, my 4-wheeler is filthy, and I’ve got poison oak. I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. Next month I hope to be complaining about too much bear meat in my freezer! Check back next month for the results from our 2010 bear season…
Contact Matt with Northcountry Guide Service at 218-444-6479, mjbreuer@midco.net, www.northcountryguides.com

Back to top

Looking for Love Gets a Big Bear Into Trouble

By S. L. Merriam
On Friday, June 18, in northeast Pennsylvania, a 400-pound male black bear wandered into the Viewmont Mall in Lackawanna County. The mall sits in a valley between two mountain ranges and this time of year is the bear breeding season. What lured him to the area on his quest for love are the dumpsters that always provide interesting smells. He wasn’t looking for trouble – he was just looking for a date!
A police unit spotted the bear at a dumpster in the early morning hours and evidently spooked it. Since there were no trees to climb, the bear got up on the dumpster, climbed onto the dumpster’s enclosure then leaped up onto the roof of the mall about 35 feet above the ground.
A call to the Pennsylvania Game Commission brought Warden Mark Rutkowski with a tranquilizer gun and supporting officers. Fearing the big bear might fall through a skylight into the shopping mall their plan was to tranquilize him with minimal disturbance. They didn’t want the bear running across the roof and having a bad experience with a skylight and ending up in a store.
The wardens quietly slipped in behind the bear and found him lying down with his chin resting on the edge of the roof. Rutkowski slowly sneaked to within 25 yards and shot a dart into the bear’s shoulder. The bear stood up, walked about 20 yards then layed down and went to sleep.
Using a ladder as a stretcher, along with a lot of man power, they were able to muscle the bear to the edge of the roof. By now a good part of the town was watching from a distance and one onlooker, Johnson Towning, volunteered his fork lift to lower the bear down from the roof.
Once on the ground the bear was placed in a transportation cage and taken to the state game lands in Monroe County.
Tim Conaway, of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, explained the bear was traveling, looking for females. There was evidence the big male had been fighting other males, which is common at this time of year. The bear had recent cuts across his nose and one ear had been almost torn off. Other times of the year the bears are responding to hunger and have learned humans are a good source of trash which contains a lot of great food. Having a bear in your back yard might be a fun experience but human - bear conflicts can be dangerous and have become a major concern to the Game Commission.
A similar foraging problem can occur in the winter since bears are not true hibernators. When a winter warm spell brings them out of their slumber they will forage for food. Even though they don’t go far, they often wander into residential areas where bird feeders and improperly stored garbage lures them to garages and back lawns. During a mild winter the bears do not find a den but wrap up in a ball of brush making what looks like a large bird nest. Their heavy coat and layers of fat will protect them throughout the winter but because they are so exposed, they are more likely to react to a warm spell and get up and wander about looking for food.
For more information and tips on living with black bears, you can check out the Pennsylvania Game Commission Homepage at www.pgc.state.pa.us

Back to top

1,000th Bear Milestone for Himes Bear Camp

The Himes Bear/Guide Service has recorded its 1000th bear kill and retrieve. This milestone has been achieved over the last 6 decades.

Himes Bear

Congrats to Paul Norling of Alexandria, MN who shot the 1000th bear at Himes Bear Camp on Sept 4th. It weighed a whopping 537 pounds!

By Phil Hart, Gateway General Store

Robert Himes opened Himes Bear Camp & Guide Service in 1953, when Dale Himes, the current operator of the camp was 11 years old. Dale at this time rode in a jeep to set up baits and bear stands sharing duties with his brother.

In 1978, Dale took over the duties of running the camp, expanding it to its present level of 120 bait stations and stands, of course his wife, Ethel Mae stood by his side and provided great meals for the guests.

Over the early years of Dale’s operation his boys, Robert, Brad and Randy assisted him in baiting and guiding just as he did with his father, meanwhile Ethel Mae did all the Bear Camp shores, keeping things tidy and keeping people fed.

In the beginning years of the Himes camp hunters did not need a license to hunt and kill bears as they were predators. Following that era, a big game license was purchased for hunting deer and bear. Early in the 80’s a bear license was required.

Presently, a lottery system is in place for bear licenses and non-residents cough up $201.00 for theirs.

The unlucky 1000th bear weighed in at 537# live weight. The hunter, Paul Norling of Alexandria, MN shot the bear with a 30-06 rifle, the bear made it less than 30 yards when he dropped.

This big bear required lots of help including the Himes Camp guides, JR Anderson and Fig Lagergren to load him up and package him to travel to the bear camp.

Dale guesses this bear to rank in the top 20 for its weight of bears of the last 50+ years. The heaviest bear Dale remembers is 650 pounds taken when his dad had the camp. Dale’s camp weighed one in a few years back at 637 pounds.

Dale is quite pleased that his camp baits for 30-40 hunters most years. Many of the hunters come with other family members and stay at resorts and combine fishing with their hunting.

If you crunch numbers, the 30-50 hunters with the additional family members have a very positive economic impact in our small community.

When Dale was asked what brings hunters back, part of it is tradition, and his high ratio of opportunity per hunter, that is sightings or kill opportunities while at their bear stands.

All hunters at Himes Camp are given safety instructions and there is zero tolerance for alcohol in the woods. In consequence there have never been any accidents requiring medical care over the 50+ years.

Himes Camp consistently averages more males killed than females, although his baits contain some common ingredients like, candy, cookies and cooking grease, he boasts a secret ingredient that favors males.

Congratulations to Dale, Ethel Mae and his deceased father, Robert for safely reaching the 1000 milestone.

Back to top

 

© 2010 OutdoorsWeekly.com