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Monthly Archives: August 2013

Grin And Bear It-How many is too many?

I have written various bear articles and one important fact I want to focus on is:

How many hunters is too many?

A good outfitter will only take the amount of hunters that they can successfully bait for.  Overselling hunts to fill a market need may be good for the pocketbook but it is bad for the overall population if too many bears are harvested at one time and in turn can be bad for the hunter if there are no bear to spot.  If there are no bear spotted, the reputation of that outfitter can be short lived and the operation will be deemed a ‘fly by night’.

Knowing when enough is enough is crucial to the longevity and credibility of a successful outfitter.  With 40+ years of bear management experience, we have proven year after year that balance can and should be practiced!

We run 55 baits a year and take no more than 20 hunters for a 1200 square mile bear management unit.  The key term is bear MANAGEMENT.  Our job is not to eradicate all bear but to regulate the population to ensure proper balance to the natural chain.  Running a well organized hunt creates a win/win situation with hunters helping us control the population while hopefully harvesting a trophy for themselves 🙂

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Taking the right amount of hunters that can dependably be baited for is a tedious balance but should be first and foremost in the outfitters list of priorities.  We bait an average of 2 stands per hunter in the event a bait goes ‘cold’.  Weather, surrounding food sources and/or outside interruptions can cause a bear to spook away for a few days or leave the area all together.  In cases such as this, it is always important to have a back up plan in place.

So remember, 20 bruin harvested last year with an outfitter may sound impressive but pair that with 100 hunters over baits, that number quickly becomes feeble.  When you contact outfitters, ensure you first ask for spot rate (which is a mandatory recording in Ontario), followed by hunters participating and finally bear harvested as this will give you an accurate overview of success.

Take this small tidbit and keep it in mind when you book your next bear hunting adventure!

Until next time….When the opportunity presents itself, GRIN AND BEAR IT!

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Posted by on August 31, 2013 in black bear, Wawang Lake Resort

 

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Time pays off!

The pressure was mounting as Chris arrived.  His hunt was shortened by one day already due to work and he was fighting the clock.  I was ready as soon as he arrived to get him in his tree and utilize what daylight we had left.  Chris wasn’t concerned that he had just driven over 10 hours, he was focussed on his target.

We often advise our hunters that until a pattern is established with them on their own bait, putting the time in and sitting that stand is crucial.  Chris was no exception.  He was ready and willing and he knew his bait had been very active before his arrival.

Excitement mounted as we reached our destination and spotted 3 different scat piles directly leading to his hunt area. We cautiously approached with the new meal and his gear and to our relief the bait pile had been hit and hit hard!

As Chris climbed his tree and set his stand, I went to work masking our scents and getting another meal ready for those bruin.  As soon as we both had finished what we set out to do, I slowly retreated and made my way back to camp.

That afternoon went slow and the sun was blistering hot.  The air had settled to a stagnant and thick coating and I knew that Chris would be feeling it.  As sundown approached and he pulled in, I had to see if we had another bear down.

“Nothing today.”  His eyes were tired and the color was more pronounced on his face than it was earlier.

“I sat that stand and I didn’t see much other than birds and squirrels, but I did hear something.  It sounded like teeth clacking together.”

Chris and I both knew that there was a bear there that day.  He or she must have known something was different and it was exercising caution.

“I sat and hoped that it would come in but no go.”

We parted ways after making the next day’s plan.  We both agreed that there was a good chance of a harvest from this bait and he wasn’t going to waste that chance.

Morning came and Chris was the first out of camp.  It was a long hot day for us here at the lodge and we were all feeling sympathy for the men fully covered out in the field.  There was no break from the heat and sun and the bugs were being particularly unforgiving.  2 had come in with their harvest and now we all sat and waited in anticipation…….nothing!  No more bears that night.  Chris was still optimistic and the smile never left his face.

“I got to the bait and it had been hit.  It wasn’t as disturbed as the the first day but the logs had been rolled back and most of the food picked out.”

We had warned Chris that there were multiples on the bait and one was particularly noted for neatly rolling the logs back and politely removing what was needed so we knew that one had returned.  We advised him to get out early the next day and start before the heat could get to him.  Maybe something would be on the move and he would have an early day.

