Harvesting a trophy black bear in spring is a matter of waiting for a lusty boar to follow a potential mate into the bait. Take the spring season out of the equation, however, and the odds plummet for even the most experienced hunter. Such was the case in Ontario, Canada, where springtime bear hunts were outlawed for more than 2 decades. (1999 – 2021) The spring ban upset a lot of people, but only an outright ban could keep Mick Bohonis out of the woods, regardless of when that season fell. In 16 years, Mick harvested more than 20 bruins with archery tackle — nine of which qualified for the record book. Sit back and enjoy the tale of his biggest of them all, and how the events unfolded on that fateful day in September, 2000!
Bohonis has worked for numerous outfitters in his time. He also has guided clients to trophy black bears. In all of his years of pursuing Ursus americanus, however, Mick had never taken one large enough for the Boone & Crockett Club’s coveted record book (a skull measuring at least 21 inches across). The province has seen very few B&C black bears ever harvested with a rifle, let alone a bow.
A mature black bear is one of the wiliest creatures in all of nature. An adult male bear possesses the silence and stealth of a cat, with a scenting ability that is simply uncanny. They can easily hear a rabbit breathe at 50 yards, so attempting to lure a mature adult blackie within 20 yards for a clean shot with a bow is not an easy task! Most big bears are nocturnal feeders. But there are some tricks that a hunter can pull out of his hat. The best lure of all is another bear.
The dominant bear in a given area will definitely stake out a particular bait as his own. He will leave scent postings, scat and claw marks on all surrounding trees — letting others know that they’re treading on his turf.
During the summer of 2000. Jim Curtola built a two-tiered, fully camouflaged blind that would accommodate four grown men, 25 feet up a large tree. He built it with the idea that he, Mick and Rob Loftus would use it to film a bow hunt for black bear. On Sept. 2, they would get more than they had imagined possible.
The three men settled into their elaborate tree stand at 5 p.m. Their first visitor arrived a little more than an hour later. The beautiful 200-pound male nervously circled the bait before finally sneaking in for a quick snack. The 4-year-old was so unnerved that even a slight rustling of leaves was enough to send him running.
An hour before dark, another bruin arrived at the bait. He. too acted as if the school principal were about to arrive and scold him for tardiness. The two bears’ strange behaviour convinced Mick that something enormous must be nearby. The youngsters knew that if they were caught with their paws in the cookie jar, they would surely pay the price.
With less than 10 minutes left of legal shooting time, Mick suddenly saw Rob’s eyes had grown to the size of pie plates. All three men were soon watching a monster of a bear approach the bait. “At that moment, I had a feeling come across me that I had never experienced before in my hunting career,” Mick said. “The hair stood up on my arms, and my heartbeat jumped into double turbo overdrive.’
A mere 20 yards in front of him was the largest black bear that Mick had ever seen, the biggest in 16 years of bowhunting and guiding. Jim, who was sitting beside Mick, held the camera steady. Mick noted that the bear’s belly was literally dragging the ground as it walked. Its paws seemed the size of skidder tires, and its head looked like an oversized bowling ball. This bear is a black Volkswagen with legs, he thought.
Instinct took over at that point, and in a matter of seconds, a 100-grain broadhead was slicing through the beast’s shiny black coat and into its pink bellows. Afterward, the behemoth simply waddled away as if nothing had happened. Seconds later, an eerie silence fell over the entire forest. Somewhat bewildered, the three men just stared at each other. Darkness was fast approaching, and a quick decision had to be made about whether to track the bear or wait until morning. Although Mick felt confident that his shot was true, tracking a monstrous bear in the pitch black was something that most hunters and guides would never advise. They opted to wait!
The following day began with hot coffee and doughnuts. After breakfast. the guys returned to the site and began trailing the wounded bear. Jim was in the lead. He’d barely gone 36 paces when he turned and yelled: “Looks like a black tent lying over here!”
The giant bear was even more enormous than they remembered. It tipped the straining scales at 619 pounds; its pelt squared 8 feet; and its paws measured 7 inches in diameter. It was the Booner for which Mick had been hunting for more than 16 years.
When officially scored, the skull tallied 21 4/16 inches, making it the second largest black bear ever harvested in the province of Ontario, by bow or gun!
If you enjoy reading black bear hunting adventures, please check-out my personal tale of pursuing Ursus americanus in the Province of Quebec, Canada.