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Bear and Bows!-Manitoba Canada

3231 Views 47 Replies 11 Participants Last post by  Stringwacker
Two fellow members from my hunting club and I leave tomorrow for Minitonas Manitoba on a truly different adventure. For those not familiar with Minitonas, it’s pretty close to Swan River. Still confused?.…how about near the Porcupine or Duck mountains? I doubt any of that helps a great deal. I guess that’s a good start on how you define an epic adventure…you go to some distant land that you never heard off and witness first hand a culture that is completely different than your own. It’s often said that hunting isn’t really about the kill; but about the journey of discovery which encompasses the entirety of the hunt; from the travel, the people, meals, and of course the actual hunting part. Having been blessed to make many trips like this on over the last four decades, I can say that while I do remember loosening my grip on the arrow on past hunts and everything associated with it; my fondest memories and stories I tell of are the places I visited and the people I met. The hunt merely gives you a good reason to go.

Which brings me to the subject of hunting bears….lots of good folks don’t have any interest in it. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are against it…rather it’s just not near the top of their bucket list for any number of reasons. The fact that they are predators makes eating them a non-starter for some people; though I think it’s quite good….not to mention the fat can be reduced to cooking oil that is highly regarded. Still, when I went to Alberta many years ago to hunt them; I remember the resident cost of a bear license was $35…and you got 5 tags! Bears have a respect problem.

This is a baited hunt. Frankly, I have always had an uneasy feeling about the practice of baiting as a hunting method. That said, I just don’t see my own personal ethical standard that I give other game animals applying to predators like coyotes, hogs, bears, etc. However, bears do start to balance on the peripheral edge of this view point; so I’m not sure I will ever make another baited hunt for them. Frankly, at my age this could be my last one period so my intention to hold out for a P&Y class bear; a lofty goal which probably will leave me just looking at the dead bears that other people have shot. I’m okay with that for this particular hunt. Go big or go bust!

Let’s get on with the trip! I’m anxious to see some northern lights in the sky and hear the wail of the loons on the lakes. It’s been too many years since I experienced these northern latitude joys. With a little luck, I can give an update closer to the Canadian border in the next couple of days
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That’s a very nice thing to say. Thank you.

Just sitting in the back of the truck trying to rest some before my drive shift. We are nearing Springfield Mo. We are now hearing of major floods in southern Canada and our outfitter has given us a new route to work around the washed out bridges.

It’s going to get interesting.
For those of you have endured the 24 hour slog to Colorado; I think you can appreciate the excitement of the arrival of where you decide to spend the night. I’ve been up 36 hours without even as much of a nap so the old man is tired:) Tomorrow-is a great day as we will make the one hour trip from our overnight stay in Grafton North Dakota to the Canadian border. Our last 8 hours north of the border will be undertaken with a good night sleep and high anticipation. The area we are going has whitetails, moose, elk….and of course bears.

The flooding is incredible here and I will attempt to post what I I was looking at an hour or so ago. The interstate runs about 12” higher than the water on both sides of the road the last 20 miles.

On a final note; the topography on the eastern edge of South and North Dakota looks a lot like the Mississippi Delta. I wasn’t expecting that! Things are going to change tomorrow as we alter our route from the flooding flatlands to the mountains.


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The floods are in both Canada and North Dakota. The bridges are out on our route in Canada so we are going to detour our route to the west of the Duck Moutains.

We just crossed the Canadian border. The guard was tougher than we really expected and one of us has to take a Covid test within 24 hours!

Weather forecast isn’t the best for this week as snow and rain is in the forecast for later this week. The attached picture is the Pembina-Emerson border crossing


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It’s almost 2pm and we are about 2 hrs from our destination. It’s crazy country now. Snow is still pretty much around and the temps are in the upper 40’s. The area from a climate perspective is like early February with nothing budding out and a trace of emerging green grass except in the valleys. We just left Riding Mountain National Park and we saw several bears and whitetails. The attached picture shows a bear that was more than content to let me take some pictures!


