I can never remember not loving being outdoors. I began hunting and fishing with my father and grandfather around the age of five and over the past 50 years have developed a serious love for both hunting and fishing, perhaps giving hunting the slight edge over fishing.
But I had never gotten the opportunity to go on a bear hunt until this year. I was working my day job on a solar power house in the Mojave Desert in California when I got a call from a gentleman I had never met. He began to tell me that he had been given one of my Vapor Makers, a scent dispenser I had invented in 2009 to help keep animals from detecting a hunter’s scent. He introduced himself as Chris Bassingthwaite, explaining he loved the idea of the product but hadn’t gotten the opportunity to take it on a hunting trip yet. He also said the same gentleman had given the Vapor Maker to an outfitter in Canada.
He then casually asked if I’d be interested in going on a bear hunt with the outfitter (Taxis River Outfitters) in Boisetown, New Brunswick, Canada. Chris is one of the hosts of Northwood’s Sporting Journal TV Show and a writer for Northwood’s Sporting Journal magazine, which is the largest outdoor journal in the northeast. Having never gone on a bear hunt, I jumped at the opportunity to tag along. As the details were worked out, we would be joined by Larry Daniels of Passin Time Outdoors and Scott Cronin, Pro Staff for Derby City Game Calls. Everyone would get the opportunity to hunt while being filmed by their hunting partner.
On Friday, June 8, we all flew in to Manchester, New Hampshire. On Saturday morning we started for Taxis River. We had the opportunity to visit Kittery Trading Post then drove out on Bailey’s Island, Maine to do some sightseeing and eat some lobster. After dinner we headed on up to Canada. When we got to the border we had to assure the Border Patrol we had only bows and arrows as weapons, no guns in the vehicle. With passports back in hand, we were on our way. It was very late that night when we arrived in Taxis River, so we unloaded our stuff into our cabins and went to bed. If you do your homework before going you’ll know that you only hunt bear in the afternoons, making it one of the easiest hunting trips you’ll ever go on.
The next morning, Chris and Larry went to set up stands for the camera guys while Scott and I decided to take in some local fishing with our guide Jamie Durling. The salmon and brook trout fishing is exceptional there, with three or four creeks and rivers flowing directly through the local township. We kept about 15 of the brookies we caught to eat later. The outfitter’s wife knew exactly how to cook the brookies which we enjoyed Monday morning for breakfast. Our first day of the five day bear hunt would be Monday afternoon, as luck would have it I would be hunting first with Scott filming me in one location, while Larry would be hunting with Chris filming him in another location.
Taxis River Outfitters offers baited bear hunts, so our guide Jamie baits the area daily to get the bears accustomed to human activity and of course, to the food, cookies, and treats they find each day in the area. This afternoon was no different, we walked in behind Jamie as he worked to replenish the bait. I discovered baiting takes a great deal of work and highly recommend using an outfitter who will do all of this work for you.
The area we would be hunting was only 10 minutes from the lodge. There were bears everywhere. We saw several crossing the dirt roads on the way to our stands during the five days we hunted, and when we got to the woods there was scat everywhere. Monday afternoon we got positioned in our stands and waited. About 2 ½ hours into the afternoon a nice sized bear made her way into the bait area. Even after 50 years of hunting, I thought there is no other hunting that is as exciting as this.
Eventually the bear came around about 15 yards to my left and stopped for a long time, just testing the air. It is extremely important to be scent free just for this reason. Bears have a strong sense of smell and can detect human scent very easily. I had sent some Vapor Makers and our scent killer/cover 33 Pt. Buck ahead of me, so everyone could spray down. The 33 Pt. Buck is proven to kill human odor and the Vapor Maker mimics nature, is easy and efficient to apply, and provides a wall of protection between you and the animal.
After a few minutes the bear was satisfied it was safe, so she started out away from the bait and walked all around the site away from us. After working her way around again she was crawling on the ground from cookie to cookie at about 12 yards, coming straight towards us. Scott and I enjoyed watching and filming her for about 30 minutes. Having the opportunity to watch a huge black bear lying just yards from you munching on cookies will definitely get your blood going. It was amazing to me just how human-like their movements are. Bears feel with their front paws, even crossing them just like a human as they lay on the ground.
I had ranged the bait bucket at 18 yards when we got in the stands. She was still about 12 yards away when Scott got excited and forgot to whisper in the microphone. The bear heard Scott say to me “Shoot her!” and she looked directly at me. She began smelling and testing the wind trying to figure out where the sound had come from. This is why you must be totally scent free when bear hunting. There is no way you can out run or out climb a bear, regardless of their size. They are quick, agile and potentially deadly. There is always that thought in your mind that if the bear wants to he can take you out at any time. I froze and stood my ground, fortunately after a few tense moments her interest returned to the cookies. It was no secret Scott was afraid of the bears. I could hear his heart beating and his breathing through the microphones we were wearing.
Eventually, the bear turned and walked toward the bait bucket, quartering away from us. I drew the Mathews back and let the arrow fly straight for the heart. The arrow actually hit her in the bottom of the heart because I made the mistake of going into “whitetail mode”. The kill area on a bear is different than that of a deer, the bear’s vital organs are higher up. I knew I had hit the bear. Scott and I decided she probably weighed around 300 lbs.
We waited for about 30 minutes after I made the shot, but never heard the death moan. It was getting late and dark when we started looking for the bear. I was disappointed when we didn’t find her that night. I knew the arrow had made a through-and-through shot, because there was blood on it when I found it stuck 6 inches in the ground in a root. I couldn’t pull the broadhead out so I had to unscrew the arrow to get it back. I was shooting an Easton Axis Arrow tipped with a supersonic 1 1/8” cut, 100 grain broadhead. I had to leave the broadhead buried 6” deep in the ground.
The next morning it only took a few minutes and about 40 yards for Larry to yell out, “Congratulations, Rex, there’s your bear.” The bear had the most beautiful black coat, with two white spots on her chest. Only a few black bears display lighter color marks on their chests or stomachs. I knew she would make a beautiful mount. After she was weighed, she came in at 190 lbs– well above average for a bear, especially a female. We learned that black bear actually appear larger than they really are. Larry Davidson, owner of Taxis River Outfitters, told us she probably lived for about 11 seconds after the hit.
I can’t wait to do this again. It is the most exciting, relaxing and fun hunting trip I have ever been on. No long walks or climbs. No pre-dawn hikes because you only hunt in the afternoons. Having the opportunity to combine hunting and fishing made this an awesome trip. I got my beautiful bear and this time next year she’ll be proudly displayed on the wall of our hunting lodge.
Good luck on your next hunting trip.
Images courtesy Rex Holmes, Jr./Vapor Trail