The day came and went.  A full 12 hours in the stand and not a bear in sight.  Chris said it was the most peaceful place he could find anywhere but I could see in his eyes that he was anxious to reach his goal.  He hadn’t driven all this way to sit up in a tree and watch the squirrels 🙂

A new plan was made and we called in the help of Terry, our bear expert.  Chris would head to his stand and Terry would come later and work his magic.  Terry knows each and every bait in our units and is very familiar with what and who is taking each well laid meal.

Chris again, was up and out of camp first, eager to set the plan in motion.  Terry sat and finished his coffee and laid out his supplies.

“I am heading out.  Chris should be back in within a few hours with a bear if all goes to plan.”

And with that he was gone down the road.  As the time passed and daily routine took place, Chris and his hunt were constantly in the back of my mind.  I knew that he and all of us were doing what we could and now it was a waiting game……

2:30….a black truck…..it slowed at my door.  Chris was stoic as he emerged.  As he approached the door his poker face wasnt giving anything away.

“So….”  I couldnt bring myself to ask, it was up to him to tell me.

Without a word the smile hit his face and his hand came up….HIGH FIVE!!!!  BEAR DOWN!!  All the tension left my body and the excitement mounted.  She was a nice 200lb sow and as we both suspected, probably the polite one that had so neatly taken her dinner.

“What a great but tiring hunt!”  I could see the exhaustion finally overtake him as we prepared her for her photo session.  Thanks to Terry, all the hard work Chris put in had paid off……..now it was time for a rest!

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BEAR DOWN!!! Quinn and Lucas Had a Long Night!

In the sweltering heat both men knew that they might be in for a long, uncomfortable sit. Both resigned to the fact that being scent locked and camouflaged entailed long sleeves, pants and boot that would be working double time!

A typical view from a stand

Luke settled in confident that at some point during his stay, he would be bringing home what he had come all this way for.

As the mid day and early evening came on, Terry (the guide) had come in from a long day on the baits. It seemed much longer than usual and I asked him how it went.

“Well, we have a bear down.” Right away, the smile was over me, a ‘bear down’ is an outcome we as outfitters strive for and work painstakingly at before the hunter even arrives. Terry too was pleased.

“I was just on my way back up from the northern end baits when I saw a white truck in my rearview. I recognized it and pulled on over. Lucas was all in a mess, hot and concerned because he knew he had a bear down and he had no idea where it was.” Apparently in this 90 degree plus heat, Luke had taken his bear early (11 am) and had spent the last two hours tracking to no avail.

“Just by luck, I happened to be coming back just as he was coming to get me. He needed that bear tracked and that’s what we did.  We went back to where the shot was landed and to where she bedded down for a few moments.”  Luke was so happy that he had made contact and saw her ‘down’ that he let out a shout of excitement and that “YES!!!” quickly turned into a NO!  as that girl got up with all of her might and ran.

“We found the trail and it tapered off as we went on.  We cleared the direct line and went back to the bait to regroup.  I decided to check the small ravine to the right and Luke, the upper ridgeline to the left.  It didnt take long before I zoned in on one very small drop of blood.”  Terry’s eyes narrowed as he relived the moment.

“I was able to flag Luke over and we were hot on the trail!”

Hot was right!  Tracking in the mid day sun at 90+ degree temperatures was painstaking and uncomfortable.

“We were both amazed that there was so little blood.  He swore he heard a distinctive death moan and a final grunt….he KNEW she was down.  We walked for about ten minutes and FINALLY!!!  there she was, completely laid out under a small covering of brush.”

He smiled and you could see he was content that not only she was found but they could both get out of that blistering hot sun…..after she was field dressed.  Luke took no time in getting to work and analyzing his shot and finalizing the autopsy and arrow path.  He had deduced that he had run high but had hit both lungs.  A good, clean shot that had dropped her quickly.  Both men had a good laugh when they noted she had only gotten about 65 yards from the bait but was cunning in her route to be elusive.

“He did a good job.  He was an efficient hunter and he reaped his reward. He stayed behind to wait for Quinn to come off of his stand.  They should be in soon.”  And with that, Terry was off preparing for tommorrows bait run.

I watched the road anxiously for some time, measuring tape and camera ready for whatever was to come……The clock seemed to drag as I waited.  20 minutes turned into 2 hours and I was slightly concerned.  That sow needed to be processed asap, where were they?