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I will post something off the stand later today.but Thursday night the forecast is for an inch of snow and on Friday up to three more inches. Fridays high is 36 with a 25 to 30 mile an hour wind. I would guess that would create a wind chill of about zero!!! I don’t think I packed clothes for that extreme temp!

We will have an hour drive plus a 15 mile ATV ride to the stands today. We should be on the stands about 5pm and hunt until 10 pm. It only stays dark about 7 hours per day.
After a 30 minutes “quad” ride as the Canadians call a four wheeler, I’m settled
in for my 6 hour sit until 10pm when legal shooting hours are over. I’m pretty muddy as we got the four wheeler stuck twice on the ride in and had to winch out.

It’s a pretty location as I am on the edge of a small lake; having crossed a beaver dam across the upper end of the lake to get here. In from of me about 15 yards is the classic 55 gallon drum that is often used for baiting bears…except this one is full of high priced trail mix with a lot of chocolate M&M’s. Perhaps if I want a late evening snack I might chance to grab a handful! The outfitter,
Stickflingers, orders over 90,000 pounds of it a year. I guess bears eat a lot! Seriously though, they frown on clients stealing food from the bears:)

Well it’s about 6pm now and I’ve been here about two hours. Though no bears have shown up; it was pretty interesting when a ruffed grouse came flying in and landed a few yards from the bait. I grabbed my phone and took picture as he moved off the the thicker brush. In the attached picture, if you look directly above the small green trees you might see him though it’s a really poor camera shot.

The loons are starting to wail so at least that is satisfying; odd though why I find something soothing in that particular sound.

Larry Carman from Collinsville and Jerry Casano from Indianola are my traveling partners and they, too, are on stands. Hopefully at least one of us can see some action this afternoon.

Time to put the phone down and settle back in to my vigil. There a great deal of afternoon left on this hunt and anything can happen.

Well another two hours have past and it’s 8 o’clock. Though the best two hours of hunting is left; I’m starting to think the bears might win round one. It’s actually a nice day, the sun is still shining and it’s about 45 degrees with a gentle east wind. The bears should be active but it’s early in the season and they are just getting more active. The fact that the outfitter has lost access to a third or more of his baits due to flooding and washed out roads makes it a bit harder than usual. My hands are getting cold so the last update will be around 10…..unless something happens!

The bears won today. Still, a good afternoon spent looking at beautiful country and listening to foreign sounds that you have never heard before. We get so used to our home environment that when those familiar sounds are replaced with others; you certainly notice it.

Round two tomorrow!


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Upshot to yesterdays hunt……

Looks like I was the only hunter of the 7 in bear camp that didn’t see a bear. Jerry shot a monster bear and we followed good blood but eventually backed out at 1:30 last night when we started hearing sticks popping in front of us. Jerry just left with his guide to continue the trail. Let’s hope Jerry finds the bear as a wound ends your hunt here! Jerry has company as a fellow from Maryland has a similar agenda this morning having shot a bear through the neck. Jerry’s was low in the rib cage.

Bad luck also struck Larry. Larry got a chance at another massive bear very late yesterday. When pulling his bow back; the compound locked in a full draw! I never heard anything like that. He eventually got the bow to fire (after the bear had left from all the commotion) by striking the arrow nock with his hand. The string jumped off the cam and is now unusable!!!!! He is headed to Swan River to see if he can find anyone to work on it!

There is no cell coverage on the stand. I am typing in IPhone notes and pasting into the forum when I get back to Minitonas. The good news is the weather forecast no longer calls for snow but now rain is abundant in the forecast. Updates later…,
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Today is Tuesday, the second day of a 6 day hunt. I’m in a location about 30 miles from where I spent yesterdays hunt. This location seems to have much more bear activity so I am hopeful for today. I have picked at the two guides all day asking why I was put in the “gar hole” yesterday. Frankly I don’t think they know what the term
means….or, frankly, even what a gar is. Not sure if that is helping my case or not:)

Things started badly today. Not only has it rained most of the day, neither arrowed bear yesterday was recovered. The hunts are over for those two hunters….one being Jerry one of my traveling partners. I’m going to try to avoid the same fate if I get a chance to shoot a big bear.

