Sp0nsored by: Bohning Archery
After loading our gear in the boat we started fishing right away trying different lures and flies to entice a big northern to strike. We worked our way around the lake ever so slowly trying to locate the fish, catching a few fish but nothing of size. Finally, I got a hard hit and could tell instantly from the tug that this was a good fish burning line off my Abel reel. The back and forth battle of the fish taking line and me retrieving it lasted almost 20 minutes before I was able to get him on the side of the boat and into a net. Just as Jason touched the net on the water the big fish rolled making a big splash. Under and around the boat again several times and finally we got him into the net. What a fish!
Jason realized by sight that he might be a contender for a Manitoba Master Angler Award, and we measured him and sure enough he was 41 inches, the minimum required for the award. After taking a few quick pictures we released the fish back into the cold water. I yelled out, “Dad that was for you!” as he swam away.
Immediately I had another good hit and it was a nice 37 inch fish, then another 39 inch, a few 35 and 36-inchers, and finally the monster of the day a 43-incher. We had found the fish and made the proper presentation to them for a strike. When all was said and done we caught 9 fish over 36 inches in about an hour and a half, two of which were Master Angler fish, and that is unheard of anywhere. I’d go back just to have the opportunity to fish Sickle Lake.
It was time to pick up and get moving as daylight was fading quickly. On the way back as we came around a point not far from the bait, a black blob appeared in the lake about 200 yards to my left. I pointed it out to Jason. We decided to go take a look. As we approached with the boat we were surprised, it was a mature bear swimming across the lake from the back side of the bait. We pulled in front of him with the boat and noticed his head was cut up and bloody. He also had no intention of turning back in the direction from which he had come. He was swimming across that lake and he didn’t care what was in front of him!
I have come across many animals swimming lakes or rivers over my years and every time you go in front of them with the boat they turn back in the direction they came because they feel it’s safer. We figured that this guy just had his butt kicked by the monster boar and was not going back for more. He was getting out of the big bear’s way no matter what. The big old bear must have been laid up close to the bait when this guy came in and all hell broke lose. Many times an old boar will take possession of a feed source and will chase anything away that comes into his space. This made my day because it told us he was back, and maybe we would finally get to see him up close and personal on my last day.
Jason and I discussed a plan for the last evening’s hunt on the way to the bait from camp. We would go in a few hours earlier than we had been hunting, and I would quickly get settled in the stand while Jason quietly baited the two barrels. Then he would softly tap the barrels with a stick to give the illusion of something feeding at the bait. He would then rush to the boat and exit the area. He would also leave an orange vest next to the shore of the pick up point and if I did get a shot I was to hang the vest and he would come back from the other side of the lake where he planned to fish while I sat.
Everything went as planned and Jason gave me the “thumbs up” before exiting to the boat. It was extremely quiet and I could hear him get in the boat, start the motor and speed across the lake. Now the wait began. I looked into the crystal clear sky and prayed for God’s help on this the last night of my hunt. I grabbed up my Mathews bow and nocked an arrow. Now the sit began, which is the hardest part for me. I’ve gotten better at it over the years as I have matured, but it’s still difficult to sit still for hours on end.
I had been sitting motionless and scent free in my treestand for just under an hour waiting patiently for Old Big Foot, as I had named him, to show at the bait. Then it happened. From the corner of my eye I sensed some type of movement. Ever so slowly I turned my head and there he stood just behind my stand on my right, appearing like a phantom out of thin air. I gulped…and then relaxed.
He looked bigger than a Volkswagen when he stepped forward from behind my stand at approximately 20 yards. His head was enormous, very wide with bulging mounds on both sides and with a deep crease down the top. The ears looked really small, he was exceptionally long in length and his belly hung low. He had an extremely thick dense shiny coat, so thick you could see it split when he moved. I could actually see it glistening in the setting sun. His body was frozen in place as he swiveled his heavy head, sniffing the air. Then suddenly he shuffled slowly and cautiously moving closer to the bait and into my bow range as I coaxed him in my mind. “Only about five more steps big boy, come on now, keep coming,” I thought as he moved closer. My fingers curled tighter around my release.