Within minutes the white truck ambled up the road.  As they slowed I greeted Luke with all the congratulations.  He sprung from the truck and pointed…..”We brought you two for the price of one!!”

They SURE did!!  Quinn had downed a massive boar!  The truck bed was hanging lower with all the excess weight.

“RIGHT ON!”  I couldn’t hold back my excitement for the two of them.

Now came the real work!  Pictures, measurements and processing!  Quinn had shared that the hunt was relatively quick and uneventful.

“There was a snap of a twig and here he came.  You know he owned this house.  I barely let him reach the bait and I drew back and…….that was it!  20 yards and he was down.”  He made a point of looking to Lucas with a devious grin.

“I have to say, I was a bit worried.  I shot a bear before and he made the distinctive moan but we tracked and tracked and never found it, I was worried that this may be a repeat but there he was, down and done!”

It was a great night of stories including Shawn’s face to face encounter with his boar (that will be a story best saved for later), laughs and WORK!  As it was the very first time any of them caped a bear, all hands were on deck and they were all quick studies as I laid out the technique.  We made short time of Luke’s 225lb sow and Quinn and the rest of the crew were able to tidy up his 410lb boomer and hit the hay by 4 am.

Stay tuned for the next chapter of the Westpfahl’s Canadian wilderness adventure…….be assured there WILL be one!!

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2013 in black bear, Wawang Lake Resort

 

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Hunting For Gear :Product Review-Ladies First (sorry boys)

just for you

So far from the hunting gear of years before has the selection for us girls out there has come!  From sassy colored clothing, to fully customizable weaponry and even scent free grooming!

I wanted to share my experience with a company called Just for Does.  I met Michelle and her lovely crew a couple of years back at the Iowa Deer Classic and was just drawn to the booth by all the fantastic items they had from clothing (which I bought) to novelty items and such to the jewel in their crown….the scent free arsenal!

only prettier

With a slogan like “We hunt like you, only prettier!”  you know that this company has not only a sense of humor but also knows they are filling a niche that has been overlooked for many generations.

The line is very diverse encompassing shampoo (volumizing none the less), conditioner, body lotion, masking spray right down to chapstick!

Now I can hear some of you yelling ‘GIMMICK GIMMICK!!’  To that I say the packaging maybe, but the overall effectiveness of the product can speak for itself and my own personal experience with it has made me a believer.  As an outfitter for black bear, we at Wawang Lake Resort take our role in setting our bait sites extremely seriously and feeding those bears daily requires frequent travel in and out of each bait.  I prefer to leave my scent at an absolute minimum and have found that Just for Does has been wonderful for not only removing my scent but masking it as sweat emerges on those hot late summer days.

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That all being said, the next question is does it dry you out?  I answer with a big, resounding NO!  Unlike most scent free products that are hair & bodywash combos, Just for Does is a full line of product that allows you to decide how little or how much conditioner etc you need.  After several days of use there is little drying and no damage to my color treated hair (a BIG problem for most other like products).  I also appreciate being able to have a lotion for those long days in the field under the drying rays of the sun!

All in all, a great product for all you lady huntresses….. at $4-$13 it’s a well priced option and worth the cents to mask the scents!

Oh alright!  I can see some of you guys out there pouting…..just in case you are wondering, they DO have a line for you as well called Just For Bucks that can also be found on their website 🙂

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Also, feel free to contact me regarding our Women Gone Wild black bear hunt.  Put together by women for women!

 

Grin And Bear It 2

When shopping an outfitter that sells hunts over bait, previous success is crucial.  That being said, what constitutes success?  Most first time bear hunters ask how many bear were taken the year before.  Though this is a valid question, there are many factors that should also be taken into consideration.

bear over log

The amount of bear harvested, paired with how many hunters were hunting is a good start but first and foremost of all outfitter success is spot rate.  How many of the hunters actually saw a bear on or near their bait?  This answer is crucial to gaging your outfitter as experienced and professional.  A good outfitter will show you a bear and hopefully multiple bear.

How does that happen?  Consistency!