On a more positive note, Larry engineered a bow press made from two ratchet straps. He removed the cables and bent some dodad thingy back into position. He is back in the game. I couldn’t talk him into my spare recurve! I don’t think I could ever get a compound to shoot….looks way beyond my pay grade.

I don’t think I have mentioned my equipment so I guess now is as good time as any. I’m shooting a Black Widow PSA recurve that scales 52 pounds at 27”. I’m using 520 grain Douglas Fir shafting tipped with the old “greenie” Fred Bear Razorheads. The combination is a little lighter than I would like but I’m sure it will do the job if I do mine.

Hopefully, I can get a shot closer to dark. If not, I was put in “gar hole” #2!

This is definitely not a gar hole. I have had a black bear laying on the ground 12 yards away gorging on the trail mix for nearly 30 minutes now. The bear is about 125 pounds so it’s not what I am looking for.

He had a bigger buddy with him that had a head that looked
like an oversized pumpkin.
The bear circled around behind me, not taking the path as the other bear, got under my stand, and shot out like a cannon when he smelled something he didn’t like. I should be disappointed but I only had a slight “go” on the shot. Something told me he might be right at 18” and he might fall short of the record class bear I want. Hopefully he will come back before dark and I can get a better look at him. I still have about 2 hours of daylight left.

Final update for Tuesday. The 125 pound bear stayed until 9:40. He eventually picked up his head, pivoted to face away from me, then shot like a bullet back under my stand! I had heard of this type of behavior when the dominate bear in the area is coming to the bait! Sure enough within a minute I heard a crack and movement coming my way. I stood, turned my body to ready for the shot and put pressure on the string….only to see two beautiful wolves come right by my stand!

The bears won day 2…..


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I really appreciate everyone’s comments! It makes it fun to provide the updates! I too would like to share a camp with you one day as well Bentstick54! The following post is posted from my phone notes this afternoon. It’s 10:14 and I have signal out in the field the first time. Just saw 17 elk on the field I came out on. This night will be different as I sit on a log under the cloud cover by a raging flood swollen creek. It’s going to be a long night as I suspect I will be waiting until midnight to be picked up by the outfitter. Read my below pasted notes to know more about what is going on. I

“Today is Wednesday and got to see first hand how hard bait access can be. We were unable to get to my stand this afternoon due to another bridge washout. We backed the truck and ATV trailer over 2 miles as the road was washed away on each side to the extent we couldn’t turn around. We went to another road about four miles further and came in from another direction with the ATV. I have to admit crossing a large flooded creek on foot was nerve racking as if you fell it might be your last crossing. To illustrate this more clearly, a dead elk calf was found in the bottom of the creek dead. Nature is cruel.

I told the outfitter that being 64, wearing 12 pounds of insulated rubber boots and a 20 pound pack might make it hard for me to get back across. I am jumping up the far side bank (rather than down)on the return crossing. Please understand that ….if I fail to post later in the hunt:)

I’m settling into my stand. Nobody has hunted it this year I’ve been told. It seems to only have minor activity but we will just wait and see.

While waiting on an oversized bruin to show up (maybe) I might be able to described this country better than what an I phone picture can convey. This place is cold. It’s very open wind swept country with miles and miles of endless prairie intertwined with “Crown” (national forest)land that is heavily wooded with aspen and spruce pine. There is not a lot in between these two extremes. Temps often reach 40 below zero in the winter and it’s June before the long johns come off. They put them back on 90 days later. The area is heavily populated with indigenous people that we would normally call Native Americans. Given we are in Canada, I’m not sure Native
Canadians is quite applicable….so we will just go with indigenous people for the purpose of this discussion:)We are far enough north that they appear Inuit in features but that might be a false observation on my behalf.

