I`ve been a hunter a long time. I doubt if that little cat squirrel I shot on the West Fork with my dad in 1962, knew he would create a passion in me that has taken me all over the world. I`ve chased game all over the USA, Africa, Argentina, Canada and many points in between. For most of my life waterfowl has been my first love. I guided duck and goose hunters for over 25 years. When my son reached hunting age I gave up the guiding and began teaching and hunting with my best buddy.
Never would I have believed I would look forward to anything more than sitting in a duck blind on a cool November morning but 5 years ago my son Josh and I booked a bear hunt in Saskatchewan, Canada. My good friend and hunting buddy Larry Daughdrill had done this hunt a couple of times and told us what a fun and relaxing hunt it was.
Spring bear hunting comes at a perfect time of year for Josh and me. After a winter of skinning ducks, geese, deer and God knows what else in our taxidermy studio we need a break. A week of bear hunting is perfect. The hunting is done in the afternoon, usually leaving camp around 4PM and hunting until about 9:30. Sleeping late is the norm so our much needed rest gets caught up on. This hunt has become our most looked forward to. Over the last 4 years I have had great luck. In 2005 I shot a huge black bear that ended up scoring number 22 in the world with a bow, SCI and number 77 Pope and Young. A 500-pound beast that would make any ones heart get to pumping.
All winter Josh and I were looking forward to our annual May hunt. A young man that I watched grow up and may have helped raise a little, Lane Daughdrill and his uncle Jay Fullerton joined us for our week in Saskatchewan’s bear country.
Hunting is not allowed on Sunday so we used the day settling into the cabin and getting a big chili cooked. We all got our rooms arranged and settled in for the evening. Our Guide has told us all the baits are getting hit good so the anticipation just continued to grow. After a good nights sleep we’re up and head into town to buy our bear license. Back to the cabin we all get our bows out and shoot a while to make sure everything is still on after the long flight. Now we kick back and relax until four o’clock when our guide picks us up and takes us to the stands.
Monday- the first hunt- I was the only one to see a bear. About 7PM I had a three-year-old black come in. He had a perfect white V in the center of his chest. If only he weighed another 200 pounds I may have tried to run an arrow through him but instead I shot him with my camera. He hung around about 30 minutes. I guess he got tired of having his picture made and eased off in the same direction he had come in from.
The whole point to this story is in all the hunting I have done I have never been shook up. I`ve been shook up after the shot but never before. Boy, were things about to change.
Tuesday evening, as I walked to the stand I could tell the bait had been hit and a big bear had hit it. I climbed up on the stand, pulled my bow up and got settled in. I looked at my watch, 4:30. I figured with the noise of me walking in I had an hour or two before things would start happening. At 4:50 I see a motion out of my left eye. It’s a small cinnamon bear about a year and a half old. This little guy goes to the oat barrel and starts shoveling oats into his mouth like he hasn’t eaten in a month. Out comes the camera and I shoot pictures for a good thirty minutes. I really start to get attached to the little guy. At one point he gets so full he rolls over on his back, legs spread and goes to sleep. Made me think of my little Jack Russell- Chica. About an hour after the little guy has been in the bait I see a big bear coming down the hill straight in front of me. He’s not black, more of a black- gray. He has a beautiful coat but his head looks like he has been to the barber and had his head and face trimmed. He quickly ran the little cinnamon off and proceeded to try and eat everything in the bait barrel. He feeds about twenty minutes and eases off. Plenty big to be a shooter but the hair on his head made him look really strange so I decided to let him walk.
Now for the shook up part. At ten minutes till eight I look up and straight in front of me is a big black coming in. This bear looks like a bear you would see in a magazine. It is absolutely perfect. As the bear comes in I turn side ways in the stand, clip my release to the string and get ready. Just about the time the bear is getting into shooting range, in comes a bigger bear. I quickly decide I’m going to shoot which ever gives me the first shot, as they are both very nice animals. At eighteen yards the two big bruins get in an all out fight. The noise and just the sight of two big animals going at it just twenty steps from the stand had the old heart pumping. The smaller bear won the fight and the bigger bear ran off but only about twenty yards. The big black is mad and blown up, trying to look bigger. It’s growling and snapping it’s teeth and it’s still walking straight at me. When the bear is eight steps from my stand the bigger bear starts coming back in. I think the bear is going to turn and face the bigger bear, giving me a perfect quartering away shot. Just as the bear turns I start to draw and I get caught in mid draw. The already mad bear now turns and faces me— growling and shaking its head and stomping it’s feet. Never taking it’s eyes off of me. I’m at full draw now but I’m shaking so bad I can’t find my pin in the sight. I closed my eyes and said to myself “ IF YOU DON`T CALM DOWN YOU ARE GOING TO LOOSE BOTH BEARS”. I opened my eyes and could see my pin. I let the arrow fly. When the arrow hit, the bear roared like a lion, rolled over on it’s back. Then it jumped up crashed into a tree and disappeared into the bush. My heart was about to blow out of my chest. I looked down at my watch and only two minutes had gone by since I first saw the bear.
It took a good twenty minutes for me to calm down. I replayed the scene in my mind over and over. Each time ending with—“ all this in two minutes.” At 8:30 I climbed down and started tracking. I had good sign and following the trail was easy. About forty yards from the stand the bear went under four big spruce trees. The limbs were almost touching the ground. I had my bow in one hand and my light in the other and my light goes out. At this point I thought to myself ‘YOU KNOW, I DON`T KNOW ANYONE THAT HAS EVER BEEN KILLED BY A CRIPPLE DUCK, I`M GETTING OUT OF HERE.” I walked back to the stand grabbed my backpack and started out. It’s good and dark now and about fifty yards from the road a cow elk blows out of the bush about ten yards in front of me. I scream because I’m sure I’m dead. After I make it to the top of the hill I see the elk standing next to the road. I couldn’t help but laugh. I’m pretty sure I don’t need a stress test now.
Josh, Lane, Jay and I all meet up at the local café. Jay saw nothing, Lane had a small bear and a huge bear come in but left before he could get a shot. Josh had a small bear come in but didn’t shoot, waiting on something better. They all had a good laugh on me, especially when I thought I was dead.
Wednesday morning we are up at 5:30 and head out to find my bear. About fifty yards from where my light went out there she is. Turned out to be a big sow and she is just as pretty as she was during our brief but long two-minute encounter the evening before. After pictures are made Josh handles the skinning duties while I replay the whole thing over and have everyone laughing again.
Thursday evening Lane became a bear hunter. He killed a nice black on a stand right behind the cabin. On Friday, Jay stuck a big cinnamon. He felt he made a good hit but maybe a little high so we decided not to push the bear and go in the next morning. We trailed the bear for almost four hours and finally just ran out of sign. The guide assured us someone would shoot that bear next season. Josh again was unlucky and left bear camp only seeing the small bear earlier in the week.
I used to think with all the hunting I’ve done in my life that nothing would shake me up. In two minutes on a cool May evening in a bear stand I learned the true meaning of “SHOOK UP IN SASKATCHEWAN.”
by: Steve German