Proper and diligent baiting will promote the desired outcome of a bear presenting itself to an area, hopefully during shooting hours, to garner itself a well thought out meal.  If an outfitter is sporadic or inconsistent with baiting times or feed, the likelihood and predictability of a ‘hitting’ pattern won’t be discovered.

Many outfitters have their own method of baiting and what to bait with.  Some use barrel and popcorn or cereal mix, carcasses secured to a tree or in our case, ‘A’ framed logs with a host of carb filled goodies delivered daily with no fail.A typical view from a stand

What we have found over the years is that this method not only leaves no pollution (the logs can biodegrade if a bait is abandoned) but during late summer and the early part of fall (our preferred hunt time) bear just love those sweets and our hunters appreciate not having to share a close quarter with any form of rotting meat.

Though some bears may be curious, rotting meat sometimes dissuades a bear from coming in.and that’s a chance that we don’t want to take.

We ensure that an unchanging meal is delivered with predictable timing each day.  The daily routine not only keeps bear moving in, but it also allows us to chart ‘hit rates’.  A ‘hit’ is when the bait has been opened and emptied of its contents.  Though we bait for several days prior, 7 days of unfailing consecutive ‘hits’ constitutes an active bait that we are willing to put a hunter on as the likelihood of seeing a bear is high. 

This type of diligence will enhance an outfitters overall spot rate increasing their personal success and therefore give their hunters a much higher chance of a fortuitous harvest which is rewarding for both parties.

That being said, even if an outfitter practices consistency, they can destroy a high spot rate with excessive harvesting (we will talk about this in a future article).  A recent trend has emerged with the over sale of bear hunts by some.  Advertising a nice number of bear taken the year before is used to ‘bait’ hunters in with the dream of almost guaranteed success but the often overlooked information is how many hunters it took to yield that number.

20 bruin harvested last year with an outfitter may sound impressive but pair that with 100 hunters over baits, that number quickly becomes feeble and reveals a likely low spot rate.  When you contact outfitters, and ask for spot rate (which is a mandatorily charted in Ontario), they should be able to not only tell you, but a good outfitter will show you as they have likely noted it for their own records.  This is done to ensure consistency and help track population patterns for future years’ hunts.

The size of the area managed can also affect spot rate if an outfitter over sells their hunts.  A small area can easily become over hunted if not properly controlled and a large boar can very well rule a large area and assist in deteriorating your chances if they have pushed off other bear from the area.  Keep this in mind when asking for numbers of hunters relative to size of area managed compared to sighting.  Wawang boasts a 1200 square mile bear management area and enough diverse habitat to support many bruin of all sizes.

Google Map

For the past ten years we have averaged a 93% spot rate and in 2012 with 17 hunters participating,  13 harvested bear, 2 missed shots and one didn’t attempt a shot.  2 were well over 400lbs and the average being 300lbs. Many were submitted and were either Pope and Young winners or Boone and Crockett recipients.

In the end, our motto is “We do our best to put the bear in your sights, it is up to you what you do with that chance.”  This should be the mantra in the forefront of your mind when shopping an outfitter for that heart pounding hunt!

Until next time….When the opportunity presents itself, GRIN AND BEAR IT!

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2013 in black bear, Wawang Lake Resort

 

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Bird Brained

Grouse have long been favored as a preferred game meal.  With three species available in our area, the recipe options are endless!  From the white meat ruffed to the dark meat of the spruce and sharptail, hunting these birds can be as daunting as it is fun.  To increase your chance of a bigger buffet, I have compiled a short list of tactics that should help achieve your goal!

1.Lighten up

Go with a light shotgun in 16- or 20-gauge, weighing around six or seven pounds. Heavy waterfowling guns will wear out your arms, and they’re too slow getting on target. Long barrels, meanwhile, will tangle in vegetation when swinging on a bird. Speed kills in grouse hunting because the birds are usually in thick cover and disappear from sight in a couple of seconds.

Here at Wawang, our preferred weapons are a .22 guage short shell, a .410 or a simple BB gun.  These three weapons are lightweight for those long walks and if properly aimed for the head (eye preferably) the kill is quick and the cleaning is simplified with little (.410) or no damage to the breast (.22 and BB)

For a real challenge, don’t discount using a bow.  Using one will cut the chances of frightening prey that normally would be driven away by the louder firearm counterpart.