Two updates. I’m just about to get down and looks like the bears have won day three. BUT… Larry has smoked a really good one and has it recovered. More on this tomorrow when I get more details. Just down to me now. Unfortunately, the weather is wicked tomorrow so will see if we can get to the woods or not”
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A follow up to yesterday’s hunt….Larry Carman shot a true monster. We weighed him last night after we got to bear camp and he topped the scale at a whopping 358 pounds! This bear will almost certainly make the record book with lots of excess over the minimum. It’s now down to just me as I am the only bear hunter left with three days to go. It should be an ideal situation. More later


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The outfitter estimates this bear to have over a 20” skull. This one will place very high in the PY records!


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Day 4 of my hunt (Thursday) will be a bit different. Given that today has a 100% chance of rain until 11pm tonight, my plan is to just wear a rain suit with the best base layers I have and try to stick out the rain, wind, and high 30’s temps the best I can. Everything gets wrapped up today in terms of gear so my phone likely stays deep in my pack for the duration of the hunt….and my hands deep in my wool jacket that I will wear over my rain suit. Hand warmers will also be mandatory today. Anything that happens today will be shared tomorrow morning; barring any unusual event.

I need to share a bit more about Larry’s bear and the overall hunt yesterday. Larry’s bear is 20”. To put that in perspective, a Boone and Crocker bear only scores 21….so his first bear ever taken will likely be his lifetime’s biggest. Nobody was more excited that Larry about this trip so it’s only fitting that this massive beast will hold a special place in his trophy room. Larry and I loaded in the truck yesterday and he took the first stand we came too. I took the second one about 20 miles more distant. You all know now who made the best pick:)

Larry had a smaller bear on the bait that took off like a shot when the ground pounder bruin showed up. Larry had a video camera and turned it on as the big bear stalked in. Larry knocked the camera with his knees as the beast moved into Larry’s shooting window but luckily he still captured the shot. The full metal jacket Easton arrow tipped with a four blade Slick Trick traversed the length of the bears body from the rib cage to bear the back hams. The bear was slightly quartering toward him; which Larry wasn’t aware in the low light conditions. The bear, after the shot, merely shrugged, and walked calmly away with heavy breathing. Larry saw the bear for over a minute before the bear walked out of sight in a lake.

Larry didn’t hear a death moan so he stayed into the stand until a little before dark when our guide came. They found the bear floating in the lake. He hadn’t gone far after Larry last saw him!

Bears of the size we are hunting seem to be nuclear powered. Seemingly hits that would stop a whitetail in short order hardly faze these beast. The three other hunters at bear camp didn’t get back until 4am last night. All three hit good size bears and all any of them got was a long blood trail. I saw a video of one shot and the bear should have been in his trophy room. The tenacity of these bears is nothing short of amazing. The bear that spooked from the bottom of my stand on Monday had an arrow wound at the rear of his rib cage. I asked the guides if a bear had been shot off that stand last week and they confirmed it had.

All this wounding has me a bit troubled at my own prospects as my tackle is a bit light. I seem also to be snake bit as the only hunter left….as all the others have shot and either killed (Larry) or wounded (all the rest)

I will provide my own updates tomorrow. Wish me
luck this afternoon.


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Thursday’s update…..the bears are 4-0. If the bears were a football team, they would be looking like they might be Super Bowl winners….undefeated!

However, yesterday had some good developments. For one, I saw some bears on a cold, windy, and miserable afternoon. At 9:45 a huge sow and her cub came in. The cub got a whiff of me and shot straight up a tree. (Thankfully not the one I was in) momma spent the next 10 minutes prancing around and popping her jaws. It was a bit unsettling; especially as the last rays of light were fading. Eventually the cub backed down the tree and mom and child ambled away in the last minutes of shooting light. My feet hit the ground at 10:10 pm and I nervously moved out of the area without further incident. The good part about yesterday is the 100% rain and snow forecast for the evening hunt didn’t materialize. The the cold 35 degrees and wind was the only thing that had to be overcome. Just like a deer hunt in January; it wasn’t a big deal. I was just comfortably chilled; a description only a hunter would understand.

Today(Friday) is a low 40’s day with snow changing to rain. Much better this afternoon as the temps hold steady and the wind stays lower at around 10-15 mph. This will feel like a day on the beach compared to yesterday!