I could tell by his body language he had no clue I was waiting in ambush. If these big old boars sense something is wrong or slightly wind your human scent they will not come into the bait until well after dark, if at all. I have seen this happen so many times over the years. A black bear has a much better sense of smell than even a whitetail deer and most hunters do not realize that and it affects their overall success on their hunt for a mature bear. To overcome this I had done all the normal precautions of showering and spraying my equipment with Code Blue Spray plus I was wearing Scent-Lok BaseSlayers under my Scent-Lok jacket and pants, plus I was wearing a head cover and gloves. I wanted to ensure my scent was under control. Actually Scent-Lok has made me a better hunter because it has allowed me to get closer to game regardless of wind direction. I like to call it up close and personal.
He passed in front of the two barrels and they completely disappeared. I sucked in a deep breath. Suddenly in just an instant he was in a quartering away position with his huge front leg stretched out presenting what I had been waiting for the perfect shot opportunity. Now it was up to me. I slowly drew my Mathews to full draw, anchored, put my Black Gold fiber optic sight pin on the spot and sent my Carbon Express arrow sizzling through the air. Almost instantly I heard the impact of the hit and watched the orange Blazer vanes vanish. He literally dropped in his tracks piling up in a big heap. The Rage broadhead had severed his spinal cord and skewered both heart and lungs for an instant kill.
I shot up on the platform of my stand, raised my arms in the air, and screamed a victorious “YES! Thank you, dear Lord. Dad, this was for you!” Then I sat down, waited for my thundering pulse to return to normal and thought of how I got to this point in this the land of giants. Encountering this gargantuan bear did not happen by chance. As I glanced down and marveled at the bear’s size from my perch I was thinking of what I have stressed to the many people that attend my seminars each year at the Sportsman Shows.
I learned a long time ago that if you want to kill big bears you have to hunt where big bears exist, and those places are getting more difficult to locate. Not all areas are created equal when it comes to big game animals, especially record book class black bears and a study of the Pope and Young or Boone and Crockett record books will confirm that fact. I truly believe it’s harder to kill a big black bear that will qualify for record book entry today than it is to kill a big whitetail deer.
It’s getting much harder even in the really remote locations of North America to find a truly big black bear of trophy class. But the real key to growing big bears is age. Boars that exceed 500 pounds are between 7 to 15 years old. That is why I choice this remote location of Manitoba it was virtually the end of the road in the northwestern section of that Canadian Province on the edge of the Boreal Forest. The bears in this vast country are pretty much un-hunted, they receive very little pressure at all. Certainly the big black bears that I target are extraordinary for their size. They rival and even exceed a grizzly bear in stature.
Jason and I spent many minutes admiring the size and beauty of this behemoth of a bear, everything from his battle scarred head to his thick fur and gigantic front pads that measured over 7 inches across. His hide measured 7 feet 8 inches nose-to-tail. We estimated from measurements he was between 550-600 pounds, that’s huge for a spring bear. The skull green scored a whopping 22 2/16 inches and he had a neck measurement of 33 inches. From the wear on his teeth we guessed he was at least 15 years old. He will be my finest black bear ever, and dedicated to my dad. Just knowing he has more kin in the area will be enough to bring me back to the land of giants in search of another Bigfoot.
Note: I called my dad as soon as I arrived in Winnipeg on June 12, to tell him the whole story of the monster bear I had killed for him. He was happy and told me he was proud of me and loved me, but I could tell from his voice he was failing even more since I had begun the trip. My dad passed away on June 13, about two hours after I got home from this trip. I think he was waiting to say his good-byes. I love you Dad, you are in my heart and thoughts, even though we can’t be together for now.
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