Quebec Black Bears

Sponsored by: HECS & Winner’s Choice Strings

By: Tony Pannkuk

Bear hunting is not for the faint of heart. Sitting in the timber, next to a tree, waiting until the sun goes down, in a remote wilderness, over a thousand miles from home will definitely get your attention. It is the waiting until it gets dark in an unfamiliar area that I enjoy most. A flashlight is required because when it gets dark in the wilderness there is no ambient light from anything man made. Dark is “dark” in the timber. I was hunting for black bear in Northern Quebec.

Leaving the Lodge around 3:30pm, I had about a 25 minute drive to where I would sit until dark. Parking on a remote grassy road, I hiked in about ½ mile to a spot where my guide told me he had seen a monster black bear with three legs. Each night I would sit until way after dark, hoping his bear with three-legs would appear. On the third night just at dark, I was stunned when I slowly turned around and the bear was only 30 yards away. It is unbelievable how quiet these creatures are. He never made a sound as it approached my location.

The size of this beast also astounded me. I was sitting on the ground by a large tree, the thought went through my mind, ‘I have one shot, do I shoot and hope it will go down or should I wait for tomorrow night?’ I could feel my heart thumping heavily and was afraid the bear would hear it as it felt like it was going to beat out of my chest.

I was hunting at the Wapus Lodge in Quebec. Black bear hunting in Quebec has a high success rate and most are taken over bait. One relief I had was there are no grizzlies in this area. Over the years in British Columbia, I have encountered several grizzlies. A grizzly is a very unpredictable animal. Most hunters that are attacked by a bear are usually a grizzly. There are several reasons for attacks that usually are either a sow with cubs or it could have a moose or other animal buried nearby.

Checking with Quebec Tourism on one of the best places to hunt black bears in the Province sent me to Wapus Lodge. Wapus Lodge has a high success rate and very large black bears. The Lodge is a five-hour drive north of Montreal. Leaving Montreal, I traveled north for four hours passing through small towns before turning off the main Highway and then another 60 miles on a gravel road before reaching the lodge.

The lodge is located far out in the wilderness of Quebec, beyond the reach of any electricity. They did have a sizable generator that served power to the lodge and all near-by cabins. It was like a scene out of a travel magazine, the main lodge was constructed on the shores of a Lake McArther, with the cabins dotting little coves around the lake. There are many other outpost cabins as well, located on several other lakes throughout their hunting concession.

Arriving at the lodge late in the afternoon, I was greeted by one of the owners, Manon Rousseau. She showed me around and went over the arraignments for our meals. In addition, she pointed out my cabin. I settled in and chose not to go out hunting the first evening because it was late and I wanted to learn the area in daylight before going out.

The next day I found myself riding around on a quad with my guide Terry. He took me to several different locations where he had set out bait. Each one was active with animals coming in each evening. We took along extra bait to replenish the bait sites that were hit the night before.

Quebec reminds me of the Pacific Northwest. Missing, were the mountains and hills. Quebec is somewhat flat, as hunters would describe it. They also speak French; I had stopped at one of the local stores and found out that no one spoke English. Money talks, so it was not long before I paid for what I had and was on my way. They also get their share of rain, but not as much as the Pacific Northwest. Hunting for over 40 years, I have tried my share of hunting attire. I have found the perfect clothing for hunting when it is raining is clothing made by Rivers West. Rivers West is located in Seattle, Washington so they know about our above average rainfall. If it is hunting season in Washington State, you can count on rain. The clothing is waterproof, wind proof and mosquito proof and it will let your body breath while walking, or sitting in a blind. Check them out on the web at www.riverswest.com.

At the lodge, breakfast was at 0700 am and dinner would be late into the night, depending what time you got back to camp. I would normally get back past 10pm, wanting to stay out until the last light. Some bears in this area were nocturnal.

Late on the third afternoon, sitting at the bait, I took out my book and started reading. The area around me was swathed in different shades of green. The bait barrel was around 30 feet in front of me. The brush on both sides of the trail was thick with intertwined bushes that required crawling through on your hands and knees. The trail I walked in on went past me and continued up a small incline. Each evening a thunderstorm would blow through the area and tonight was no exception. I watched the lighting come in from the east as it looked for something to strike. Each storm would hang around for about an hour before continuing on.