2. Don’t Choke Up

Cylinder or skeet choke is the way to go if you are in the learning phase. Most shots will be less than 25 yards, and these chokes provide a lethal pattern for grouse out to 30 yards. The sooner your pattern expands, the better for close-range shooting. And if you’re hunting the right cover, your shots will be at close range (10 to 20 yards). Small pellets pattern wider at those distances, making #7 1/2 shot a good choice until the leaves fall. Switch to #6 after that, when shots may be a little longer and the birds more heavily feathered.

For the more experienced hunter, a tighter pattern or single shell can’t be beat.  A .410 is the best of both worlds with a naturally tighter pattern but enough pellets to ensure a hit.

3. Mind the roosting times

Early and late in the day, hunt the edge of the trails and gravel road. Grouse roost in conifers at night, then usually fly down at first light to feed close to the forest edge and then head along the edge of the road to collect gravel for digestion. Their foraging may take them quite a distance, but toward evening they’ll be back near their roost area, not before topping up their crops for the night with more coarse sand or small gravel.

Our area is peppered with numerous cutovers (great for sharp tails), gravel roads and trails.  These areas are conducive to large amounts of grouse and make bagging limits simple.

4.Stand on Guard

Scan the edges of the road ways and trials.  Take time to stop and examine for even the slightest movement.  Most grouse will sit very still in the face of danger and most rely solely on their camouflage for protection.

Often the road will seem empty, but given a minute of two of silence, those heads will start poking up again as the fear of danger caused by the sound walking subsides.

Scan the road

5. Stay on Edge

If you prefer a challange and would like to hunt in the middle of the day, grouse love edge cover. From mid-morning until late afternoon, you’ll find them where forest meets field or swamp or logging road, or wherever mature forest meets new growth. Edges provide a variety of food sources not found in mature, open forests. Look for grouse where the ground is covered with salad—small, leafy plants, berries, seeds and mushrooms—not dense, long grass. Logged areas, 10-year-old burns and overgrown farms that are being colonized with poplars are good spots to look, as grouse feed heavily on poplar catkins.

6. Listen for Clues

Grouse escape by surprising you, but sometimes they give themselves away a few seconds before flushing. When a hunter approaches a covey of young grouse, the birds will scatter and make peeping noises to locate each other before flushing. If you hear peeping, get ready. The same goes for rustling noises; grouse often run a couple of steps to find a clear flight path before flushing. If you hear the slightest noise or see a flash of movement under a bushy evergreen, for example, quickly walk around the tree. It could be a grouse walking to the other side to flush. If you get halfway around the tree, you may get off a shot as the bird takes off.

7. Follow the Flush

Grouse can fly up to roughly 150 yards when flushed, then land on the ground or halfway up a tall conifer. If you see a bird fly into a tree and want to shoot it off a limb, just look for the football-shaped mass in the branches.

If the shot is unsafe and you want to wait for it to fly down so you can flush it from the ground, mark the area and hunt away from it. Return after about 15 minutes; by then the grouse will have flown down and resumed its business.

8. Squeeze Them Out

When approaching a likely covey, start from the thickest side or come at it from out of the evergreens if possible.  Grouse are magnificent flyers, but the last thing they want to do is expose themselves in the air. Instead, they’ll run to the edge of cover and hunker down until the last second as you approach.  When grouse finally flush, they may fly overhead back to the shelter of the evergreens, allowing you more time to shoot.

9. Last but Not Least

Do not forget to wear the proper attire.  Footwear is pivotal as you will be walking long distances and your feet will thank you for the comfort.

Ensure that you are layered correctly as the mornings can be cool and not only warm into much higher temperatures but drop back down in the early evening.  Keeping that in mind, make sure that your clothing is quiet.  Wind breakers and other things of that material can be loud and spook your prey.

Armed with the right weapon, clothing and determination, you too should be able to enjoy a few great meals of grouse…..if you are good enough, you might even have enough to invite your friends 😉

Until next time I feel Bird Brained……

If you are interested in joining us for a fantastic Grouse/Fishing Pkg, contact me with the form below and I can help you plan an action packed adventure.

 

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2013 in grouse, hunting, Wawang Lake Resort

 

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Grin and Bear it – PT 1

As an outfitter, we often speak to hunters that are interested in harvesting a trophy bear and are confused on where to start.  Over the years of answering these questions, we have been able to render the most important factors into a short list.