Saturday will be nearly 60 degrees with little wind. It will be the best day to hunt since last Monday. The guides are excited about Saturday as they say that bear activity follows the temps. The warmer it is, the better the hunting.

Look for todays update maybe around midnight! I got two traveling companions just sitting around in the lodge wanting to start the 32 hour trip back. I keep hoping they haven’t left me when I get back each evening!!!


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I’m enjoying all your comments! I look for forward to each one!
It’s about 5:30 pm and I’m settling in after a 10 mile ATV ride (that isn’t a misprint) I am cleaning my custom recurve of all the mud slung on it over the last one and a half hours.

I had a slight mishap….We stopped to fill a bait station along the way. When I climbed off the ATV, my snow mobile gloves hit the gas lever. If you can picture a 64 year old man going %+#hole over elbows you have a good mental picture of the actual event as it happened….as the ATV left the immediate domicile without the rider. After the horror stricken guide saw that I came up laughing in hysterics he was fine. We both laughed for a bit. I asked why he pulled me off the ATV as I was planning to fill the drum by myself to help him out! I will digress to answer the question that the reader wants to know first and foremost. Despite a one and a half somersault with a registered difficulty of 10 by the International Low Platform Dive Federation; I kept perfect balance/agility and stuck a perfect landing (defined as landing on my butt) with my beloved custom recurve clutched skyward in my outstretched hand. It suffered no serious injuries:)

Snow has been on going since 11am. It’s about 33 degrees so it’s just sticking under the spruces and exposed logs. It’s pretty to watch and only a small hinderance. The snow is melting about as fast as it falls in most places. The picture of the drum can be enlarged and you can see the snow a bit.

Now the important stuff. There is a reason we traveled in the snow and 10 miles. This must be the mother of all bear setups. There is nothing but mud for 10 to 15 yards around the drum and the bears have rolled all the bait out of the drum in just two days. The drum just has a few holes likely made by a chisel so it only drops a bit of trail mix with the rolling action on the drum created by the bears. If that isn’t enough to get a fellow excited; as soon as the ATV left; two cubs came down the tree just yards in front of me! We apparently run momma off the bait site.

The guide says “Tank” visits here; a 500 pound boar. If he shows up I’m not sure my arrow doesn’t bounce off him!!! The shot only looks to be 10 yards to the drum. If something shows up maybe I can keep it together for the shot. Looks promising!

It’s now 7:45. A large sow and two cubs just left the bait after about an hour. The cubs were comical as every time that got some trail mix out of the drum they would make little soft bawling sounds which apparently displayed their pleasure. Mom could scent me but as long as I planned to hold my ground she was happy holding her’s. I saw a third cub that never approached the barrel. I assume it wasn’t her cub. Not sure why it just was walking by itself in the woods.

It’s now 8:46 and the snow continues unabated. It’s starting to stick now as the temps fall. I’m comfortable as long as the wind keeps low.

I have seen four more bears in the last hour. A big sow (I think) came in weighing likely about 225 pounds. She was an ornery old cuss as another bear tried to come to the barrel to eat and she engaged in a high speed chase in figure eights that must have lasted three minutes. Eventually the bear climbed a tree and eventually left. Another larger bear came in and slowly worked its way to the bait. She eventually let him eat as she got full. That bear stayed for a very long time. You could tell his disposition was better as he seemed more relaxed despite knowing I was there. The smaller bear never came back.

At 9:50 two large boats appeared about 80 yards down wind from me. I lost sight of them as the shadows grew in the heavy snow. At about 10 o’clock I saw one moving in. I had only only began to judge this bear when it stopped and started huffing…obviously not liking my sent. The bear turned and walked back the way it come. At 10:05 the second bear appeared just two minutes until the end of shooting hours and was coming to me! This one was likely the one I came after! A minimum of a 300 pound bear walked past me at 20 yards. I started to pull back ….and just decided to let down. It was too dark to really define the vitals and most certainly past shooting hours.

