Two predators forever connected
Yesterday everyone hunted bear for a very long time and today because we were all tired decided to change tactics and only start bear hunting later in the afternoon, and this gave me time to go grousing. Joseph and I took my truck and went looking for logging roads that hosted suitable grouse cover. I was very distressed that my trusted pointer Bob refused to come along and decided to go baiting with Jeff instead.
We stopped at multiple logging roads and walked along looking for coverts and birds, but did not have success until we came to the "ZERO" Bait. We stopped the truck and started along the two-track. When we arrived at the bait and tree stand we found the partial skeletons of two moose. I imagine its a cow and its yearling due to the difference in size.
We continued to move along until the end of the two-track where I heard grouse calling. I entered the bushed and initially I thought that I had been fooled by a raven, but soon after I found myself in the middle of a small flock of spruce grouse. I made sure that I would locate and retrieve each bird I shot before pursuing another so I would not risk losing a bird, and after some intense minutes I had three more grouse.
When we came back to the lodge Jeff told us that three of the four baits we were hunting had been hit, and after a brief conference I decided to continue to hunt the same site (Bait 17.5) as I did the previous days, and I am on my way shortly after lunch.
The temperature is around 68F and it is very humid which makes for rather warm and uncomfortable hunting weather and I feel overdressed in my flannel shirt and wool sweeter (the same Woolrich sweeter I bought at Orvis in Traverse City in January 2003). With the warm weather come the the mosquitoes and I believed killed more than a limited those pesky flying insects.
The temperature does not seem to affect the red squirrel's energy and they chase each other around, chirp and climb the bait barrel to lick the molasses that has been poured on top of it to help attract bruins. A couple of red headed woodpecker come visiting and I think that if no bear come at least I can tell that I met Woody Woodpecker.
I kill a couple more mosquitoes and then absolutely noiseless a black bear comes up the hill and turns the trail at the tree that holds a well aged piece of beaver and looks straight into my eyes. At fourteen paces it looks like an enormous monster bear to me, and immediately after spotting me it turns into its tracks to escape back into the almost impenetrable jungle he just emerged from, but at the same time I raise my 375 Holland & Holland and shoot the bear like I shoot grouse, relying on reflexes a lot more than precise aiming to hit a fast fleeing target.
The first thought that comes to my mind is that I missed the bear, but when I come out of my improvised ground blind I soon find blood and bone fragments and I knew that The bear was seriously wounded.
I am not a good enough tracker to pursue an wounded bear alone in the thick northern woods and even if I found it, it was more than likely that I would be unable to retrieve it by myself, so I went back to my truck and drove back to the lodge where I found Jeff as he was about to go fishing with Joseph and Bruce.
When we got back I gave my bottle of bear spray to Joseph and loaded my 20 gauge Browning side-by-side with slugs. I hopped for my shot to have been fatal, but if we had a wounded bear in the woods I can shoot a light shotgun a lot faster than I can shoot a heavy bolt-action rifle, and slugs at point blank are as effective as any rifle load.
Jeff, Joseph and I started tracking and Bruce stayed at the bait to give us directions. We found a lot of blood and more bone fragments, and inside the Northern jungle the temperature rose from warm to really hot, maybe because of the claustrophobic environment and all the excitement and adrenalin rush of tracking a potentially dangerous animal under such challenging conditions.
Although the cover was very challenging we had no problem with the blood trail, and we found the very dead male bear under a tree 82 yards from the bait as the crow flies. We also found that the 300 grain bullet completely destroyed the bear's left shoulder exploding like a grenade. The bullet behavior is clearly not what is expected from a dangerous game bullet, but the injury it inflicted killed the bear, even if no vitals were hit.
Steve now joined us and brought a sled to help us retrieve the bear, and that is when the bear revenge started. It took us over an hour to bring the 180 pounds bear out of tangled woods, and back to the truck. The last challenge was the crossing of a beaver dam. While we walked the top of the dam, we floated the bear in the sled.
After some more of the usual work that comes after shooting a big game animal we had a "wild game dinner" of grouse, walleye and northern pike, and fried bear liver with onions. The excellent dinner was washed down by a bottle Rodney Strong Pinot Noir and another of Jacob's Creek Barossa Valley Shiraz. A fitting tribute to he bear.