Immediately after returning home form the lottery, I began researching bear guides and after considerable thought, finally settled on an outfitter in the Millinockett area. The bear hunt occurred during the first week of the season and was truly everything I had hoped it would be. I was served great food, treated to fantastic lodging, lead by a knowledgeable guide and joined by several other sports of truly the finest quality. The hunt was exciting and I had two perfect opportunities to shoot bears on Monday and Thursday evenings. Both bears, however, weighted around 125 pounds and while considered “average” sized bear, they were below my personal expectations and so I passed on shooting.
Over the next several weeks of bear season, I was invited by other guides, who had heard of my plight, to hunt over their baits. These hunts yielded no results but even as the season began to come to a close, I still remained hopeful right down to last night I had available, before heading off on my moose hunt the last week of September. The final evening was sweltering hot, and with little wind, the aroma of fermented doughnuts hung heavy in the air, offering a perpetual assault on my olfactory senses. I was sitting in a folding camp chair about 25 yards from the bait site in a small cluster of spruce trees in an area bordered by a large cedar swamp. A maze of bear trails intersected the bait site from numerous directions, making it a guessing game determining what direction a bear would approach the bait. Old washed-out tracks indicated a monstrous bruin had visited the site but after 3 days of hunting, no additional clue of his existence could be found. I still persisted and on the final night was rewarded by what is perhaps one of the most amazing events in my hunting career.
Late in the afternoon of the final day, as the sun started to dip below the horizon, I noted movement in the woods directly over my right-hand shoulder. Slowly turning my head, I could see that it was a bear, a BIG bear at about 40 yards, slowly approaching the bait. Being a right handed shooter, I was in a position where the muzzle of my .30-06 was in exactly the opposite direction of the approaching bruin. I knew, that considering a bears impressive speed, the option of quickly turning, shooting and placing an ethical shot into Mr. Bear were likely zero. My only option was to have the massive bear walk by me as he made his way to the bait. With what was painful slowness, the bear creeped into the bait site, his nose pointed high in the air constantly tasting the air to ensure it was safe. I figured that at any moment, the bear would bolt but instead he just kept coming. Amazed I watched the bear close the distance, 20 yards, 10 yards, 15 feet . . . finally the bear, which I judged to be close to 400 pounds, walked down the trail and by me at 9 feet as I sat on the ground in my camp chair! My adrenaline hitting critical, I struggled to keep my breathing under control and my heart rate from red lining but was rapidly losing the battle. As the bear edged by me, the wind swirled and I noted an immediate change in the bruin’s demeanor and I knew the jig was up. He stopped, took one final hesitated step and bolted into the woods like his tail was on fire, ending my bear hunting for 2015.
After my bear troubles, the rest of the “grand slam” went like clock work, as I managed to shoot my moose, a 750 pound, 13 pointer with a 51 inch spread, exactly 30 minutes into the first day. The beast even landed on the road and within a few hours my brother, father and I had removed the moose from the woods, tagged it and delivered it to the butchers and by noon were sitting on the deck, at our cabin at Red River Camps, enjoying an ice cold beverage.
My deer hunt also ended without incident, as I shot a 110 pound doe with my bow during mid October. After tracking the deer for several weeks using a game camera, I noted that she always walked by my deer stand, every three to four days, always in the evening, about an hour before last light. I went out and sat in my stand for the last three hours on the evening of the third day and encountered only squirrels but on the fourth day, like clock work, the doe walked right by my stand on her regular schedule. I drew back and fired a Rage expandable that impaled her behind the forward shoulder and dropped her only 10 yards from where she was initially hit.
I still think occasionally about my choice to pass on those two bear, but ultimately, if I had to do it all over again I would still have passed the second time. My close encounter would not have been possible had I pulled that trigger early in bear season and while I didn’t harvest that monstrous animal, being that close in its presence was well beyond the word amazing. While it would have been a great accomplishment to have completed the “grand slam”, it was still an amazing hunting season and one that I will cherish for all time. Like I have said many times before, hunting is only about 10% about the killing the other 90% is about the time spent with family, friends, spending time afield enjoying Mother Nature and the frequent quiet, moments of self-reflection.