I saw a minimum of 9 bears this afternoon in a snow storm. It was the best evening I ever spent bear hunting. The 5 hours past in a moment.

The bears won today. The bears are 5-0 with one day to go. Yet today I didn’t lose…I just decided not to win.


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Actually the guide said we traveled 30 Kilometers. He thought it converted to 17 miles! The snow is gone except for the ground. It’s a nice sunshine day with the day warming fast! Should be a beautiful day to see my last sunset here!

The long trip yesterday was the exception. The typical day trip has an hour to hour and a half truck drive and maybe two or three miles in the mountains with an ATV.
This is my last day is here.

The outfitter asked me if I wanted to hunt this morning AND this afternoon; in effect getting an extra hunt! Of course I decided to do it. Getting up at 6am when you got to bed at 1:30am is harder as you get older, but today, I was more than up to it.

It’s about 10:00 o’clock and the plan is to stay until 11am. We will go back to bear camp, eat lunch and take a power nap before heading out around 3pm for the final hunt.

I haven’t seen a bear this morning even though I’m sitting where Larry killed his monster. Maybe this is why bears aren’t usually hunted in the morning?

The only thing noteworthy this morning is I’ve been listening to a ruff grouse drumming. It’s a unique sound and I encourage anyone to google the sound and listen to it. It serves the same purpose as a turkey gobble. Not likely anything to add to this mornings hunt unless we get some bears to the bait this last hour.
The last hunt finds me in an improvised ground stand in a new area. I have trimmed a overturned spruce tree that I am using so that my recurve limbs should clear if I get a shot. It’s about 3:40 and I currently have two bears at about 18 yards from my ground blind! It’s a new, but rather intense experience. There is something about being eye to eye with a bear that gets the heart racing. Neither bear meets my own definition of a shooter so if they stay there and I stay here ….I think we all will be fine. Unfortunately, one of the bears likes to get to 5 yards from me and do some postering. Hopefully he will keep the 5 yard buffer for the rest of the evening.

It’s now 5:47 and another bear has joined the other two. He looks like a mature boar but he still isn’t what I’m looking for. This place really has the potential to be one really entertaining evening!

It’s now 6:40 and for the first time today, all the bears have left. I’m still hoping a “Larry” sized bear will visit the bait site. It’s just a little more than three hours before the fat lady sings. That understood, the best time of the day is still to come!

It’s now 7:45 and I have had a shooter bear at the bait the last 25 minutes. He layer down most of the time facing me, not giving me a shot. Eventually just a few minutes ago he finally stood and turned broadside at about 21 yards. I pulled back rather quickly and took the shot! A little off line to the left and right over the back! I MISSED. No excuses other than just getting way too excited! This bear was likely 300 pounds plus and absolutely a record book bear.

Am I disappointed?…of course but I came here for a new experience and a chance for a record class bear…which I got…a chance.

Another bear is already back at the bait but it’s not THE bear. While there is still two hours of daylight left and anything can happen; I have to concede the overwhelming odds of an unsuccessful hunt…it’s just part of the traditional bowhunting process. Without the failures; one never can fully appreciate the successes that inevitably do happen.

I have five bears at the bait now. I’m looking at the largest sow in Manitoba. She looks close to 400 pounds and easily is 35” from her left to her right chest. The head looks bigger than the boar I shot at. Sows with cubs are not only unethical; but illegal. She gets a pass and I hope I do as well!

Well, the end of legal shooting hours is just minutes away. Assuming no last minute heroics are in play; this concluded this adventure. It exceeded all my expectations and I’m happy I made this trip.

Time to turn the page to my next hunt which will be a Colorado elk hunt if I get drawn this fall. All that is left of this hunt is to pull out after dinner tonight at midnight and make the very, very long trip home! Thanks for reading my misadventures:) I really appreciate all you guys!


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Thanks 8upbowhunter. I was sort of worried about my equipment setup while I was there. Certainly it was adequate but my confidence wasn’t where it needed to be.

That understood, we all have missed. I had a great time and plan to go back soon.
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