Bear hunters can get a real thrill from a tree stand hunt, but if you want to know what it's like to match wits with a predator on its own turf, try stalking black bear. There is a mix of excitement and primal fear when stalking a bruin that's unlike any other hunt. You can find bears feeding in the open where ever there is abundant natural food. Blueberry cuts, high bush cranberry groves, and old apple orchards all have bear potential. If you don't get pumped trying to sneak up on a fridge-sized bruin, you can't be breathing.
My first real bear stalk took place five years ago in a huge blueberry patch north of Thunder Bay. It was late September but the temperature felt more like early August. A friend and I were scanning cutovers, looking for bears feeding on the late-blooming berries. My partner had already taken a nice boar in the berries a week before and had seen several other really big ones as well. As daylight waned, we spotted an enormous black bear striding out of a black spruce swamp into a cut that was glowing blue with berries. The bear was moving at a rapid pace and was about 250 yards away. It seemed unaware of us and disappeared down the back of a hill. With rifle tightly in hand, I headed in.
The bear was not visible as several dips and rises obscured the view. To top it all off, the walking was rough, it was getting dark and the bugs were off the charts. It felt like the bear was going to suddenly appear in my face. My heart was beating so hard I could hear it in my throat.
About 150 yards in, I topped a rise and saw the big boar. It was 200 yards away, feeding in a berry patch. It looked about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. The gun went up, and the 9-power scope found the bear's shoulder. The rest of the experience is a blur, but stalking up on my downed bear was one of the more gut-wrenching things I've ever done. However, the 180-grain bullets had done the job. It was a huge beast and weighed over 400 pounds. Its pelt was a thick ebony and it smelled like the woods. This gorgeous creature was absolutely stuffed with berries and had likely been feasting for days if not weeks. I'm also happy to say the meat from that boar was as tender and tasty as the finest deli pork. You could not get a more organic flesh.
Bear hunting has only increased the admiration and respect I have for these great animals. They are perfectly suited to the north woods and are a cunning quarry.
Ontario has a healthy and growing population of these animals and the harvest is well-managed. If you want to try a truly thrilling hunt, stalking bears in berries is a good place to start.