The black bear or Ursus americanus, as it is known scientifically, is perhaps the most mysterious big-game animal in North America. No other beast brings with it the allure and respect that the black bear does. These highly sought-after beasts are pursued by all sorts of big-game hunters, and with their population numbers flourishing in most regions, thanks to wise black bear management, they are a sound choice for hunters who practise conservation.
The black bear population in North American totals between 600-900,000 animals and growing. Several factors have contributed to the solid bear populations Canada and the United States. The sale of permits to hunt these animals has increased, and annual harvest has also remained stable under increased hunting pressure.
Growing up in the province of Quebec, Canada, the pursuit of black bears was a tradition enjoyed by many. The majestic bear has long been shroud in mystery and mystique, leaving a lasting impression on anyone who sees one. These animals are noble, intelligent and tough as nails. Virtually every sportsman I know can recall a black bear encounter in vivid detail, and that’s part of what makes them so exciting!
I was one of those folks so intrigued with ‘old blackie’, I had to see what all the hubbub was about. Being an avid moose and deer hunter with nearly 30 years of experience already, by year 2000, I still never tried a guided black bear hunt and that prospect was exciting indeed! Plans were laid and the trip was promptly booked with one of Quebec’s renowned bear outfitters. With all the formalities taken care of I was anxious for the excitement to begin at: Domaine Shannon Outfitters located north of Maniwaki, Quebec, Canada.
Black Ghost appears!
As darkness approached like a slow moving cloud, I watch intently over my bait-site. “No sign of bear movement yet,” I thought to myself, while attempting to quietly swat away the pesky black-flies digging into my wrist. Here I was, perched high above the lush forest floor in an enclosed camouflaged tree stand, waiting for blackie to appear below me. My father joined me on the trip as he just couldn’t resist the temptation as a bear hunt virgin himself. He would be camera-man this time and I would be the hunter. Oh, what a glorious place this was in Quebec’s northeast, where I am told, the men are men and the bears are nervous.
I had come up flat on the first two evenings of the hunt, it took Claude, my guide, some clever homework and planning to select the stand site for this final hunt. The distance to the bait was considerably shorter than with previous stands that week, with the goal of hopefully allowing my Dad to gather footage of an approaching bear. At least that was the plan. After waiting patiently for three hours, and watching the odd raven pick at loose scraps around the bait site, I was beginning to grow doubtful of any bruin activity, and this was the last kick at the can!
I checked my watch. It was 9 p.m., and still no sign of any bears. As I examined the hunt area more closely with my binoculars, I could make out a network of well padded bear trails converging at the bait. It seemed that several animals had visited this location regularly, but where had they all gone?
Ten minutes later, a “swishing” sound emanated from the direction of the bait. I leaned over to my father, “there’s something down there!” as my voice cracked. I had a gut feeling that a bear was approaching downwind. I continued to strain my eyes (& ears) hoping to catch a glimpse of movement, any movement but all was silent.
Suddenly without warning, making no sound whatsoever, an ominous black figure floated across in front of the bait like a ghost, in complete and utter silence. The guide explained to us earlier that these bears are so familiar with their surroundings; they are able to approach the bait without so much as cracking a twig.
My dark visitor virtually blocked out the remaining light for a moment. “Oh my God, it’s a bear!” I thought to myself. My heart started to race and my palms were perspiring. I would have to act quickly if I wanted to take him. The black object avoided the bait completely, and was more intent on scent-checking the area first.
“I think he is moving in our direction!” Dad whispered in my ear, sending chills down my spine. The dark creature then stopped, slowly swivelled to resume his course towards the bait. I held the sights behind the massive shoulder, and slowly squeezed. In a matter of seconds it was all over. My entire body was trembling as we climbed down the stand to collect my trophy. It was a magnificent and impressive animal, and the answer to my hopes and dreams. This was my very first black bear and although it was not one of the 300 pounders I heard about, it was a trophy to me!