Up Close and Personal Bear Hunting

The challenge of harvesting a bear up close and personal is very rewarding.

Hunting for black bear in Ontario is one of the most exciting, and nerve-wracking, pursuits you can imagine. Although bears are generally quite shy of humans and will turn tail at the slightest whiff of us, they are also built as a predator. The teeth and claws of a bear are formidable, so anyone who is in close proximity to a bear will feel a little extra rush of adrenaline. Our ancient wiring tells us to be careful around them. Yet the challenge of harvesting a bear up close and personal is very rewarding.


My favourite way to hunt bear is with a ground blind and crossbow. Using a crossbow (or bow and arrow, if you prefer) means the animal will have to be reasonably close to harvest. This past fall, I had one of the most exciting and intense experiences doing this very type of hunt.


I'd set my ground blind in the bush between two fields. One field was grass, the other was corn. I'd set up a camera earlier in the season on a well-worn trail between these two feeding areas. Several good bears had shown up on the camera, including one large boar with a white triangle of fur on its chest. This was my "target" bear, although I am happy with any decent-sized bear. Bear meat is simply delicious, and when a chance to harvest one of these remarkable creatures comes along, it is usually taken.


The first evening in the blind, the large bear appeared relatively early on. It came out of the cornfield, padded down the trail in my direction, then stopped about 60 yards out. When hunting with a crossbow, a safe shot for me means within 40 yards, and preferably closer. Hunting with a shotgun or rifle is another story. But bear have a relatively small "firebox," so good placement of a bolt (or arrow) is critical. Anyway, the bear sat back, nose in the air, and took a good sniff. The bear was smelling something it didn't like (me) and it immediately bolted into the woods. Was that my chance? I sat until dark, then quietly snuck out of the blind and back to my truck, a wee bit dejected.


The next evening, I was back for the evening hunt. It was mild, sunny, and calm. In the dark confines of the ground blind, it was warm and cozy. Every so often, my head would bob down, and I'd be startled awake. As evening approached, I nodded again, caught myself, then looked out the window and saw a lot of black. The bear was 20 yards from me, standing broadside. Slowly and quietly, the crossbow went up and the scope found that key spot just behind the shoulder. The trigger was squeezed, the bolt shot out, and the broadhead found its mark. The bear ran off, and seconds later, I heard it go down.

After an excruciating half-hour wait (to ensure the animal had passed), it was time to go look. I found the bloody bolt, which had passed cleanly through. Looking into the woods, the bear was visible on the ground, about 50 yards back in the woods. It was a gorgeous creature, probably 350 pounds or so, and I felt humbled in its presence. There would be no waste from this bear. It was a magnificent specimen. It would also require some help to move, and I was thankful my oldest son Devin was available to give the old man a hand. The hard work of dragging, loading, and butchering the animal was ahead.


Bears are remarkable creatures, and truly one of the most challenging animals a hunter in Ontario will ever face. Move that hunt to an up-close-and-personal scenario, and you will have a memory to last a lifetime.

About Gord Ellis

Gord Ellis is a lifelong resident of Thunder Bay, Ontario and a full time journalist, broadcaster, professional angler and guide. He is the senior editor of Ontario Out of Doors magazine, Canada's best read fishing and hunting magazine. Gord is a regular on CBC radio's Superior Morning and writes a monthly column on Ontario for the Northern Wilds magazine, in Minnesota. He has written over a thousand feature articles and columns for publications as diverse as Sentier Chasse Peche, in Quebec, the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail. He is a long time member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada and has won better than 25 national awards for his writing and photography. In 2018, Gord was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin.

Related Articles

Crossing the Border into Canada

How to legally bring your hunting rifle into Canada.

Becoming a Trapper

What you need to know and consider before you become licensed.

Close Encounters with Ontario Bruins

Tom Armstrong and his wife participate in the Ontario Spring Black Bear Hunt

Setting up for Bear

Stacking the Odds in Your Favour

Turkey Tales and Turkey Fails

Anticipating what these tasty game birds will do is one of the most challenging aspects of the hunt.

A Bear Hunt That Keeps You Coming Back

Returning to the place that landed us two giant bruins, 5 years later!

Spring Scouting

Making the Difference in the Upcoming Season

Moose Hunting by ATV

An essential tool in the pursuit of the elusive Canadian Moose

Spring Bear Hunt at Olive the Lake

A return trip to Olive the Lake in Northeastern Ontario results in a big game hunt to remember.

Lake St. Joe's Moose Hunt at Winoga Lodge

A father son moose hunt in Northwest Ontario

A Dryden Buck

Hunting Trophy Bucks in Dryden, Ontario

Bush Walking for Grouse

Stepping off the trail for a better hunt

Hunting With Friends

Black Bear in Hunt in Northwestern Ontario

Hunt the Grass

Prime opportunities to take bruins in fields, big grass openings and cut overs.

Ontario Waterfowl Hunt

Canada in the Rough hunts for waterfowl around Prince Edward County.

Deer Hunting with Border Country Outfitters

Experience this trophy whitetail deer paradise between Lake of the Woods and Rainy River.

Ontario Turkey

Hunting with Wingeather Oufitters

Uncovered Trophies

Sharing an overlooked Northwestern Ontario hunting spot.

How to hunt black bears

How to Scout locations, Bait & Place a Tree Stand

Pelee Pheasant

Participating in an October Hunt