Around 30 minutes of watching the lighting strike off in the distance, the silence was shattered by a deafening blast of thunder as my ears started ringing. I looked up in the tree that I was sitting under. At first, I thought the lighting had struck my tree but seeing no limbs falling down around me I looked around to see what tree it had struck. The lighting had struck a tree about 25 feet from where I was sitting. No wonder it was so loud.

In about another 25 minutes the storm had passed and I continuing reading the book I brought, I would look around every 10 minutes or so.

The previous night I was in a ground blind and a nice size black bear came in to the bait. I started to film and the bear suddenly took off on a dead run. It was around 6pm so I figured it would come back before nightfall. However, it failed to return.

That afternoon I again had my HECS suit under my Rivers West coat and pants and sprayed myself with Dead Down Wind scent eliminator spray. I put on my Danners and grabbed my single shot rifle. I had loaded up my Crooked Horn Outfitters backpack with my Dead Down Wind spray, my Leupold binos and Range Finder, lunch and extra gloves.

Being only 25 feet from the bait and out in the open, I new the HECS suit would be to my advantage. The HECS suit keeps my energy field contained  so it doesn’t alert animals to my presence. Every human omits an electromagnetic energy field and the animals can detect it without us knowing they are even in the area. Sometimes they will become more and more agitated, or careful and sometimes I believe they just stealthily leave without us even knowing they were there.

While walking in, I stopped at the bait barrel looking for the best location to sit. I wanted somewhere that would tie into the local landscape. I spotted a tree that was woven into the fabric of the forest. This is where I would sit.

Settling in, I took out my book and started reading. Just before dark, I looked behind me on the grassy trail and was surprised to see a monster black bear slowly walking my way. The bear walked ten to fifteen feet, sat down and started sniffing the air. I did notice it had a limp; I thought this might be the three-legged bear my guide had mentioned. Slowly, I turned so I could watch the bear. It started walking again in my direction. When it got about 35 feet away, it turned and went into the bush behind me. I listened for several minutes but could not hear it. I thought it might have caught my scent and left the area.

After about ten minutes, I caught movement in front of me and saw the bear come out of the bush, it was less then thirty feet away. It stopped, sat back down and again started sniffing the air. This was a big bear and at first, I thought it was a grizzly, but then I remembered there are no grizzlies in Quebec. The bait was about 25 feet in front of me and I knew that I would only have one chance. If I did not place the shot in the right place, either the bear would run into the bush or it would charge.

As I waited, the bear started for the bait. It pushed the bait barrel over and started to feed. I let it feed for a few minutes while I filmed. If it did charge and the outcome was not good, at least it would be on film for the guide to see. After several more minutes of feeding, there was no question about taking the shot. The bear was bigger then the 55-gallon drum. This is without exception one of the biggest black bears I have seen in the last 12 years.

I slowly brought the single shot up to my shoulder, put the crosshairs of my Leupold scope on target and waited for the right angle before squeezing the trigger. The beast would feed for a few seconds and then look around. On the third time it started looking around it presented the shot I needed. I slowly started squeezing the trigger. The silence of the evening was broken as the firing pin hit the primer igniting the Hornady powder sending a 325-grain Hornady slug was on its way. I could see the hair shift just behind the shoulders.

I knew the shot had taken its toll as the beast growled and started running for the bush, it went about ten feet and fell to the ground. I knew my hunt was over as the beast lay motionless on the forest floor. I knew the job that lay ahead, but as the thought went through my minds eye, I had a big grin on my face.

Guide and author with black bear he put the HEC on.

Approaching the downed bear, I was amazed at its size. The head was a big as my upper body. It will take more than two of us to load it on the quad. I could then hear, off in the distance, Terry, my guide approaching riding his quad. When he arrived, he did have another hunter that was hunting about ¼ of a mile from where I was. It did take all three of us and a lot of straining to load my bear. What a terrific end to a great hunt.

If you would like to hunt for big black bears in Quebec, check out Wapus Lodge on the web at www.wapuslodge.com. If you would also like more information on the HECS Stealthscreen clothing, check them out on the net at www.hecsllc.com. It would be to your advantage to wear the HECS suit.

Happy hunting wherever it may take you.

Tool Box:
Hornady
Crooked Horn Outfitters
Danner
Leupold
Dead Down Wind
Rivers West
HECS Stealthscreen