Much to my pleasant surprise, the bear hunting at Bluffy Lake is not just a big baited barrel and a bare spot that looks like a worn out garbage dump. As I traveled by boat for 12 miles up the White Mud River and watched the channel get smaller and the water grass get longer, I was beginning to wonder why we didn’t just fly up to the hunting area. The truth of the matter is that Keith, the guide, scouts out these narrow inlets and grassy coves where bears come down to the lake for feast and drink. When we pulled into a very narrow inlet through the aquatic grass and slowed down to no wake speed as we glided past a huge beaver mound, I knew then that I was being dropped off at a desolate and remote location. As Keith turned sharply toward the bank I was startled and thinking, what is he doing? All I saw was a wall of trees and dense underbrush.
There was literally no room to stand once out of the boat. The thick moss that covers the ground barely revealed any trace of human footprints. Keith is the only human that has been to this place. I followed Keith in through the trees to a slight opening. I had been instructed not to say a word but go directly to the stand he had set for me. As I climbed up into the stand he took a small amount of bait (private recipe) and tossed it out. The instructions: when it gets dark and you hear the boat coming back, get down and walk to your 3 foot waiting moss pad to be picked up.
Keith left quickly for the 12 miles back, and I focused on the sound of the boat motor until it disappeared like a passing mosquito. Alone? Yes, very alone! Me, the woods, the dark green of the forest, light beams penetrating small openings through the canopy. And bears…lurking somewhere closer than I knew! I was now a guest of the inhabitants of the sweet-smelling pine forest of the Canadian northwest.
The end of that first day the bears did not reveal themselves as it was probably a test for their human intruders. These are not garbage dump bears that are accustomed to human intrusion or traffic. They have not seen a human in more than a year, if any, and only then the scent of Keith.
As the sun fell down behind the horizon, the beams of light slowly disappeared and the darkness of the canopy was 20 minutes ahead of the outer lake. I sat until I could barely see and began to listen and hope for the distant sound of the reassuring boat motor coming up the lake. Yes, finally, it sounded like that mosquito returning. The hum began to grow louder but still minutes out. I got down and walked out to the moss tramped trail, following my own footsteps, to my waiting pad, wondering if I was being watched by black eyes. As I stood on the moss island parcel, I held my bow, ready to draw as I faced a wall of darkness and my heart was very audible as it refueled with adrenaline, necessary for survival tactics! Then, the boat came skimming through the grass and crowded me off of my pad. Exhilarating? An understatement!
It purges the soul when you are totally out of your element and so dependent on your own skills and the performance of others. Navigating 12 miles back to camp with no lights through a narrow grassy channel to the open lake was a piece of cake for Keith. To me, the adventure of a lifetime, and I had not yet seen my bear! The days ahead would offer the same repeat experience until the 5th day. My morale had slipped somewhat, enduring those long sits in the stand, going over much of my life in reflection. Then, there he was, big, black, ghostlike, no sound, just a visual of a black mass. No time to think, breath deep, draw back, THAWCKKK! GAME OVER! Need I explain the rush? I can recall the whole experience time after time, just like it happened yesterday. Would I go back? You bet, my bags are packed! There is no place like Bluffy Lake Lodge, northwest Ontario. See you there!