THE FIRST AND FOREMOST RULE IS – PLAN!

Proper planning is going to be the deciding factor in whether your trip is successful (harvest or not) or a string of avoidable circumstances.

Planning will encompass not only route, licenses, equipment and weaponry, but also outfitter, harvest processing and transport.

Many first time bear hunters enter the idea of a bear hunt with a notion that it is similar to hunting other forms of game such as white tail.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Jon's 440lb Pope and Young winner.  Taken in 2012 and outfitted by Wawang Lake Resort

Jon’s 440lb Pope and Young winner. Taken in 2012 and outfitted by Wawang Lake Resort

 

Bruin are predatory, scent sensitive, routine animals that can easily be put off by interruption to any of the aforementioned traits.

Keeping this in mind during the planning phase will help ensure that attention to detail required to land that elusive predator.

For the novice bear hunter, I highly suggest going with an outfitter with several years of experience and a proven track history.  Here at Wawang, we have a 40 year track history of success.

A respectable 475lb (dressed) taken in 2012.   A Boone and Crockett recipient, this was Andy's second bear with Wawang Lake Resort

A respectable 475lb (dressed) taken in 2012.
A Boone and Crockett recipient, this was Andy’s second bear with Wawang Lake Resort

 

WHEN SHOPPING FOR THE RIGHT OUTFITTER:

1. First and foremost, ensure plenty of contact.  Ask as many questions as possible.  A good outfitter will arm you with the most relevant knowledge regarding the area, baiting practices (if you are over a bait), signs to watch for, active bear times and they should also be able to give you stats on the prior years hunts.  Arming yourself with this information will be crucial to your spot rate.

2.Are you going to be fully guided (to and from bait, bait replenished for you, retreival, harvest prepared and frozen etc), semi guided (a variation of the above) or self guided (all hunt details cared for by yourself).

There are definitely pros and cons for each but in our case we do semi guided.  We bait your area(s) each day for 14 days prior to your arrival and ensure an active bait(s) and most cases those baits have multiple bear on them to choose from.

When our hunters arrive, they are taken to thier site, advised where to set thier stand and how to accurately bait as we have to help ensure success.

Once our hunter begins the hunt, the bait will not be crossed by another hunter or otherwise until the bear is harvested.  Additional scents make no sense!!

3. Study the area!  Know how you are going to get to and from your hunting area, the topographical information as well as predominant arbor (trees) and vegetation.  Knowing the surrounding forest can give you further success with descenting and airing out your clothing and equipment.

4. Ask the outfitter for a list of essentials to bring for your hunt.  Knowing what works for the tactics that your outfitter uses will help ensure your chance of a successful harvest.  By pairing this information with point #2, it will lead you to choose the correct equipment.  For instance, we at Wawang Lake suggest using a tree stand, but advise that due to our location in the boreal forest and the likelihood of loose bark, a comfy climber with ladder would be preferred. This small detail will assist in a quicker and quieter setup therefore promoting a lesser chance to spook a potential bear away from your bait.

5. Choose the correct weapon.  Ensure that the calibre or shot size is correct for your target and choose a weapon you are comfortable with!  I can never stress this enough.  Far too many hunters decide they would like to ‘try’ a bow after several years with a gun and decide that taking a bear would be the best practice.  This is not only discouraged but could have potentially disastrous results.  The kill zone with a gun differs from a bow and cause the hunter to wound, lose and potentially waste a bear.  Save the practice for the stationary targets until you have an accurate, firm and knowledgeable grasp of your weapon.

6. Iron out all costs involved such as taxes, lodging, tags, export permits and any other costs that the outfitter may have as extras.  NEVER assume the price is all inclusive unless stated as such and even then ensure you ask.  Better to be safe than sorry!

Cheri took her first bear with Wawang Lake Resort on her second day of hunting!

Cheri took her first bear ever with the help of Wawang Lake Resort on her second day of hunting in 2012!

Like I said, this is the short list and as the posts go on, we will cover different tactics, weapons, baiting practices, descenting and so much more!

Stay tuned and remember…..
When the opportunity presents itself, grin and BEAR it!!

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2013 in black bear, Wawang Lake Resort

 

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